Essential Summer Mountain Biking Gear
By Beth Puliti
When the mercury rises, mountain bikers around the world rejoice. Blue skies, sunshine, long days…there’s plenty to love about summer. However, If you’re not properly prepared for the heat, your summer mountain bike outing might turn from fun to frightening faster than you can say, “heatstroke.” Before you shred those sun-soaked trails, plan ahead by taking a look at this list of summer essentials.
Water, Water and More Water
Warm weather and physical activity can lead to dehydration if you aren’t prepared. During exercise, an athlete can lose one to three quarts of liquid per hour, according to USA Cycling. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that roughly 6,000 people in the United States were treated in the emergency room for a heat illness experienced during a sport or recreational activity every year from 2001 to 2009.
Don’t be a victim! Figure out how long your mountain bike ride is going to be and bring enough water to last until you’re finished. When it’s really hot, consider a hydration pack over a water bottle. Many packs have large bladders – like my Hydrapak Morro’s 100-oz. reservoir. Wear one of these and you’ll hardly ever worry when you’ll run out of water.
The American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine all agree that optimal nutrition enhances physical activity, performance and recovery from exercise. Well, I’m sure not going to argue with them. Especially because I can feel a difference in the way I bike when I’m eating healthy and regularly during a ride. Every day – but especially on hot days – you’ll want to make sure you bring food with you during your ride. Being prepared with proper nutrition will keep you energized and focused. You’d be surprised what some peanut butter crackers or an energy bar or gel can do for your outlook—especially when you feel like you’re bonking. Fitness-specific food and other food that’s high in carbohydrates (i.e., bagels or dried fruit) will help you regain lost energy.
Light in color and light in weight: those are my two rules when it comes to mountain biking in hot weather. Truth be told, I try to go sleeveless when possible. My jersey of choice is a silky-smooth, several year old, worn-in Ibex sleeveless wool jersey. Ahhh, pure comfort even on the hottest days! If you can, I suggest you opt for a very lightweight bike jersey made out of a wicking material too. Why wicking? Moisture evaporates faster when it travels from your skin into nonabsorbent clothing due to the increased surface area. Some fabrics that do this really well are polyester, microfiber and wool. Stay away from cotton, which will soak up your sweat and stay wet for a prolonged period of time.
Everyone’s feet sweat, right? Right. (If you say yours don’t, I won’t believe you.) Add in some physical activity and hot weather, and you’ve got a recipe for athlete's foot and blisters. And that just won’t work because it’s flip-flop season! The best way to avoid having your feet overheat is to prevent it. Invest in cycling shoes that will allow your feet to breathe. Look for mesh and other breathable material, as well as cooling insoles. If you prefer good old fashioned shoes and flat pedals to cycling shoes and clipless pedals, that’s totally fine. Just keep those same breathable features in mind when perusing your collection before you head out.
The sun’s rays are inviting, sure. Unfortunately, they’re also harmful. If you’re not careful, exposure to the sun can result in skin cancer. How can you protect your skin when you’re out on the trail? Sunscreen. Be proactive and apply a layer of sunscreen before you leave your house. It’s one of the most important preventative steps you can take. Don’t forget these often hidden and sunburned spots: your ears, the back of your neck below your helmet, and the back of your legs and arms.