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  1. #1
    Senior Member TransitBiker's Avatar
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    Heat waves and your health.

    So, i'd love to have some input from anyone on here about how heat waves in the warm months affect your commute and how it affects your health especially those of you that have longer routes and live in urban areas or traditionally warmer areas.

    I have started debating and questioning my methods of staying safe in some of the worse heat waves, where the ambient temperatures in small patches due to road heating and exhaust can exceed 105 degrees. The body's ability to cool itself in these situations is severely reduced or eliminated entirely because the body absorbs more heat than it can dissipate with sweat. I'm thinking damping my shirt in spots with neutral temperature water, damping my hair before putting helmet on, just to give my body a chance to cool before sweating, and drinking club soda as to not wash out my electrolytes vs mineral water. Also thinking of putting some alu foil tape on my helmet(s) to keep them from getting hot from the sun...

    Please share your tips and tricks of staying cool as well as any anecdotes of how the heat affected your health.

    - Andy
    I can't wait for the next pint of good chocolate milk after a long ride.

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    Senior Member tjspiel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TransitBiker View Post
    So, i'd love to have some input from anyone on here about how heat waves in the warm months affect your commute and how it affects your health especially those of you that have longer routes and live in urban areas or traditionally warmer areas.

    I have started debating and questioning my methods of staying safe in some of the worse heat waves, where the ambient temperatures in small patches due to road heating and exhaust can exceed 105 degrees. The body's ability to cool itself in these situations is severely reduced or eliminated entirely because the body absorbs more heat than it can dissipate with sweat. I'm thinking damping my shirt in spots with neutral temperature water, damping my hair before putting helmet on, just to give my body a chance to cool before sweating, and drinking club soda as to not wash out my electrolytes vs mineral water. Also thinking of putting some alu foil tape on my helmet(s) to keep them from getting hot from the sun...

    Please share your tips and tricks of staying cool as well as any anecdotes of how the heat affected your health.

    - Andy
    How long is your commute?

    I don't live in an area where we'll see triple digit temps very often but 90's with high humidity (and high heat indexes) aren't unusual. I've done fast group rides under those conditions and I think you just have to be smart about it. About 10 years ago an NFL lineman died from heat stroke during training camp not far from here so it is definitely possible to suffer some serious consequences if you're not careful.

    At the same time we're not wearing heavy pads and most of us don't weigh 300+ pounds. Most importantly, we are not required to exert ourselves any more than we want to on our commutes and I think that's where the biggest danger lies. Take it easy. Drink lots of water. Find a shady spot and take a break if you need to.
    Last edited by tjspiel; 06-06-14 at 08:25 AM.
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  3. #3
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Keep moving to stay cool, and take extra water with you. Try to find routes with more shade if possible. I've never had a problem with it but I have had to back off the effort level at times when I felt like I was overheating.

  4. #4
    Senior Member CommuteCommando's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TransitBiker View Post
    . . .The body's ability to cool itself in these situations is severely reduced or eliminated entirely because the body absorbs [actually generates] more heat than it can dissipate with sweat.
    There are some who think the phrase "but it's a dry heat" is a joke, but really it isn't. It's physics. Out here we are fortunate in that when temperatures go up, humidity usually goes down. As long as I stay hydrated I do fine in temps up to 100. I am usually moving, and in dry air, evaporation, and the resultant cooling is more efficient. The only time I had issues in the heat was from dehydration. The evaporation cooling was so effective that I did not even realize how hot it was until I looked at my Strava feed after. Now one of the pages on my Garmin display has Temperature, and I use it as a guide to how much to drink.

    Since you live in the east where temperature and humidity seem to be directly proportional, I would suggest packing ice. Fill a bottle half way with water and lay it on its side in the freezer. Prop the neck up so the opening is not clogged by the ice plug, then top it with cold water before leaving on your ride. Take a second bottle fully frozen. If you try filling the bottles with ice cubes, they melt too fast. You can also keep them cold longer by wrapping them with heavy duty shop towels and rubber bands. By the time you are finished with the first bottle, the second should have melted enough to start drinking from.
    Last edited by CommuteCommando; 06-06-14 at 08:48 AM.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member ill.clyde's Avatar
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    How would the alu foil tape help? Wouldn't it make it hotter in the helmet?

    As far as coping ... as was stated, on a commute, you set the pace. If you need to slow down due to the heat, you slow down. I generally only bring one water bottle on my commute, but if needed I know I can stop and refill at a few places along the way. Damping the shirt is a good idea. Also helps that half of my commute is on an almost completely shaded MUP

  6. #6
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    my 2 cents - I squirt water through the holes in my helmet to keep my head wet. I also avoid riding in the hottest weather except for early morning or late afternoon. also you wind up riding slower rather than going all-out
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

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    Senior Member DVC45's Avatar
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    If you are on your way home, wet your shirt with water. Helps a lot.
    "Cycling is for pleasure not penance"

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    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TransitBiker View Post
    Also thinking of putting some alu foil tape on my helmet(s) to keep them from getting hot from the sun...
    I have an opinion about the natural relationship between the advantages/benefits of wearing aluminum foil on the head with helmet wear; but will refrain.

    Seriously, if you are that worried about the risks to your health from overheating, you might want to reconsider if the risk benefits bestowed by your sweat soaked helmet outweigh the increased risk of heat stroke.

  9. #9
    Senior Member RPK79's Avatar
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    I ride hard in the summer even in high temps/humidity. I just bring more water (and drink it). You don't want to let yourself get to the point where you feel dehydrated because by then it's too late to catch up. I set my Garmin to beep at me every xx minutes to remind me to drink.

    Bottom line you get acclimated to it.

  10. #10
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TransitBiker View Post
    So, i'd love to have some input from anyone on here about how heat waves in the warm months affect your commute and how it affects your health especially those of you that have longer routes and live in urban areas or traditionally warmer areas.

    I have started debating and questioning my methods of staying safe in some of the worse heat waves, where the ambient temperatures in small patches due to road heating and exhaust can exceed 105 degrees. The body's ability to cool itself in these situations is severely reduced or eliminated entirely because the body absorbs more heat than it can dissipate with sweat. I'm thinking damping my shirt in spots with neutral temperature water, damping my hair before putting helmet on, just to give my body a chance to cool before sweating, and drinking club soda as to not wash out my electrolytes vs mineral water. Also thinking of putting some alu foil tape on my helmet(s) to keep them from getting hot from the sun...

    Please share your tips and tricks of staying cool as well as any anecdotes of how the heat affected your health.

    - Andy
    Let me preface this by saying that I live...and grew up...in Colorado where a "humid" day is when the relative humidity hits about 30%. When you factor in that the high altitude air here carries significantly less water then low altitude air, that 30% relative humidity is even drier. So evaporative cooling is much more efficient here than many other places. It also means that when I do go someplace that is humid (which is just about anywhere east of here), I suffer a bit more then people who are used to the humidity do.

    That said, I've toured extensively in the south eastern US during the early summer months and have found that dealing with the heat and humidity is fairly easy. I haven't found pouring water on me to work all that well there. It works wonderfully here but in the humid south, the water doesn't evaporate and cool as well. I do, however, wear a Camelbak and pack it with as much ice as it can hold. The cold seeping from the bag more then makes up for any heat problems the pack may cause and the cold water goes a long ways towards cooling your core. The ice in a Camelbak can last several hours, especially out here in the dry west.

    I'm not sure the other ideas are going to help much. Club soda vs water? I don't see where the club soda would help (plus I detest the stuff). Water does a good job with some Gatorade or other sports drink to replace the electrolytes. Aluminum foil isn't going to do much on a helmet because the helmet is a pretty good insulator by itself. The outer temperature can be very hot while the temperature next to your head will be much cooler. Depending on the helmet, the air vents in the helmet can make it more efficient at heat exchange than a bare head.

    Clothing can make a huge difference as well. Lycra and Coolmax as well as other technical fabrics do a better job of transporting sweat away from your body and out to the air. Evaporation is the game and you want to get that sweat...with it's heat...to evaporate and cool. If the sweat is absorbed and held by the fabric, the heat of the liquid stays where you don't want it.

    Finally, there is a little bit of HTFU when it comes to heat as with anything bicycling related. You can get used to it and endure it.
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  11. #11
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I moved, Problem solved..

  12. #12
    Captain Big Ring tractorlegs's Avatar
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    My commute is around 7-1/2 miles one way, 15 round trip. El Paso is over 100 every day this week, usually above 105. The afternoon leg of my commute is in the hottest part of the day. I get through it very easily just by doing two things: Back off on the intensity (relax and ride slower) and drink lots and lots of water (I have a Mule for this time of year)
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    When really hot (90's,100's +) I slow down first......I wear a cycling hat when I ride,so I soak that.....if that is not enough,I carry a bandana and soak that,then put it around my neck.....With plenty of water,that has been enough.......And were talking Death Valley and low desert hot....120+ at times.

    If it is humid also,your going to be hot when you stop,no matter what you do......unless that stop is in front of a store or bar....
    Last edited by Booger1; 06-06-14 at 02:06 PM.
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  14. #14
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    I used to live in the desert, with afternoon temps up to 120 F or so. Start drinking water before you leave, have a couple of liters of water per hour for your commute. Refrigerated water is good. Ride at a relaxed pace and enjoy the surroundings. Tie a wet rag around your neck if you need more cooling. Find shade if you need to fix a flat.
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  15. #15
    Senior Member Pliny the Elder's Avatar
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    Lots of water and sunblock are key

  16. #16
    Cat 5 field stuffer bbeasley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RPK79 View Post
    Bottom line you get acclimated to it.
    ^ this and common sense, hydration and sun screen regardless of temp. I live in the tropics of South Louisiana, heat is what we do.

  17. #17
    Senior Member wolfchild's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TransitBiker View Post
    Also thinking of putting some alu foil tape on my helmet(s) to keep them from getting hot from the sun...

    - Andy
    I don't think a tin foil hat would help a lot...Don't worry just stay hydrated, take it easy and don't overexert yourself on very hot humid days... Your body will acclimatize itself...I don't even have AC at work or at home and I managed to survive all these years.

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    I know I've mentioned it before but I do gratuitously abuse the walk-in fridges at some convenience stores. You'd be amazed how long it can take you to decide that all you want is a cold bottle of water when you've just been riding in the teens.

    Local weather can be awesome. Just because it's in the teens across the entire valley doesn't mean it's not 10-15 degrees cooler with a nice breeze near the river. Know how predictable diurnal winds work and you'll know when that wind will be a tailwind or headwind.

    Those are just comfort tips though. From a safety/health perspective, lots and lots of water is your only friend. Start early and stay well hydrated all summer. You will fail if you try to fix your chronic dehydration the morning of a big ride.

  19. #19
    Senior Member TransitBiker's Avatar
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    My primary helmet is a lovely shade of jet black, save the 8-ball logo part. The shell can get painfully hot, i was thinking foil tape would reflect some sun heating enough to be able to handle it without sizzling my fingers. Has nothing to do with it keeping my head cool.

    I live car free, so avoiding the mid-day highs is not really avoidable, as i gotta be where i gotta be on time & places arent gonna stay open later just so i can come in when it cools off a bit. I do not have an office as such, i have clients all over town & i ride between points as set on a daily schedule. I am also on call 24/7 so i could get a call at 3 AM & off i go, or it could be rush hour on a 100+ day, I have tons of experience with all weather riding, so i'm not really looking for tips for myself, just general ideas and tricks that might help others.

    I don't really "cool down" till i'm done riding, even in shade. What i have done in the past is simply have a very intense cool-down routine when possible upon arrival. THe reason i even made this thread is because i'm learning that exposure to high temps, even with effecgtive cool-down can lead to othereise very healthy people getting heart attacks, and other scary things. Thats why i was curious about the health part as well as cooling tips.

    - Andy
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  20. #20
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    Good topic! I don't tolerate the heat well. Anything above 95F is too uncomfortable for me to enjoy riding my bicycle. During those times when I'm required to ride (such as commuting), I will generally go pretty slow (10-12mph) so I don't feel like I'm overheating. Also, if the sidewalk is shaded, you can bet I will ride on it. Thankfully my 14 mile commute has a lot of flexibility with regards to the route. Routes chosen during heat waves often go down streets where I know there is a significant presence of large trees. I basically try to find as much shade as possible, work as slowly as possible, and stay plenty hydrated throughout the day.

  21. #21
    Senior Member AusTexMurf's Avatar
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    Drink Water.
    Lots.
    Keep Moving.
    Acclimate.

  22. #22
    Senior Member raqball's Avatar
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    Today was a 100+ plus day.. More like 105ish probably since they take the temp reading in the shade..

    I took one of my shorter routes that has less climbing.. I went 38 miles with limited climbing.

    Maybe it's because I am a) old, b) out of shape, or c) both but when the temps get high I avoid the hard climbs.. Climbing flat out demolishes me in the heat and I need to leave enough energy to make it back to my start point..
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Solid_Spoke View Post
    Good topic! I don't tolerate the heat well. Anything above 95F is too uncomfortable for me to enjoy riding my bicycle. During those times when I'm required to ride (such as commuting), I will generally go pretty slow (10-12mph) so I don't feel like I'm overheating. Also, if the sidewalk is shaded, you can bet I will ride on it. Thankfully my 14 mile commute has a lot of flexibility with regards to the route. Routes chosen during heat waves often go down streets where I know there is a significant presence of large trees. I basically try to find as much shade as possible, work as slowly as possible, and stay plenty hydrated throughout the day.
    A lot of good advise here.
    the fact is everyone is different.
    I do heat really well, but many don't

    The shady side, and even in humid area,
    cool water over head area does help
    especially in shade

    i know most peeps around here wont ride without a helmet
    but when its scorching, like it has been here
    i wear a sun hat
    it really keeps a lot of sun off your head

    stop in the shade often if your getting too hot
    and of course drink lots of ice cold beer.
    oops i mean water ....

  24. #24
    Member johnlp37's Avatar
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    Prehydration helps a lot. It takes me a couple weeks to acclimate once the heat hits. Happened here about a week ago. 105+ on the commute home all this week. It takes me less than an hour to get home, so I don't worry about the heat. Longer weekend stuff I do early morning only. Don't forget the cold beer! After, of course...
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  25. #25
    I don't get out enough polishmadman's Avatar
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    Here, road temps can be over 120*. I carry lots of water and electrolyte replacements. I try to be careful, because I don't sweat until I stop.
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