Beat the Heat

Words by Kath Bicknell | Images by Damian Breach

The smell of the forest on a 30-degree day. The taste of cool water as you clear the warm hose of your hydration pack and reach the reserves in the reservoir. The pain of cramps as you double over and grab hold of your legs…

Some riders love the heat, some break into a sweat just thinking about it.

A hot day’s riding doesn’t have to leave you feeling like a sticky, uncomfortable, screaming shadow of a rider. But if you want to get the most out of your bike during the hot summer you need to do more than just turn up at a trailhead and hope for the best.  You need to ride smart.

Flow’s put together some handy hints and tips that will help you get more quality time on the trails as the temperature rises. [private]

Dress to impress

Not this kind of “impress”. Dress correctly to beat the heat with moisture wicking fabrics that offer UV protection.

On scorching hot days, expensive moisture wicking fabrics come into their own. They seem to smell less too. Look for a light weight, well ventilated, UV rated jersey in a light colour that reflects the heat.

Thin, white arm-warmers can also keep you from expiring in the heat by providing a cooling sensation on the arms. They also keep you safe from the sun’s rays in this easily sunburnt area.

Some riders swear by them, and undershirts can help with temperature control. The bonus here is they make you look pro if you unzip your top.

For the hands, thin, well-vented long fingered gloves stop you sweating on the grips and levers giving you more control on fast and furious tracks.

Add a healthy coating of sports sunscreen to any skin that’s left exposed. In addition to the long-term health benefits of this, avoiding sunburn will help you combat dehydration as well.


A good pair of riding sunglasses aren’t just for looks or to keep the dirt and mud out of your eyes. They protect your eyes from the sun’s harsh rays as well.

Heavy sweaters swear by bandanas and Buff Headwear to absorb excess moisture up top. A helmet with good airflow is also helpful here. Don’t get complacent and forget to wash the pads. If you get caught out in the rain the taste of stale summer sweat is worse than chunky, yellow milk.

Sunglasses don’t just look cool; they are UV rated as well. This helps prevent retina damage, stops you developing wrinkly skin from constantly squinting and – with most brands stocking lenses developed for optimal trail contrast – they will have you picking better lines.

Used regularly, a heart rate monitor, GPS or a simpler bike computer gives you all kinds of meaningful numbers on your ride. Get familiar with what’s normal for you and use this for objective information about effort expenditure. Hot temps will raise your heart rate and it can take longer than normal to get from A to B. Some no-nonsense data will help you monitor heat stress and moderate the way you ride.

Hydration is key

Hydrate or die…as they say.

‘Drink early, drink often’ is one motto people use. ‘Drink more than dictated by thirst alone’ is another – although if you’re following this one don’t go too overboard and make yourself sick by overhydrating. Plan your ride with about a litre of fluid an hour in mind.

Most bike specific hydration packs carry up to three litres of fluid. They also offer the comfort of drinking with your hands on the bars. A good design won’t budge as you swing your body from side-to-side and it’ll stay clear of hitting the back of your helmet. Look for soft or well-ventilated backs, gender specific models, and extra space to carry food and supplies.

Energy drinks are great on summer rides, too. The blend of carbohydrate and electrolytes helps keep you hydrated longer and maintains your energy levels better than water alone. Products with magnesium are recommended for crampers. Other cramp-specific products may also be available at your chemist or local bike shop.

For a cool change while riding, consider filling a bottle or a bladder part way then freezing it overnight. Leave some space so you can top up with tap water in the morning.

In addition to drinking a lot on the bike, make sure you drink a lot before and after as well. And not just beer and coffee, which are diuretics, but water too.

Plan your ride with the heat in mind

If you live/ride near water take advantage of it and use it to cool down. (Flow does not endorse the use of alcohol when swimming)

Riding into the heat is always easier than starting when the hot sun is at its peak. Start the day early if you can and you’ll feel a lot less affected than if you step out of a cool air-conditioned environment into the scorching hot sun.

Start riding early in the season too. This will help your body acclimatise and means you’ll sweat less than people who’ve been avoiding the heat by staying out of it all together.

If you’re aiming for a big race that looks like it’ll be quite a warm one, consider training in temperatures that are as close as possible to those you expect to compete in. This, again, is about helping your body to adapt early so it will respond efficiently when you need it to. Bodies are rad like that.

And keep it fun. The summer weather offers all sorts of bonuses that up the awesome factor of your ride. Drop your tyre pressures if your local trails become super sandy and thrive on the chance to redevelop your cornering skills. Plan ice cream and Coke stops at the servo before returning to take on extra trails.

If you’re lucky and live near the water, break up your ride with a swim in the river or at the beach. If not, don’t underestimate the appeal of a good old-fashioned drenching with garden hose at the end of a great day out. Bliss.

How you enjoy summer on the bike is up to you. But if you’re smart about it and hit the trails well prepared for the conditions, you’re guaranteed to have a heap more fun than someone who is not. [/private]