Heatwave Cycling: Top 5 Tips To Beat The Heat

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With heatwave conditions gripping much of the nation, the warm days are starting to bite - especially with 40+ degrees forecast for the weekend, the two busiest days of the cycling week.

With much of the East Coast expecting forecast maximums of up to 45 degrees over the weekend, we’ve put together our 5 top tips to help you manage to at least get some cycling in while also doing your best to beat the stifling heat.

Number 1: Hydrate Early

Drinking before you’re thirsty is key to staying properly hydrated. Commence hydrating the afternoon before and morning of the ride. Drink at least 250 to 500ml when you wake up on the day of the ride. Additives such as fruit juice, even just a quick squeeze of lemon or lime, are recommended. Keep consuming fluids regularly as you prepare for your ride - it’s way better to start with too much than not enough.

Number 2: Use Electrolytes.

Cycling legend Jens Voigt rehydrating after a warm stage of the 2014 Tour de France. Image: Nat Bromhead.
Cycling legend Jens Voigt rehydrating after a warm stage of the 2014 Tour de France. Image: Nat Bromhead.

Plain water is good but electrolytes have been proven to be better. Evidence shows electrolytes containing sodium, potassium, Vitamin C, magnesium, calcium and B vitamins will assist hydration and rehydration along with assisting and maintaining performance. Plus they taste good.

On the warmer days, when you’re going to be filling a bidon a lot more often, tablet style electrolytes packaged in an easy to carry tube are a great option.

Remember to sip regularly on these hotter days. On average you should be drinking at least 2 bidons or around 1.2 litres per hour. This obviously depends on your individual needs.

Number 2: Freeze a Bidon.

Normally only carry a single bottle for a 40 to 60 km ride? In these ultra warm conditions we’d strongly suggest carrying a second, one that’s been sitting in the freezer overnight. We guarantee you’ll not only appreciate drinking it but also rolling it over your hot forehead or neck mid-ride.

Number 3: Ride Early.

Cycling is synonymous with early starts. But with these 40+ degree days you may want to consider setting your alarm clock to an even earlier hour. With temperatures of over 25 degrees (along with high humidity) as early as 6 or 7am of late, why not check your lights are charged, get out super early, and make the most of the coolest and quietest time of the day.

Pre-plan your ride and don't be afraid to pull out or head home via a shortcut if the heat becomes too much. Better to have a few less kilometres on Strava than suffer from heatstroke or worse. Image: Nat Bromhead.
Pre-plan your ride and don't be afraid to pull out or head home via a shortcut if the heat becomes too much. Better to have a few less kilometres on Strava than suffer from heatstroke or worse. Image: Nat Bromhead.

Number 4: Skin protection.

Sure we all love tan lines but February, particularly this one, is not the smartest time to be cultivating them.
Apply a water and sweat resistant sun screen half an hour prior to going outside and take a small, pocket sized tube with you! Don't forget to apply blackout to the back of your neck and ears, these areas obviously cop a lot of sun when head down and focused on your riding. Lightweight UV proof sun sleeves are also a good option, as is sweat block style headwear. A cycling cap is also recommended! It’s surprising how much energy-sapping sun can find its way through the vents of a helmet.

Use a water and sweat-resistant sunscreen and remember to apply it before your ride. Carrying a small tube of blackout to re-apply during your ride is a good idea. Image Nat Bromhead.
Use a water and sweat-resistant sunscreen and remember to apply it before your ride. Carrying a small tube of blockout to re-apply during your ride is a good idea. Image: Nat Bromhead.


Number 5: Plan Your Ride (and be prepared to vary your plans).

When planning your ride think about water points, shops, cafe’s or places you can fill a bidon along the way. Try to stick to routes that offer a turnaround point, in case the sun and heat become unbearable.

Your Say?

Over on the Bicycling Australia Facebook page we asked readers how they are juggling their riding during the current heatwave conditions - here’s what some had to say.

Riding on hot days, particularly with forecasts over 40 degrees, requires planning, thought and serious consideration. Image: Nat Bromhead.
Riding on hot days, particularly with forecasts over 40 degrees, requires planning, thought and serious consideration. Image: Nat Bromhead.

Jonathan Northall wrote he’s been “getting on with it, but keeping hydrated on the road is difficult. Trying to go out earlier in a morning seems to be a better idea whilst the heatwave is in full effect.”

“Ride like I have been riding every summer - go early, go short and go hard,” says Jeff Windsor.

A number of others including Anthony Ridley and Steve Ellison agree with Jeff, Steve writing “ride early or use the trainer”.

Scott McCann suggests “night rides” but perhaps Alan Biddle should have the last word.

His advice? “Suck it up … and suffer!”

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