When you live in a country like Australia it is pretty difficult to avoid heat and sun exposure while you’re riding your road bike. The summer sun can be pretty fierce so here’s my tips for handling it.
Ride early and late
I do most of my riding early in the morning. There are a number of reasons for riding early but one of them is definitely sun exposure and heat. You’ll also avoid traffic if you ride early in the day. But if you can’t ride early in the morning then try a twilight ride to avoid the sun.
Make sure you carry at least one full waterbottle on your bike, if not two. You can buy insulated bottles like the ones I use from Camelbak. I fill them up with fridge-cooled water before I go out and the water stays cool for hours. If you’re going on a long ride (more than say 60 km) then you should consider a sports drink in a second bottle. This helps with hydration but also energy. There are always places to stop and refill bottles, particularly on organised rides.
I personally only worry about sunscreen if I’m going to riding after about 10 am. If I’m going to be off the road by 10ish then I don’t worry about it. If I know I’m going to be out after this time then I apply 30 plus sports sunscreen before I even put my jersey on. I find it much easier to apply if you don’t have to worry about slopping sunscreen on your expensive cycling kit. If I’m going to be riding all day then I reapply it at least one more time. And don’t forget your face, particularly your nose and of course your ears which are not covered by your helmet. If you have short hair like me then you also need to make sure you slather the back of your neck.
Be proud of your tan lines
If you do a significant number of kilometres on your road bike during summer then you will get tan lines on your legs and arms and I wear mine with pride. Even if you diligently apply sunscreen you’ll still have shorts lines on your thighs and white shoulders and hands.
Choose your cycling kit wisely
You can buy jerseys that actually have an SPF rating so keep a lookout when you’re shopping. I’ve never been sunburnt through a jersey but I’m sure it’s possible. To help stay cool you should also wear an undershirt. I have a couple of sleeveless ones I wear in summer. It might sound counter-intuitive but they actually draw the sweat away from your body and help cool you down. They need to be fitted close to your skin to work effectively. Also, If you’re particularly susceptible to sunburn you can also buy sun protectors for you arms which are like arm warmers but are made of lighter fabrics and are usually white.