Your guide to cycling in hot weather
Summer is here, and already plenty of us have been enjoying some exceedingly hot days. Perfect for getting out on the bike, but along with the increased hot weather comes an increased challenge for dealing with high temperatures.
In the hope that we’re going to have a long hot summer, here’s some top tips from the Bikemagic team to help you enjoy the hot weather without any of the side effects that can easily ruin a ride.
A well known hydration pack company uses the slogan ‘hydrate or die’ which, while a little extreme in general, does bear some truth. On hot days you’re going to sweat a lot more and so it’s vitally important to avoid dehydration, which saps your strength and makes you feel tired and unable to push the pedals. And it doesn’t take much to enter the throes of dehydration; if you’re thirsty, it’s more than likely you’re nearly there.
So, to avoid dehydration, ensure you consider how long you plan to ride in the hot weather for, and either take enough water with you or plan convenient stops so you can top up. Plan for about 500-1000ml per hour of decent effort riding. And sip often throughout the ride, to give your body a steady flow of fluids.
For long rides it’s worth considering electrolyte tablets or energy powder to add to the water to replace those essential salts and other nutrients lost as you sweat. Also, don’t just think its important to drink during your ride, don’t forget to drink plenty before and after the ride as well.
We shouldn’t need to state the benefits of applying sunscreen lotion on hot sunny days, but look for a high factor for best protection. As you’ll likely be sweating lots, a waterproof lotion can stay in place better, and on all-day rides we’d recommend packing a small bottle of lotion with you so you can slap some more on throughout the ride. Don’t forget the backs of your legs – sunlight reflecting off the ground can burn your calves and behind your knees, and that’s fairly uncomfortable.
3. Take it easy
The faster and harder you ride in hot weather, the harder on your body it’s going to be. Obviously such riding can’t be avoided in a race but if you’re out in the country on an all-day ride, keep the pace steady and try to keep your energy expenditure low. Take it slow, don’t charge up all the hills. Regular breaks in the shade (or pub/café if you prefer) are a good tip too.
Wear technical clothing with high sweat wicking properties and with high ventilation options, such as mesh panels or generous zipped areas to get as much cooling air over your body as possible. Short sleeve jerseys with long front zips and mesh panels, short-finger gloves and loose baggy shorts will all help keep you cool. A wicking baselayer will also help remove sweat and keep you drier. Don’t neglect your feet either, thin sports socks and well vented shoes will keep your toes from getting clammy.
It’s easy to forget to eat on hot days, and often your appetite will be suppressed. But try to nibble on high carbohydrate snacks (nuts, malt loaf, bananas, energy bars) throughout the duration of your ride along with remembering to drink plenty.
6. Insect repellent
You can usually count on an increase in the number of airborne insects when the weather warms up and there’s nothing more unpleasant than being eaten alive by midges. So invest in a insect repellent and spray some on your legs and arms.
Riding in bright sunshine can be tiring for your eyes and all the squinting makes negotiating fast singletrack even more of a challenge. A good quality pair of sunglasses with dark lenses can eliminate much of the light reaching your eyes making seeing where you’re going, and also decrease all the harmful UV rays too.
8. Keep the sun off your head
Helmets are great for your safety but with a peak they’re a good way of keeping the sun off your head and out of your eyes. Generous venting ensures you get refreshing air wafted across the top of your head. For those bereft of hair don’t forget the sun can get through the air vents in a helmet, resulting in comedy leopard-spot sunburn. Either slap loads of sunscreen on or pop a Buff or similar garment between scalp and helmet.
9. Avoid the hottest part of the day
One way to ensure you don’t have to deal with the hottest part of the day is to plan your ride around it, meaning to either start earlier or later in the day. This means you’ll be able to enjoy your ride when it’s a bit cooler and therefore suffer less from the effects of high heat. With long days, there’s plenty of time to ride in the early morning and evening. This is even more crucial if you’re planning visiting parts of the world where the temperature regularly exceeds that of Britain and more importantly, that which you are used to.
10. Preparation is essential
Planning your route in advance and knowing where the nearest shops/pubs/sources of water are can be handy in case you find yourself running low at any point. Planning a route with options to shorten the ride or shortcut back to your starting point in case you start to struggle is also a good plan – there’s nothing like being in the middle of nowhere, running low on water and having no idea where the nearest tap is, to put a dampener on your day.