Beat the heat on your bike.
Top tips on how to cycle in summer heat on your bike trip
Summer is coming and at long last, we can get out and cycle in it!
The world is changing, and we are seeing increases in temperatures across the board in all areas of the world. This of course presents a whole new set of challenges for cyclists globally.
However, planning on cycling in summer at home or in southern Europe during its hottest months of July, August and early September, need not be curtailed though if you plan your cycling accordingly.
Think, there is no bad weather for cycling, just different kinds of good!
Read time: 5 min
How to cycle on hot days
Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun, as Noel Coward’s famous song sang in the 1930s.
If you plan to do this too and cycle, there are a few things to make this experience fun and not fatal!
Biking in the World’s hot spots
We regularly take our cycling trips to hot countries such as Australia, Malaysia & Vietnam. I’ve also cycled in Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression, officially the hottest place on earth, where the cruel average yearly temperature is in the 35°C (95°F) range, I can say without hesitation, heat is not for everyone when cycling. However, with a good mindset, planning and prep, it can be!
Embrace hot weather but be careful
However, saying that, even if it is, it is crucial you know what your limits are and to stop very much before you get to them. Heat can debilitate quickly and easy and is a dangerous thing to play with. Here are some tips to minimize the risk.
How do you take care while cycling in heat?
Drink, Drink, Drink and then keep drinking – Try taking a bigger bottle on the bike too and use isotonic tabs.
Keep Hydrated on a Hot Day’s Cycle
If you do enjoy exercising in heat like we do, make sure you have water on you. Always.
I like to throw electrolytes in it just to replenish those lost minerals that will be lost. Even start hydrating the day before if you know you are going riding the next day.
There are many cafes on our cycling routes in hotter countries like Southern Spain and Portugal, so take every chance to fill up and keep drinking. One of the handy things I had in the Danakil was an insulated water bottle, so it doesn’t always seem like you are drinking tea so hot the water. I also carried a Camelback hydration pack and if you are seriously cycling in the summer, I would recommend one. Then there is no excuse of becoming dehydrated.
Plan your Ride Carefully
You may not be able to organize your trip to other months, so plan daily.
If you do choose to come to Southern Europe in those months, definitely arrive days early and acclimatise to the temperature.
It will help you immensely and it will not be such a shock.
Arrange your day around your ride time
If you are cycle touring, get a good early start on the cycling and get those miles done before at least 13:00.
In the South here, the day only gets warmer and warmer, unlike in the Northern hemisphere, where 12:00 high noon can be the hottest part of the day. Our warmest hours often are in the late afternoon when the mercury hits its heights.
We suggest to our cyclists that although the sun only rises down here at 7:00am, if you want to leave at that time, let the hotel know the night before and they might leave a few things out for you to eat before leaving. There are many cafes along our routes though, so you will soon be able to get your coffee at some point!
Love that Spanish Siesta on your cycle travels!
Another option is, don’t try and cycle in the afternoon’s heat but instead embrace the Southern European cultural experience of the afternoon siesta. Enjoy it and if on a fixed based tour, go out in the cooler hours of 19:00 for a short ride when there is still daylight. It is a pleasant time to be out. The Andalucians love a late night for good reason!
Things to Pack for Warm Weather Travelling
We’ve done a lot of hot weather cycling, a few must have items are :
- Sunscreen – sweat proof
- A light hat / bandana / buff – soaking any of these in water offers respite fast
- Arm Skins UV filtered for cycling
- Moisture wicking fabric cycling jerseys
- A well ventilated helmet
Cover up not Strip off
I know it seems counter intuitive but cover up – avoid sunburn at all cost.
If you are cycle touring wearing loose clothes (I used a light man’s long sleeve shirt in the Danakil while cycling in this traditional area), helps for the long hours on the bike. If road cycling and out for a few long hours but want to be aerodynamic know that all cycling jerseys are not created equal. Some have better wicking and mesh panels helpful for ventilation and air flow.
Arm skins with UV filters are really great too for protection. Don’t forget the back of your neck or ears either and wearing a light bandana/buff under your helmet will also protect against the beating sun. For refreshment, soak these in water every so often to cool off.
Ease up on your Ride Expectations, mileage or gain
Don’t push yourself to your limits getting up that hill. It doesn’t matter what terrain you are cycling, just remember to take it slowly.
The heat is already adding to your load and elevating your heart rate.
Monitor yourself and cycling buddies.
Know the Signs of Heat Stroke & Take stock of yourself constantly.
Don’t underestimate Mental preparation, it goes a long way
Whatever you do, don’t tell yourself how much you hate cycling in the heat. The more you complain about it, the more you will be aware of it, the more it will literally be a hell for you and everyone else with you.
A positive outlook helps immensely when cycling in heat.
“When the weather is hot, keep a cool mind. When the weather is cold, keep a warm heart.”
Top Tips of How to Cycle in Heat
- Hydrate well – carry 750ml bottles
- Plan ride hours
- Cover up
- Take it Easier
- Prepare Mentally
- Remember to Take Stock
- Keep drinking
How Heat stroke happens
Often progressing from other heat related problems such as dehydration, cramps, fainting, it is life threatening and usually affects those over 50 years old, though young people are not immune by any means. If your core temperature gets above 104 degrees, you have heat stroke and your body is now unable to cool yourself down.
SYMPTOMS OF HEAT STROKE
- Throbbing headache
- Lack of sweating
- Irrationality to belligerence – mood swings
- Sick to Stomach or nausea
- Muscle cramps
- Rapid heart beat
HEAT STROKE - WHAT TO DO
Get help – Call 911 / 112, and get person to a shady place, removing any unnecessary clothing. Apply ice wrapped in cloth / cold packs to core areas, neck, groin, underarm may help body cool down. Wet skin & fan to provide a cooling breeze on skin.
If near home, a cool bath will help. Pure Ice isn’t recommended on extreme cases or with elderly / young children.
See the Saint John’s Ambulance Help Link to Heat Stroke for more info.
Suggestions for Cycle Tours in Summer
We suggest that if booking during June, July or August, perhaps pick a tour in the moderate or Easy range rather than Challenging.
We also offer shorter options on some of our more challenging rides such as on the Alhama Fixed Base, which is at a higher altitude (1000m) than other spots but still don’t overexert yourself if you know it is going to be a very hot month.
Tours near water are always good and often have the advantage of off shore breezes. Some of our fixed base tours have pools or lakes or the Sea available to cool off in. All our hotels have air-conditioned rooms to provide comfort when you are back home. Try a trip like Cycle to the Med which is based high in Alhama (1000m), then down on the coast to go swimming after your cycle ride.
Cycling in hot weather may not be for everyone!
If heat is not your friend, we do offer options of guided and self guided tours in the cooler Northern Provinces of Spain of the Basque country, etc.. in those months such as our Coastal Camino, Green Spain or Famous Vuelta Climbs of the North or France`s Loire Valley or even Canada, all of which are lovely places to visit when it gets a bit toasty in Spain!