Beat the Heat: Tips for Biking During the Worst of the Summer

Proof that DC is the sweating to death.

You might’ve noticed that here in the DC region, we’re embroiled in our annual heat wave. Temperatures are hovering in the triple-digit range, air quality alerts and heat advisories are a daily routine. Even some of us who ride our bikes year-round don’t find too much enjoyment biking in these circumstances, but there are a few tips we’ve learned over the years to make the best of the blistering heat:

Dress for success

Staying cool is all about preparation. First of all, get ready to get sweaty. It’s inevitable, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, the whole point of sweating is that it cools you down, right? You should be thinking about wicking or evaporating fabrics for your shorts and shirt, usually polyester. Whether you go the full-on lycra route is entirely up to you. Light colored clothing reflects heat away from your body. Other things to consider: arm/leg coolers, sunglasses, summer bike gloves, biking in sandals, lots and lots of sunscreen (30 minutes before stepping outside & every 2 hours thereafter).

Plan your route carefully

Change up the time of your ride and try to get out on your bike early, before the heat of the day sets in. Alternatively, wait until after the sun has gone down to ride. Remember, Rock Creek Park is always a few degrees cooler than anywhere else. Try to prioritize shady streets and pick out shade-covered or air-conditioned rest locations ahead of time. It’s always worthwhile to plan a bail-out option: put your bike on the bus or lock it up and call a cab. Other things to consider: stopping to fill your water bottle(s), avoiding large hills, riding through sprinklers.

Pace yourself

With overheating a serious concern, it’s important not to overexert yourself. Hyperthermia and heat stroke are caused by prolonged exposure to heat and humidity and are dangerous conditions that can result in disability and death. Take them seriously! Ride slowly, take breaks often, and don’t be too proud to call it quits. Other things to consider: telecommuting, knowing your limits.


Pack extra water and make this your motto: Drink Before You Are Thirsty.  Remember that you can fill your water bottle for free at area TapIt locations. Other things to consider: camelbaks, drinking energy drinks to replace electrolytes.