When temperatures creep over 20 degrees C, we get all giddy. While some moan it’s too warm, bike riders are thinking long rides and tan lines. However, there is warm weather and there is dangerously very HOT weather. Weather patterns are changing and more extreme weather is becoming more prevalent. Riding in extremely hot conditions isn’t much fun and can be dangerous if you are not used to it. However, if you are heading out and it is warm to hot, here’s our tips.
Go Early (or late)
Summer rides in Australia, tend to start well before 6AM. The main reason for the early starts, is 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 longer distance ride. Have a ‘bailout option’ in case 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 tree-lined shady lanes to avoid the peak of the sun’s mid-day strength. Riding through forests or along lanes with high hedges can provide welcome shady relief for summer rides – seek out the shade.
Avoid Chip Seal
Cash-strapped local councils do their cheapest, quickest, short-term, pi55-poor surface dressing at this time of year. First they spray the road with hot tar, before slinging tons of stone chippings on the top. The excess chippings gradually get pushed to the sides of the road – the bits we are often forced 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 – avoid fresh chip seal if you can.
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, but 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 those places, which normally look really quite grim, look actually half way decent in the warm summer light. This is also a good time to press pause on the push to be more aero’ – ventilation is king when temperatures soar upwards, so uncover vents and think cooling instead of speed.
Take a Mate
If you can ride with a mate or in a group, aside from the witty banter, you can look forward to having plenty of shelter if the wind picks up or you start to get tired. The bigger and stronger the mate, the better – bigger provides more shade and more wind-blocking benefit when you are sat on their rear wheel.
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. Post ride, fight the temptation to sit out with beers. Dehydration + alcohol can really mess you up.
Take a Break
For longer rides, work at least one cafe stop into your plans. Think about eating through the ride. Keep an emergency spare gel or bar just in case your food intake is not enough to get you home.
If you ride in a sleek aero road helmet, it is likely to be less well ventilated – the vents tend to make helmets less aerodynamic. If you have a spare vented helmet for hot weather, it will keep you cooler and stop the torrent of sweat flowing done the lens of your sunglasses.
This initially seems odd, wearing an extra layer to keep cool? Well a summer specific mesh base layer will definitely keep you cooler as well as providing a little extra UV protection from the sun.
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, this can ruin those once crisp and precise gear changes.