Top Tips For Summer Cycling
A hot summer, just like the one we’re enjoying right now in the UK, is the perfect time to dust off your bike and hit the road. Lots of us avoid cycling during the winter, but don’t forget that summer cycling also poses unique challenges. Here are a few tips to ensure you get the most out of sunny days of cycling.
Dress for UV protection
If you’re planning to spend several hours on the road or the trails, you need to protect yourself from UV (ultraviolet radiation). During the summer, a four-hour ride from 11am – 2pm will expose you to somewhere in the region of 20 times the amount of UV needed to burn your skin (although it does depend on your skin and colouring).
So, while it’s tempting in the heat to swap your long-sleeved Lycras for a loose t-shirt or vest, it’s not a good idea. Good cycling Lycras should be breathable enough to keep you cool, and the extra skin coverage is essential.
Better still, invest in cycling gear with anti-UV properties. A lot of cycle wear, including short, tops and sleeves, now carry a UPF, or “Ultraviolet Protection Factor” rating, but UPF is not standardised and on the whole it’s not as useful as following a few basic rules.
- Before you buy a piece of cycling wear, hold it up to the light. If the light comes through it, so will the UV.
- Dark colours are more effective than light colours at blocking UV, with dark shades of red the most effective.
- Shiny finishes also help protect your skin.
Make sure your cycling gear fits properly. A top that’s stretched tight over your biceps (or your gut!) isn’t going to block UV as effectively. A short-term cheaper alternative to a new wardrobe is to apply sunscreen even to the areas of your skin that will be covered by your outfit.
If your winter Lycras are too hot, you can also invest in hot-weather Lycras with extra wicking properties or breathable mesh panels, but the best investment you can make in cooler clothing is a pair of vented cycling shoes.
Speaking of sunscreen: Wear it. If you’re going to be out in the middle of the day, you need SPF 50+ and a 5-star UVA rating. Reapply your sunscreen more frequently than recommended, because you’ll be sweating through it more quickly on your bike than you would lying by the pool.
Make sure you’re applying enough, too. To protect your face, neck and the backs of your hands, you should be using at least two teaspoons of sunscreen. Ideally, you should plan ahead and apply a first coat of sunscreen around half an hour before you go out and a second coat just before you mount up.
Chech out sports sun cream, too,which will offer better resistance to sweat.
While you’re out, do what you can to minimise your exposure to the sun. Take your breaks in the shade and where you have the choice between cycling in the sun and cycling in the shade, choose the shade.
Focus on more protection
Long-term over-exposure to the sun can cause serious eye damage. Cycling in the sun poses a particular risk to your eyes because the sun’s glare reflected from a surface below you is especially dangerous. A normal road is bad enough, but beware of more reflective surfaces like concrete or pale stones or dust, and avoid them where possible.
Sunglasses are absolutely essential. Look for glasses with the CE Mark, which guarantees that they provide the level of protection required by European law.
Wraparound lenses are much more effective than flat styles.
Staying hydrated is essential for your health and sports performance. Your bodyweight is 60% water, but if you sweat out even 2% of that without replacing it, your ability to cycle at your usual pace will be impaired. Lose 5% without replacement and you’re risking heat exhaustion.
Take as much water as you need for the cycle you’ve planned and build the habit of drinking every 15 minutes. Use your phone to set reminders.
Start drinking as soon as you set off. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty because by then you will already be dehydrated and it takes up to 20 minutes for the water you drink to be absorbed.
For a long or intense ride, you need more than just water. Take a brand of sports drink that incorporates electrolytes and a carbohydrate refuel.
It’s possible to drink too much, so don’t panic and get carried away. The golden rule is: A little and often.
Remember to refuel, too
Heat suppresses your appetite, so it’s going to be harder to make sure you eat enough to keep your energy levels up. Bring along your favourite high-carb snacks and eat them whether you feel like it or not. If you’re cycling with your phone, set a reminder.
Stay in your comfort zone
If you’re new to summer cycling, or even if it’s just been a while since you cycled in the sun, you’re trying out new conditions, and that comes with risks. At first, don’t push yourself as hard as you would in cooler conditions.
Be extra vigilant for traffic. Sunny conditions come with a different set of visual impairments than overcast conditions, especially because of the glare of the sun. If you are involved in an accident, then the advice from a legal expert is to seek a professional opinion immediately. Where an accident is caused by someone else’s recklessness or negligence, you may be entitled to compensation.
Don’t take the sun for granted
We might be in the middle of a heatwave, but this is still the UK. Rain can strike anywhere, anytime and it’s important to be prepared. Just because the sun is shining when you leave for your bike ride it doesn’t mean you can afford to forget the waterproof layers. And because the chances are the sun will not shine forever, it’s a good idea to make the most of it while it does. Aim to ride as often as you can, but heeding the above tips.