1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT JERSEY
For very hot days, you want something that’s built from man-made, synthetic technical fabrics that have been specifically created to keep you cool and sweat-free.
We’d also recommend a fit that sits close to the skin as this will allow the fabric to do its job better, although we appreciate this is a personal choice – especially for the, ahem, bigger-boned among us.
2. RIDE WHEN IT'S COOLEST
Avoid riding during the hottest parts of the day if possible. This is usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Dress appropriately by wearing clothing that wicks away sweat, keeping you dry and comfortable. And don't forget the sunscreen! In the event of a flat or mechanical failure of your equipment, try to find a shady spot to work on the bike instead of staying in the sun.
Drink water before, during and after rides. Always carry plenty of fluids, even if you're only planning for a short ride. Avoid drinking too much cold water at one time too—this can cause cramping. Aim to take in small amounts of fluids frequently (every 5 to 10 minutes) to stay on top of your hydration needs. Be sure not to wait for the feeling of extreme thirst; this could be one of the initial signs of heat exhaustion.
4. PROTECT YOUR EYES
Another essential bit of kit is your cycling sunglasses. The intense ultraviolet rays in sunlight damage sensitive cells in your eyes, the cumulative effect of which can result in cataracts, clouded vision and even more horrible stuff that we’re not going to go into here.
So make sure your sunglasses have 100% UV-filtering lenses. To get the most value for your money, look for a pair that has interchangeable lenses too, so that you can adapt them for your look or the conditions.
As well as the sun, a good pair of sunnies will keep your eyes free of pesky bugs, gravel and grime. Most importantly, though, they’ll make you look damn cool.
5. LOOK AFTER YOUR SKIN
Yes, we know those tan lines are an all-important badge of cycling honor to some, but keeping your skin safe should be your first priority. As you’re likely to be exposed to sunlight for long periods – perhaps even all day when you ride – you’ll need to use a sunblock with the highest protection factor you can find. Depending on the block you may need to reapply it to any exposed parts of your body, including your face, arms and legs and the back of your neck.
Start out with rides that are short and done at a slow pace. Increase your mileage as your body becomes used to riding in the heat. It takes a few weeks to get over the initial shock of hotter temperatures.
7. DON'T FORGET YOUR GLOVES
Just because the sun’s come out it doesn’t mean you should cycle without gloves. Opt for a pair of short-fingered mitts that will prevent your grip slipping through sweat, will protect your hands in the case of a tumble and will help support your hands, preventing nerve damage. Many even have little sweat wipes on the thumb which you can mop your brow with. Which is handy!
8. SORT YOUR SHORTS
If you don’t own a pair of bibshorts now is the time to invest. Why won’t regular shorts do? Because they have a waistband that can dig into your tummy – not great when you’re bent over on a bike all day.
Bibs instead, of course, use straps to stay up and provide extra coverage on your lower back so that no skin ever gets exposed when your cycling jersey inevitably rides up.
As a rule of thumb, the more panels your shorts have the greater degree of comfort they’ll offer as they’ll be better able to wrap themselves around your body.
Along with fit, the chamois pad is the key to ensuring your ride is as comfortable as possible. Ideally, you want a pad which is anti-bacterial, breathable and is generous in the amount of padding it provides for your posterior.
9. REPLACE ELECTROLYTES
For rides longer than an hour, drink fluids with an electrolyte replacement in addition to water. Consider an electrolyte drink, salty food, such as pretzels and peanuts, or electrolyte chews/gels to help maintain sodium levels.
Recovery becomes even more critical when riding long miles in the heat. Have something prepared to replenish your energy stores right after the ride that ideally has a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. Continue to hydrate in the hours that follow to replace fluids lost during the ride. This will speed the recovery process and allow you to face the heat again tomorrow.
Summer is the peak of road racing season in many parts of the country. Even recreational cyclists and fitness enthusiasts are inspired by the Tour de France to get out on two wheels. The heat can make this a dangerous environment, but with proper preparation and attention to the body's nutritional needs, summer is one of the best times to be on a bike. So get out there, have fun, and be safe.