There are different schools of thought concerning summer MTB outings. Some people think there’s no better season for cycling, mainly because the days seem endlessly long; others, however, find it’s the worst season for riding, mainly because of the unbearable heat. Obviously, these are the two extremes: In our opinion, it's a great season to enjoy your MTB, especially if you have the opportunity to go riding in the mountains, and as long as you show some foresight so you won't suffer too much under the blazing sun and in high temperatures.
Below, you will find a number of tips to ensure that you’re not caught unprepared during your summer MTB rides.
Another classic tip is to drink a lot, even more than you feel you need to. But not only during riding – it’s also important to hydrate throughout the day, so as to be optimally prepared. Consider taking mineral salts (in powder form to be diluted or ready-made), which are useful for replenishing all the substances you lose through sweating. There are so many types and brands that we advise you try a few different ones first and then see for yourself which is the most effective for you. Taking small sips often is better than drinking a lot but infrequently.
For long summer rides, the classic 0.6-liter water bottle attached to the bike is no longer sufficient. At the very least, you should get a larger water bottle; there are 0.8 l ones, and these allow you to increase the range, though not beyond two hours. The best solution is to carry a small backpack or MTB fanny pack with water bag. These contain at least 1 liter of water on average, and more often 1.5 or 2 liters: In this way, you can plan an outing lasting several hours without the constraint of having to find the classic drinking fountain for stocking up.
As mentioned, heavy sweating means you lose energy, as well as water, salts and other substances. Don't just drink: If you plan to be out for more than a couple of hours, take something to eat with you, too – sports bars, fruit or nuts are ideal snacks. Remember to keep some money with you at all times as well, just in case an emergency stop at a shop becomes necessary.
Another trick when mountain biking in the summer is to choose routes offering cooler temperatures whenever possible. If you can, plan your rides in the hills or mountains, possibly among the trees; avoid more challenging climbs without shade as much as possible, as well as plains, where the air is usually stiller and the temperature higher. But beware – even though it’s cooler in the mountains, the sun beats down even harder and there is a risk of sunburn. Prevent it as follows.
Pay close attention to the type of shirt you wear, long-sleeved or short-sleeved: If you have fair and delicate skin, opt for long sleeves especially for outings up in the mountains, to avoid the likely risk of burning your arms. Alternatively, sunscreen may be sufficient but make sure to choose and apply it methodically. Look for one that is “water-resistant” so it won’t wash away with sweat, and apply it half hour before starting the ride, so that it has time to be properly absorbed.
Be careful not to overdo it. Extreme heat is a bad ally for your performance. Therefore, don’t see summer as the time to try out particularly heavy workouts. If you anticipate very long sessions, you could use a heart rate monitor, to keep an eye on the beats – if your heart rate is too high, slow down the pace. One way to estimate one's maximum frequency is to use Tanaka's formula: 208 - (0.7 x age). For example, in the case of a 30-year-old, the calculation will be as follows: 208 - (0.7 x 30) = 187. Of course, this is a rough method that doesn’t take individual characteristics into account, but it’s useful for getting a fairly accurate idea of one's limit. You’ll have to refer to a specialist for a more precise analysis.
Physical activity benefits both body and mind, and it should leave you feeling invigorated and relaxed rather than exhausted and drained of all energy.
You already know how essential an (open- or full-face) MTB helmet is to protect the most valuable part of your body. And, in this case, not only from falls but also from the sun's rays. Modern mountain bike helmets, even full-face ones, are designed to promote airflow, so that they remain comfortable even in high temperatures. Sunglasses are also important, as they not only protect your eyes from air, insects and debris, but also from brighter light.
There are some accessories that a good cyclist must keep in their backpack. Among them:
If you plan a mountain bike outing, whether in good or bad weather, always carry this small number of items with you so as to be able to deal with any emergencies.
One thing we tend to give up as temperatures rise is protection. This is always a mistake: First, because you’re taking unnecessary risks; second, because modern protectors are almost unnoticeable once on. For example, the Trail Skins Air Knee Guards knee pads are designed precisely to provide freedom of movement and, especially, maximum ventilation even at low speeds: After a few minutes, you'll forget you’re wearing them, whether you’re riding downhill or uphill. The same applies to gloves and, by the way, don’t you know how slippery the handles can get when gripped with sweaty hands?
Apart from protective gear, always wear technical mountain bike garments: They promote breathability, allowing sweat to evaporate and aiding the body's thermoregulation.
Summer can give you some great days for MTB practice, but some caution is needed so as not to run out of energy too quickly. Don't neglect technical clothing and protective gear: If chosen carefully, they’ll help you battle the heat so that you can just focus on fully enjoying your mountain bike ride.