Biking 100 when it's 100

posted: August 19, 2023

tl;dr: How I am able to bicycle 100 miles a week when the daily high temperatures are over 100...

Perhaps you’ve heard that it gets hot in the Valley of the Sun in the summer. Especially this summer, for whatever reason, the news has been filled with stories about the heat. Yet somehow I am able to regularly clock 100 mile weeks of riding my bicycle. This is how I do it. Side note: the Valley of the Sun is one of the best bike riding locations in the country, because one can ride 365 days a year without too many difficulties.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a healthcare professional: you should consult a doctor before beginning a major new exercise program. These tips are what works for me, but they may not work for you.

First, I’ll focus on how I log 100 miles of riding in a seven day period while holding down a full-time job. More than anything else, I find it requires regularity: riding most days of the week as part of a normal exercise program.

Plan the week’s rides

Do the math: riding every day for 10 miles each day, which takes me less than an hour, puts me at 70 miles for the week. Convert three of those days into 20 mile days and I’ll hit 100 miles for the week. If I miss a day, I’ll have to do another longer day. Miss two 10 mile days, and I have to do five 20 mile days. I plan the week in advance, figuring out which day or days I might not be able to ride, and that will tell me how long I’ll need to ride each day.

Have multiple bikes

I have two bicycles: a hybrid trail bike and a sports bike. Two bikes helps in case one of the bikes has a flat or breaks down, and it also provides variety in the type of riding, which makes bicycling 100 miles in a week more enjoyable. I ride the trail bike on the canal system here in the Valley at an average speed of 12mph as I listen to podcasts and dodge pedestrians and dogs, and get passed by growing numbers of e-bikes. I ride the sports bike on very safe streets with wide, dedicated bike lanes, and average 16mph including all stops and starts. I ride each bike roughly equally, so my overall average speed is around 14mph, which means 100 miles takes me a little over 7 hours. That’s a little more than an hour a day, which isn’t too much of a burden.

Keep the bikes in good running condition

I typically top off my tires with air every week, and add chain lube every couple hundred miles. Doing so reduces friction, adds speed, and makes the riding that much easier.

Have safe places to ride

I minimize risk by choosing safe routes. In five years of riding in the Valley I have yet to fall off my bike or get into a dangerous situation.

Bike to work, if possible

One way to rack up miles is to do so while riding to a destination such as work. Unfortunately this is no longer an option for me, because my employer just recently migrated to 100% remote work.

A black-framed racing-style bicycle, with drop handle bars and a tall white seat post, viewed from the left side while it is positioned on a rock bed leaning against a stucco wall

My sports bike

Now I’ll focus on how to do 100 miles of riding during a week in which the daily high temperatures exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Determine the max temperature for riding

My first summer in the Valley, I did this over the course of several weeks while the average daily temperature rose with the onset of summer. I rode 10 miles in slightly hotter temperatures each time, until I figured out my upper limit. For me, it’s around 100 degrees; it may vary dramatically for others. 100 degrees may sound high, but when one is bicycling one is generating some wind that helps with evaporative cooling. Plus here in the Valley we are famous (or infamous) for our dry heat. I would never be able to ride in 100 degree weather in a humid climate.

Ride early in the day

Having established my maximum temperature for riding, I just need to find an hour or two each day where the temperature is below my max. Fortunately here in the Valley, even on days where the high temperature exceeds 110 degrees and we’re making national news, it is still under 100 when the sun first rises. That’s the nicest part of the day in the summer, and it's when I do my riding. It’s when joggers take their runs, and dogs like to walk. Being outdoors in the morning is part of the lifestyle here in the Valley, and it’s why Arizona doesn’t adhere to Daylight Savings Time.

Ride where it is possible to be rescued

I never do a 20 mile bike ride by heading 10 miles away from civilization out into the desert, and then doubling back. Doing so would put me at risk for heat-related problems if I were to get a flat or break down. I always ride in civilization, where I can summon a family member, friend, or hired car to come pick me up if my bike has a problem.

Hydrate before, during, and after

Being a Valley resident, I’m always consuming large amounts of liquid in the summer. Both my bikes can carry two water bottles, and I’ll bring two when on longer rides. I start out with ice water, but the ice melts pretty quickly. When I finish my ride and pull into the garage, I immediately open the garage refrigerator which we stock with drinks and chug down a beverage. The cool liquid starts the process of cooling down my insides, then I go into the air conditioned house.

Wear a skull cap helmet liner drenched in water

This is actually a recent addition to my riding gear: it provides some evaporative cooling for my head, which feels great when I first start my ride, and it keeps the sweat from dripping onto my sunglasses. The cap can also be re-wet with water from my water bottle in order to regain some cooling power during the ride.

That’s how I am able to bike 100 miles in a week in which the rest of the nation is reading about how unbearably hot it is in the Valley.

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