There is a definite love/loathe relationship when it comes to summer cycling.
Pros: There is more sunlight so we get longer daylight hours to ride. It’s more likely to be dry, there are a heap of great holidays to take advantage of.
Cons. It’s hot. It’s dry. The roads are melting. There are greater risks of sunburn and sunstroke.
Here are some ways to embrace the summer season and be prepared for some great cycling.
1. What are you made of?
It’s not just a simple matter of choosing short sleeves for your summer jersey. What material your garment is made from is important not just for comfort, but also for helping beat the heat. Fabrics that are synthetic are man-made specifically so you can be cool and sweat free. It’s not about fashion, it’s about staying safe out there (okay, and also fashion).
A tighter fit will also help wick away sweat more than a loose garment. Just keep in mind that some jersey brands come smaller than you’d expect so always refer to our size guide for tips on what will fit you best and be sure to take advantage of our exchange policy so you can switch up a size before you wear in your too-small Italian number.
2. Wear a base layer, even in summer.
Your base layer is the perfect fit and weight to help absorb sweat and keep it off your body. Wearing layers might not seem like the right thing to do in warm weather but you will really feel the difference that added sweat reduction layer makes. It also gives you the option to take off your jersey and get some more air on your skin if you stop to break and will give you an extra layer of protection if a cool wind picks up or the conditions change.
3. Protect your skin
Slip, slop, slap is really important on the bike, even though you might love admiring your cycling tan lines, skin cancer is a really big killer in Australia. Use the highest SPF sunscreen you can find and apply it 20 minutes before your ride and top up every few hours. When you feel that you have had enough sun, get back inside and take a break (a shady tree or an overcast day is not a sun shield).
A ride cap will help protect your face and eyes to some extent although sun cream is still recommended. Be sure to include a cover for your neck and hands.
Sunglasses will help protect your eyes from the sun as well as the glare from cars, metal objects and the road itself. As an added bonus your eyes will be free of bugs, dust and dirt that is all common in the summer air.
Even though you won’t be able to see the ultra violet (UV) rays that are damaging the cells in your eyes you will be thankful when you are spared from cataracts, clouded vision and other eye conditions later in life just by wearing fashionable glasses. Look for lenses that come with 100% UV-filtering protection.
You can get UV filtering features for prescription glasses too if you need them to ride. Some lenses can also help reduce the UV light that bounces off the back of the glass, or you can choose glasses with wrap around lenses. Another option is transition lenses or interchangeable lenses that will allow you to ride with glasses in different conditions.
5. Gloves don’t come off
It’s just as important to wear gloves in summer as it is in winter, in some ways even more so with the added grip you get on sweaty hands. It’s also great way to keep the sun off the backs of your hands and your skin on your hands if you do happen to come off. Opt for the cut off fingered type that will help the air circulate around your digits and give you easy access to the gears and breaks. You’ll probably find you want to wash these regularly (having more than one pair is good for this) as they will accumulate a lot of sweat and dirt.
If you are worried about weird tan lines on your writs, it’s just another great reason to bring on the sunscreen.
Make sure you have enough water on board before you head off. The ride savvy will know to keep a bidon or two in the fridge or even freezer to help bring some quenching relief on a hot day. Just remember they won’t stay cool for long. Aim to take a sip every 15 minutes to get yourself into the habit of steady hydration, since your fluid loss through sweat will be consistent and ongoing. Protein gels and electrolyte drinks are also great for proper hydration, just be aware of the high sugar content in some, you may want to forgo the banana if your gels and hydro- packs have a lot of added carbs.
7. Bibs are best
Bibs for cycling are a far better option than shorts because you don’t have a balky waistband holding sweat and bunching into your stomach when you are hunched over the handles.
Bibs also protect your back so that if your jersey rides up a little you won’t get sunburn on your hips and exposed back.
8. Be chamois savvy
When choosing your bib also remember that the chamois is part of the purchase and can make a big difference to your ride comfort. It’s not a case of one size fits all, there are lots of different shapes, thicknesses and sizes so if you are not comfortable with what you have, there is no need to put up with it.
Many types come with antibacterial properties and you’ll probably find some chamois cream will go well on a long ride or touring ride, no matter how incredible your chamois fit is.
9. Avoid the heat
Even if the best gap in your day for a ride is your lunchbreak, don’t risk it. Not only is the sun at its hottest from 12 to 3, but the UV strength is also significantly more intense. Keep an eye on the UV readings that are available with weather reporting apps so you really know the risks you are taking by riding in the middle of the day. You also risk heat stroke and dehydration which is far from healthy or safe. Plan your rides for first thing in the morning or into the late afternoon or evening and take advantage of the longer daylight hours. Also be careful of melting tar in the extreme heat especially from new roads.
10. Be prepared
Having a lightweight gilet or rain jacket tucked into your back pocket will cost you nothing but make a big difference if you get caught in a storm. A wind jacket will help you stay dry or block a chill breeze, especially if you have been working hard on a climb and are looking to enjoy the decent.
If rain is forecast, you might want to consider backing your gilet up with a pair of arm warmers.
The only thing to remember is to hit the showers after your ride to wash off dirt and sweat and help cool and hydrate your skin.
Have fun in the sun everyone and be safe out there.