Safer Cycling in Hotter Weather
Take our advice for staying cool when you’re cycling in the summer. Use these tips to ensure that you avoid dehydration, sunburn and fatigue.
Summer Cycling Rides: 7 Tips to Help You Keep Your Cool
Cycling in summer makes commuting by bike even more enjoyable. There’s less rain, it gets lighter earlier in the morning and stays lighter later in the evening, and you can ditch the thick winter cycling kit. But with summer comes the sun, and as the mercury soars, its essential that you keep your cool while in the saddle. Overheating, dehydration and sunburn are no joke, so you need to know what to do to avoid these hazards.
Here are our seven tips for keeping cool when cycling in summer.
1. Cool Your Core
As effective as cooling your body on the outside is, you can ensure your temperature stays down by lowering your core temperature from the inside, too. You can lower your core temperature by drinking cool (not ice cold!) drinks, applying cool compresses to your wrists or neck and ensuring you’re wearing breathable, moisture-wicking clothing. Spending some time in the shade will help too, as will splashing yourself with cool water.
Bear in mind that heat exhaustion and heatstroke are both very serious conditions that can require emergency assistance. If you’re feeling overly hot or faint, stop cycling immediately and give yourself a chance to cool down.
2. Don’t Forget Your Suncream
Along with choosing clothing that protects your body from the sun, don’t skip the sunscreen, either. Avoid anything thick and greasy, however, because it will clog in your pores and block your perspiration so you won’t cool down as easily. This may also lead to rashes and acne. Use sunscreen lotions or sprays that have low viscosity as they’re more easily absorbed and allow your skin to breathe.
Take note of how long the sunscreen you’ve chosen protects you for. Find one that gives you a long-lasting cover so that you don’t have to stop and reapply it constantly and ensure that it’s water-resistant. The water resistance isn’t only to ensure that you’re still protected when you sweat, it’s in case you splash water on yourself to cool down. Washing away your sunscreen without realising it could lead to a nasty burn as you think you’re protected when you’re not.
3. Keep Yourself Hydrated
Listen to your body and try to drink water before you start getting thirsty. If you sweat a lot and are planning a long ride, it’s a good idea to stock up on electrolyte water. This will help your body to replenish the salt it’s losing. Make sure you’re properly hydrated before you start your bike ride, while you’re on your journey, and once you’ve reached your destination.
Sodium is very important for people who sweat heavily because losing too much too quickly can lead to exhaustion and cramps. Calcium, potassium, and sodium all play a vital role in proper muscle contraction, so adjust your liquid intake to include these as far as you can. You can incorporate more coconut water, milk, orange juice, soy milk, and tomato juice into your diet as they’re all great sources of these minerals.
4. Revitalise Your Body With a Cold Shower
If there are no facilities where you can shower in your workplace, carry a container that you can fill with water and pour over yourself when you get warm.
Wetting your cycling clothes like this will instantly drop your body temperature, and if it’s warm out you’ll dry quickly so you won’t chafe. The trick is to ensure that you don’t soak your clothes, but rather make them damp enough to cool you down without having them stick to your skin.
5. Time Your Rides
It’s not always possible, but if your work schedule allows, try to cycle when it’s cooler, rather than at the hottest times of the day. Head out first thing in the morning before it gets too hot, or later in the afternoon when the temperature has started to drop a bit.
The sun is at its strongest between midday and 3pm, so you stand more chance of overheating or getting sunburnt during this time. However, don’t let this lull you into a false sense of security. Always wear sunblock and ensure that you’re prepared for the heat. If you know you’re going to cycle at a peak heat time, you can always plan a shorter ride instead.
6. Wear the Right Clothes
If you rode your bicycle naked, your sweat would evaporate properly, drying your skin out and allowing your body to keep sweating to reach the right temperature. But that isn’t exactly an option when we’re commuting to work! The solution here is to choose clothing that positively influences our bodies’ proper functioning.
Sweating is how our bodies stop us from overheating. Sweat is mostly water, which means it’s great at conducting heat. Ignoring your body’s needs can result in heat exhaustion, with symptoms including heavy sweating and a faster pulse. You’re looking at heat cramps in the best-case scenario and heatstroke in the worst, so be careful out there!
Carrying your work clothes in a backpack or strapped to a rear bike rack is a great option. This allows you to invest in shorts and jerseys for cyclists that are breathable enough to wick away your sweat and create a cooling effect. Finding clothes that protect you from the sun but are breathable is key to staying cool.
Don’t forget a cap to protect your head from the sun and offer added protection for your face, and a pair of sunglasses to shield your eyes.
7. Modify Your Goals
Don’t be tempted to beat your best time during a heatwave! The harder you’re pedalling, the more you’ll sweat. If you’re starting to feel uncomfortable and are drastically increasing your liquid intake, slow down or shorten your ride. If you’re commuting, set yourself a more realistic pace and save the speed for when the weather cools down.
Exercising in hotter conditions elevates the core temperature of your body. Slowing down will make this rise less noticeable and you can exercise for longer, going the full distance.
There is an abundance of benefits for commuters who cycle, and summer is a great time to get in the saddle.
Use these tips to keep your cool and you’ll reach your destination safely without any heat-related issues!
This guest blog was written by Alison Knight, a passionate writer and editor from Bike Push. When she’s not tapping away at her keyboard, you’ll find Alison answering expert-level crossword puzzles under the strict supervision of her Abyssinian cat, Riri.
- 21st July 2022