After a long winter and a slow spring, many of us wondered if it would ever get warm again. We’re wondering no more. The last few weeks have been brutally hot and humid! It appears the “dog days” of summer are upon us.
In a National Geographic article, “Why Do We Call Them the ‘Dog Days’ of Summer?” (July 10, 2015), author Becky Little explains the origin of the expression. “Dog days” refers to the Dog Star, Sirius. “To the Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” occurred around the day when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun, in late July. They referred to these days as the hottest time of the year, a period that could bring fever, or even catastrophe.”
Dog days are here. What can we do to survive them and still get out and exercise? Here are five ways to “beat the summer heat,” on your bikes:
• Go early. If you don’t get out early in the morning, you’ll suffer from the heat. Get out before 8 o’clock for the best conditions of the day.
Tuesday, I left home at 7:30 a.m., rode up the Kanc and down shady Passaconaway Road, back to West Side Road and Route 16 for an hour’s loop. It was humid cool to start, but I warmed up quickly. I was home by 8:30, sweaty, but not melted. I had grabbed the best part of the day.
• Go short. When the temperatures are in the 90s, it’s not the time to ride a century, unless you signed up for one. Short, quick rides are beneficial to your exercise regime and less dangerous than a sweltering day in the saddle. An hour of fast riding several days a week will keep you in shape, but not suffering from heat exhaustion.
Last Thursday, we wanted to ride, but didn’t want to overdo it in the heat. We went exploring a gated back road connecting Conway to Eaton that we’d often passed, but never ridden.
Parking off Dollof Hill Road, we rode our mountain bikes around the gate. A sign posted there warned, “Do Not Block The Access.” The landowner had given permission for people to go on his property for outdoor use as long as they respected it.
The road is identified on maps as Rockhouse Mountain Road. It was easy enough to ride on our mountain bikes. We pedaled up the hill, passing a silent logging operation site. The road then ducked into the shady trees. The road was less traveled here, but rideable.
At the top of our climb, three large boulders blocked the road. We were told they were put there by town of Conway to keep people from driving down it and dumping their trash. As the road passes the Conway/Eaton town lines, it changes its name to Ridge Road.
From there on, riding was on a smooth dirt road — all downhill. Ridge Road passes through Rockhouse Mountain Farm with its amazing views. At the junction with Glines Road and Route 153, we turned sharply right and started climbing up.
At Youngs Road, we turned left to explore that dead-end road, enjoying the scenery along the way. We turned around and retraced the ride back to Conway. In all, we’d ridden only 71/2 miles, but done some good climbing, explored new territory and satisfied our curiosity.
• Go prepared. Take lots of water and sunscreen. I usually take two water bottles, one a frozen insulated one. Fill your Camelbak with ice-filled water. I’ll couple my water intake with energy food or electrolytes. My favorite snack is peanut butter crackers that give me protein and salt to offset the hydration.
Cyclists need to be careful about sun exposure to avoid melanoma. Applying sun screen often to exposed skin is important. Wearing sunblock long-sleeve shirts sounds hot, but it’ll save your skin.
• Go shady. Pick a ride that’s out of the hot sun. That means usually riding off-road, either on a dirt road or mountain bike trail.
Friday, I met my friend Jeanne Twehous, over at Marshall Conservation Area for an early morning exploratory ride. Neither of us had ridden the new Quarry Trail. It was still relatively cool and shady as we started up Lucille’s. We kept climbing, up past the thigh bone trail on the right, Lucille’s turn to the left and Lemon Squeezer trail junction, until we spotted the “Quarry” sign tucked in the woods. We almost missed it.
On NEMBA trail day years ago, I worked on the lower part of this trail. I remember determined workers, clearing off the quarry stones to make interesting technical features for those who dared ride them. They also built “ride arounds” for those who didn’t.
Jeanne and I rode to this area and negotiated it well enough. The trail wove in and out of trees and rocks and kept us on our toes. The second half of this milelong trail got more challenging; we negotiated obstacles and rode up and down dips as we climbed up the hill. On White Mountains NEMBA’s Facebook page, many people commented they preferred riding Quarry from the High Street Lager’s Lane end down instead of the way we rode it. I think they’re right.
Once we reached Lager’s Lane, we took it to High Street, down to Red’s Trail, with a fast downhill finish on Shumway. Not a long ride — 1 ½ hours — but certainly a good one on a hot day.
Saturday, Peter and I headed for shady riding on Tamworth’s many dirt roads and snowmobile trails. Parking at the bridge by Chocorua Lake, we rode up Chocorua Lake Road to Fowlers Mill Road. We climbed up the hill, stopping at the top to hydrate and take in the magnificent mountain views. We descended the other side, watching for Paugus Road on the right. Turning there, we rode to the parking lot for Liberty, Paugus and Chocorua Mountain Club’s Brook Trail. It was full. I counted 21 cars.
Our destination was a shady lunch spot next to Paugus Brook. Riding past the gate on a woods road, we took the left fork at the signpost and found our spot. It was cool there, and the sound of the brook was soothing. After lunch, we turned around, rode back to Paugus Road, then Fowlers Mill, turned right and finished it at Route 113.
Turning left on 113, we rode a short distance, then turned left after the bridge. Our goal was shady, cool riding by the Paugus Brook on snowmobile trail 220. It would take us back to Fowlers Mill Road. The trail was very rideable and passed by some spectacular deep pools that looked good for swimming or fishing.
At Fowlers Mill Road, we climbed back up McDaniel Hill’s flank, descended the other side and turned right at Philbrick Neighborhood Road, then left on Loring Road, back to Chocorua Lake Road and the car to complete our loop.
• Finish cool: On hot dog days of summer, finish rides with cool drinks, swims or ice cream. Reward yourself for getting out there, even when it’s hot.
Don’t let the dog days of summer stop your riding!
2019 Summer Events:
July 9-Aug. 27 (Tuesdays) — Great Glen Trails Mason and Mason Insurance Mountain Bike Race Series, 3:30-7 p.m., for all ages. Choose a distance, course, and time that suits you and have some fun riding the Great Glen Trails.
Aug. 10 (Saturday) — Tour de Borderlands — Stop 5: Kingdom Trails, East Burke, VT. For more details, go to: facebook.com/events/340645209896391.
Aug. 17 (Saturday/ Aug. 18 raindate) — 47th Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle HillClimb benefitting Tin Mountain Conservation Center. Race starts at 8:30 a.m. For details, go to mwarbh.org.
Sally McMurdo is a bike safety instructor and cyclist who lives in Conway.