It’s one extreme to another this year; it seemed the cold weather would never leave us and now the UK is in the midst of a heatwave. With temperatures soaring over 30 degrees, take care when you are out and about on your bike.
Listen to your body
Pay attention to how you feel, and don’t push yourself too hard. A ride you might normally do with no problem will be a different kettle of fish in this heat. If you find yourself feeling dizzy, achey, or generally far, far too hot, then stop riding. Get under shade, out of the sun, make sure you’ve drunk enough, and cool down by splashing yourself with water.
Go out early or late
The hottest part of the day occurs between 11am and 3pm, hence the phrase about mad dogs. Avoid cycling during this period if you can, and particularly avoid riding really hard or pushing yourself to extremes if you do go out then. It’s not the time to practice repeated speedy ascents of Box Hill.
Early mornings are great as you often have the roads or trails to yourself, it’s bright but pleasantly cool, and you get back having done your ride with the rest of the day still spread out before you!
If you aren’t a morning person, going out in the evening is an option, particularly with the longer summer days. You can get in a sneaky post-work trail visit; a great way to unwind from work, and sunsets are best viewed from a saddle, we reckon.
You will be sweating much more than normal because of the heat, so it’s really important you drink enough to replace the fluid you loose.
In normal conditions, you should be drinking 1.2 litres a day anyway, then about 1 litre an hour on top if you are exercising. In hot weather, it’s going to be more than this. How much is enough? Your body should tell you – when you start to feel thirsty, have a drink!
Make sure you bring enough water with you, particularly as you may be drinking more than usual. Ensure there are points along the route where you can re-fill your water bottles or water-bladders.
It is also possible to drink too much fluid, so don’t force yourself to drink lots if you don’t feel like it. If you begin to feel bloated or unwell because of the amount you have drunk, then give yourself time to recover. Again, listening to your body is key.
A top tip is to have one bottle of plain water, and a second with a rehydration product in it. These replace the salts you loose when you sweat, so keeping these topped up can help keep you hydrated and performing well.
Now might be the time to head for that wooded forest trail or leafy country lane rather than exposed, oven-like heathland. Not only do the trees provide shade, the temperature below them is usually several degrees cooler.
If you are cycling through town, try and put as much of your route through parks and leafy avenues as possible.
Okay, a sun bonnet is hardly ideal cycling gear, but your helmet should provide your noggin some sun protection. You can give yourself a bit more shade by popping on a lightweight cycling cap underneath; the peak will provide some cover for your face.
If you have sensitive skin and can’t avoid being out in the hottest part of the day, then you might actually want to find a lightweight long-sleeved jersey or arm warmers to protect your arms and something similar for your legs.
Slip on the sunglasses
Not only do these allow you to see through the glare of fierce sunshine, they protect your eyes from damaging UV rays. It’s not just the skin around your eyes you have to look out for, but also the eyes themselves. Make sure your pair are certified to prevent both UVA and UVA rays, and you’ll be set.
The higher the factor the better, and remember to reapply it often as you will be sweating it off as you ride. Pay particular attention to the tops of your shoulders and backs of your legs. Also take care of areas where things like rucksacks may rub the sunscreen away.
There are sports specific sunscreens available which are particularly waterproof, and worth looking out for. Another top tip is to grab a travel sized tube of cream, which should be small enough to fit in a saddle bag or back pocket. You can then reapply when out and about.
This is a tricky one to get right in a heatwave for several reasons. Firstly, you usually can’t avoid cycling during peak times. Secondly, cities are several degrees hotter than the rural areas due to something called the urban heat island effect; all that concrete, glass and cement reflects the heat back into the air, upping the temperature.
However, on the flip side it’s far better to be in the open air than to be stuck on a sweltering bus or tube.
Try and detour through leafier or quieter areas if you can, remember to bring some water, and slop on the sunscreen. Don’t forget there’s always the option of an ice-cream stop if you need it.
The sunny weather is set to continue through to the weekend, so if you are planning to meet up with friends, we have some great cycle-based ideas for you to try.