Cycle cool with sports drinks, light clothing

Cycle cool with sports drinks, light clothing

Summer brings great cycling weather but we need to be cognizant of the heat and how it can affect us. Riding in hot weather can suck fluids and energy right out of the body.

First in importance for cycling in summer heat is to stay hydrated; second is to keep the body cool by allowing it to breathe.

Our bodies contain a lot of liquid: about 40 quarts of water and 5 quarts of blood. Maintaining fluid levels can be a challenge when physical exercise is combined with higher temperatures. We can lose about two quarts of fluid per hour during a brisk ride in the heat.

When body fluids are not replaced, your cooling system is not as effective. Sweating decreases and body temperatures rise, resulting in some really negative impacts on your well-being.

Most of the recent information that I have read emphasizes that proper hydration starts before the ride, continues while riding and should be carried on well after the ride. The longer and more intensely one exercises, the more important it is to replace lost fluids.

However, doctors in sports medicine are moving away from the "drink, drink, drink" idea because they have seen many recent cases of water intoxication in athletes.

So how much liquid should one consume? Most reports suggest drinking at least one cup of liquid every 20 minutes, usually a sports drink.

The amount needed varies by individual, the exercise intensity, the rate of perspiration, etc. If you want to fine-tune the recommendation, you should weigh yourself before and after a ride to estimate how much fluid you typically loose. One pound is equivalent to approximately 24 ounces of fluid.

Most modern bicycles can be fitted with at least two water bottle holders enabling us to carry 6 cups (48 ounces) of fluids. In addition, we can wear hydration packs on our backs. Hydration packs come with bladders that may hold up to 100 ounces or more.

We are fortunate to be able to purchase sports drinks. These flavored drinks are designed to quench your thirst, provide simple sugars for energy and replace electrolytes that have been lost through sweating.

There are many sports drinks on the market. Most can be bought as bottled liquids at local supermarkets. Sports drinks in powder form can be purchased at some grocery stores, but are most readily found at bicycle shops or via the Internet.

Because a lot of cyclists get upset stomachs when drinking sports drinks at full strength while exercising, they usually dilute them with water. However, you will need to drink more of the solution to get the same benefits of electrolytes and other chemical replacements.

You can keep your liquids cool by filling your water bottle half-full and then freezing it. Just before you ride, top it off. I have found that drinks stay cool for about an hour using this method. Another cooling method is to fill the hydration bladder two-thirds full of liquid and top it off with ice cubes.

Most hydration packs have some insulating properties that keep liquids cool for much longer than plastic bottles.

Besides keeping hydrated there are some other things that can make your summer ride in the heat more enjoyable. Most of today's hi-tech cycle garments are made of materials with special weaves that allow for rapid wicking of moisture, which keeps you cooler. Wear light-colored cycling jerseys that reflect instead of absorb the sun's heat. A loose or oversized jersey is better than a tight-fitting one. Wear shorts that wick away moisture.

Wear a helmet. Tests have shown that wearing the modern well-vented helmet is cooler than a bare head. The helmet funnels air across the scalp's surface and the material the helmet is made of is cooler because of its insulating properties.

Don't forget the sunscreen. It not only protects you from the sun's rays, but keeps your skin cooler. Scientists at Oregon State University found that cyclists wearing sunscreen have body temperatures as much as 20 percent lower than those not wearing it.

Plan your rides for the early morning hours or late in the evenings when it's cooler. Seek routes that are shaded by trees, and take breaks in shady spots.

Head for the mountains. There are numerous cycling routes above 3,000 feet in elevation where the air is considerably cooler than in the Rogue Valley.

You don't need to hide indoors when it's hot. Stay hydrated and enjoy cycling during these warmer months. Winter will be sneaking around the corner and before long you will wish you had spent more summer hours on your bike.

Bicycling enthusiast Bob Korfhage of Phoenix is a former president of Siskiyou Velo bicycle club.

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