Hot Weather Biking Tips for This Scorching Weekend

On hot days it's worth detouring to the Lakefront Trail for cooler temps. Fortunately, bike/ped trail separation has been completed along much of the shore, including the congested stretch between North and Fullerton. Photo: John Greenfield
On hot days it's worth detouring to the Lakefront Trail for cooler temps. Fortunately, bike/ped trail separation has been completed along much of the shore, including the congested stretch between North and Fullerton. Photo: John Greenfield

It’s going to be in the mid-nineties this afternoon and tomorrow, but there’s a Critical Mass Ride tonight, with a proposed route memorializing longtime participant Karl Szwet, meeting at 5:30 p.m. at Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington, departing a little after 6. And Saturday is the fabulous Tour de Fat, the major fundraiser for West Town Bikes education center, starting with a bike parade that meets at 10 a.m. at the Humboldt Park boat house, departing at 11.

So, assuming you’re healthy enough to handle the heat, you might not want to stay cooped up inside with the A/C blasting. Obviously if you’re saddling up in this swelter, you’ll need to drink plenty of hydrating beverages (no, Tour de Fat attendees, beer doesn’t count), use adequate sun protection, and immediately seek shade or shelter and rehydrate if you experience symptoms of heat exhaustion.

Assuming you’ve got that all under control, here are a few more tips to chill out a hot Chicago bike commute that will come in handy this weekend:

  • Avoid sun-baked main roads in favor of shady side-street routes. Getting away from gasoline-burning motor vehicles also cools things down. Check out the Mellow Chicago Bike Map to see some of the best low-traffic backstreet itineraries.
  • It really is “cooler by the lake,” so if detouring to the Lakefront Trail is an option, the lower temperatures (and gorgeous views) are more than worth the extra mileage. Of course, the shore is going to be crowded with beachgoers seeking heat relief this weekend, so it’s fortunate that the Chicago Park District has already completed separate paths for pedestrians and bicyclists along much of the lakefront, including the notoriously congested stretch from North to Fullerton.
  • Slowing your usual cruising speed by a mile or two per hour can help you avoid breaking a sweat.
  • On sweltering days, following the letter of the law at stoplights is an opportunity to take a breather. Just be sure to stop far enough away from the intersection so that you’re in a shady spot to wait for the green.
  • If using panniers or a milk crate to carry stuff, or strapping items to your rack is an option instead of wearing a backpack or messenger bag on your back, that will help keep you cooler and dryer.
  • Thermos-style bike water bottles work great. Or try the old-school trick of putting your bottle inside a clean, wet sock – the evaporation will keep your drink cool.
  • At the end of your rope from the sweltering temps? There’s no shame ditching your ride and hopping a CTA bus or ‘L’ carMetra train, or the South Shore Line to finish your trip in air-conditioned comfort. You can also order a minivan or SUV from Lyft and Uber to transport you, your friends or family, and your bikes home.
  • As we experienced on Wednesday’s “Chicago’s Mellowest Bike Tour,” nothing chills out a summer bike ride like smooth music. Check out this yacht rock mix we broadcasted during the trip.

Got any other hot-weather cycling tips to share? Leave them in the comments section.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Bike advocate Anne Alt posted this hot-weather cycling tip on our Facebook page: “Fill a bike water bottle about 3/4 and put it in the freezer long enough for it to mostly freeze. It will stay cold longer than just adding ice cubes to water.”

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Ella Farmer passed along this one: “My 7 year-old’s tip- ice cubes in the vents on his helmet. ‘Not too many or you get brain freeze.’”

  • rwy

    I’m a fan of going out for a bike ride late at night. Early in the morning works too. Also, limiting your speed is a good idea.

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