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Cycling in Hot Weather: A Guide

Cody Sovis | Published on 6/22/2024

Stay hydrated, be smart, and don’t overdo it. You’ve heard these tips for cycling in the heat before, but it can be difficult to put those platitudes into practice. Whether you’re just sneaking in a post-work ride on a hot day or gearing up for a bucket-list day in the woods, it’s important to put yourself in a position to ride safely when the heat is on. 

It’s Getting (Really) Hot Out There

Global temperatures are rising, and Michigan isn’t immune to climate change, either. Since 1960, Michigan’s average annual temperature has increased more than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit and could rise another 6.5 degrees by 2050. For mountain bikers, that means biking in hot weather could be the norm, not the occasional challenge it has been over the past few decades. 

With heat waves a growing reality, riders need to understand how to avoid heat stroke when cycling and the potential dangers of exercising in extreme heat unprepared. 

Five Tips for Biking in Hot Weather

Remember that hydration and preparation are habits, so create a routine that includes adequate water and sodium intake during summer. 

1. Drink Enough Water - But Not Too Much

Staying hydrated is about timing as much as it is about quantity. When riders throw back a water bottle or two before a ride, it can sometimes cause a condition known as hyponatremia. This occurs when blood sodium levels are very low, often caused by a sudden increase in water intake. Drink throughout the day rather than slamming down water at the last minute to avoid lightheadedness, inflammation, and other symptoms of hyponatremia. 

2. Consider Electrolytes

Water alone can’t replace sodium and other minerals lost in sweat. Consider electrolytes like Fizz, especially if you tend to lose a lot of sweat. If you tend to have a film of salt on your shirt or shorts after a ride, electrolytes could help replace that salt more efficiently. Everyone is different, so experiment—some people don’t lose a lot of salt when exercising and may not need any extra sodium. 

3. Eat Soft Snacks

It’s already hard for your body to digest food during exercise. When the mercury rises, opt for gels and calorically dense liquids - without overdoing it on the sugar, of course. 

4. Keep It Light

Wear thin, breathable clothing that wicks sweat and keeps you cool. Mountain bikers love their baggies and loose shirts, but it’s not a bad time of year to toss on a thin Lycra jersey. Light colors like white and yellow are also slightly cooler than dark black if you have a diverse closet to pull from!

5. Play It Safe

Before you head out, be aware of the conditions. Riding early can help beat the heat but account for rising temperatures throughout the day and bring enough water and food to get out of the woods safely. Always let someone know when and where you’re riding, and consider using a live track app through Garmin or Wahoo so folks can keep an eye on you. When it’s just too hot to ride safely, bag it - don’t let one hot ride cook you for the rest of the season. 

Support the Hottest Mountain Bike Trails in the State

Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association is committed to building, maintaining, and protecting world-class trails across the region. With year-round trail initiatives, including winter trail grooming, NMMBA is dedicated to getting everyone into the woods. Become a member or donate to support our work today. Ride on!