This week, you’re no better off in Delaware than you are in Miami. It’s hot as balls everywhere. Of course, down here 92 degrees is just a typical Saturday, and I’m out on the trails soaking it all in—or soaking my shirt in sweat. So how do you ride in the heat? What can you do to make it more tolerable, and safe? Well it’s no secret that a major component to riding in the heat is proper hydration.
As one of my roadie friends says, “if you start your ride thirsty, you’re already done.” Hydration should start long before your ride, even the night before if possible. Eating right, or not too much is probably a good idea as well. While you don’t want to starve yourself, you’re probably better off with a banana than let’s say, carnitas tacos.
So you’re well hydrated, and laying off the heavy food. You’ll still need to stay hydrated on your ride. Your options are a water bottle or a hydration pack. Which do you choose?
Water bottles are perhaps the simplest solution, and they keep your body free of obstructions so you can feel the breeze. Although we’ve all lost a water bottle on a hard landing, a good bottle and cage combination can be pretty secure. For XC riders and most trail riders, it’s a great solution. For many of us though, water bottles leave a lot to be desired. First of all they’re limited in terms of volume. Even a large bottle doesn’t quite cut it for a longer ride—not in the South. Also, many mountain bikes can’t even accept a bottle cage. Not only that, but some people just don’t like having stuff mounted to their bike if they can help it, myself included.
So, many riders opt for the hydration pack. You can get the comically small one that barely fits a car key, or the huge one that fits every bike tool you own plus two gallons of water. All of them hold more water than a bottle, and deliver it in the most convenient way possible. Having instant access to water without fumbling with a bottle is pretty nice. What’s better, hydration packs are extremely secure, with one or two cross straps to keep things in place. There’s no way a hydration pack is going to fall off of you.
All these benefits come at one huge cost though; hydration packs block the air that would otherwise be cooling you off. I should know, since I’m usually riding with this beast, which has all my camera gear in it.
One little trick I use is freezing the entire pack the night before. By the time you get to the trails, enough of it should have melted to get you started. Instead of making you sweat, it feels cool on your back. On a hot day, you’ll have a steady supply of meltwater to drink. There’s nothing like ice cold water when it’s hot as balls out.
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