With a heatwave forecast in the UK, here are a few of our top tips for cycling safely in the heat when the temperature soars:
On the bike, you don’t need to overthink this, simply take a decent slug from your bidon every 5-10 minutes right from the start of any ride and aim to consume 500-750ml per hour.
What’s in my bottles varies but it’ll never be plain water. Sometimes, especially on rides on under 90 minutes where I don’t need additional fuel, it’ll just be an electrolyte tab. On longer rides, where I reckon getting some carbs from your bottles is a no-brainer, it’ll either be a commercial carbohydrate drink, my DIY Pineapple energy drink or, as a final hour “get me home if I’m struggling bottle” a 50/50 mix of water and Coke.
Maintaining optimal hydration begins off the bike with your day to day routine. Plain water is generally fine as your food will provide salts but most other drinks, including tea and coffee, will all contribute. The best way to see if you’re getting enough is to check your pee – copious and clear should be your goal.
Pre-ride, assuming that you’ve kept yourself well hydrated in the days before, there’s nothing special you need to do. I’ll tend to have my obligatory espresso or two with my breakfast, a glass of juice and probably 500ml of water with my breakfast. With 90-120 minutes before rolling out, this gives plenty of time for any excess to pass through and to have a pre-ride pee.
Post-ride, especially if it’s been a hard and hot one, it’s not unusual to be a bit dehydrated so getting plenty of fluids in is a key part of recovery. One of my go-to’s is 500ml of milk and a banana – carbs, protein and essential electrolytes; simple but effective.
If you’re not used to cycling in the heat – such as on the first days of a trip abroad or the onset of a heatwave at home, adjust your pacing. Whether you use heart rate, power or a combination of the two, ride to the lower ends of the zones you typically would. After a couple of days and observing how your body responds, you should be able to start riding more towards your usual levels.
Unless you have no choice, get up early and ride during the coolest part of the day. I remember an August trip to Majorca a few years ago where I ended up getting up a 0400 for breakfast, leaving the apartment by 0530 and typically rolling back in by 0930. This meant I didn’t have to ride in temperatures approaching 40C and, with a siesta and lounging by the pool, didn’t feel at all tired.
Often, as the temperature rises, so too does pollen level and pollutants. In rural areas, high pollen counts can be an issue for riders who suffer from hay fever and again, weather forecasts should be consulted and, if necessary, riding plans altered and appropriate medical steps taken. In urban areas hot weather can lead to a significant reduction in air quality and, in poor conditions, riding should be avoided. Most weather forecasts now also carry air quality and pollution level warnings.
Slap on the suncream, ideally a sports specific all-day product that’s sweat-resistant, but don’t rely on it 100% if you’re out for a long ride – pack some in your jersey pocket to top up with. Pay particular attention to the back of your neck and ears which are really exposed when riding.
Also consider, especially if you’re thin on top, protecting your scalp with a bandana or a casquette as getting burnt through helmet vents isn’t a good look.
Sunglasses not only protect your eyes from damaging UV rays but also prevent dust, grit and flying insects from getting into your eyes.
Insects can be a real problem as the vents on modern helmets suck them towards your head. Carrying some non-drowsy anti-histamine tablets or some topical cream can significantly reduce the impact of an insect sting or bite. If you know you are allergic to insect stings, make sure that you are carrying the appropriate medicine, you have the necessary personal medical information on you and that you have informed your riding partners.
Consultant with British Cycling and author of the Road Cycling Performance Manual. Lover of cobbles, gravel and Siberian Pine – not so keen on climbs! Nik is the author of all of the Hotchillee Training Plans, Zwift workout files and regularly posts tips and advice on the Hotchillee app. He’s also the evil genius behind the now infamous Hotchillee Gain Train.
Glen is usually behind the scenes making sure that the Hotchillee Ride Captains and event participants have fully functioning bicycles to ride but he occasionally makes an appearance in front of the camera to share his wisdom. If he’s not fixing or building bikes he’ll be out riding in #SweetSussex. If you want to know anything about Cyclocross, Glen is the man to ask.
Adele has worked within the health and fitness industry for over 25 years starting with a ballet and dance background herself, she has progressed to training and teaching all styles of fitness and offers Pilates, barre & yoga. As a keen runner, Adele appreciates the need for a strong healthy body and mind and incorporates many elements of Pilates, yoga and barre into her own training to ensure her strength and stamina remain.