Combat the Heat: A Summer Cycling GuideJul 14, 2022
UK summer is here, the days are brighter, the nights are longer, and there is no more freeing feeling than taking a ride along a scenic cycling route.
While blue skies and hotter temperatures are exciting for many avid bike riders, they can also be deterrents and cycling under a scorching sun can cause challenges while out and about.
If you take precautions against overheating and dehydration, riding in a spell of hot weather can still be exhilarating.
The heat wave might not be around for long, but in the hopes that this sublime UK summer continues, here’s how you can make the most of it and combat the heat with our summer cycling guide:
- Stay Hydrated
- Don’t Push Your Limits
- Avoid the Hottest Part of the Day
- Wear SPF
- Dress for the Heat
- Eat Before You Ride
- Protect Your Head
- Wear Sunglasses
- Cool Your Core Temperature
- Post-Ride Fluid and Refuel
The biggest concern of cycling in the heat is remaining adequately hydrated. As your body sweats to cool itself down, you will lose fluid that needs replacing.
It's hard to gauge the exact amount of fluid your body loses through sweating, so you should always drink little and often, or according to your thirst.
Planning for a sunny ride is important; make sure you take plenty of drinks with you, enough to last the length of your ride or be aware of places on your route where you can fill a water bottle or buy another drink. Also, if you are setting out on a long ride, four or more hours, you should drink electrolyte water to replenish lost sodium if you know you sweat a lot.
Don’t Push Your Limits
Know your limits and stick to them, or even better, take it easy like a Sunday morning.
Allow yourself to enjoy the art of cycling and soak up the beauty around you rather than competing with yourself to maintain or exceed the pace and power that you might demonstrate on a cooler day.
However, if you are training or just struggle to have off days, the tip below might be useful...
Cool Your Core Temperature
As well as cooling down externally, cooling your core temperature will make British cycling in the summer more bearable.
The Australian Institute of Sport conducted several trials and found that cyclists who drank 700ml to 1 litre of a Gatorade ice slushie experienced a 0.5°C drop in the core temperature than those who did not. This 0.5°C difference remained even after a 30-minute warm-up.
Although this seemed like a revelation, the slushie trend amongst cyclists didn't seem to take off until Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb prepped for the 2014 Tour de France time trial by drinking slushies.
So, if you spot a Slush Puppy machine on your scorching bike rides, it might be worth a pit stop!
Avoid the Hottest Part of the Day
A way to avoid the most severe sun rays is to avoid them, simple, right?
The hottest part of the day is 03:00 pm to 04:30 pm, so if you want to avoid the sun on hot days or find more temperate conditions for some serious cycle training, it's wise to head out first thing in the morning or the evening.
With the sun setting later on a summer evening, you will have plenty of time to cycle as the day gets slightly cooler without worrying about losing daylight.
Summer riding in the early morning or evening has other benefits, too. The roads will be quieter, you may spot some more wildlife and it's typically a bit more peaceful.
If you ride at sunset, don’t forget adequate bike lights and high vis elements to your clothing to be sure you are fully visible to vehicles and other hazards.
Having a sun tan might be appealing, but we all know how damaging the sun can be if you don't take care of your skin in the heat.
Too much sun and UV exposure can cause damaging sunburn and increase the risk of many other skin concerns. If you're out all day on your two wheels, cover any exposed skin with a slather of sun cream that protects against UVA and UVB rays.
Dress for the Heat
The market for technical cycling clothing has exploded, so there are plenty of cooler options on the market for hot weather riding.
As well as looking for a short-sleeved jersey instead of long, or shorts instead of full-length leggings, you should shop for lightweight materials with wicking properties. The wicking materials help you cool off and absorb the heavy build-up of excess sweat.
Our summer riding clothing essentials are:
- Zip up summer cycling jersey
- Lightweight wicking base layer
- Fingerless cycling gloves
- Wicking cycling socks
- Bib shorts
- 100% UV protection sunglasses
Post-Ride Fluid and Refuel
Taking care of your body post-ride is just as important as during.
When you arrive home, eat as you typically would after a bike ride, but try to pack your meal with lots of fruits and vegetables to replace any minerals lost through excessive sweating. You should also pay close attention to your fluid intake. We recommend placing a drink in the fridge for a refreshing beverage when you arrive home.
A cool bath or shower will help you cool off, as well as wash all of the grime and sun cream off!