As cyclists, we all long for nice ride weather. There is nothing like a long ride-out on a nice sunny day, with clear blue skies and open roads or trails in front of you. But whilst we all embrace the hot sun in all it’s glory as we coast around the country side or across open cycle trails, it is very important to remember to be properly prepared before and during your ride. Here’s a few things we think you should think about.
Sunscreen and sun protection –
Whatever you want to call it, if the sun is out – wear it! You know your own skin better than anyone and hopefully you know what it can and can’t handle when it comes to hot days. But just because you think that it ‘doesn’t look that hot’, we’d strongly recommend you apply sun-cream before you head out as you cannot 100% predict what the weather will do (especially in the UK). If it is a very hot day before you set off, the higher the factor the better. Something water resistant is also a bonus as the last thing you want is sweaty sunscreen running down your face or into your eyes. Make sure you cover the areas that will be most exposed such as arms (all over), legs hands (if you are not wearing gloves) and particularly face, ears and back of the neck. I commonly wear SPF30 but for a very hot day SPF50. Shorts, jersey and gloves tan lines are a stamp of recognition among cyclists but it is not much fun getting burnt on your bike.
Hydration, hydration, hydration –
Probably the most important thing you should have on any cycle ride (after the bike of course). If you are cycling on a hot day, this because even more essential as your body temperature will rise quickly in the sun, causing you to sweat heavily. Through sweating your body will lose important fluids and salts which will cause your blood pressure to drop and you to feel fatigued, maybe even sick and dizzy. Heat exhaustion (or Sunstroke) can be dangerous anytime but on a bike, the risks increase significantly. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids before, during and after your ride. If you are able to, carry two bottles instead of the usual one and think about using sports hydration tablets – especially for a long ride on a hot day. These are designed to restore the body’s electrolytes and sodium levels which are lost when you sweat.
As well as staying hydrated, it is important to take in sufficient nutrition either with you or to at least provision for this during your ride. Gels are great for a short burst of energy, but with most manufacturers recommending up to 3 gels per hour, we would suggest carrying something that is going to have a longer effect. Bananas are an excellent choice for natural energy as they contain natural sugars such as sucrose, glucose and fructose which will give you an fast, long lasting energy boost. Bananas are also high in Potassium which can aid muscle repair and recovery too, whereas a decrease in Potassium in the body can lead to fatigue. Other longer lasting nutritional sources can be cereal bars, flapjacks, dried fruit & nuts. I even sometimes like to have a peanut butter sandwich before heading out – but that’s just me.
Caps and shades –
On a hot day it is a good idea to wear sunglasses when cycling if you don’t already. Sunglasses act as a protective barrier for your eyes in multiple ways. It would be pretty difficult to find a pair of (cycling) sunglasses that don’t offer a level of UV protection but make sure you factor this in when choosing a pair. As well as protecting your eyes from the sun’s rays and bright glare, sunglasses will also help protect your eyes from the bugs and flies that also enjoy the hot weather. Another thing to consider is wearing a peaked cycle cap. Although these seem to have became more of a fashion accessory, cycle caps do still serve a purpose and can provide your head and face with further protection from the sun. If you something like a cotton or CoolMax cap, it will be breathable too.
Right time to ride –
I think that most of us feel we would ride most of the day given half a chance but when the sun is beating down on you, there are more suitable times of the day to ride. Not everyone will have the privilege of being able to choose what time to they set off for a round. Many of us have to factor in things like work, and family commitments. But for those with a much more flexible life-style, it is worth considering avoiding the sun at its (considered) hottest. This is considered to be anywhere between 12pm and 3pm but this can vary. You may wish to consider heading out earlier or later where possible. If you are planning to ride during these times, make sure you have plenty of fluids and nutrition with you – and/or at least some cash to buy some during the ride.
In case of emergencies –
If you have read our guide on Cycle Survival Kit guide, you will know that we recommend you should always carry certain essentials on every ride. Mobile phone and cash. Even in you opt not to use a saddle bag, stuff them in your jersey pocket or carry an organizer like the Lezyne Caddy Sack. Speaking from experience, going for a ride and running out of fluid, water, etc is not pleasant but it is made a 100 times worse if you have no cash to buy food or drink. Worst case, you may find a helpful cafe or shop who will let you fill up your bottles but why take the chance? A mobile phone goes without saying really. This is as essential as carrying a puncture repair kit. It is better to have it and not need it, than needing a phone and not having one. Put it on silent or switch it off if you don’t want it going off mid-ride – just make sure it has some charge in it.
As always, we know these tips aren’t going to be for everyone and many of you already have a cycle plan for hot days. But the main thing is to be prepared, don’t be afraid to stop and take a break and most of all, enjoy the ride.