Six Hot Tips for Biking in the Unending Damnable Summertime Heat

[Makes you want to bike right into the river.]
Biking in the heat kind of sucks. No matter where you go, there you are sweating on the asphalt, the sun beating down on your puny body, your poor skin pinking and your hair stuck to your eyebrows. Then you arrive at your destination looking like a homeless muskrat and it takes a full fifteen minutes before you can recompose into something resembling a normal drives-in-the-air-conditioned-car human being like everyone else seems to be. Biking in the summer:it’s not the heat, its the humility.

That said, there are a few things you can do to make it better. When it gets really hot out and stays that way, I find myself riding in a slightly different manner. So here are my hot-take pro tips for biking through the summertime heat.

1. Take it easy and chill out

The first thing is that I tend to slow down a bit in the summer. (Unless you’re on a workout ride, in which case go ahead and sweat as much as you want.) Actually biking to get somewhere, I find myself coasting more and being a bit lazier.

Basically, you want to be going fast enough to keep a breeze going — about 10 miles per hour. The reason people sweat is because condensation is a cooling process. Maintaining a consistent steady pace in the summer heat, and avoiding stopping at stoplights, is a great way to keep just a bit cooler.

2. Find the shade

[Stark shade lines.]
If you do have to stop at a stoplight, though, see if you can find a patch of shade. I find myself doing that on some streets, stopping a bit short to stay behind a building or under a leafy canopy. Or sometimes I might take a more shady side street instead of the more exposed main drag. Shade makes a huge difference when the sun is beating down on you, and if you look for it, you can find some.

See also this post about street trees and finding the shade.

3. Panniers are your friend

Nothing’s worse than riding in the heat with a bag on your back, then peeling it off like an unshelled turtle to reveal the soggy swamp that is your shirt underneath.

So ride a bike with a rack, if you have one, and put all your stuff in a pannier.

4. A/C stops are easy!

If you’re going a longer distance, take a break in the middle at a library or cafĂ©. Nothing makes you appreciate air conditioning as much as a hot summer bike ride!

5. Water is good

Keep drinking it. Put it in a bottle and drink it form the bottle. Drink it when you arrive, before you leave, just whenever. Bonus points if you find one of those old-fashioned Minneapolis water pump fountains and just put your head in there.

6. Bring extra clothes

Always have another shirt on hand in case you need it. You’ll probably need it. Soon it will be sweaty too, but at least you'll feel better about yourself.

That’s it! Good luck to you. When winter comes, you’ll look back on these hot days with envy and regret that you didn’t ride your bike more. There should be a long German word for that… maybe Fahrradsommerbedauern?

[It's only going to get worse.]

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