Most bike riders look forward to summer. We often think of the good aspects, warm sunny weather, tan lines, barbecues, perhaps a cheeky post-ride beer. We tend not to dwell on the negatives; sunstroke, sunburn, heavy rain showers, dehydration… Here are Eight tips for cycling in the British Summer.
It’s worth remembering to take a cape or waterproof jacket. Heavy summer showers can really put a ‘dampener’ on a summer ride – so go prepared. Don’t believe the TV weather person. It will rain. Probably when you are in the middle of nowhere, just after you’ve had a puncture…
Tip: Roll up a thin cape with your spare tubes, you will hardly notice it’s there.
An earlier start not only provides cooler conditions, quieter roads and trails, there is also less requirement for sunscreen early on and there are also less flying insects. An early ride also makes for a good excuse for an afternoon siesta. If you are not into early starts then those long summer evenings are a great alternative.
Tip: Get your bike, shoes & helmet ready the night before & leave them by the door. Nothing annoys those you live with more than the clip clop of cleats at 5am, particularly on tiled or wood floors!
Know how much liquids your ride will require, particularly in hot and humid weather. Pre-plan where you can get more drink on-board, especially if you are doing a long ride on a hot day. It is easy to get through a bottle per hour in hot conditions. Check you are hydrated before leaving the house. Setting out dehydrated in summer is dangerous, especially if you are planning to complete a long ride.
Tip: Freeze water bottles the night before and enjoy cool drinks on your ride. If you ride with a hydration pack – add ice cubes.
Road to Ruin
Local Authorities like to do their surface dressing in mid- summer. Spraying the road with tar and then coating the tar in stone chippings. A freshly tar chipped road is best avoided until the surface gets bedded down. The small chippings get flicked up by passing cars potentially putting you and your bike’s paint work at risk.
Tip: Avoid riding near the gutter on freshly resurfaced corners. Stone chippings get flicked out to the edges and can be a couple of inches deep, not ideal for cornering safely.
Keeping your skin shaded is important, consider a good-wicking long sleeve jersey if the sun is particularly strong. Wearing more might seem odd, but they do it in Australia and they know about handling the sun more than most. The good old peaked cycling cap is also a summer essential for under your helmet, either shading your face or flipped around shading your neck, peaked caps offer versatile and cheap shade protection.
Tip: Take a spare cap for after your café stop to avoid having the absulutely horrible experience of having to put the sweat-soaked one back on.
It is very important to apply sunscreen before heading out on a ride and re-apply every couple of hours or less if you are sweating heavily. The usual areas which are easily neglected or missed are ears, nose and neck.
Tip: If you have a group ride planned for a hot day, nominate someone reliable to remember a tube of sunscreen for the group.
Years ago they were just called sunglasses, now they are equally known as eye protection and with good reason. Having a bluebottle fly try to fit under your eyelid while riding a tricky descent would teach anyone the benefits of eye protection. Quality glasses are a necessity in any conditions, they can help avoid eye infections from road spray in the wet for example.
Tip: Reduce sweat running down your glasses by wearing a cap under your helmet to soak up the sweat.
When the weather is very hot and humid, avoid overheating by riding in a vented helmet rather than an aero / unvented one. The benefits of being cooler and more comfortable through having vents should outweigh the aero benefits over a long hot ride. Helmets with interchangable vented / aero panels or shells can offer the best of both worlds.
Tip: Wash your helmet with warm soapy water after a hot ride to avoid salt staining the inside and straps.