I live in Boulder, Colorado, and love climbing in the Rocky Mountains. One season a few years ago I pedaled up 17 climbs totaling 33,700 feet! The highest to this point is Loveland Pass at 11,990 feet. Summer temps can be in the 90s in Boulder.
While I don’t climb anywhere near as fast as the pros – in fact, my climbing these days reminds me of the loaded touring I did a couple decades ago in terms of my speed – I still get just as hot as the pros. And so do you!
Even if you ride in moderate conditions, heat can be an issue. A runner collapsed after a marathon with a body temperature of 105.3F (40.7C) when it was only 43F (6C) outside.
And the conditions some riders regularly face in the summer (like John Marsh mentioned above) can be brutally hot and humid. It takes knowledge and planning to best manage riding in those conditions.
Your Body, the Sun and Radiation are All Heat Sources
Most of the heat for an athlete comes from the rider’s own body, which is only 20 to 40% efficient. That means that only 20 to 40% of the energy that you get from eating goes into forward motion, and 60 to 80% produces heat. That’s why even in cool conditions overheating can be a problem.
When the sun is out, you also gain heat from direct radiation, as well as from radiation reflected from the pavement. You may also gain heat from radiation from the sun through diffuse clouds, so don’t ever skimp on the sunscreen just because it’s cloudy.
And, of course, when the sun is high in the sky, you’re at a higher risk of sunburn, and unprotected, repeated exposure to the sun can potentially lead to fatal melanoma. In Issue No. 672 we provided sunscreen tips; it’s a good idea to follow them.
I’ve developed my own system for dealing with both radiant heat and potential skin damage from the sun, which are especially serious problems at altitude.
On a climb I wear an RBR jersey with a full-length zipper so that I can open it wide for maximum ventilation. Then at the top I put on a long-sleeve, white jersey to reduce the solar gain. My jersey from Boure is rated at UPF-28.
In my eArticle Cycling in the Heat, Part 1: Ride Management you can learn all about how to:
- ride tactically in the heat
- what to wear
- what to eat on hot days
- heat-related health conditions and how to avoid them, and
- how to cool off if you overheat
The information-packed 20 pages are $4.99, and just $4.24 for our Premium members.
Regarding cooling off, a new study I’ve read finds that placing cold packs on the cheeks, palms and soles of the feet may be more effective than the traditional placement of cold packs on the skin over large blood vessels in the neck, groin and armpits. The new sites work so well because of the extensive microcirculation there.
When researching the topic of riding in the heat, I found so much helpful information about human performance in the heat that one eArticle wasn’t enough. So, in addition to Part 1, about how best to manage your heat riding, I focused the second eArticle on managing your hydration: Cycling in the Heat: Part 2 – Hydration Management.
Both Part 1 and Part 2 of the Cycling in the Heat series are available together in a cost-saving bundle.
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written over 40 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John’s full bio.