As spring turns to summer, it is hopefully time to shed your arm and leg warmers and to enjoy the feeling of the sun on your back as you ride.
Updated July 2019
As spring turns to summer, it is hopefully time to shed your arm and leg warmers and enjoy the feeling of the sun on your back as you ride.
Longer days, warmer weather and more fellow cyclists on the roads can almost erase the memory of those lonely and gruelling winter rides and turbo sessions. Make the most of cycling in summer with these top tips.
Train for a Summer of Cycling
British Cycling’s Training Plans can help you spend your winter and spring getting ready for a summer of cycling. Since it’s a little late for that, their 7-week Panic Plan is ideal for getting you up to speed in time for some mid-summer cycling challenges.
Prep Your Winter Bike for Next Winter
If you’ve been riding a dedicated winter bike, don’t just throw it in the shed as soon as the sun comes out. Repay its winter service by giving it an overhaul before you retire it for the summer, so it’s winter ready when the first cold spell hits.
Check Your Pads
If you are adding a posh pair of carbon wheels to your summer bike, or changing between alloy and carbon rims for training and racing, make sure you are running the correct brake pads.
Although there are pad compounds that can be used on both alloy and carbon braking surfaces, you still shouldn’t just swap wheels in and out without changing the pads. Shards of metal from alloy rims can easily become embedded in the pads which can cause irreparable damage if then used with carbon rims.
Get on the Scales
If you’ve been carrying a few extra pounds through winter and spring, the summer is a great time to shift them. You’ll feel more motivated to get out on the bike, plus light, healthy meals are more appealing in summer.
Great Britain Cycling Team and Team Sky nutritionist Nigel Mitchell have provided some great tips for safe and effective weight loss.
Slap on Some Cream
Although many cyclists see crisp tan lines as a badge of honour, getting sunburnt should always be avoided. You can burn worse on a bike than on a beach, as the breeze from cycling can mask the heat of your reddening skin.
Sunscreen is an essential for weekend rides in the summer months, especially when you're out for extended periods at the hottest part of the day (11am-3pm).
Look for brands which have a high SPF, a 4 or 5 star UVA rating, and that are water and sweat-proof.
Cover your arms and legs, and don’t forget the back of your neck, and your face and head. Carry a small tube of cream with you and re-apply regularly. There are also some products available that offer all-day protection and these are definitely worth trying, but it is essential to follow the application instructions carefully.
Staying hydrated is vital for successful summer cycling, but it’s not as simple as just pouring water down your throat when you get thirsty. You need to take care to balance fluid and electrolyte intake, and to drink little and often right from the start of a ride. Check out British Cycling’s comprehensive guide to staying hydrated on the bikefor more info.
Be Considerate of Other Cyclists
As more cyclists are out on the road in the summer, you can also expect more cars and other road users too, especially in scenic areas and around popular tourist destinations.
Share the roads considerately and you’ll help enhance the image and reputation of cycling. Most sportives you will ride take place on open roads, so you are obliged to observe the Highway Code and should follow some simple etiquette rules. Follow good group riding practice and never ride more than two abreast.
On rural roads pay particular attention to horses and ensure that you behave appropriately if you encounter them.
Summer Cycling Gear
Summer cycling doesn't require the long kit list of winter. That's one of its joys. It's liberating to set off without dressing head to toe in warm, waterproof clothing, without worrying if you've charged your lights.
That said, while British summers are mild, there are nevertheless accessories you can buy to make your journey more pleasant on hotter days. We’ve detailed some of our favourite summer cycling accessories below.
Sunscreen isn't on this list. Why? While you shouldn’t go on a weekend bike ride in the summer without sunscreen, most cycle commuting journeys occur earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon, when the sun’s not as strong. They also tend to take half an hour or less, so you're not exposed to the sun for long.
Cycling shorts aren't on the list either - not because you won't need them, but because they're a no-brainer if it's too hot for trousers (and if you don't cycle in a skirt).
Short-sleeve cycling jersey
Even if you're not trying to push the pace, on a hot day you'll sweat a bit. As long as you and your clothes are clean when you set off, that's not a problem as far as odours are concerned; it's stale sweat that smells bad. But work shirts and blouses may end up with damp patches you'd rather avoid, while a cotton T-shirt can become unpleasantly clammy.
There are two alternative clothing options: the cycling look, which assumes you'll change your top at work; and the normal clothes look, which assumes you'll keep it on.
For the cycling look, any short-sleeve cycling jersey will do. The Altura Night Vision Short Sleeve Jersey pictured is a good example. It's made of wicking, quick-drying fabric; it has a partial front zip for ventilation; there are three rear pockets; and it has hi-vis details.
The normal clothes look utilises one of the increasing number of shirts that's been designed for on-bike and off-bike use. The Endura Urban CoolMax Merino SS Polo Shirt is made of a blend of polyester, CoolMax and wool, which doesn't hold onto moisture like cotton. There's some stretch in the fabric, so it fits well for cycling. There's a subtle zipped rear pocket and a deep neck with buttons.
Sunglasses aren't just for sun; they also keep wind, insects, and grit out of your eyes. Cycling-specific sunglasses wrap around your eyes to give even better protection. They can cost a fortune, but they don't have to. These XLC Tahiti Glasses (raleigh.co.uk) are affordable, have a lightweight, flexible frame, and lenses that offer 100% UV protection.
They also come with interchangeable lenses – smoke, mirror, clear and yellow – so you can adapt the glasses according to the conditions. If you're buying single-lens sunglasses, consider yellow, orange or pink lenses rather than very dark ones. They'll still cut glare but will offer better visibility on cloudy days, or if you ride from bright sunlight into deep shadow under trees or bridges.
Photo-chromic lenses, which darken or lighten according to the conditions, don't change fast enough for cycle commuting. Cycling glasses where the frame doesn't encircle the lenses provide slightly better peripheral vision.
For all but the shortest of summer trips, it's worth taking a cycling water bottle. Fill the bottle with plain water. That way you can use it for other things than drinking, such as washing your hands or pouring over your head if you get too hot.
The bottle needs to be accessible, so you can have a swig as you're riding along. The majority of bikes have one or two bottle mounts on the frame: two allen-headed bolts 64mm apart. These are used to attach a bottle cage. The aluminium Cube Bottle Cage HPA pictured is typical.
Small frames and full-suspension mountain bike frames often have insufficient space to pull the bottle forward and out. In that case, you want a side-loading cage like the Lezyne Flow SL. If there are no bottle cage mounts, there are brackets from Minoura and SKS (among others) that enable you to fix a cage behind the saddle, on the stem, or on the handlebar. Alternatively, you can use a mountain bike hydration pack and carry water on your back.
On a sunny day, it's tempting to leave your waterproof jacket at home. But British weather is changeable and a day that starts well can end with chilly breezes or squally showers. Meanwhile, a waterproof jacket for wintery conditions can be a bit boil-in-the-bag in summer, however breathable it claims to be. Pack a lightweight extra layer instead.
If you commute in bike gear, a windproof jacket or gilet-plus-armwarmers will keep the chill off. If you commute in normal clothes, or don't want to get damp, invest in a more showerproof jacket like Altura's Microlite. It weighs about 125g and packs down so small that it'll fit in a jersey pocket or seatpack.
For summer cycling, you won’t really need lights for commuting. In June, sunrise is before 5am and sunset is long after 9pm. That said it's worth carrying some small get-you-home LED lights, such as Lezyne's KTV Drive. They weigh only 50g each. The 15 lumens they emit is enough to be seen by, and they can be recharged via USB.
Having emergency lights means you can cycle home safely even when you didn't intend to be out in the dark. Maybe you ended up working late? Maybe colleagues invited you for a quick drink after work? Maybe you got a puncture or your chain snapped? If emergency lights live in your commuter bag, you won't be forced to walk home…
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