Riding in The Heat

Well, it’s hot again, but with a little preparation you can still get where you’re going on your bike in relative comfort.

Here are our tips for riding in the heat:

Give yourself some extra time. 

This gives you a chance to do a few things:

  • Take it slow. Exertion can make you feel even hotter. Vary your speed and find the balance between keeping up a nice breeze and not pedaling too hard.
  • Take an extra five minutes at your destination to cool off, have an iced coffee, wash your face, change your shirt, and whatever else you need to do get back to comfortable.
  • Find a flatter, shadier route if you can. Seek out trails and side streets that offer a break from sunbaked concrete and hot exhaust.

Protect yourself from the sun.

A little shade and breeze can go a long way toward making you comfortable, even when the forecast calls for airborne swamp.

  • Seek out a shady route.
  • Wear sunscreen and sunglasses.
  • Light-colored, loose-fitting clothes that let some air flow around you and keep the sun off (even long sleeves!) can sometimes be more comfortable than a t-shirt or tight-fitting bicycling clothing.


Drink whatever works for you: water, fruit juice, sports drink, (sorry, beer is not recommended), but make sure you’ve got some with you when you’re riding. DC Water has a network of partners across the city that will let you refill a water bottle for free. Details are here.

Sweat: it’s fine.

Really, it’s more than fine, it’s good! Sweat cools you off as it evaporates. The thing we mostly don’t like about sweat is being sweaty once we get off our bikes. Here are our perspiration management tips:

  • Time! As we mentioned above, giving yourself a little extra time to take it slow, finding a less exerting route, and cooling off when you get to your destination all make it easier to not feel like a sweaty mess when you get to your destination.
  • Many employers offer showers, or access to a gym with showers. If not, don’t despair. If you carry a change of clothes and a washcloth, it’s pretty easy to get tidied up.
  • If you can, carry your stuff on your bike, not your body. A backpack is a sweat trap—it prevents air from flowing around your back and keeps all that sweat from evaporating. Carrying your stuff on a rack or in a saddlebag or basket lets your sweat do its job.

We also like this suggestion:

Know what trouble looks like.

Take a moment and make sure you know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration. Keep an eye on yourself and those around you. We’re all a big bike family!

Take it easy.

With these tips, you should be able to have a still-pleasant ride even in unpleasant circumstances. But if you’re not feeling it, that’s OK. Metrobuses are air-conditioned!

Riding in the Heat

Let’s face it. Summer is here. It feels like an oven outside and you can’t walk a block without looking like you’ve just gotten out of a personal training session. It’s almost impossible to ride your bike in these temps, right?

Wrong! You can ride in the heat and arrive wherever you’re headed comfortably and okay. Don’t believe me? Here are some tips to help get you pedaling all the way through the summer:

    1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Drink a lot of water – before, during, and after your ride. And make sure to start sipping before you’re thirsty. An insulated water bottle (like the one pictured below) will help keep your water refreshingly cool. Also, look into local TapIt locations on your route so you know where you can fill up your water bottle for free!
    2. Protect yourself from the sun. Wear sunglasses – they’ll help you to see through the sun’s glare, shield your eyes from dirt and dust, and protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.  Be sure to apply plenty of sunblock before you get on your bike, reapplying every 2 hours or so.
    3. Shade is your new best friend. For a more bearable and comfortable ride, plan your ride along shady routes and scout out some possible resting places along the way to take a breather and relax if needed.
      Image from Flickr via user

      Image from Flickr via user Digikiki

    4. Plan ahead! Plan a route that generally avoids major hills and other strenuous riding obstacles. Find places that you could stop and refill along the way. Give yourself extra time and go at an easy, relaxed pace. Most importantly, be honest with yourself and know your limits! It’s okay if the heat is too much. Just make sure to have an alternative travel plan. You can even split up your trip and plan a multi-modal commute, like bringing your bike on the Metro or bus.
      Image taken from Metro

      Image taken from Metro

    5. What you wear counts. Make sure to wear clothes that are moisture-wicking and comfortable. Light-colored fabrics that reflect the sun are ideal. Try to stick to polyester-type fabrics and flowy clothes that are breathable – you’ll appreciate the extra breeze! It also helps to wear a cycling cap under your helmet to keep your hair looking great despite the humidity.
    6. Don’t be afraid to sweat. Sweating is virtually unavoidable. So while you can’t stop your body’s natural way of cooling you down, you can prepare for how you deal with it. If you’re riding to work, try to leave your work clothes at the office and bike there in more comfortable, lighter clothing. You could also invest in some panniers or a basket to carry a change of clothes with you on your ride.
      Image from The Active Times

      Image from The Active Times

      It’s a bonus if your destination has showers. But if not, pack a towel, washcloth, or baby wipes and some deodorant – and make sure to give yourself some extra time to wipe down and cool-off.

And most importantly…


Copy of PAL - Arlington ride with Pete 3


wandblogoThis blog post is part of a weekly Women & Bicycles series of tips and helpful information that will answer frequently asked questions, provide helpful advice to common problems, and make bicycling a more accessible, widely-chosen means of transportation, exercise, and fun! To learn more about WABA’s Women & Bicycles program, click here to learn more and get involved.