Planning to visit some off-road trails? You’ll want to know how to keep cool in summer, first.
A few years ago, I hit some ATV trails with a couple of buddies of mine. It was hot as sin outside, but we were determined to ride. Plus, we were all confident we knew how to keep cool in summer’s triple-digit heat. However, we soon learned our lesson.
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About an hour into the first ride, we stopped to stretch our legs and cool off. Meanwhile, I noticed one of my friends swaying back and forth near his ATV, so I asked if he was alright. “I’m fine. Just lost my balance.” Twenty minutes later, we were back at it, sweating like dogs the whole time and loving every minute of it. Until we weren’t.
Since I was riding behind the group, I saw it all. My buddy, the one who was swaying back and forth earlier, didn’t maneuver out of the way of a deep rut and flew forward, past his ATV, barely missing a nearby oak tree. Scared the ever-lovin’ hell out of me and the other guys.
Later, after a trip to the ER, we found out he was severely dehydrated.
What can I do to avoid a scare on the ATV trails?
The doctor who treated my friend told me later that it didn’t matter if he’d invested in the best ATV gear or ATV accessories—if he wasn’t drinking water regularly like we thought he was, dehydration was inevitable. Which leads me to my first tip when you’re navigating the off-road trails this summer:
Ride. Rest. Rehydrate. Repeat.
It’s impossible to keep cool on the ATV trails if you aren’t properly hydrated, and your performance will suffer, too. Off-road riders who are eager to hit the trails in blazing hot weather need to begin hydrating at least a few hours in advance, though hydrating the day before is even better. (If you aren’t sure how to gauge your level of hydration, check the color of your urine the next time you go; the lighter the yellow, the more hydrated you are.)
While you’re on the trail, keep in mind you need to put back into your body what you sweat out, so make room for extra water bottles or bring along a hydration pack (by far the best ATV gear investment I ever made). Design a route that allows you to make frequent stops, and try to rehydrate with a cold pint of water each time you stop (about every 45 minutes or so) in order to cool your body’s core temperature.
Pro tip: Pedialyte Powderpacks are full of electrolytes, which is what your body will be craving after all the sweating. Dump at least half the contents of one pack into a full water bottle or thermos each time you stop.
Cover yourself with the right ATV gear.
If hydrating regularly is first and foremost on the off-road trails, then covering your body with the right ATV gear is only slightly secondary. Sure, it may seem counterintuitive since we typically shed layers to ward off the heat, but if you want to avoid overheating (and subsequent heat stroke) on the trails, consider utilizing the following gear:
- Textile or mesh riding gear that will help ventilate the air around your body. Just make sure you aren’t sacrificing bodily protection by wearing these items.
- Base layers that are moisture wicking, which will help expel heat from your body and keep you cool during your ride.
- Cooling vests and/or neck coolers that retain water and slowly release it throughout the course of your ride. When the sweat begins evaporating from your body, these guys will truly come in handy.
- Breathable helmets may sound weird, but they can improve your off-road experience in the summer. They’re regular off-road helmets, but they’re designed with air vents for increased air circulation.
- MX socks can mean the difference between happy feet and screaming dogs. They minimize overheating by preventing excess moisture, which often leads to heat rash and chafing.
Be smart. Ride safe.
It’s obvious, I know. But extreme sports tend to attract zealous individuals who like to push themselves to the limit. My buddy certainly did, and things did not end up working out in his favor. Luckily, he was riding in a group.
The instant you feel yourself fading, pull over and give yourself plenty of time to rest and reassess. If you need 30 minutes, so be it. In fact, if you can find an air-conditioned space nearby, like a gas station or fast food restaurant, stop there. Otherwise, a shady spot will do just fine. Don’t ignore what your body is trying to tell you.
My point is, it’s best to approach the off-road trails this summer with a healthy dose of caution, because the risks are just too great.
Know any more tips for how to stay cool in summer? Let me know in a comment!
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