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Managing heat on a bike

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  • Managing heat on a bike

    A number of people have asked me how I handle the heat on a bike. As a person with MS, there is no doubt that I am considerably more sensitive to heat than most cyclists out there, but there are a couple of things I have found that help.

    Keep moving. There is such a thing as “resting on the bike”, lower the intensity of the effort but keep pedaling to maintain airflow and its cooling effect. It took a while to condition myself to do this but maintaining airflow is key to staying cool for me.

    Stop in the shade. I try not to stop any longer than necessary to grab a breath, a pee, a bite or a drink. The longer I stop, the harder it is to get going again. Even the ambient warm air temp in the shade sucks nerve function out of me.

    Dress. I tend to under dress. I dress more for the expected high temperature than the starting temperature. If it’s really cold when I start, I wear removable arm and leg warmers. I use proper cycling clothes that are generally designed for comfort and cooling.

    Helmet. I got a new helmet late last year, it has about twice the number of air vents as my old helmet but they are smaller vents and they seem to have made the helmet noticeably warmer. I will get another helmet with larger vents before the weather heats up this year and I hope that will be a cooler solution.

    Water. I carry two slightly oversize water bottles. When it really gets hot and I can’t generate enough airflow to cool or have to stop for a breath on a hill in the sun, I pour water on myself. On hot days I soak myself whenever I stop to refill my bottles. Also, the hotter it is, the more I drink. It makes me pee a lot but the cyclists’ adage is, "if you’re not peeing, you’re not drinking enough" and it’s all the truer for an MSer.

    Conditioning. I have found that by not avoiding rising temperatures during training I am able to condition myself somewhat to tolerate a slightly higher range. I’d put this somewhere around being able to tolerate up to mid 70’s in the early season to being able to tolerate up to high 80’s in the later season. It can get pretty uncomfortable and if I really overheat, it is still devastating.

    Special cooling stuff. I don’t own any special cooling stuff but I did try a freebie that was provided on the MS ride last year. It was a special water absorbent cloth tube about 2 ft. long and 2-in. in diameter that you wore around your neck. It felt pretty good, really good actually but it needed a snap or a tie to keep it from falling off. I caught mine several times before it finally did manage to fall. When it fell, it wrapped itself around my pedal and left a tail dragging dangerously close to my rolling rear wheel. You should have seen the cyclists around me scatter when they saw what happened. They were obviously expecting the worst. If the thing had fallen on the chain ring side, I would have been stuffed, but fortunately it fell on the left side which is also my strongest side. You can’t just slam on a panic stop when you’re in the middle of a lot of bikers like that either so, I stopped pedaling but kept rolling along. I proceeded to unclip my left foot and manipulate the pedal crank until the cooling strap was only loosely draped over the pedal. Then, with a couple of uncoordinated but gingerly placed steps on the tail, I managed to drag it off the crank and leave it on the ground behind me. The whole thing couldn’t have taken more than 20 or 30 seconds but man, did I ever get accolades from the bikers around me! I’m sure they were ecstatic when they didn’t have to rescue my happy ass from a nasty crash just as much as I’m sure they appreciated my lucky skills at getting out of a dangerous situation. The real kicker of course, was that unless they noticed me at the last rest stop and happened to be at least a little familiar with MS, they probably didn’t have a clue that I suffered from it. Sometimes, when I'm on the bike, even I don't notice the MS so much.
    Last edited by AMFADVENTURES; 03-11-2010, 06:31 PM.

  • #2
    Thanks AMFAdventures for some great tips. I've also posted a link on the home page in the "recently added" area. Very helpful!
    Dave Bexfield


    • #3

      Wow, That's really cool Dave, thanks. (no pun intended)



      • #4
        A couple more

        I thought I'd add a couple more tips to the cooling notes here since it's been so unusually hot.

        Cold liquids to cool the core, if you can get liquids with electrolites but not much sugar, all the better. It's amazing how much this helps.

        Stay close to civilization, if it really gets bad look for AC.

        An evaporative cooling shirt like the Izi Dry Pro, which I have yet to write up an evaluation on, can also help but be aware that it may require frequent recharging. Recharging is not a big deal with these shirts, it merely uses water and the water doesn't even have to be cold.

        Good luck out there,


        • #5
          arm coolers

          Another choice in the cooling device category is arm coolers. I bought a set of Craft arm cooler and I think they are useful. They are thin white are sleeves that protect your arms from the sun and are very wicking. I squirt cold water on them from time to time and this significantly helps with cooling.
          I rode Monday in 95 degree heat with them and was reasonably comfortable. Last night I rode without them and was miserable. I will keep testing as let you know.