With global warming increasing the number of hot days here in the UK, when a heatwave hits it’s tempting to just sit under a tree until things cool down.
But a scorcher doesn’t mean you can’t get out for a cycle ride - after all pro cyclists race on regardless hot day after hot day, taking on huge mountains in Southern France and Spain on three week grand tours. It’s about having the right gear for the job and fortunately cycling brands have you covered.
There’s a whole range of cycling gear designed specifically to help you cope with the hottest rides. Once you’re moving you’ll generate your own cooling breeze too, which can feel more comfortable than sitting indoors waiting for it to cool down. Just make sure you’ve got plenty to drink so you don’t dehydrate.
Obviously the first thing you'll need is one of the best cycling water bottles – and a water bottle cage on your bike, ideally – but that's only the start of it. Here’s T3’s guide to what you need for hot weather cycling, with my pick of the top brands and products to choose.
What to wear
That old pair of trackie bottoms and cotton tee just won’t cut it for a ride in properly hot weather. You’ll just end up a sweaty mess. Fortunately there’s plenty of bike clothing purpose designed for hot weather cycling, so invest in something to help you keep your cool.
Loads of brands have lightweight cycling jerseys specially designed for the heat, with good airflow and able to wick lots of sweat away from your body, but still providing enough sun protection that you won’t have to go for full body sunscreen.
I particularly like the 111 gram Castelli Superleggera jersey with its welded top seams and not-too-close fit that’s comfortable when you stop for a beer in a shady pub garden at the end of your ride.
Other options include the Pactimo Summit Aero jersey, which is a bit more form fitting, or Rapha’s Core Lightweight, which comes in numerous different colours. Whatever you choose, aim for something light coloured that will reflect the heat rather than absorbing it.
The jury’s out on whether you need a baselayer too. Again, there are lightweight options like the Craft Cool Mesh Superlight or the dhb Lightweight Mesh that will keep you drier without too much bulk but the best lightweight jerseys are pretty opaque without.
The style police will definitely get you if you go for shorts in white – if you can find them – despite cycling wunderkind Mathieu van der Poel rocking them in the Tour de France. They tend to give too much information away to your riding mates, particularly if you get caught out in a downpour.
So black it is. But again there are lightweight summer options out there, which let more air through without indecent exposure: try Le Col’s Lightweight bib shorts or the Sportful Air Ltd bib shorts. For more protection from hot sun Endura’s Pro SL bib shorts and the Alé Klima K-ColdBlack bib shorts use ColdBlack fabric that reflects infrared light, lowering the amount of heat you absorb from the sun’s ray to help you keep your cool.
For even more cooling, the best cycling helmets for hot weather include the likes of the Giro Aether. This is designed to let plenty of air through, so you don’t boil your bonce. Knit shoes are a good bet for plenty of air circulation over your feet too – try Fizik or DMT - and they’re quick to dry if you do catch a shower. Pair them off with a nice pair of thin, airy cycling socks from De Feet.
Don’t forget the cycling sunnies – there are loads of options to shade your eyes from the sun, keep out flying bugs and dust and help you look cool at the pitstop as well. Smith and 100% have nice lines, and like Oakley have great tech to cut down on glare and help you see where you’re going better.
What to bring with you
You’ll need plenty of fluids to keep going in the heat, obviously. So load up with a couple of water bottles of at least 500ml. For more carrying power, Elite bottles come in sizes up to 950ml. You’ll need a couple of bottle cages for your bike too - again Elite is a good option, as are Specialized and Trek's Bontrager line, or you can run with a hydration pack like those from Camelbak which can up your fluid capacity to 3 litres if you’re heading into the wilderness.
To help you keep your cool, Elite and Camelbak make insulated water bottles. Start them off in the fridge or freezer for extra chill factor.
It’s not just about water though. In the heat you’ll lose salts quickly through sweat, so it’s worthwhile to add an electrolyte tablet to your water to replenish your body salts. They’re sold by every sports nutrition company - try SIS, High5 or Nuun.
Energy drinks can be heavy on the stomach in hot weather. Try making them up half strength or taking one bottle of energy drink and one of water so you can mix and match. And you can always pour the water over your head if you really start to overheat. Don’t forget to bring something to eat as well - even if it’s hot you can still run out of energy.
Look out too for sunburn. Slap on the sun screen before you head out, paying extra attention to your thighs, outside of your calves, arms and the back of your neck and ears. It’s worth kitting yourself out with a small refill pack and taking it along for reapplication during your ride or to hit anywhere that starts to turn red because you missed it first time round.
If you do get a flat, fixing it is hot work on sunny days. Find somewhere shady to fix it and think about bringing a CO2 inflator so that you don’t have to expend extra energy pumping your tyre back up again. The canister will get nice and cold when you use it, but make sure you wrap it in something or you might be the only person to end up in A&E with frostbite when the weather’s 35ºC.