“In Rangoon at half past noon, they foam at the mouth and run, but mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” – Noel Coward.
One reason that the British Empire was always pink in atlases is probably that take a Brit to the tropics and they immediately take on the appearance of a boiled lobster. We don’t get a whole lot of sun and when we do we often take leave of our senses, throwing ourselves onto the ground in worship.
The combination of exercise and heat can be even more dangerous. Whenever we exercise we lose most of our energy in the form of heat exchange, and the body has to dispose of this heat to stop it raising the vital core temperature of the body. Sweating is it’s main cooling method (wet skin transmits heat much faster) along with bringing veins to the surface to act as radiators but there are other ways to keep your cool in the heat.
Avoid riding in the hottest parts of the day. OK so this isn’t always practical, but the period from 12 noon through to 2 is used for siesta’s for a good reason.
Reduce direct sun exposure. Ride in shady woods wherever possible rather than ridge top or grinding rocky climb suntraps.
Drink, drink, drink, drink. Your body can sweat out several litres of fluid easily, and if it runs low on water you’ll just boil over. Drink at least a litre an hour in really hot conditions. Yes that is a lot, but it really is essential.
Introduce artificial cooling. A wet Buff or headscarf underneath your helmet or round your neck can help chill blood near the surface. Wrists also have a lot of blood vessels very close to the surface so stick them in cold streams, trailside fridge freezers, groups of penguins etc. whenever you get the chance.
Make sure you keep slopping on suncream throughout the day. The factor number just means how long it extends the natural cooking time of your skin, so even with a high factor you’ll need to re-apply during a day ride. Get good quality, waterproof, sweatproof stuff as well. It might seem pricey but it’s a lot better than scalded skin and sleepless nights.
Smear it on ears, back of neck, bonce under helmet vents, back of arms, angle of your arm and backs of hands. Make sure you cover your legs under the shorts line and sock line as they can easily move up / down while you’re riding and leave a painful pink stripe.
You need to be aware of the signs of heat and sun stroke too, so you can control the situation before it gets serious. Headache, dizziness, sickness, decrease in sweat rate, paleness, shivering and cold skin. If any of these symptoms start to show, get the sufferer into shade, stop them moving to reduce heat output and give them as much fluid as possible. Get medical assistance as soon as possible.
Sorry to make it all sound so grim, but hopefully by thinking about it now you’ll have a far less painful summer of riding.