Right Where We Are
Often times I close my eyes and dream of a country with a consistent climate. You know the kind of place I mean because they provide location shots for almost every piece of bicycle related marketing. The girl on the branded bike, with the branded shorts and the branded tan, smiles at you with the sun in her face and the blue skies behind her shoulders. And then, as my eyes are forced open by the relentless sound of heavy rain beating on the office roof I stop dreaming. We are where we are. The only weather prediction history affords is that the summer will be gloriously warm with moments of very significant rainfall. How your cycling adventures thrive in the fulness of a wondrous British summer is thus the question we hope to address in this post.
When it’s hot. . .
Watch What You Wear
The sun is out and life feels good, however it would be unwise to strip down too far (and there's equally little encouragement to become the next lycra clad MAMIL) but there is a definite wisdom in thinking, planning and dressing mindful of the climate you are in. Clothing made from fabrics which enable moisture to move away from the body are a very good thing. If this concept fills you with horror here are a couple of important caveats. No. 1: you don’t need to wear it all day. I carry a flannel and a change of shirt in my bag, arrive at my destination, find a rest room and promptly change. Voila! No. 2: Treat yourself to some of the more fashionable technical brands, Solo (for the slightly sporty, slightly retro utterly beautiful), Road Holland(European style meets technology and functionality), Vulpine (simply brilliant beautiful gear on and off the saddle), Howies (young, fresh, searching for the wilderness and uber cool) and the ever divisive Rapha (say no more, no more need be said) to name but a few.
Remember: Sheep have had this challenge for millennia: Merino wool is always your friend.
Discipline Your Mind And Your Body
If you're using your bike to commute short distances around town every journey does not need to be a race and especially not if you’re racing no one other than your own insecurities. When the going gets hot allow yourself to cycle at a comfortable pace. We promise that no one will object to you actually enjoying the best of the summer!
On warm summer days your body will be losing fluid before you even get on your bike. Add a breeze to those conditions, your sweat will evaporate at a rapid rate and the nightmare before us is that we losing all sense of just how much fluid we are loosing through perspiration. Dehydration has many serious side effects and needs to be avoided at all costs. Drink a little, often.
Little = 4-6 fluid ounces or roughly three to five mouthfuls.
Often = Before you get the thirst sensation which is simply a sign of your dehydration.
Remember that your sweat isn’t just water, sweat contains vital blood minerals such as Sodium, Potassium, Chloride and Magnesium (that’s what you taste when you lick your lips on a hot day). If you’re commuting serval miles each way, or if you go for a long evening/weekend ride you need to replace these too. Minerals are most easily replaced by either consuming a sports drink or adding an additive to your normal water bottle.
Keep a careful eye on the colour of your pee! If it’s entering the dark yellow/brown spectrum you are not consuming nearly enough water.
Keep an eye on your levels of fatigue: If you experience a significant increase you are loosing too many minerals.
One last thing on the water front. Remember that caffeine, alcohol and fizzy drinks all require increased amounts of water if your body is to process them.
The Cap Thing
I’ve personally never been a fan of them but fully appreciate that for others the wearing of a decent summer cycling cap is not only iconic but a matter of life over death. With a small brim keeping the sun from your eyes and a tight fit enabling them to be warn under your helmet the cycling cap is also much more functional than you might first think.
Whatever you decide, please, please, please adhere to #Rule 22
Plan, Plan and Plan a Bit More.
If it’s a hot summer and you have some flexibility in your working pattern then try planning your commute in before the sun gets too high and your commute out before the roads get too congested with hot, irritable drivers pointing their cars at you in envy!
Enjoy the Evenings
For all kinds of different reasons many of us are fearful of cycling in the dark. For much of the year that fear immediately eliminates the possibility of hundreds of journeys being travelled by bike. Not so in the summer. Make the most of long days and enjoy cycling home on a cool summers evening. There's no feeling like it.
And When It’s Wet
Light Weight Water Proofs Not Your Dads Hunting Jacket
At some point this summer it will rain, in fact it will probably rain at several (some would say ‘many’) points this summer. Summer rain is different to winter rain in one key way. The air temperature will be no where near as cool and thus your waterproof needs only to protect you from rain and not from the now non existent chill. There are tons of uber light weight waterproofs on the market; the price you pay for them generally reflects the breathability of their fabric (Gore Tex) and in the summer that’s best paraphrased as:
“Do you wish to arrive feeling like a boiled in the bag urban commuter”.
Stick With The Shorts
So much better than arriving with wet trousers and so much easier than water proof trousers, keep your day wear in your bag, reduce the possibility of being steamed (so much worse than getting a little wet) and enjoy the freedom of shorts.
Keep The Feet Happy
I’ll admit that combined with the aforementioned advice to wear shorts this will lead to some strange looks but don’t loose faith in me just yet! I’m not averse to a bit of rain (just as well really!) but I hate having wet feet! If it’s a choice between wet feet and a few strange looks I know where my vote is going. Waterproof over shoes every time.
Embrace the soddenness. Every cyclist will tell you a story of the time they got shamelessly soaked to the skin while on a summers ride. It's a right of passage. Watch the expression on their face; I’m putting money on the emergence of a large grin. This course of action might not be appropriate for cycling to your early morning business meeting but is a hidden pleasure of many people at other more appropriate times.
Whatever The Weather
Keep It Lubed
The irony of all ironies is that while the summer sun may encourage you to cycle more, summer downpours might leave your bike more exposed to rain than at any other time of year (although I admit that this year that’s probably an unlikely statistic). Water followed by high temperatures means you'll need to keep an eye on maintaining good lubrication.
Failure to apply basic lubrication could result in such unfortunate incidents as the need to manually replace your chain. Not exactly the look you want while cycling to your best friends BBQ in your favourite summer dress.
Let Your Bike Do The Work
Those of us who cycle to, from, in and around the city may have the requirement to carry some sort of load, be that a work lap top, an emergency waterproof, lunch or a few groceries. Carrying your load on your back will trap clothing next to your moisture laden skin and can be therefore be especially uncomfortable when your body temperature is increased by the summer sun. The far better move is to let your bike do the work, carrying your load in either a basket, rack or pannier.
Thank God that you are not trapped in a metal box, stuck in lane after lane of traffic wondering why your air conditioning system is either not working or turning your car into an efficient means of stripping your bank account.
Cycling through the summer months may have a few small challenges, these are as nothing compared to the displeasurable, extortionate and mind numbing thing they call motoring; they are in fact challenges which bring us enormous benefits, leave us wth lasting memories and shape us for the coming autumn.
Keep riding, keep smiling!