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Dealing with Florida's Heat and Humidity on the Bike.

by Karen McGrath

Your bike may well ask you “Is it warm enough for you?” as you throw your leg over it, and you may well reply  “Yes, yes it is.”

While it is futile to complain about the rise in temperatures, after all this is Florida, that doesn't mean that riding in the heat is something you should avoid, it just poses some challenges. So as the temperatures rise and the heat and humidity take their toll, keep these tips in mind to stay safe and ride smart.

1. Plan and Prepare: Think about planning a route ahead of time and let at least one other person know where you're going. Wear your Road ID.  If you can, try and pick routes with some shade and a few convenient places to stop for hydration.  Be sure to carry a cell phone and some cash for extra fluids for potential emergency scenarios.

2. Use your Head:  Consider getting up before the sun to get an earlier start than normal so that you are not riding during the hottest parts of the day if possible. This is usually between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wear appropriate microfiber clothing that will stay cooler and wick sweat away! And absolutely do not forget to apply sunscreen! Should you experience a flat or mechanical, try to find a shady spot to work on the bike instead of staying out in the sun.

3. Acclimate: Start out with rides that are shorter in length and be sure to maintain a moderate pace. Increase your mileage as your body becomes used to riding in the heat. Then you will be able to increase your rides in length as well as intensity.

4. Hydrate, hydrate hydrate: Drink water before you even get started on your ride.  During your ride be sure to replace electrolytes drinking well before you are even thirsty. Always carry plenty of fluids, even if you're only planning for a short ride. It’s always better to have too much than too little!  Plan to take in small amounts of fluids frequently (every 5 to 10 minutes) to stay on top of your hydration needs. Be sure not to wait for the feeling of extreme thirst; this could be one of the initial signs of heat exhaustion.

5. Replace Electrolytes: For any rides in Florida, drink fluids with an electrolyte replacement in addition to water. Consider an electrolyte drink, such as Skratch or GU Brew. Electrolyte chews/gels to help maintain sodium levels and are easy to consume during the duration of the ride.

6. Recover: Recovery becomes even more critical when riding in the heat. Have something prepared to replenish your energy stores right after the ride that ideally has a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. Continue to hydrate in the hours that follow to replace fluids lost during the ride. This will speed the recovery process and allow you to face the heat again tomorrow.  Failing to do this will result in severe cramping and fatigue.

The Florida heat and humidity can make cycling in the summer a potentially hazardous environment. But with the proper preparation and attention to the body's nutritional needs, the long days of summer make them ideal times to be on a bike. So get out there, have fun, be safe and PEDAL ON!