Cycling in the heat can be a tricky thing to get right. Cyclists love nothing more than getting out on their bikes when the sun’s shining and the sky are clear. However, without adequate precautions disaster can strike as strong sunlight and heat can take the shine off any ride. On longer rides the risk is even worse with dehydration, sunburn, sunstroke and heat exhaustion all posing a risk.
This is probably the best and most obvious precaution you can take. The hotter the weather the more you will sweat, so be prepared to drink more than normal. The key to staying hydrated is to drink little and often, don’t wait until you’re thirsty, its too late by then. Good sources of fluid are water, squash, and fruit juices, especially if you feel dehydrated. Fizzy drinks are a matter of personal choice. They can provide some energy from sugar but may also be a diuretic.
Almost as important as keeping hydrated is the need to fuel properly. Your body will be working harder in the heat and consuming more energy. Make sure you take enough snacks to keep you going but don’t take anything that is likely to melt. Chocolate is a no-no but fruit based items such as our homemade energy balls survive well in the heat. If you don’t want to carry snacks then plan to stop at a café or shop to re-fuel.
Listen to your Body
Heat Exhaustion can be a problem if you’re out in hot weather for a prolonged period of time. It is caused by the loss of body fluids and salts and common symptoms are heavy sweating, nausea, and fainting. If you experience these then take immediate action to cool down as quickly as possible.
Rest More frequently
Because your body works harder in the heat it will be necessary take to take more breaks than you would for a cooler day. Plan in extra stops in your ride to have a breather and maybe find some shade. After all who doesn’t like a nice café stop.
If you know it’s going to be hot ride then prepare by cooling your drinks bottles in the fridge overnight. If you only have water or squash you can even freeze them to keep them cooler for longer. Experiment with frozen food items as well, our home made energy balls are nice once slightly thawed, as are bananas.
Bit of an obvious one this but make sure you apply to exposed skin before the ride. If you are in a position to be able to take it with you then do so and top up when you can. Don’t forget to apply to the edges of clothing that might expose un-protected skin during movement such as the ends of jersey sleeves and shorts. Remember to apply to neck, face ears and nose. Assuming you wear a helmet then a thin casquette cap will be enough to keep the sun off your head as well as soaking up any sweat from your forehead before it drips in to your eyes. Don’t forget your eyes, wear sunglasses, sports / cycling specific if you can. If you can’t get those, any UVA / UVB protecting eye wear will suffice.
If you’re going abroad and expect to be cycling in the heat try to do some acclimatisation if you can. Getting to your destination early and starting with some gentle rides is best. If that’s not an option something as simple as setting up a turbo in a room and ramping the heat up to simulate warmer weather can be useful before travelling. If you’re going somewhere exceptionally hot or exercising way above your normal level then you should seek medical advice.
Go early, go late
If you are in control of when you ride then going at the start or the end of the day will help you avoid the hottest part of the day. This may also be useful if you’re riding in urban areas as air quality tends to get worse as temperatures rise. Just remember that you may riding when the light isn’t at its best so you may need to use our tips here to improve your visibility.
The hot weather also has a tendency to bring out all manner of insects looking to feed on you. If you’re cycling in the heat then using a good quality insect repellent is advisable. If you can get one a sunscreen with repellent is better. As with sunscreen try to carry some with you and reapply when necessary.