Monday, June 6, 2011

How to Ride in the Heat

Not that I’m an expert, but I do have some experience—especially today.

I rode on the Cedar River Trail t work, making my morning commute more on the order of 7 or 8 miles rather than 5. I started coming home around 1, and took the trail again—but added the loop around Cedar Lake, as a well as a 1 ½ mile trek north on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, to make sure that I got at least 20 miles in today, since I was too busy to ride Saturday or Sunday.

So I rode 20 miles, 15 of them in the afternoon, when the area was under a “heat” advisory. The Banker’s Trust sign at Blairs Ferry and C Avenue said “100,” but I know from my winter rides that the bank’s thermometer is off by 5 to 10 degrees to the warm. The computer says it’s 92, and was 96 at the hottest point of the afternoon, and I suppose I should go with that.

How do I feel? Well, fine, but a little foolhardy. I was for sure “stretching it,” but being used to the heat is part of RAGBRAI prep, too, and that’s my story. Beats brain malfunction due to hot weather, right?

So, how did I ride in the heat? What are CR Biker’s rules for those fools—mad dogs and Englishmen—who will bake their behinds on a bike seat at 92 or 96 degrees?

1) Take water. Drink water. My rule was that every time I came to a stop, for any reason, I took a drink from the water bottle I was carrying. I also used every water fountain I passed that was working, although the only one working was at the Hiawatha trail head. But, I refilled my bottle, there, too, and had plenty to drink at MMU.

2) Stop and rest every once in a while. I shot some photos for my crgardenjoe blog along the way, of graffiti along the trail. Of course, I don’t need much of an excuse to stop and snap a photo anyway—but this little art interlude was partly deliberate, just to get off the bike, take some drinks and cool off. When I got 1 ½ miles out of town, I also stopped and sat for a few and drank most of the water I had gathered at the Hiawatha trail head.

3) Don’t forget to sunscreen. It’s the sunny part of the year and I was out in the sunny part of the day. My dad tanned fairly easily, but my mom was fair skinned. I’m in between—not as unlucky as some of my sisters who burn very easily, but I will certainly burn without sunscreen. I don’t think I burned today—because, yes, I remembered and used my sun screen.

4) Be an easy rider. No, don’t take off on a motorcycle. I mean where you might shift into “4,” it’s OK to use “2.” Take your time. No racing on a hot day—I was happy to “amble” on my bike. One advantage to biking is that, while you can pump hard and be Lance Armstrong, you can also pump lightly and be old Joe on a hot day. Take it from old Joe—today was a “and there’s Uncle Joe, he’s a moving kind of slow” day. And yes, a free earworm for those who remember 1960s sitcoms.

5) Dress like it’s hot. No, not shirtless—Arabs cover up for a reason. But light shirt and shorts. Saw some old people out today who seemed wildly overdressed. I suppose that’s more pleasant to see than old people wildly underdressed, but today was not a day for blue jeans or flannel, regardless of your age. I felt I was “hot appropriate” in my attire—modest (and I always try to be as a favor to the world), but shorts and a white cotton T shirt.

There you have, 5 rules that I hope will help you on your hot summer rides! As for me, I think I might actually be able to face the heat of RAGBRAI. It certainly felt like the last week of July in Iowa today!

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