Cycling in sunshine: the pleasures and perils


In one of my previous blogs I wrote about cycling the rain, with a few hopefully words of wisdom based on my own experiences of the do’s and don’ts. Sitting here basking in 30 degree wall to wall sunshine, it would be remiss of me not to address the similar pleasure and perils of cycling during a hot summer’s day.

So to begin with, you draw the curtains (or whatever) and smile at a cloudless blue sky, the birds are singing, bees are humming and the world is spinning on a slightly more relaxed axis. Life is good.

What better way to enhance that feel good factor than by jumping on the bike for a ride, after all you’ve spent weeks if not months wrapped up in cold and wet weather gear, had to clean the muck off the the bike after every ride or looked earnestly out of the window and then at your “summer bike” pondering on whether to face the lashing rain, cold winds, icey roads or snow filed driveways. No, it is time to get the summer gear on, and ride your best bike, it’s going to be brilliant, what could go wrong ?

Rule 1 : Hydration.  We talked a little about this on our Calais to Montpellier adventure entitled “16 Days in France”, where we certainly learnt a lot of lessons, and perhaps after reading this you’ll stop by that slightly tongue in cheek prose. So, rule number one is that when riding in summer you will need plenty of water, aim to drink 1 litre per half hour and supplement it with electrolytes when the temperature gets above 25 degrees. You may lose 4-6 litres per hour, with the heat sapping your energy faster than you think, dangerous dehydration is always a possibility.

Before I took this leason to heart I would find my mood getting gradually lower and lower until it was very dark, every pedal was an effort, each mile a slog rather than a joy. So now, I make sure I take small but frequent swigs as this is better than one or two large but infrequent gulps. If I start feeling my mood lowering I grab the water bottle, and replenish at every stop.

The danger when cycling on a sunny day is that the sweat is being wicked away from you and the breeze keeps you dry….through rapid evaporation, trust me you are sweating ! So use as I mentioned before, use electrolytes as you’ll need to replace salts and minerals during the ride and possibly afterwards.

Okay, so the inevitable part, yes it is okay to have a small beer on a long ride, stay within the law and your own tolerances. I find either a light ale or shandy is best in the heat, however it is far better to earn that beer after the ride, such righteousness is hard to come by.

Rule 2 : Suncream. I don’t really need to say too much, you all know this and have had it beaten into you, but make sure you put it on and re-apply frequently. In particular, a large dose of sunblock on the face, neck and ears, and especially the nose is essential. If you are folically challenged, as i am slowly becoming (no comments from the back), wear a bandana, it stops your skull frying or getting a lovely set of tan lines from the gaps in the helmet. A bandana also stops sweat running into your eyes and your neck being burnt.

Rule 3: Sunglasses. My advice is to use as good a quality pair of cycling sunglasses as you can afford. A couple of points to note: (1) look to get polarised lenses as these help you see better any obstacle and the road surface especially in dappled sunlight (e.g riding through tree lined roads); (2) do not skimp on cheap imitations – I face planted the road a few years ago and even under that extreme situation the lens did not shatter and go into my eyes; and (3) wear the arms of the sunglasses outside the helmet straps, not only does it look cooler, in the event that the glasses get knocked (see 2 above) they will fall off (you will want them to do this).

Rule 3: Tyres and Inner Tubes. As it gets hot and rubber expands, any cracks and cuts can become more susceptable to causing punctures. Not as big a deal as the first rules, but always check your tyres (and general safety of the bike), it just makes sense. I would also advise not to put more pressure than you normally do in the tyre, you are not going to go faster, it’ll be just a harder ride experience for a day that should be full of smiles.

Rule 4: Traffic. For some reason during the summer, other road users become a little less patient, and a little less tolerant…it’s either because they have a beer to look forward to, their aircon isn’t working or they as holidaymmakers or visitors and so are less observant of the road, or they are dazzled by the sun or less able to see in the dappled sunlight in the trees. So, expect more of the unexpected, it may be just plain envy that you are having a fantastic ride out in the sun while they are baking in their cars.

Rule 5:  Remember this is Wellbeing.  Finally, although not really a rule, when you see come across a special view, vista, flower or one of life’s beautiful moments, stop and take a photo or selfie, then post it, you’ve earnt being a little smug today and these photos will remind you that the hard work you’ve put in to getting there ws worth it, and in the winter you can look back at you achievements with pride and as little motivators to keep going on your journey to fitness and wellbeing.

I hope these little snippets are of use to you, and happy to expand on them if you’d like to contact us

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