Summer Season Riding in Southern California

We are blessed here in Southern California to be able to go mountain biking all year round.  But there are certainly some areas that are better than others and some areas that you would definitely want to avoid in the summer. 


When the temperatures soar above 85 degrees here, the two best places to ride are by the coast early in the morning and at the higher elevations (above 6,000′).  Places like Big Bear Lake and the Mount Laguna Area are typically 10-20 degrees cooler than lower elevation rides.  That’s not to say that those places never have really hot days – they do!   But on average, they have milder mid-day temperatures and much lower morning temperatures.  Coastal areas like Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Aliso Woods are going to be pretty comfortable on even the hottest days of summer as long as you start early enough.  For a real coastal adventure, you could even visit Catalina Island for a ride!


Whenever you see a high pressure air system moving into the southwest, guaranteed temps will rise.  This will affect even the higher elevation areas.   The thing to watch for on high pressure days is humidity.  A humid day can bring along with it spectacular thunder head clouds over the higher elevation that not only provide some relief from the scorching sun, but sometimes also late afternoon showers.  You could be riding along in 85 degree heat and get dumped on by a storm cloud!   But when the air is dry and the pressure is high, you’ll get no relief at all.    


There are some rides we do only in the winter, like Palm Canyon.   Basically any ride that has no coastal weather influence could be could be dangerously hot in the summer months.  For other rides that are in the safe range (below 85 degrees), we try to be done riding before 10AM.   Riding mid-day in the summer is uncomfortable at the least and unsafe at the worst.


  • Avoid alcohol the night before the ride and hydrate before riding.
  • Check the weather reports before you ride.  Avoid riding on “excessive heat warning” days!
  • Limit your caffeine intake.  A cup of coffee before a ride is fine but five cups is not a great idea.
  • Start and finish the ride as early as possible.  Get out there at the crack of dawn and ride! 
  • Wear sweat-resistant high-SPF (50 block or more) sunscreen .  Put it on about a half hour before your ride and don’t forget to cover your neck and legs.  Sunscreen does you no good after you’re already burned.
  • Fill your hydration bag with ice before you leave the house and then fill it with water right before you ride.  Consider getting a cooler bag to keep the water colder longer.
  • Wear cooling sleeves. Not only do they block sunlight, but they help to regulate the amount you sweat by keeping the cloth near your skin wet while you sweat. 
  • Wear a head / neck cooling cap.  Having a red neck at the end of the day is just no fun!
  • Wear summer gloves.  (Don’t do fingerless, it’s just not worth it.)
  • Wear sunglasses you don’t mind ruining.  Some sunscreens will melt the plastic!
  • Don’t do an all-day EPIC in desert heat!  Just don’t do it.  Wait until the winter.
  • Don’t stop for a break in the sun.  Find some shade – any shade!  Even a small bush is better than no shade.
  • If somebody gets hurt, shade them!  
  • Remember to drink one liter of water per hour, and possibly more when temperatures exceed 85 degrees.  Add in some electrolytes as well (like Nuun tablets).  Bananas may seem like a good idea because they are high in potassium, but they’ll be mush long before you want to eat them!
  • If you know in advance that you’re likely to drink more water than you can carry, plan the route accordingly.  Bring a life straw with you at the least.  A hand pump filter works best.  Obviously you need to know the locations of water springs, rivers and streams!
  • Slow down your pace.  Hot days are not the best time to go for KOM’s on Strava!
  • Know the symptoms of heat-related illness.  Have a plan before you ride to bail on the ride and get help that the entire group agrees to before you start riding.  The last thing you want to do is drag your buddy back to the car after he just suffered a heat stroke.  Do you know how to get an EMT to help you in the wilderness?

Southern California Guided Mountain Bike Tours

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