Living in Texas teaches you that the weather is never predictable. There can be flash floods, sleet and 90 degree days all in the same week. BP MS 150 training and rides are no exception. During the course of a 50+ mile ride you may experience 20- to 30-degree temperature changes, extreme wind, rain or scorching sun, and you need to be prepared since a change of clothes or other supplies may not be conveniently located. Proper clothing, hydration strategies and planning can help you avoid heat exhaustion, hyperthermia and sunburn to keep you riding happy.
Texas heat is infamous and on a ride there is nowhere to hide. Heat illness can range from aggravating muscle cramps to life-threatening heat stroke and hyponatremia. On hot days, the body’s cooling systems can get overwhelmed, causing symptoms of cramps, weakness, nausea, headaches and even seizures as the body’s temperature rises above 104 F. A few simple rules can help you stay out of trouble. Hydrate often and effectively, even before you are thirsty. Drink a mix of water and sports beverages to replace lost electrolytes. Caffeine can increase your dehydration, so have your cup before you hit the road and stick to caffeine-free beverages during the ride.
Avoid the burn with sun sleeves and application of sunscreen every two to three hours.
And finally, wear it light: Lightweight and light-colored clothing will keep you cool. Save that awesome-looking black jersey for a short winter ride.
While those in the Northwest may beg to differ, Texas also has its share of the cold. Last year’s BP MS 150 ride started with recorded temperatures in the 40s. Even though your body is creating heat as you pedal you are losing that heat at the same time through your breath and skin. Sweating, wind and rain can increase that loss. As the body temperature cools, blood moves toward the center of the body, decreasing circulation and increasing the risk of frostbite to the hands, feet, nose and ears. Extreme cases of hypothermia can result in confusion, inability to shiver and damage to the internal organs.
To stay comfortable and safe, remember to protect, layer and stay dry.
A skullcap or beanie helps prevent heat loss that a helmet will not.
Shoe covers and gloves made of tightly woven fabric provide comfort and protection.
Newer high-tech fabrics hold in heat and wick away moisture without weighing you down.
Investing in a good waterproof biking jacket means warmth, dryness and a smaller size than your typical winter jacket.
You can always take clothing off, but if you don’t prepare, you may be in for an uncomfortable and even dangerous ride. It may seem daunting to prepare for a ride that starts in the 40s, ends in the 80s and has a spring shower forecast somewhere in between, but with the right planning it can be done.
Gloves, shoe covers and sun or winter sleeves can easily be tucked into your jersey pockets when not in use, and travel sunscreen containers have just enough to get you through your ride without weighing you down. Don’t forget to stop for water and sports drinks along the way and, if you are unfamiliar with the weather here, remember that your body may react differently in the hot Austin and humid Houston environments. A little planning before the ride leaves more time for enjoying it later.
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