Summer, Sun and… Sweat! Ten tips on how to ride to work in comfort this summer

Do you want to ride to work, but the prospect of arriving drenched in sweat is holding you back?

Stephen chooses to wear suit and tie to work regardless. Jacket is in his game bag.

Stephen chooses to wear suit and tie to work regardless of the weather. Jacket is in his game bag.

So, what to do?

A good start is to make the most of the intermittent hot days in spring to prepare for your summer ride to/from work.

Here are my top 10 tips to keep riding comfortably through summer:

  1. Carry a water bottle
    I don’t bother with a bottle cage on my Brompton; my water bottle is down the side of my gamebag where I can reach it easily when stopped at traffic lights. I always take a water bottle on my commutes – winter or summer.
    Just as important as taking water with you, is not leaving home already dehydrated. Have a drink – even if it’s only a mouthful or two of water – before you leave home.
  2. Have a cold drink waiting at work/home
    The best way to start cooling down once you’ve stopped riding is to have a cold drink. Just chilled in the fridge, not frozen in a freezer. Everyone will be different, but on hot days I drink about 500mL of water in the first 15-20min after arriving at work, and as I feel thirsty after that. The hotter it is, the more you’ll consume.

    Cold drink

    Cold drink

  3. Don’t race
    When you ride, the muscles doing the most work are also the largest muscle groups in your body – so even though you might feel cool as you whizz along, the breeze generated by your pedal power stops cooling the sweat beading on your skin as soon as you stop pedalling. That is why it feels like there’s a sudden rush of heat just after you stop riding. So don’t race. Allow extra time for your commute and take your time. You’ll still appreciate your cold drink once you get to work or arrive home, but and “recovery period” will be quicker.

    Ride like you're trying to win the Brompton World Championship Final, and you'll get yourself very hot and sweaty! (Source: Brompton Bicycle)

    Ride like you’re trying to win the Brompton World Championship Final, and you’ll get yourself very hot and sweaty! (Source: Brompton Bicycle)

  4. Leave home earlier/Leave work later
    If you can, try to leave home earlier and leave work later to avoid as much of the daylight (and therefore direct heat) as possible. Depending on your schedule, you may find vehicle/bicycle/pedestrian traffic is less busy, too. On my route there is a noticeable difference in the number of cyclists I share my commute with if I leave even 10min later, and a distinct difference another 10min after that.
    Arriving at work early will also mean you have time to cool down and change clothes, if necessary.

    The later we leave, the more traffic we have to contend with - bicycle and motorised vehicle

    The later we leave, the more traffic we have to contend with – bicycle and motorised vehicle

  5. Consider changing your route
    Can you take a route that is shadier? Maybe one that involves fewer roads and more shared paths through parks. Not only will the ride be more relaxing, but there will be less reflected energy from trees and grass and even a concrete path than there is from buildings and bitumen roads where you’re also contending with heat radiating from the  road surface and being generated from the traffic around you.
    You may need to leave even earlier to take a less direct path, but you may find it pays off in a more pleasant, less stressful ride.

    This street is not fun in summer, with the sun right in my face. Time to find an alternative route.

    This street is not fun in summer, with the sun right in my face. Time to find an alternative route.

  6. Take a change of clothes
    It takes a bit of trial and error but you do get a feel for what to wear, and when. For example, I know if the temperature is over >18C (and taking into consideration what the afternoon temperature is predicted to be) I should consider wearing shorts and a t-shirt on my morning ride rather than work clothes. Below <18C I might wear my work pants and a t-shirt, and change into my work blouse once I’ve arrived at work.
    I don’t have change room facilities at my workplace, so changing clothes – or not getting work clothes sweaty – is something I’m quite conscious of.

    My work clothes folded and ready to pack in my Brompton game bag

    My work clothes folded and ready to pack in my Brompton game bag

  7. Wear wool
    The best way to not feel sweaty in your clothes is to wear wool. Yes, even in summer! No, not the kind knitted by grandma while watching daytime TV. What I mean is today’s superfine merino type of wool.
    Not only is wool very comfortable, it breathes, has legendary wicking properties, it’s biodegradable, easy to find online or in stores, and available in everything from underwear to outer wear, in men’s, women’s and children’s casual or formal garments.

    Wearing wool (top and bottom) keeps me comfortable in summer

    Wearing wool clothing (yes, all of it except footwear) keeps me comfortable in summer

    Superfine merino wool also doesn’t get smelly – and when you’ve arrived at work, sweaty (despite taking it easy), possibly with no locker or area to hang your damp clothes, the last thing you want is to stuff your riding clothes into a bag and have to face the stinky pile of it later – let alone put it back on! Or worse – have it stink out your area at work. Ew! Thank goodness wool won’t do that.
    No, it’s not cheap. But you can shop around and even buy Australian made, or at least garments from Australian owned companies. On sale you can pick up some basic items at cheaper prices than better known brands.
    Check out the following Aussie champions:
    Bluey Merino (basic items for active wear)
    I/O Merino (more range, getting creative, mostly active wear)
    Hedrena (fashion, some active wear. Sell ladies underwear in a style that’s more than just half a hankie of material!)
    Smitten merino (fashion, some active wear)

  8. Suncream, sunglasses, and visor
    If your route exposes you to the sun for extensive periods, especially if you’re riding directly into the sun, consider applying suncream (sunscreen) before you set off.
    Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from glare, not just insects flying along or things flicking up from the path or road.
    Buy a helmet that comes with a visor, or try a proper cycling cap. Wearing a baseball cap or visor beneath your helmet is not recommended, as explained in this article.

    Visor, sunnies and suncream. Check!

    Visor, sunnies and suncream. Check!

  9. Finish your morning routine at work
    Concerned about helmet hair? Sweat ruining your makeup?
    Allow time to fluff or re-style your hair, to put on make up, and feel presentable after you’ve cooled down at work. There’s no point doing all these things at home and then feeling like your efforts have been wasted by the time you arrive at your destination. Try new styles that will still look good when not every hair is perfectly in place. Be bold and adventurous!
  10. Be proud of who you are
    You don’t want to wear shorts because you haven’t shaved or waxed lately? I feel like saying “So what?”, but I admit I’ve had those thoughts and felt that self-induced shame many, many times too.
    But the truth is other people will only think it’s a big deal if you act like it’s a big deal – and maybe not even then. Don’t stop doing things you enjoy because of what you think others may think.

    Don't let a hair leg deter you from riding - or riding in comfort. Just do it. #ridetowork #commuting #leghair

    Don’t let a hair leg deter you from riding – or riding in comfort. Just do it.

So go on. Get out and ride to work this summer! Just make sure you plan ahead and ride sensibly for the conditions.

If you have tips on how to improve your ride or commute on those hot summer days, why not leave a comment below? : )

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About Dayna

I'm interested in nature, hiking and photography - but these have been somewhat overwhelmed by a new passion... my Brompton folding bikes! You can follow me on Twitter: @daynaa2000 or @Brompton_MEL Or find me hanging out most Saturdays at Velo Electric & Folding (http://velocycles.com.au/folding-bikes/) or on a Melbourne Brompton Club ride! (https://melbournebromptonclub.wordpress.com)
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14 Responses to Summer, Sun and… Sweat! Ten tips on how to ride to work in comfort this summer

  1. Excellent article Dayna – particularly like the point about trying to find a shadier route if possible. Do hope it encourages more people to try cycle commuting – especially as there are so many useful bike paths in Melbourne. We both did it for about 10 years – not only did it save us a lot of money, but it kept us fit.
    I have absolutely no connection with the company, but I see that Da-Brim cycling helmet specific visors now have distributors in Australia – we think they are excellent for keeping the sun off.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cory says:

    Bamboo is a great, natural, wicking fibre also.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dayna says:

      It sure is, Cory!
      Bamboo is a very sustainable product, as as underwear it’s increasingly easy to find in outdoor/adventure shops.
      I’m not sure that it’s quite as easy to kit yourself out in as with wool garments yet, which is why I focused on wool above, but it’s a growing industry.
      Cheers! 😊

      Like

  3. Marcela says:

    Loved your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m a big fan of base layers, so yes it is a synthetic fabric, and that seems counter intuitive. However a good base layer wicks the sweat away from the body and even on the hottest of days I have a base layer on under my jersey…works a treat!
    I like your point about the unshaved legs…to be honest, NOBODY else cares but you. Everyone else is too busy looking at themselves and wondering if they have ‘the look’ required…there is no leg inspection police on a ride, so just GO!!!
    Good article.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. paulhtrotter65 says:

    Yes this is all good advice but even more ofan issue in Sunny Queensland.

    After 1:30mins riding I am almost on fire on arrival having traversed the Spring Hill range just before arrival.

    I head straight for the cold water and allow 15mins in the air conditioning to cool down BEFORE the shower. If you shower too soon you keep sweating after you get out!

    So while I am new to communiting the technique works well 15mins cool down 15mins shower and change.

    Interesting to note getting exercise during the commute is a time effective way. The half an hour lost showering and changing is easily used up getting to and from a railway station.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dayna says:

      Indeed, Paul! Being mindful of the local weather conditions is a must.
      Here in Melbourne the air is more dry than further north along the east coast, so while we might get as dehydrated on a ride it may not show as obviously. Keeping hydrated is very important to your recovery time and general health.
      Thanks for your tip about cooking off before showering. With more and more offices installing facilities such as showers and change rooms for their workers who commute by bicycle, this is a very handy tip!
      Happy Bromptoneering Paul 😊

      Like

  6. Damien Tammer says:

    Great post Dayna. Some useful tips!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Nerri says:

    http://www.brisbanecyclist.com/forum/topics/thermoregulation-and-the-cyclist?commentId=4154450%3AComment%3A131893

    This is an interesting article….

    Having a change of clothes on a Brisbane commute is pretty much essential in Summer. Waiting about 20mins before showering is also a good idea, as is anything you do to keep the blazing sun off your skin.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dayna says:

      Hi Nerri, there are some great tips there – and I love the explanations why they work! A fan, even if it’s made out of an envelope or scrap of paper, brings much faster relief than waiting for the air con – of course evaporative cooling is the answer!
      Thanks for chiming in!
      Happy riding 😊

      Like

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