What you need to know about cycling OZ Trails in the summer 

Make sure you’re prepared when summer heat sweeps through Arkansas in the coming months. Not only are the temperatures something to be aware of, but it’s important to know how to combat mosquitoes, chiggers, and ticks on your rides. Cycling essentials during summer include bug spray, loose long sleeves, and lots of water!

First, let’s talk about preventing bug bites! Mosquitoes, chiggers, and ticks are common in Arkansas, and throughout this region of the country. So, make sure to use some kind of insect repellant if you are hitting the trails. Alternative options to bug spray are wipes, bracelets, or repellant sticks. Bug repellants are easy to obtain from local pharmacies, stores, and online. Wearing long, breathable fabrics when cycling protects your skin from harmful bugs, the sun, and still allows air to travel through the fabric to keep you cool. Baggy jerseys can be found at most bike shops and loose synthetic activewear can be found anywhere athletic clothing is sold.

What happens if you get mosquito bites?

Some helpful healing tips, according to the CDC, include:

  • Wash the area with soap and water.
  • Applying an ice pack for 10 minutes to reduce swelling and itching. Reapply ice pack as needed.
  • Apply a mixture of baking soda and water, which can help reduce the itch response.
  • Anti-itch cream for a mosquito bite:
    • Mix 1 tablespoon baking soda with just enough water to create a paste.
    • Apply the paste to the mosquito bite.
    • Wait 10 minutes.
    • Wash off the paste.
  • Use an over-the-counter anti-itch or antihistamine cream to help relieve itching. Follow the product label directions.

What happens if you get a chigger bite?

First, it’s important to note that chiggers target your lower legs and waist in clusters. After a long ride outside, go home and inspect your whole body for any small red spots, then take a warm shower to wash away any chiggers that may still be latched to your body. Make sure to wash all your gear and clothes in hot water to kill any chiggers attached to them. To soothe any irritation, chigger bites can be treated with an antihistamine, rubbing alcohol, and menthol cream.

What happens if you get a tick?

  • Grasp the tick as close as you can to your skin’s surface.
  • Pull straight up and away from the skin, applying steady pressure.
  • Check the bite site to see if you left any of the tick’s head or mouthparts in the bite.
  • Clean the bite site with soap and water.

Ticks, chiggers, and mosquitos are extremely common on biking trails throughout Arkansas.

In Arkansas, the National Weather Service usually issues multiple heat advisories throughout July and August. But what does a Heat Advisory actually mean? When extreme humidity meets extreme temperatures, the real feel outside adds up to be much higher than the thermometer says it is.

Ways to protect yourself from extreme heat, according to the CDC:

  • Schedule your rides during the coolest part of the day (morning or night).
  • Wear light fabrics and light colors. Dark colors absorb heat but light bounces off lighter colored fabrics.
  • Bike in shady areas and take breaks often to cool down.
  • Pace yourself and know when it’s time to call it quits.
  • Stay close to town! The Northwest Arkansas corridor has over 200 miles of mountain biking trails in town. You can pop into a nearby restaurant or gas station if you get too hot.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink water, even when you don’t feel thirsty.
  • Drink fluids with salts and minerals.

When you sweat, your body gets rid of essential salts and minerals that need to be replaced. Do this by drinking a sports drink in between drinking water.

Lastly, protect yourself from the sun!

While heat and humidity are important to be aware of while riding in the summer, the silent killer is the sun. This means you need to make sunscreen your new best friend! Sunglasses, hats, and long-wearing SPF are essential for your next ride. For great activewear to survive the summer, check out local shops like Gearhead!

Whether you choose to ride on gravel, single track, or mountain bike, keep yourself protected this summer.