Blue sky, warmth on your back, a freshness in the air – cycling on a summer’s morning is blissful. Unless you arrive at work soggy with sweat, catch an insect in the eye, or get snagged by those nettles and brambles that have overgrown the cycle track…
Don't forget that you can get all the cycling accessories you need to make your commute more comfortable on Cyclescheme meaning you can save money and spread the cost on nearly all the gear that we cover below.
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Sweat the details
Higher temperatures mean you’ll sweat more. That’s not a problem if you’ll be showering and changing at work. It can be if you’re riding to work in the clothes you’ll wear at work, which makes sense if your commute is only a handful of miles each way. When it’s summer in the city, however, you don’t have to let the back of your neck get dirty and gritty.
Slow down. The easier your pace, the less you’ll sweat. Don’t stamp on the pedals. Shift down a gear or two and cruise along. Set off a little earlier so you’ve got time in hand. Enjoy it.
Wear lighter, looser clothing. Allow air to circulate and you’ll stay cooler. Untuck your shirt or blouse, undo a button or two, and don’t wear a tie until you’re at work. If you feel yourself getting too warm, don’t press on: stop and undo a button or shed a layer.
Put your luggage on the bike, not on your back. It’s good advice all year but matters more in summer. A backpack will stop air circulating so you’ll get warmer in general. You’ll also get a great big sweat patch on the back of your shirt.
You may get a bit sweaty despite all this, especially on really hot days. Keep spare underwear in your commuting bag so you’ve got something to change into if things get uncomfortably clammy. If you need to freshen up further when you get to work, a couple of wet wipes (or a damp flannel carried in a plastic bag) will suffice for a wipe down, before topping up any deodorant.
Sight for sore eyes
Any sunglasses with UV protection will stop you squinting and limit sun damage to your eyes, whether they’re cycling specific ones or not. (Although the frames of some sunglasses can interfere with your peripheral vision.) In UK conditions, eyewear has an arguably more important role to play: keeping stuff out of your eyes. Sometimes that’s wind-blown debris. In summer, it’s often insects. A fly in the eye is painful and you may instinctively close both. Open one eye as soon as possible, and brake and pull over to the side of the road (or off it) as soon as you can do so safely.
Stinging insects are distracting if they get trapped in a helmet vent or in clothing. (Some helmets have insect mesh to prevent this.) Try to keep calm: an angry wasp is a lower risk than passing traffic. Pull over, free the insect, and continue. Biting insects like midges only tend to be a problem if you’re very slow moving or stationary in areas of vegetation. Use repellent or cover up.
Unless you’re a shift worker with a long journey in the middle of the day when the sun is at its fiercest, sunburn is seldom a problem for commuters. It is if you’re doing longer rides at the weekend. You generate your own cool breeze while cycling and it’s not obvious when your skin starts to burn. Apply a high SPF suncream, particularly to the tops of the thighs, arms, back of the neck, nose, cheeks, and the tips of your ears. If you’re balding, wear a cycling cap or bandana; either will go under a helmet and can be soaked with water to provide better cooling in extreme heat. On all-day rides, consider taking a sachet of suncream with you so you can top up your protection. Long, loose clothing is also effective.
Most commutes aren’t long enough that you need to worry about carrying more water in the summer; a small-sized bidon (cyclists’ water bottle) should be fine, and you might not need that. Long leisure rides are a different matter. Be sure to take at least one bottle if you expect to be able to refill it and two if you don’t. Water is more useful than energy drinks because it can also be used to douse your head, rinse a fly out of your eye, wash your hands, etc. You can top up your energy levels with snacks and/or gels instead.
Pausing at green
This time of year sees rampant growth, with nettles and brambles shooting up and trees and hedges suddenly overhanging the road. New growth can whip across you from the roadside – good reason to avoid the gutter and to use eye protection. Local authorities are responsible for keeping highway verges in check so most roads aren’t too bad, but visibility can be compromised, particularly at side roads. Off-carriageway cycle tracks tend to receive less attention and can easily become overgrown, while rarely-used bridleways may become impassable. Keep your speed down so that (as ever) you can stop within the distance you can see ahead.
Shelter from the storm
Persistent rain is rarer in summer but heavy showers are common. In most circumstance, the usual advice about riding in rain applies. If there’s lightning and you’re in an exposed area, there’s a small chance you could be struck. Get under cover if you can (but not under a tree) so that you’re not the highest thing around, then wait for the storm to pass over.
Winter commuting doesn’t have to be as bad you might think, with the right kit and some preparation you can still enjoy your commute.
Drivers don’t wear special clothes or have to fit accessories to stay dry or see in the dark. Cyclists don’t have to either – if the bike is practical enough.
There are plenty of beginner’s errors to avoid when riding to work. Here are ten of the most common.