Hot Weather Cycling
Summertime, and the living is easy (and the cycling is HOT). Subsequently training and racing can be very difficult.
In fact, the first key point for you to understand is that heat and humidity will have a negative impact on your cycling performance. There is no getting around this. You will never perform as well in 90-degree temperatures as you will on a 60-degree day because you expend a tremendous amount of energy dissipating heat and regulating your body temperature.
Here are a few tips to help you navigate the upper scales of the thermostat:
Heat acclimatization is the adaptive process by which humans become physiologically more tolerant to high heat conditions. It allows you to ride longer and faster in hot weather, but not as long or as fast as you would in cooler temperatures. Heat acclimatization also decreases, but does not eliminate, your risk of heat illness (e.g., heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke). Here are some key facts and tips when it comes to the acclimatization process:
The only way to acclimatize is to ride in the heat; however, riding outdoors in a hot climate or indoors in a hot room work equally well.
Heat acclimatization happens fairly quickly. Most of the gains occur in 4-9 days of training. Full acclimatization occurs in about 14 days. So plan accordingly if you will be competing in hot weather (e.g., start acclimatization about 2.5 weeks prior to a key ride).
Begin the acclimatization process by riding during cooler parts of the day at a lower intensity and volume. Gradually increase your volume and intensity. Later, you can try riding during hotter parts of the day.
Workouts performed in cooler conditions can be higher in intensity and longer in duration so try to complete 1-2 sessions each week in cooler temperatures (e.g., in an air conditioned room with a fan).
Reduce the length and intensity of your warm-up for races and events.
Pay close attention to how your body responds to riding and racing in the heat. Different people can be affected in different ways.
Hydration has a significant impact on cycling performance and is especially important in hot weather. Dehydration of only two percent of your total body weight can impair your performance. Dehydration of five percent can reduce your work output by as much as 10 percent. When it comes to effective hydration, keep four points in mind:
Drink before you get thirsty. The reason for this is simple. The dehydration process begins long before you feel thirsty. Get in the habit of drinking from your bottle every 15 minutes whether you feel thirsty or not. This will minimize the chances of getting dehydrated. It will also keep your energy levels up on long rides if you are using a sports drink, which you should be doing on any ride over an hour.
Determine your hydration needs. The simplest way to do this is to estimate your sweat rate. Weigh yourself on a digital scale prior to a brisk, one-hour ride. Then weigh yourself again after the ride. If you have lost one pound you are down 16 ounces of fluid. Repeat this process frequently to get a good sense of your sweat rate in different environmental conditions (i.e., temperatures).
As a general rule of thumb, bring two full bottles on every ride and drink 4-8 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes. For high temperature rides of more than an hour, consider using a hydration system. This serves a dual purpose. First, it allows you to conveniently carry a large volume of liquid. Second, by freezing the water (or filling it with ice), the hydration pack can help lower your core temperature. Practice using the hydration pack prior to an important event or competition. They can be a bit cumbersome.
Arrive at your workout or event hydrated. The hydration process starts the day before a ride or race. If you know you will be riding in hot weather, make sure you drink plenty of fluids the day before and the day of your workout. Consider drinking a full bottle of water before the ride.
Decide what to drink and make sure it's cold. For workouts that will last an hour or less, water is sufficient. For rides that last over an hour, use a sports drink to replace carbohydrates and electrolytes. This is particularly important in high heat conditions. Try out different drinks to see what works best for you but never try something new the day of an event.
To prevent your drink from quickly turning the temperature of warm tea, freeze one bottle at half full and another at the three-quarter mark before topping them off. (Mountain bikers: Put ice cubes into your hydration pack.) For longer rides, figure out in advance where you can restock with cold drinks. Also look at purchasing a highly insulated water bottle such as the CamelBak Podium Ice, about $24. These can keep your beverages colder 4 times longer than the normal water bottle.
A sunburn does more than fry your skin, Sims says. It contributes to fatigue and increases your metabolism. The latter might sound like a good thing, but it also increases fluid needs, which can be a problem on a hot day when you're already struggling to stay hydrated. Do everything you can to prevent sunburn: Always wear sunscreen; choose jerseys, shorts, and arm skins with built-in sun protection; and wear a cap under your helmet to shield your head.