Cycling in fine, warm conditions is not something we are used to on a long term basis but if we are lucky enough to have a heat wave this summer then there are somethings we should remember.
First and foremost, keeping hydrated is really important when cycling to ensure your body can keep cool whilst it works hard to propel you along at brake neck speed. Much like getting too cold, getting too hot is dangerous when cycling and can affect your decision making and your performance on your bike. . Cycling whilst severely dehydrated can be dangerous.
The rules are to drink little and often during your ride but also to continue to drink after your bike ride to ensure you remain hydrated. You will be surprised how much fluid you lose through sweat particularly now that cycling clothes are so adept at removing sweat from our skins and evaporating it.
If you feel headachy, light headed or extremely hot then stop and drink or find a café or somewhere to stop for a while whilst you cool down and rehydrate.
Like the Baz Luhrmann poem says ‘wear sunscreen’. Melanoma is not to be taken lightly and if you don’t cover up, whilst on your 1,2 3 hour ride in the sun, then you will potentially not only burn yourself badly, but also risk getting a potentially fatal cancer so ensure all the important areas are covered including face, neck, forearms, hands, knees etc. Lecture over!
OK so I have just had a bit of a go about sun screen but it is also important to dress appropriately on hot sunny days so take advantage of the massive range of cycle wear out there. Keep yourself bright and seen but also take advantage of the short sleeved, lightweight materials which have ‘wicking’ technology.
Also consider that when you sweat over a period of time, your hands may become sore on the bars, your feet may rub in your shoes or worse still your cycling shorts start to chafe in all the wrong places. There are clever accessories out there to help with these sort of issues such as fingerless track mitts, anti-sweat socks which keep your feet dry and some chamois cream applied to the bits that are likely to rub ( you know where!). Make sure you change out of your cycle gear after a ride as wearing damp clothing will exacerbate chafing.
Finally, another essential item when cycling in the sun is sunglasses. Invest in a decent pair of sunnies, preferably with 100% UV filtering lenses to prevent damage to your eyes. They are useful for stopping dust, bugs and flies getting in your eyes when cycling at speed.
The heat of the sun can cause bitumen to melt on the roads so keep an eye on the surfaces. It’s not always easy to spot because grit and gravel sit on top of the black tarmac and can cause your bike to slide and lose traction when you hit it. If you find yourself cycling through it then make sure you check your tyres afterwards to ensure there is no tar or grit stuck to them.
Do you really need to ride at midday? Cycling at dawn or dusk can be very rewarding as the roads are often quieter, your views are better and more importantly it’s not scorchio! If you are not stuck to a tight schedule then consider cycling in the cooler parts of the day.
I know that all these tips are fairly obvious but let’s be honest here, we don’t often get more than a few nice days at any one time in this country so it doesn’t do any harm to remind ourselves what our Mediterranean counterparts do all the time.