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, and maybe even without mudguards. Yet while British summers are mild, there are nevertheless accessories you can buy to make your journey more pleasant on hotter days. Here's our top five.
Sunscreen isn't on this list. Why? You will need it for weekend rides, when you're out for extended periods at the hottest part of the day (11am-3pm). You can burn worse on a bike than on a beach, as the breeze from cycling can mask the heat of your reddening skin. However, most cycle commuting journeys occur earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon, when it's cooler, and they 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 (£39.99, zyro.co.uk) 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 CoolmMax Merino SS Polo Shirt (endura.co.uk, £49.99) 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 ones wrap around your eyes more to protect them better. They can cost a fortune but don't have to. These XLC Tahiti Glasses (raleigh.co.uk) are just £16.99 have a lightweight, flexible frame and lenses that offer 100% UV protection. They 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 quickly enough for cycle commuting. Cycling glasses whose 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 baking 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 sets 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 (cube.eu, £4.99).
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 (£7.99, upgradebikes.co.uk). If there are no bottle cage mounts, there are brackets from Minoura and SKS (among others) that enable you to put a 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's claimed 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 (£39.99, zyro.co.uk). It weighs about 125g and packs down so small it'll fit in a jersey pocket or seatpack.
For much of the summer, you won't need lights for cycle commuting. In June, sunrise is before 5am and sunset is long after 9pm. Yet it's worth carrying some small get-you-home LED lights, such as Lezyne's KTV Drive (£29.99 for a pair, upgradebikes.co.uk). 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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