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Don’t Make These Six Summer Riding Mistakes!

By Megan Flottorp

The summer is here, and the weather is sweet. Ok, technically, we still have a few weeks left of ‘spring.’ Still, many places are already experiencing scorching temperatures, and the joy that is pedalling into a warm, gentle breeze has officially been unlocked. This time of year is an exciting one, and for the fair-weather cyclists out there—it might be when you dust off your trusty steed, apologise for neglecting it for the last six or seven months, and try to make up for lost mileage.

Before you throw yourself full-heartedly into this pursuit, though, let’s go over a few common mistakes cyclists often make in the summer. Skip these, and you’ll be sure to squeeze the most out of everything this season has to offer.

1. Assuming less is more

It can’t be tempting to ride in as little as possible on a hot day, but please believe me when I tell you that this is not the right time to work on your suntan. And if you’re thinking of stripping down more to stay cool than for summer aesthetics, you should also think again. You’re actually more likely to overheat, become dehydrated, and even suffer from sunstroke if you don’t keep yourself protected. Not to mention, the dog days of summer are often accompanied by unpredictable storms.

As such, you should go with a comfy cycling jersey that will help you stay covered and serve to regulate body temperature. In addition, you’d be well-advised to keep a lightweight wind- and waterproof jacket within reach.

Cycling in nature
The exciting time of the year is finally here. © Profimedia

2. Forgetting that everyone is free to wear sunscreen

Again, please don’t underestimate the power of mother nature. Even when she’s at her friendliest (or cloudiest), she packs a punch. Grey skies don’t mean that there aren’t plenty of ultra-violet rays getting through to damage your skin. This is especially problematic while riding because the breeze on your skin ensures you don’t feel the burn until it is too late.

Opt for a sun cream with a Sun Protection Factor of 30 or 50 and apply it at least 20 minutes before riding, so it has time to work its magic. And if you’re going to be out there for more than a few hours, be sure to stop and reapply—especially if the sweat is flowing liberally.

*Bonus tip: If you happened to catch the song reference in this section’s title, know that it’s full of loads of other good advice you can apply to cycling and life in general.

3. Not hydrating in advance

A full camelback won’t save you if you’re already dehydrated when you head out to ride. So it is just as important to focus on drinking more than usual in the days leading up to a big ride or event as during the ride itself. You don’t have to go crazy here, but ensure you’re at least meeting your recommended intake of 2.5-5 litres a day (depending on your size and activity level).

If you’re struggling to get that much fluid in, remind yourself that optimal hydration does more than help you avoid the unpleasant sensation of thirst. It maximises your blood volume and helps general cardiovascular function, enhancing your body’s capacity to dissipate the heat produced by your working muscles. This reduces fatigue and enables you to maintain your performance for longer.

4. Riding on empty

Proper nutrition is also essential and might require a bit more awareness during the summer months, as soaring temperatures often lead to decreased appetites. Small and frequent snacks are the best way to avoid any nausea from eating a big meal in the heat or the dreaded ‘bonk’ that happens when you’ve failed to provide your body with glycogen. These snacks can consist of whatever works best for you, be that energy gels and bars, or dried fruit, sandwiches etc. Just keep that blood sugar stable, and your ride will be a lot more pleasant.

5. Assuming your winter fitness regime left you ready to start knocking out centuries

Over-reaching is a real thing, and it can seriously deflate your enjoyment of the sport. If you’ve taken the winter off from cycling, be patient with yourself as you climb back into the saddle. Even if you’ve been keeping fit with another spot, remember that fitness is activity-specific. Even if your heart and lungs are in good shape, your pedalling muscles might need a little work. No one wants to kick off the summer with an injury or fatigue, so build up slowly to give your body a chance to get acclimatized.

6. Neglecting your pals at the local bike shop

Maybe you got used to daydreaming about your summer cycling adventure by shopping for new gear online. I understand. But once you get into the habit, it can be easy to forget about the lovely folks at your local bike shop who contribute so much to our community. In addition to the fact that your wheels could probably use a tune-up from an experienced pro—bike shops are a great place to find out about local riding clubs or upcoming events. In general, finding an accessible bike shop, showing support, and spending money there is a great way to become part of the local cycling scene and glean some great tips to take your riding to the next level.

Now get out there and enjoy that sunshine!