Finally it’s been made official. After countless hours slaving over their pencils and slide rules, the white coated Poindexters at the Weather Bureau have announced their decision. They now confidently assure us that 2005 was the hottest year on record. With the prospect of a long hot summer ahead of us I thought it might be worth recording some hints for riding in hot conditions.
The first thing to mention is that, in hot conditions, all physical activity is more demanding than it is under cooler conditions. When related specifically to cycling, it means that rides that you can cope with easily in cool weather are always going to be tougher as the temperature rises. This needs to be taken into account when planning rides in summer months.
With every degree rise in temperature the human body loses more water through perspiration and subsequent evaporation. Unless this lost water is continully replaced you can quickly find yourself in a state of serious dehydration. This can manifest itself in an initial feeling of fatigue, followed by increasing light headedness and weakness. Unless treated quickly it can become quite serious. For this reason it is essential to maintain a high degree of hydration by consciously drinking at regular intervals. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty – you need to discipline yourself to drink as much as you possibly can at regular intervals. I have also discovered that it is helpful to hydrate thoroughly BEFORE you start the ride. This gives you an extra margin before the heat takes its toll.
In hot weather you should also take care to pace yourself carefully by not trying to keep up the same speed you would maintain in cooler weather. If you riding in windy conditions make full use of drafting behind others in your group to reduce the effort required by each rider. Be very conscious of weaker riders in your group and DON’T PUSH them to unhealthy levels of endurance. Even if you feel comfortable, be aware of the condition of your weakest rider.
It is worth noting that riding in hot weather can actually feel surprisingly cool because of the evaporative cooling effect of the moving air. But keep in mind that the only reason it feels cool, is because of your loss of water from your skin. When you stop for a couple of minutes you will quickly feel the “real temperature” as the heat from your body core makes it’s presence felt.
In hot weather it may also be worth considering changing the time of your rides to avoid the hottest part of the day. Consider riding inthe early morning when the air may be still relatively cool and the sun lower in the sky. If you have lighting on your bike, maybe a night time ride could be a fun alternative.
Another important consideration in summer riding is to take adequte sun precautions with sun screen on exposed parts of the body – especially the face, nose, ears, arms, etc.
Of course riding in warm or hot weather is not all bad. It can be fantastic fun when you follow a few simple guidelines (and at least you don’t have to battle with the cold weather problem of the constantly dripping nose).
When we were told to expect a top temperature of 33C I knew that we would be in for a tough ride. With a variety of riders missing for one reason or another it was only Phil Wallen (“Warby Phil”) and I that started the ride at Mt Evelyn, although we were soon joined by Crasher a short distance down the hill. This gave us a pleasant chance to chat while Crasher started telling us how all the world’s problems would be solved if he was put in charge of the country. (I suspect that the captain of the Titanic was probably one of Bob’s ancestors).
AS we travelled down the trail we were progressively joined by Peter, Big Al, Doc Mackay and Lothar. It was good to see that lothar had also bought along Celia’s gandson Leon who would be making the trip with us to Warburton. An even bigger surprise was to see that Hooters had braved the heat to join us for a short part of the ride. With the Spanner also back in Australia we finally reached our target size of 10 riders.
The Settlement Rd Sprint took place as usual and, for a while, I thought that I had a chance. Unfortunately I had overlooked Lex who raced up from nowhere and managed to beat me by half a wheel right on the line. That guy is getting faster and faster. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about with Crasher Lewis.
As we entered the final straight section to Milgrove we encountered a long column of primary school students wobbling their way towards us along the trail. Bob, fearing yet another crash, started waving his arms wildly and yelling “Keep to the LEFT!!!” in a loud voice. I could not help but think that if that was how he treated the teachers, how would he react to the students when they reached us. I didn’t have to wait long to find out for within a couple of seconds we narrowly averted disaster when a couple of young riders headed straight for us. This sent Bob and Peter careering off the trail in a cloud of flying stones and loud curses. It was somewhat of a relief when we finally passed the last of the shool group and were able to resume our ride.
The relief turned out to be only temporary as we tyen found ourself in the midst of a group of mature aged riders riding down from Warburton. Their bikes were covered with panniers (obviously loaded with all sorts of essential supplies such a fruit pies and thermos flasks). Just as amazing was the gear that some of them were wearing. One female rider in particular had her face and head completely covered in what looked like a beekeeper’s protective clothing. I could only shake my head in disbelief. If any of our riders turned up like that we would probably push them off into the nearest creek. I could only be grateful that even Hooters would not turn up for ride looking like that.
At Warburton we took advantage of the air conditioner and had our afternoon inside the coffee shop. Just as we were nearing the end of our coffees we looked out the window to see another yellow jerseyed rider pull up outside the shop. It turned out to be none other that Dr Phil, who had apparently missed the start and had spent the last 50 minutes chasing us up the track. Although we were tempted to immediately rise to our feet and get back on our bikes, we decided to stay and keep Phil company while he had his lunch. (The Warbies are good like that.)
By the time we remounted for the return ride the temperature was somewhere in the low 30s and the wind had turned to be in our faces for much of the ride. Nevertheless we made good time and were soon back near Woori Yallock station when we noticed a familiar group in front of us. It turned out to be the same group of pannier carrying wobblers that we had passed on our outward ride. In the same period of time that we had ridden to Warburton, had a leisurely lunch and then ridden back to Woori Yallock, they had only covered about 10 km. Bob and I pondered whether we could actually persuade their group to take Hooters off our hands, seeing they seemed to be just the group where Hooters would be a stand out champion on every ride.
On the final leg of the ride I only had Bob and Dr Phil for company. Considering the heat we stopped for a short water fight at the Seville trough, before continuing on our way to the cars. Suitably refreshed and significantly cooler we all successfully completed the ride. What a simple pleasure it always is to be able to enjoy the trail in the company of good friends. It still never ceases to amaze me that, even after hundreds of rides, every ride turns out different in some respect.
With only one Thursday ride remaining for 2005, we all hope that next week’s Christmas Ride sees a big and well decorated peloton.