7 tips for cycling when it’s hot

Hot weather should not stop bicycle lovers from going out for a ride. However, precautions like those suggested below should be taken.

1. The best time of day for a bike ride.

Once the temperature exceeds 35 – 37 degrees, the body loses its cooling mechanisms, and the risk of suffering heat stroke is much higher.

So, if you’re going for a spin, it’s advisable to go out during the coolest hours of the day. Early morning is the most suitable as you’ll still feel the cool of the night. But if you don’t like to go out in the morning, the later hours of the day may also be suitable.

Whatever you do, avoid going out at midday or in the early hours of the afternoon. If for some reason you have to go at that time, remember that you cannot maintain the same pace as you would in lower temperatures, so try to cycle slowly, keep yourself well hydrated and protect yourself from the sun.

2. What to wear when cycling in the heat.

Due to a phenomenon called the albedo effect, dark colours absorb heat while light colours reflect more solar radiation and, therefore, do not retain heat.

So, if you’re cycling in the heat, you should wear light-coloured clothing in addition to technical clothing that breathes well.

If you like to wear a jersey, choose one that opens completely. That way, you’ll expose a greater surface area of skin to the air and the heat will dissipate better.

It’s advisable that on hot days you also wear breathable shorts. To avoid skin irritations, make sure they are hypoallergenic. Remember that shorts are designed to be worn without underwear, so the fabric will have direct contact with your skin. If they’re not hypoallergenic, they may irritate your skin.

To protect against falls caused by slipping due to sweaty hands or from wiping the sweat off your face, it is highly advisable to wear gloves. Gloves may seem hot at first, but they are very comfortable once you get used to them.

As for socks and footwear, on very hot days, they must be breathable and ventilated so that the air reaches your feet and cools them.

For more advanced cyclists, it is advisable to anchor your footwear to the pedals as it’s safer and a much more efficient way of pedalling.

Then there are items like sleeves and windbreakers that can be very useful at times.

Sleeves can be worn in the early morning, for example, if it is still a bit cool, and, later, once the temperature rises, they can easily be removed.

The windbreaker prevents you from cooling down if, for example, you begin a rapid descent while sweating.

3. Water or electrolytes?

When we sweat, in addition to losing water, we also lose mineral salts, especially sodium, so when cycling in the heat we have to take think about how to replenish these salts to avoid fatigue.

Sports drinks are great for hydrating and regaining energy. As well as hydrating liquid, they also provide us with mineral salts and carbohydrates.

When it comes to choosing a sports drink, it should be remembered that they don’t all contain the same ingredients or have the same benefits. They can be divided into three large groups: hypotonic, hypertonic and isotonic.

They each provide different amounts of carbohydrates and salts, with hypertonic drinks providing the most and hypotonic ones the least.

Therefore, depending on the type of exercise you’re doing, you should choose one or the other.

For example, if you’re going for a long, demanding cycle, your blood glucose levels will decrease rapidly, so you should opt for a hypertonic drink. But they should be consumed with care because they are absorbed slowly by the body – if you consume too much, you can get dehydrated due to the high amount of liquid that the intestine needs to absorb.

Isotonic drinks are the most balanced because their concentration of salts and hydrates are very similar to the levels in our blood.

That’s why they are the most popular with athletes.

Tricks to keep your drink fresh.

To avoid your drink turning into a warm soup, you should put it in the freezer the night before. That way, as the hours go by, it will unfreeze, but it will always maintain its temperature.

4. Refresh yourself along the way.

When it comes to cycling in the heat, it’s important to take advantage of any fountain or river you pass to refresh yourself.

If you don’t expect to pass by any freshwater sources, it’s advisable to carry a bottle of water for throwing over your head.

This will lower your body temperature in addition to providing you with psychological relief from the heat.

5. Protect your skin with sunscreen

The skin is the body’s largest organ and among its functions, the most important are the ability to regulate body temperature, the ability to store water and fats, and the sense of touch.

So, protecting it from solar radiation when riding a bike in the heat, is not to be overlooked.

There are endless brands of sunscreen on the market but what dermatologists recommend is to wear at least factor 30 protection and use high-quality, pharmacy-sold products.

Preventing burns is more important than curing them, so wearing a cap or visor under your helmet to protect your head, and good sunglasses for your eyes, are also advisable practices.

6. Choose flat routes with descents and shaded areas

Wind and shade work to reduce the feeling of heat. By cycling on flat or downhill routes we can reach higher speeds which creates more of a breeze.

If you pedal at less than 10 km/h, like when you go uphill, it feels hotter because we generate less of a cooling breeze since we are going slowly, and because of the effort required to ascend the slope.

Therefore, it is best to avoid ascents or routes of great difficulty.

It is also important to plan ahead and choose routes that have lots of shade.

Heat need not be an impediment to bike riding.

As you can see, heat need not be an impediment to bike riding, but you have to learn to foresee certain risks and equip yourself adequately.

Each of us has different rhythms and levels of endurance, which makes it very important that we know our limits and keep in mind that if you go out on a very hot day, it is not the most appropriate time to push your body too far.

Hot days are for cycling slowly without doing more than necessary to keep in shape, enjoying the scenery and finding that much-needed moment to disconnect. They are not days for trying to break personal records or train intensively.

The rest of the year will provide much more suitable conditions for that kind of cycling.

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