O, Sunlight, the most precious gold to be found on Earth. - Roman Payne
We’re getting a taste of summer heat this week in the Annapolis Valley, with daytime temps over 30C and humidex values ranging from 34 to 40C. This is really more like July for here, though I can’t say I mind. I grew up here, and I’ve always loved the heat. I love the languid feeling it brings, the way the new plants reach for the embrace of the humid air, and the silver-sleek joy of a swim in clear, cool water.
Back when I was a teenager, I used to ride my bike on days like this, to get away from our stifling un-air-conditioned bungalow and the unstifled irritation of those who don’t like to sweat. (This was not my father, incidentally, who could be found on the hottest summer days sitting on the back step in long pants and a tank, sipping a cup of hot tea and smoking an at least equally hot Players Light).
I’d cruise away from the bubbling asphalt surfaces of New Minas and head for the Fundy shore. I’d do a 25-30 km ride, with no helmet, no cycling chamois, and . . . no water. I used to wonder why cycling on those days always gave me a headache.
When you lose water (and electrolytes) through sweating in hot weather, you run the risk of dehydration. This isn’t just a feeling of being very thirsty or dry. When you are dehydrated, your blood pressure goes up, your ability to regulate your internal body temperature becomes impaired, you feel fatigued, and your cognitive processes are not at their best. Does this sound like a good condition for cycling on a busy roadway, or down a challenging hill? I didn’t think so.
Part of most CAN-BIKE courses is information on “what to bring” on every bike ride. Water, or Gatorade or some sort of hydrating substance, and more than you think you will need, is top of the list. Sometimes on my youthful, head-achey rides I used to stop at a corner store and buy a pop. I don’t think selling water was a thing in those days. That brings me to another of the items to have in your cycling road kit: money. I’ve used cash or my debit card to buy everything from snacks to a sweater on the road, so like the ad says “Don’t leave home without it”.
Another item to have on you while cycling is your cell phone. Back in the day, I would have had to find a payphone or approached somebody’s house to make a call if I needed a rescue. I do recall having a complicated flat and no tube on a ride one day, and having to lock my bike to a church fence and walk to a country store to make a call from a payphone to ask my father to come get me.
Some other items to stuff inside that bike bag (or the back pockets of your jersey): a toolkit/multitool; basic first aid kit; baby wipes or similar; sunscreen!; a spare tube; a flat repair kit; and a bike lock. Along with some gloves for tire changes or chain adjustments, that’s just about all my kit. I also almost always have snacks, tissues, and a lip balm (with sunscreen). If I have a rack with room for a bike bag, I haul along a larger first aid kit, extra clothes (like rain gear), hand sanitizer, Advil, and even some scented soap leaves. Make sure you have the essentials – water, spare tube, tools – but other than that you can make your kit your own. I used to carry a knapsack to work and after a few situations where Shelley saved the day by pulling just what was needed out of it, my colleague dubbed my pack “The Tickle Trunk”. With apologies to Mr. DressUp - it did not contain water.