Cyclists are often sun seekers, it’s a chance to get out and do long rides without the danger of rain or having to meticulously re-clean our bikes and drivetrains. It’s also the perfect opportunity to strengthen up that cyclists tan! However there are some things that you should do when riding in warm weather to ensure performance is not effected and that you don’t harm yourself. So, here are a few tips for warm weather riding:
1 – Sun cream! Sweat resistant sun cream is an essential, and if possible bring a small one with you on longer rides. Be sure to get your arms and legs, but don’t forget about face, back of neck, and ears which are common places that catch the sun. Although you may not get sunburn, or even feel you’ve caught the sun at all, damage will still be occurring to the skin which can lead to things like skin cancer further down the line. Always better to use sun cream than not when the sun is out! And don’t worry, you’ll still tan with sun cream on!
2 – Don’t overdo it. Especially when there are sudden changes of temperature (say from mid 20 degrees to high 30s!) and when this happens it is unlikely that we will be at all adapted to the heat. This makes it very important to not overdo it on these days as heat stroke and exhaustion can leave you feeling very tired for a few days.
3 – Hydration. It’s not just about drinking water, you need to include salts. Dehydration will tire you, but consuming too much water without enough salts can lead to a dangerous thing called hyponatraemia (low sodium). To avoid this, aim for 0.5g of salt per 500ml bottle if you sweat a lot or are a salty sweater. Just electrolyte tablets by themselves don’t often include enough salt. Still aim for at least 500ml fluid/hour. You can check sweat rate roughly by weighing yourself without clothes before a ride, doing a ride on the turbo for 30min, and weighing yourself after. Initial weight minus weight after, plus any fluid consumed, is your sweat rate. This can change with adaptation to heat and also exercise intensity, but gives a general idea. As for salt levels of sweat, that’s more difficult to measure. But if you leave salt patches on your dark jerseys after a shorter ride in the heat, you probably are a salty sweater.
4 – Fuelling! In the heat, we use more carbohydrates, so be sure to bring extra carb sources for that on the bike fuelling. If doing longer rides or high intensity, aim for ~60grams/hour in food or drink form.
5 – Heart Rate (HR). For those that use HR to gauge their training zones, be aware that in the heat your heart rate will likely increase relative to power. So at 200 watts, 120 BPM may now be 130 BPM. Also greater cardiac drift is a common thing to see when training in very hot weather. So if you start the ride at 200 watts and 130 BPM, you might finish it >140 BPM.
6 – Take a break. If you really feel the heat getting to you, find some shade, eat and drink, and get going when you’ve cooled down a bit. Although you ideally don’t want to interrupt your endurance training rides, if the heat gets too much for you then it is vital to give your body a chance to cool down.
7 – Ride early. The sun is at its highest come midday, but the temperature continues to rise beyond then. Best to get out earlier in the day and have your ride done and dusted before it gets even hotter. Or given it’s a red weather warning, train indoors or take rest day and stay cool. You could do more harm than good if you push it.