Safe Summer Biking Tips: Get Out on Two Wheels This Summer!
This summer, many areas across the country — the San Francisco Bay Area included — have been experiencing a massive heat wave. New weather conditions always mean new issues to be aware of when you get on your bike.
If you ride your bike during the hot days of summer, you’ll want to be prepared for the unusual problems that can come up when you’re riding in new weather conditions.
Strategies for riding your bike safely in the summer
Want to stay safe and happy while riding your bike this summer? Here are the most important tips to keep in mind before you hit the road during hot summer months!
Dehydration is one of the biggest risks facing summer cyclists. It can sneak up on you and before you know it, you’re hot, woozy, and scarily unsteady on your bike. To avoid getting overheated and dehydrated, make sure you have LOTS of water every time you get on your bike. Fill up a water bottle before your ride — one that can be opened easily with one hand or with your mouth — and drink from it regularly. If you don’t like to drink and ride, make sure to drink plenty of water once you get to your destination.
Sun exposure in the summer is no joke. Not only does extra time in the sun increase your risk of skin cancer, it also will speed up the time it takes to exhaust and dehydrate you, which can impact your immediate safety on your bike. While sunscreen can help block the sun’s harmful rays, it’s important to cover up with loose-fitting, light clothing that will allow your skin to breathe while you ride. (Make sure the fabric around your legs isn’t so loose that it will get caught in your bike gears or chain though!)
Be prepared for sweat
If you’re riding your bike to work or to meet up with friends, have a backup plan for if your cycling clothes get sweaty. Bring your “real” outfit in a backpack or saddlebags, and pack along anything you’ll need to freshen up like a hairbrush or tissues. While this requires a little extra planning, it’s worth it in order to not spend the whole ride stressing about every bead of sweat on your forehead.
Slow down for pets and kids
Summer bike rides are often done for fun more than the practical “getting to work/school” rides we see throughout the year. If you’re taking a casual ride, you might be inclined to bring along a child or pet with you. While this can make cycling more fun, you do need to consider that dogs and children likely have a lower tolerance for the heat than you do. Don’t assume that just because your dog is running alongside you the whole time that they aren’t suffering; dogs will keep running to the point of exhaustion in order to keep up with you, which you don’t want. Little kids pushed too far or too fast are likely to suffer exhaustion and dehydration sooner and more intensely than you. If you bring a companion along on your ride, make sure you slow down a little, ensure they are staying hydrated, and check in with them regularly.
Ease into bigger rides
A ride that feels like a breeze during the fall might be a little (or a lot) harder on your system if the temperature is above 80 degrees with the sun beating down on you. If you’re going for a challenging ride on your favorite bike route, plan for it to take extra time and bulk up on the supplies you bring with you. Packing snacks and extra water, and taking it slowly — especially on hills and tricky parts — will help ensure you don’t burn out far from home.
Why we still love riding our bikes in the summer
Yes, riding your bike in the summer comes with it’s own challenges, and yes, showing up to work sweating through your clothes (we prefer to call it “glowing”) can be a little embarrassing — but we still think riding your bike in the summer is pretty awesome.
- Public transportation is extra unpleasant when it’s hot out. Would you rather be crowded on a sweaty, stinky bus with a hundred other people, or enjoying the freedom of the open road at your own pace?
- Summer driving is worse for the environment. Extra traffic plus cars blasting the air conditioning from door to door? Cars are even worse polluters than usual in summer. In fact, some cities (like Paris) are so disturbed by the extra pollution caused by summer emissions, that they are issuing special requests to citizens not to drive if they don’t have to.
- Park easily at big summer events. Summer means awesome outdoor fun like movie nights and concerts, which can draw huge crowds — and dense parking situations. Instead of walking 20 minutes from your parking spot to your venue, enjoy hassle-free, space-saving bike parking up close!
- Biking is a perfect way to enjoy summer days. If you’re stuck in an office at work all day, staring out the window at the sunshine, riding your bike is a great way to enjoy the cool morning temperatures and warm summer afternoons — you’ll get way more outdoor enjoyment time than people driving their cars to work!
Ride your bike this summer!
If you have tips for biking safely and happily during the summer, please share them with us on Facebook! And enjoy riding your bike this summer!