Do you want to ride to work, but the prospect of arriving drenched in sweat is holding you back?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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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)
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
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? : )