Thursday, July 6, 2017

Touring Tip: Not Dying in the Summer

Gang, it's the middle of summer so hopefully all of you are out enjoying the weather while you can, possibly on your bicycle.  Those freezing cold winter rides are finally a distant memory.  No more toes going numb.  No more hands getting chapped and cracked.  No more frozen boogers that thaw as soon as you reach the office forcing you to beeline to your desk to blow your nose before someone stops you to ask you if you saw that email from old so and so and can you believe they changed that policy and are you sick?  Your nose is running; don't touch me if you're sick.  Ha ha, just kidding.  But seriously, that email.  Also seriously, don't touch me.

Yup, now you have a whole different set of riding problems, the top being heat exhaustion, sun stroke, and dehydration.  And those are just the potentially fatal ones!  Non-lethal include mosquitoes, bear attacks, and overcrowded campgrounds.  But hey, at least you're not cold, right?

If you plan on touring this summer, you probably don't want to die.  With that in mind, here are some tips for spitting in the face of nature and staying alive:
  • Stay Hydrated - Drink a lot of water.  Constantly.  Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink water.  If you are thirsty, you are already far behind in your water consumption.  Refill your water bottles every single chance you get.  Even if you still have over half a bottle, if you find a water fountain, you drink as much as you can and then fill back up.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to constantly be drinking water.  Clear pee is your best friend.

  • Stay Electrolyted - This one goes hand in hand with the above.  As you ride, you will sweat.  If you are like Tibor, you will sweat profusely.  As you sweat, you will lose a lot of salt.  This will be very noticeable at the end of a ride when the sweat dries from your limbs leaving a thin (sometimes thick) layer of salt crystals.  Since you're losing all of this salt, you are going to need to replace it, especially as you are rehydrating.  An electrolyte imbalance (caused by losing all your salt but still maintaining all your water) can be just as dangerous as dehydration (when imbalanced, your internal neuron network's electrical grid starts to fail), and can have similar symptoms and arguably way more disturbing ones to boot.  Lightheadedness is a surefire sign that I'm getting unbalanced, so I don't ignore any brain haze while riding.  To manage your electrolytes, add a supplement to your fluid intake.  Coconut water is a natural solution, Gatorade also works, and Nuun tabs are a low sugar alternative.  You could also take Salt Stick tablets or bring a bottle of pickle juice.

  • Zinc-Based Sunblock - Keep the sun off of your delicate skin with a high SPF, zinc-based sunblock.  Not only will zinc prevent you from getting sun stroke, it will keep you unburned and decrease your chances of getting both wrinkles and skin cancer.  If you can, steer clear from Oxybenzone-based sunblocks as they are quite bad for the environment.

  • Take Breaks in the Shade - Listen to your body.  If you don't feel great, take a break.  And when you take a break, do it in the shade.  There is no shame in taking 20 breaks over 100 miles if it means you aren't going to collapse along the side of the road and have to be taken by ambulance to a hospital.  The EMT is not going to properly lock up your bike before carting you off.  How are you going to finish your tour from a hospital without a bicycle?

Oh, and probably don't ride your bike in the middle of the desert in August?  I feel like I should have to tell you that one, but some of you just have really bad ideas.

Here's a nice place to ride a bike!

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