We have entered the dog days of summer. The state of Florida has become a giant sauna and trail conditions are far from ideal thanks to rainstorms. The heat, humidity, and bugs are beginning to grate on me, and I find it hard to be motivated to spend time riding outdoors right now. When I do ride, I feel like I am pedaling underwater, and when I’m done I look like someone dumped a bucket of water over my head. Yet, in spite of my complaints, I truly relish riding my bike during the summer months.
So how can we all love riding during the summer? Because there is a definite upside to riding on a regular basis during the summer months. Here are four reasons why you should get stoked about riding during the summer — even in the heat.
Riding during the summer builds your conditioning and endurance
It’s hard to see an upside to slogging through the heat and humidity of a summer day in Florida, but riding on a regular basis during the summer will pay dividends once the cooler weather arrives. After a full summer of riding, I usually pick up a good mile per hour on my average speed and find myself climbing hills effortlessly. The heat and humidity that beats me down all summer builds me up for a great season of cool weather riding in the fall and winter. It’s a great reward for suffering through those hard summer rides.
Summer rides are the perfect opportunity to focus on technique instead of speed
Let’s face it, no one is keen on setting PRs in 90 degree heat and 100% humidity. So ditch Strava and use your summer rides to work on your basic skills. Going slower allows you to focus more on your braking, cornering, climbing, and descending techniques. It also provides you with the opportunity to analyze your line choices and to explore different lines you might not have noticed if you were going faster. Here in Florida, our trails are usually rough and slick this time of year from the rain and humidity, so I have to consistently focus on my line choices and my technique in order to keep the rubber side down.
I was reminded of this fact recently when a momentary lapse in focus caused me to collide with a small pine tree after my front tire washed out on a patch of wet pine needles in the middle of a corner. Had I been properly focused on scanning the trail ahead of me for any potential issues I would have altered my line to avoid it. Going slower might not be very fun, but it will help improve your technique so that you can have faster, safer rides when the weather turns cooler.
Summer is a great time to night ride
I began riding in the dark a few years ago to avoid the oppressive summer heat and afternoon thunderstorms that define summer in North Florida. Now, I spend the majority of my time night riding. Night rides are your ticket to see a completely different side of mountain biking. Seeing only the trail in front you helps you focus better, and reveals lines you might not have noticed in the daylight. Additionally, nature comes alive at night, giving you the opportunity to see all kinds of different creatures. Just use caution when riding near them, especially armadillos who have a tendency to run at you when blinded by light. I am convinced that night riding has made me a better rider in general, and it’s just plain fun.
If you do decide to try it, start with a trail you know well. Bring a friend along for safety reasons, or at least let someone know when and where you will be riding if you go it alone.
Summer gives you more opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature
The long days of summer provide more opportunities to get out and ride. You can ride early in the morning, avoiding the heat of the day while seeing the sun rise over the trail, or ride in the evening as the setting sun bathes the woods in orange and red. Even midday rides can be fun if you retreat into a dense forest with plenty of shade. The warm sun, vibrant colors, and active wildlife that are prevalent this time of year always make the rides more special to me. It’s hard for me to stay indoors when I could be out enjoying nature. To make rides even more fun, pair them up with another fun activity. Take a fishing pole along, and stop to fish for a while at a pond or stream next to the trail. Or pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic in the woods. Doing so will help you get some rest while you ride, and give you even more time to enjoy the outdoors.
Don’t shy away from those hot summer rides
While I love living in a warm climate that gives me the opportunity to ride all year long, I do not always enjoy riding during the heat of summer. The trails get rougher and slicker, and the heat and humidity wears me down. But there is definitely an upside to riding all summer long. So don’t spend your summer avoiding the trails because of the heat.
What are some reasons why you enjoy riding during the summer? Please feel free to share them in the comments section below.