Apologies for those reading this elsewhere in the world, but the UK summer has landed. No big deal in many countries. However in the UK, particularly up north, summer is welcomed like a long-lost, much-loved friend you never thought you would see again.
When temperatures creep over 25 degrees C, we get all giddy. While many moan it’s too hot, cyclists are thinking long rides and tan lines. Here are our tips for long summer rides.
Go Early (or late)
Regular road rides when I lived in Australia, started before 6AM or 7AM in ‘winter’. The main reason for the early starts was to avoid the worst of the heat. Starting early in the UK summer you get lower temperatures and the added bonus of quiet roads and all day to enjoy that ‘I’ve had my ride’ tired feeling. If you can’t get out early, going late is the next best option. Peak summer light evenings allow for four-hour rides even getting out at 6PM.
Plan Your Route
long rides are harder with a lot of climbing. Keep it flatter if you are just trying for a long distance ride. Have a bailout option incase something unforeseen happens. Can you refill water bottles on the way around your route? If the sun is particularly strong, plan into your route some shady lanes to avoid the peak of the sun’s mid-day strength.
Avoid Chip Seal
Cash strapped local councils do their cheapest, quickest, short-term surface dressing at this time of year. First they spray the road with hot tar, before slinging tons of chippings of the top. The excess chippings gradually get pushed to the sides of the road – the bits we often have to ride on. If you have to ride a tar chipped road, slow down on descents and corners and prepare to get gravel blasted when traffic passes by…
Sweat proof sunscreen or covering up, is the best way to keep protected under the summer sun. Remember to re-apply regularly though to ensure that you avoid getting burnt. Alternatively cover up! It may Seem counter-intuitive, wearing more to shade the skin can lower body temperature and reduce the chance of burning. Lighter coloured clothing also reflects more heat rather than absorbing it.
Steady as you Go
Take it easy, go steady and enjoy your ride for longer – bask in summer’s glow and marvel at how even places which normally look really quite grim, look actually half way decent in the warm summer light.
Take a Mate
While a solo long ride can be rewarding in its own right, riding with others and sharing the experience will make it even better. The other good thing about riding in a group, is that you will have plenty of shelter if the wind picks up.
Drink n Ride
Keep hydrated, regularly drinking will keep you topped up and tapping away for the long haul, refill whenever you can. Before heading out, check your urine is at the clearer end of the dehydration spectrum – heading out dehydrated never ends well.
Take a Break
For longer rides, work at least one cafe stop into your plans. Think about eating through the day. Stick to food which you know works well and is easy to digest. A long ride in the middle of nowhere is the wrong time to experiment and test new ride foods. Keep an emergency gel or bar just in case your food intake is not enough to get you home.
Early starts can still be a bit chilly in summer. Cover up with arm warmers / leg warmers / cape, to keep you warm when you leave in the early morning. As the warmth increases and you strip off, roll up the clothing and stuff it into your pockets or into your seat bag / pack.
For long rides take essential tools with you. Spare tube, tyre levers and pump are necessities. An extra mini tool could provide peace of mind if you are heading off into remote areas. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail and all that…
Once you get home, start to replace the fluids you sweated out on your ride. Clean the sweat & spilled drinks off your bike; the salt in sweat can eat into the surface of components. Dribbles and spills from bottles can trickle their way down to the cable guide under the bottom bracket creating extra friction for your gear cables.
Longer summer rides are the rides which can motivate us through the rest of the year. Thinking back to the warm summer sun and long steady rides, will keep your faith and keep you pressing-on through winter, long after the tan lines have faded…
So make the most of the summer now! Before you know it, the nights will start drawing in and winter will be back…