The weather is finally getting warmer up here in Truckee, and it’s already pretty hot down in the foothills. That means it’s finally time for summer mountain biking!
Summer is really the high season for mountain biking in the higher elevations. While it’s significantly cooler up here, it can still get pretty hot during the day, plus the sun seems to beat down even harder at altitude and it’s easy to get dehydrated. There are tons of ways to deal with hydration while mountain biking, and I’m going to lay out some details, recommendations, pros, and cons for my favorites.
Hydration Packs: Hydration packs are backpacks that contain a water reservoir attached to a hose with a mouth piece that you can drink out of without stopping to pull out a bottle or take off the path. Quite a few brands make hydration packs, and they come in a wide variety of sizes, price points, and designs, including mountain bike specific ones. While generally hydration packs have the reservoir oriented vertically, mountain bike specific ones often have the reservoir horizontally across the lower back. Other specific features that mountain bike hydration packs often have include additional armoring for crash protection, big hip pockets for storage, helmet clips, and a suspension system to help keep the pack off of your sweaty back. While it’s completely possible to wear a hiking style hydration pack while mountain biking, I prefer the bike specific styles. I actually wear my Camelbak Solstice hiking and on short trail runs, which it works great for as well.
I have and recommend the CamelBak Solstice LR ($88). Other popular, well reviewed mountain bike specific hydration packs are the Osprey Packs Raptor ($140), CamelBak M.U.L.E. ($82), and Dakine Drafter ($88). The pros for hydration packs are that they give you the ability to pack a lot of gear, the ability to carry quite a bit of water, they distribute their weight across your whole back for comfort and stability, there a lot of options at a lot of price points, and they can be used for a variety of outdoor activities. The cons are that they tend to be on the heavy side, they can be hot and increase sweating during the ride, and having more contact points give more opportunities for chafing.
Waist Packs: Fanny packs are finally back in style, but mountain bike specific fanny packs are a little different than the ones I remember from the early 90s. They are a little bigger than the purse style packs, usually have some sort of hydration system – either a spot for a small bottle or a reservoir and hose, and a wider waistband for comfort and stability.
I got the Dakine Hot Laps 2L ($40) for Christmas, and I love it – see my detailed review here. Other well reviewed mountain biking waist packs are Osprey Packs Seral ($83), Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack ($59), and CamelBak Repack LR ($56). The pros for waist packs include that they are light weight, they allow for more air flow across your back, and that there are fewer pressure points that might cause chaffing. On the downside, you can’t carry as much gear or water, there are fewer quality options, and they move around more while riding.
Other Hydration Strategies: The simplest, cheapest way to hydrate on your bike is with a water bottle in your bottle cage(s). For really hot days, you can even get insulated bike bottles, like this one from the REI Outlet, to keep your water cold. This has the advantage of being really easy, but it limits how much water you can bring and some full suspension bikes have one or fewer spots to mount your bottles. Also, you’ll have to find somewhere to store your tools/tube/snacks/keys/phone/etc. There are also mountain biking specific hydration vests, like the CamelBak Chase ($75), but I’ve never tried any out, so I don’t have any opinions or recommendations on those.
Basically, if I’m going on a shorter, hot mountain bike ride, I’ll use my Dakine Hot Laps with a bottle in my cage and if I’m going on a long, hot mountain bike, I’ll use my Camelbak Solstice with a bottle in my cage. Often, I’ll put some kind of electrolyte drink in my bike bottle with plain water in my Solstice or in the small bottle in my Hot Laps. For shorter rides, Nuun Active tablets have electrolytes without many calories, and I like Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel when I need more nutrition along with electrolytes. Tailwind has about 100 calories per serving and is really easy on my stomach, especially when it’s hot out.
Lightweight Gear: I tend to get really hot when I exercise, and I used to always want to ride in tank tops in the summer. But between getting scraped up in crashes and sun damage worry, I’m coming around to light weight, long sleeve bike jerseys. My lightest weight one is the Pearl Izumi Launch 3/4 Sleeve Jersey ($50) which I’ve had for a couple of years and really like it. Slightly heavier but incredibly tough is Troy Lee Designs Ruckus ($36) jersey that I’ve had for almost ten years and that has held up through a bunch of crashes. My newest light weight jersey is the Patagonia Nine Trails Bike Jersey ($59). I’ve worn it on a couple of rides now, and I really like it. It’s a little warmer than the others, but it’s still a great summer option. While I usually wear the same baggies year round, I reach for shorter chamois during the heat of the summer, like the Pearl Izumi Women’s ESCAPE Sugar ($60) and the REI Co-op Junction 5 Inch Inseam ($35).
While it’s tempting to skip gloves when it’s really hot out, I always regret that decision when my hands are still sweaty, but now it’s harder to grip the bars. I finally got lightweight gloves for this summer, specifically the Giro Rivet CS ($35), which I’ve used a few times and really like. I have SixSixOne Recon lightweight knee pads ($60) as well. If it’s really warm, I’ll strap them on my pack for the climb and put on for the downhill, but they’re also comfortable enough to pedal in if needed. Greyson also recently got the Kali Protectives Strike ($85), and he really likes them. Finally, having a lightweight helmet is a key factor in staying cool. I highly recommend the Bell Super 3R ($230), which is super ventilated and has a removable chin bar that you can take off for the climbs.
I hope this has been helpful when planning your hot weather bike rides!
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I receive a small percentage of the sale as compensation – at no additional cost to you. I promise to only recommend products that I use and enjoy!