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11 Ways to Love Cycling in the Heat

VeloVixen 07.07.22

Our founder Liz refuelling in the middle of Argentina's central deserts, in 35c

Let's face it, the UK's not famous for blazing heat. When the mercury passes 20c we're prone to flapping about as though we're living in the Jordan desert. Fans and paddling pools sell out, and public fountains are gridlocked.

So when real heat does happen - and most summers it does at some point - we can be caught off guard. Here's our guide to the 11 Best Ways not just to survive when the heat is on, but to revel in it...


1. Stay hydrated

The lynchpin of any ride in the heat. We all know how quickly lack of water can get us into trouble, so take it seriously. Obviously you should keep sipping as you ride, little and often.

Top up when you get the chance - pubs, service stations, anywhere with a tap will do - just don't risk running out.

Make sure you mix it up - drink plenty of cool, refreshing tap water as well as electolyte-style tipples, to avoid stomach problems or getting into trouble with your dentist.

And don't worry if it warms up - it may not feel so refreshing, but warmer fluid is easier for your body to absorb.

Ride early in the morning or in the evening. It's just much more pleasant that way!

Just as important is ensuring you set off with plenty of water in your system. Ideally top up the night before to avoid too many pitstops in the early miles.

And when you finish, keep your fluid intake up. It's surprising how long you need to keep sipping after stopping to rehydrate your system properly.


2. Keep the sun at bay

That sun isn't getting any less strong. Even on mild days it can frazzle unprotected skin, with all the inherent short and long terms dangers. So slap on your suncream of choice before you set off and, unless you have a trusted all day formula, reapply regularly.

Vulnerable areas on a bike include uncovered shoulders, ears, forearms, and - especially easy to forget - the back of your hands, sitting there on the handlebars. If you've got short hair or it's pulled back, don't miss your neck.


3. Wear light clothing

Clothing that allows your skin to breathe easily and the perspiration to evaporate is inevitably a winner on real scorchers. Lighter colours can help to reflect the heat to a point, but the material itself tends to be more important.

... Our top tip to stay cool is to dunk a classic cycling cap in cold water


Cotton can become saturated very quickly and takes longer to dry out than more technical fabrics. Bear in mind that very lightweight, breathable materials don't always block out the sun's rays fully, so don't risk not applying the suncream underneath.

Finally, don't forget that - in the immortal words of Lynn Faulds Wood - 'conditions can change dangerously quickly'! Unless you have total confidence in the forecast, stick in a lightweight extra layer just in case.


4. Listen to your body

You know your body better than anyone. If you feel like you're overheating or becoming dehydrated, you may well be. Take it seriously and don't risk doing yourself damage.

If nothing else, being in a bad state makes you vulnerable to other traffic.

Get into the shade, drink plenty and keep still. Hyperthermia is an extreme case of overheating. Symptoms include confusion, dizziness, high heart rate, fainting, fever, headache and muscle cramps.

You really don't want hyperthermia - take any signs of it seriously, in you and others.

5. Eat

Whilst we're concentrating so much on drinking on a bike, we can sometimes forget to eat. Make sure you don't.

When you're using more energy than normal staying cool, your body needs more calories to keep pedalling! Go for 'normal' food where possible - your stomach will appreciate it more than sugary bars or gels.


6. Time your ride carefully 

Unless you're a real masochist, riding in the heat of the day is a bit too much like hard work for most of us. It can even be dangerous.

Our friends the VeloVixens of Dubai often finish their rides by 7 or 8am to avoid the heat of the day. Take a leaf out of their book on hot days and try to plan your ride for early in the morning or in the evening. It's just much more pleasant that way!

7. Wear a cap and fingerless gloves

Wearing a hat and gloves may sound like an outfit for trudging through the snow.

Not necessarily.

Our top tip to stay cool is to dunk a classic cycling cap in cold water - before you set off and any time you have access to water. Wearing a wet cap under your helmet is a brilliant natural way to keep a cool head.

And fingerless mitts can ensure that even when the sweat's running onto your palms and handlebar grips, you'll still have a firm grip and won't run the risk of blistering. They're also the perfect accessory to any cycling outfit.


8. Sunglasses

Eye protection is vital on a hot sunny ride. Make sure you wear sunglasses with decent lenses to protect your eyes from the sun.

This is not just to avoid the immediate glare, but also to protect your eyes from the dust and pollen that come with hot weather, and the drying effect of hot wind in your eyes.

Plus, you'll look really cool.


9. Plan your route strategically

On a really hot outing, it makes sense to aim for the shade. Animals do it, so why wouldn't we?

Try to pick roads that run through wooded areas or near to natural rivers or lakes. That will offer some kind of relief rather than big open areas where the heat can be most intense.

10. Dunk yourself

If you come across rivers, streams, lakes or just a public tap, don't be afraid to make the most of it.

You don't have to plunge in and swim (you may regret it when your padded shorts are saturated!), but sloosh it over your face, arms and head. It's the most natural way to keep your body temperature down.


11. Watch the surface

When the sun's baking the tarmac all day, it can actually reach melting point. That's not great for your tyres, and it's especially not great when it gets slippery.

Obviously it needs to be superhot for this to happen, but be aware of the road surface and be prepared for grip to be less reliable than normal.


So don't let the heat put you off. Some of the most magical rides can be on the hottest days. Bear these 11 tips in mind and make sure you go out prepared.

And be sure to reward yourself at the end - you've earned it!


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Legends: Iskra Lawrence, Gemma Sanderson and Olivia Inge after our 2013 photo shoot


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