RAGBRAI XLIX registration is now open!

RAGBRAI Training: Beat the Heat

  • 30 May, 2012
  • TJ Juskiewicz

by Coach David Ertl

All of a sudden the temperature is in the 90’s in Iowa.  Those of you who have ridden RAGBRAI before know that the heat is often one of the greatest challenges of doing this ride.  What we lack in mountains is more than made up with our heat and humidity.  I’ve had some questions about how to handle the heat so here are some tips for preparing for and surviving the heat.

Acclimating yourself to the heat can help you better handle hot weather when riding.  By riding in hot weather prior to RAGBRAI you should be better prepared for dealing with the heat.  Typically people like to get out and ride early in the morning on hot days to avoid the heat.  While this makes your training rides more comfortable and perhaps more beneficial, you miss out on the chance to train for the heat.  So don’t do all of your rides when it is cool.  Do some rides in the middle of the day to build some tolerance to the heat. 

When you ride in the heat, it is especially important to stay hydrated (see last week’s blog).  Don’t push yourself as hard when it is hot and don’t try to go as far.  Your more challenging rides should still be done when it is cooler.  I’ve been asked if it is a good idea to wear extra clothing to simulate or accentuate heat.  I would not recommend doing this.  You generate a lot of heat internally when you ride.  Any time the temperature gets into the 80s, your body has to work extra hard to dissipate this internally generated heat and you don’t want to over-stress your body by wearting additional clothing.

Tips for dealing with the heat when training for and riding RAGBRAI:

The best way to deal with the heat on RAGBRAI is to try to avoid it.  Many people get up early and are on their bikes by 6AM.  They often get done with their ride before the mid afternoon heat.  The heat usually starts to settle in by mid to late morning, so you can get many miles behind you before it gets really hot by starting early.

Wear light clothing.  The lighter the color of your clothing, particularly your shirt or jersery, the more sunlight will be reflected and the less heat your clothing and body will absorb.  You can also select jersies that are made of lightweight materials that breathe and allow for rapid evaporation of perspiration.  Cotton is a poor choice as it holds moisture and can make you feel hotter.  Some guys like to ride without a shirt but this may actually be hotter than wearing a lightweight, light colored jersey.

Cool yourself off with water, both inside and outside.  Keeping the water flowing into your body is very important because staying well hydrated will allow you to continue to perspire and cool yourself off.   But also consider pouring some water over your head and down the back of your neck on hot days. Just be careful not to pour your bottle of sports drink over your head!  Many town offer a hose spraying water into the air, and some towns have swimming pools.   Take advantage of these to cool off.   It can be extremely refreshing and cool you off temporarily.  

Find shade.  On very hot, sunny days, take a break periodically and find some shade, especially where you can find a breeze.  These shade breaks can cool down your core temperature and allow you to feel refreshed.

Take care of yourself and be cool!

Coach David Ertl

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 (Elite) Coach and Personal Trainer. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team, the Iowa JDRF Ride To Cure Diabetes Team, the Above & Beyond Cancer RAAM Team, and he coaches individual cyclists.  He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: http://www.CyclesportCoaching.com . He can be contacted at coach@cyclesportcoaching.com



  1. mootsman

    Is it better to wear a headsweat like Marco Pantani (white of course) or to go without one at all? (I am a folically challenged person)

    Are arm coolers a good idea? White so they reflect heat but a layer of material over the arms so I’m not sure.

  2. Coach David Ertl

    A headsweat is really a matter of personal preference. I find they make me feel hotter, but I have hair! Your situation might be different. Try it both ways. One nice thing about a headsweat is on hot days you can soak it in cold water and it feels great at least for a few minutes.

    Covering your arms will probably make you feel warmer because you don’t get the evaporation from your arms. But again, try it both ways.

  3. Sandaltan

    A friend of mine is very thin on top and does not like the funny tan lines you get with a helmet. So…he places a paper coffee filter in his helmet which keeps the sun off his dome and can be dampened for a cooling effect. He changes the filter at 200 mile intervals or as directed by his spouse.


  4. Coach David Ertl

    Interesting idea. I hope he dumps the grounds out first! I always thought it would be neat to have helmet tan lines on a bald head though.

  5. Bill

    People where I work got so accustomed to seeing the tan lines on my head that the year I started using a head sweat and the lines didn’t show up they actually asked me why I stopped riding.

  6. kenfromsandiego

    “The lighter the color of your clothing, particularly your shirt or jersery, the more sunlight will be reflected and the less heat your clothing and body will absorb.”

    And this year’s RAGBRAI jersey is…black! Ugh. I wish there was another option.

  7. Margaret

    Average temp. is 55 degrees here in Alaska – doing the best I can, but not sure I can produce the true sensation of riding in hot weather. (I know a few of you might be jealous of our cool and rainy summer)

  8. bryant

    I rode it and never wore a shirt or helmet since those store heat.

Submit a Comment

Related Articles
Friends of RAGBRAI