Summer is both the nicest time of year to go on tour, and also one of the more challenging.
High temperatures mean you have to be well prepared to deal with the heat. There’s sunburn to worry about, dehydration and, worst of all, sunstroke. We’ve experienced all of these, and we wouldn’t like to repeat any of them!
Here are some tips for staying cool and healthy if you’re bike touring in hot weather.
#1 – Water, water, water
Think about how much you normally drink during the day and then add an extra 1-2 litres. Sip on your water supply during the day, rather than taking in a lot of water all at once. Doing this will help you stay well hydrated and that is a huge factor in coping with the heat.
Sometimes it’s hard to drink a lot of plain water, so you can add some flavourings. We like to add a little iced tea powder, a squeeze of lemon juice or about 20% orange juice to the mix. Clean your bottles well afterwards to stop mould from growing in them.
#2 – Find A Water Tap And Get Soaked
Cycling with a wet shirt is like instant air conditioning. When it’s really hot, we stop at any water source we can find (streams are great, or water taps at places like cemeteries and gas stations) and soak our shirts in water. We also soak the bandannas that are often around our necks. It’s a little chilly putting the wet shirt back on, but it feels so good and keeps you really nice and cool for about 1/2 an hour. The bonus is that you also wash a bit of sweat out of your shirt, so it’s not so grungy after a long, hot day of riding.
#3 – Pick Your Time Of Day
Start early, have a lunchtime siesta and finish your ride in the evening. Riding through the midday heat is the surest way to fry your brain and body during a bike tour. If temperatures are set to rise above 30°C, we start riding at first light and plan for a lunch break of at least 2-3 hours.
#4 – Carry Shade With You
On hot days, of course you want to rest in the shade, but what if there isn’t any? Carry a tarp and you can create instant shade, just about anywhere. We have strung our tarp between telephone poles and power pylons in sparsely populated areas, making the perfect spot to wait out the heat of the day. When you set up camp, a tarp can also protect your tent from UV damage.
#5 – Cover Up With Clothing
Look at people who live constantly in a hot climate and you’ll see they almost always cover up with long sleeves and trousers. Why? It’s the best way to protect your body. Wear longer clothing and you also use less sunscreen. For us, that is a huge bonus because we’ve never found sunscreen that effective. Aside from the cost and the fact it leaves a film on our skin, we sweat too much for the sunscreen to do its job properly and never remember to re-apply it often enough during the day.
By using long-sleeved shirts that covered our arms and 3/4 length trousers, we only have to worry about the sunscreen on our faces and small sections of our arms and legs. As long as you get lightweight clothing, it’s not as hot as you might imagine.
#6 – Carry A Thermos
A thermos is the kind of thing you’d expect to carry on a winter trip, but it can be handy on hot days too, to keep water nice and cold. Yes, there are insulated water bottles (we have a couple ourselves) but they only keep water cold for a couple extra hours. That’s fine if you are on a day trip somewhere, but if you are planning a full day of hot cycling, a thermos will keep water cold right until the end of the day.