Cycling in hot weather can be challenging, especially if you’re not used to it. It is important to take precautions to ensure you stay safe and healthy when cycling in hot weather.
There are ways to make your cycling experience much more pleasant even during the hottest months of the year! Keep reading for our top seven tips for how you can keep cool when cycling in hot weather...
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Plan your route
Before you head out for your ride, you might want to make sure you know the route you are planning to take. This can be especially important if the weather is extremely hot.
Make sure that you plan a route that will allow you to find cooler and more shaded areas to ride in. You want to make sure you plan to cycle in an area that will be comfortable to ride during your chosen dates.
If you’re not sure where you can find cycling routes that are cooler, we offer some suggested bike touring routes in Spain and Portugal. There are tons of different maps out there that can help point you in the right direction.
Find a route that tells you areas that are the most suitable for cycling in the heat, and what the best months are for that specific destination.
Dress for hot weather
When riding a bike, it's important to always dress for the weather conditions. If it's warm, then you will find it easier to change into more comfortable and breathable clothes.
Wearing clothes that are too thick or heavy can increase your body temperature and make you feel even hotter than you are. You’ll also be more likely to sweat in heavier clothing, which can be uncomfortable and even dangerous in the heat.
When dressing for hot weather, you want to wear light and loose-fitting clothing. I prefer cotton over synthetic material for very hot cycling conditions. More on that later on.
You also want to wear clothing that has a high level of breathability, which will allow your body to release some of the built-up heat. It can be a good idea to wear fabrics that are designed to wick away sweat and moisture from your body, as this will keep you feeling cooler and drier overall.
Ride at the right time of day
You may feel too hot for comfort during the heat of the day in a place with extreme heat. If you can, try to ride during the early morning or late afternoon hours. This will give you a chance to avoid riding in the heat of the day and it will help keep you a bit cooler.
If you have to ride in the heat of the day, it will be beneficial to find shade as often as you can. That might be a shady forest, an old barn or a shaded part of towns and villages you are cycling through.
Avoid cycling at peak heat and sunlight hours. There is a common misconception that the hottest time occurs during midday, while the coldest time occurs at midnight.
The hottest time of the day usually occurs between 3 pm and 4:30 pm, 3-5 hours after noon (when the sun is at its highest point in the sky), when the radiant heat absorbed by the sun is radiated back out from road surfaces and rocks and the like.
When cycling in hot weather, it’s very important to remember to stay hydrated. You may even feel like you have a lower need for water when compared to riding in cooler weather. However, this is not the case. In fact, you may require more that twice as much water as normal when cycling in hot weather.
You might need to carry additional water with you when cycling in hot weather to avoid dehydration, this is especially ture if you are covering long sections, far from towns or villages, as can happen alongparts of the Camino de Santiago.
Make sure that you are drinking plenty of water before, during, and particularly after your ride.
Drinking smaller quantities more frequently at shorter intervals is more effective than drinking large amounts infrequently.
On very hot days, you will loose more salts through increased sweating, so you must also replenish electrolytes, and often the fastest way to do so is with a good isotonic product.
I prefer adding isotonics to a separate water bottle, either as a powder or tablets. So if you do choose to carry a sports drink, do make sure to drink plenty of plain water as well!
Don’t be afraid to take a break
If you are cycling in hot weather, you may find that you need to take breaks more often than you do when cycling in cooler weather. This is completely normal and you should never feel ashamed or embarrassed to take breaks when you need to!
If you are feeling really hot and dehydrated, you might want to consider taking a break more often than usual and even hold off finishing the ride util later in the day when the temperature has dropped.
There is no shame in stopping for water, food, or to take a break from the heat. If you don’t take breaks when you need to, you could end up passing out and getting seriously hurt. This happens to the best.
Taking breaks when you need to can help you avoid passing out from dehydration or overheating. It can also allow you to start your ride fresh and energized.
Pack for the heat
If you plan to cycle in a place that experience really hot weather, then you pack accordingly, with supplies that can help you stay cool. There are a number of things you can pack in your bag to keep you cool and comfortable when cycling in hot weather, I personally favour cotton over synthetic material for very hot cycling conditions, as it allows sweat and water to evaporate more slowly, prolonging the cooling.
You can check out our brief article on packing for the the Camino, which offers a good outline of what to pack for a bike tour with all weather conditions.
When cycling, you will likely sweat and may even become dehydrated. If you don’t carry a water bottle with you, you may not get the hydration you need and you may start to become overheated.
You can also pack a snack or two in your bag, consider fresh rather that dried fruit for very hot rides. Eating can help to keep your energy and hydration levels up, and it can also help to keep you cool.
Certain foods, such as watermelon and fruits and veggies that hold a lot of water will help hydrate you and help cool you off. Hot days are also great excuses to treat yourself to some gelato - I certainly do!
It's also best to lay off the alcohol during the day, and save up for a post-ride glass of crisp white or green wine, a G&T or an ice cold beer as a reward for you efforts!
While hot weather can be challenging and uncomfortable, it doesn’t have to end your cycling season. With the right precautions, you can easily stay safe and healthy when cycling in hot weather.
The most important thing you can do when cycling in hot weather is to remember to stay hydrated. You can also wear light and loose-fitting clothing, ride in the morning or late afternoon hours, and find shade as often as possible.
Stay cool and comfortable by packing your bag with supplies that can help you stay cool, and don’t be afraid to take a break when you need to.