How to stay cool on hot summer cycle rides

A woman is riding along a paved path next to a canal with a line of trees to the other side. It's sunny, she's wearing summer clothes and is cycling away from the camera
Summer riding is a pleasure – just make sure you don’t get too hot
Summer is finally here and it’s the ideal time for long leisurely rides. But you don’t want to get too hot. Content officer Rebecca Armstrong has the tips you need to keep your cool

A cycle ride on a warm, sunny day is an absolute pleasure. All that mood-boosting sunshine, along with physical activity, and the bike-generated movement of air to keep you cool.

But that cooling air can be deceptive. It takes the sting out of the sun’s heat and makes it harder to assess how much you’re sweating. You don’t want to overheat on your ride. Here is our top advice on how to stay cool on those sunny rides.

Much of this is aimed at those on longer leisure rides or group rides, but it also applies to shorter trips to work or the shops.


This is the obvious one: you need to drink sufficient water. But how much is ‘sufficient’? That depends on you and your body type – the bigger you are, the more you’ll need to drink. A good rule of thumb is to aim for one 500ml bottle per hour and to drink little and often. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty.

Take at least a couple of bottles with you, or a bladder pack which can hold a lot more liquid. If you’re out for a long time, consider where you might get top ups. Hydration starts before your ride, so make sure you’re drinking water before you even get on the bike.

A man in cycling kit and helmet is filling a metal water bottle from a tap in a wall. A bike can just be seen behind him
Keep your water bottles topped up during hot sunny rides

Your water will end up unpleasantly tepid when riding in the heat. While this still hydrates you, it’s not as refreshing. Crushed ice will keep your water cooler for longer. Or you could freeze the bottle overnight.

Fill it two-thirds with water and then leave it in the freezer the night before your ride. It’ll melt as you ride, providing you with a cool, refreshing drink for most of your ride. It’s best to have one ‘normal’ bottle so you can drink from the start.

Alternatively, an insulated bottle or bottle holder will help keep the water cooler for longer.

As you’re sweating more you’ll be losing electrolytes – essential minerals such as sodium, calcium and potassium – which will need to be replaced. You can do this with a sports drink or isotonic tablets or powder. Just be sure to have one bottle that’s plain water, too.

A DIY option is to mix water with orange juice and a bit of salt.

As tempting as an ice-cold beer might sound, it’s best to lay off alcohol during your ride. Save it for the end of the day.

Get wet

Water isn’t just for drinking. Pouring it over your head, dipping your feet in a stream or running cold water over your wrists will all cool your body temperature.

A woman is sitting on the ground tucking into a sandwich. She's wearing cycling kit and a cap. There is a line of bikes leaning against a low wall behind her
Refuelling is as important as hydration!

A wet headband under your helmet (if you wear one) or a wet bandana across the back of your neck is also very cooling, and can help protect you from sunstroke. It will dry out quickly in the heat, so repeated dunking in rivers or lakes, or at a friendly coffee shop, will be needed.

Food is fuel

Your body will be working harder to maintain its core temperature. This means you’ll need to keep refuelling, even if you don’t feel much like eating.

Avoid salty snacks as these will dehydrate you. Anything rich or heavy will also play havoc with your digestion. High-water-content fruit and veg such as watermelon, grapes and cucumber will aid hydration as well as provide vitamins. But think carefully about how you’ll carry and eat them.

An ice lolly or ice cream at a favourite coffee stop will be refreshing and you might want to swap your usual espresso for an iced coffee.

Plan your ride

Talking of those coffee stops, you might want to plan in one or two more than normal. Extra rest will provide more opportunities to cool down and get out of the sun. You’ll want somewhere you can get inside – or if you must be outside, choose a place with a sheltered garden.

A woman is cycling a trike on a dirt path through trees. The sun can be seen shining through the trees.
Incorporating areas of shade into your ride will help you keep your cool. Photo: Andy Catlin

Try to incorporate some shaded areas into your ride, whether that’s tree-lined roads or off roading in a forest. This might be more tricky for commuter rides, but it’s worth experimenting to find more shady routes.

Air temperatures are lower near water. Take advantage of this by planning a ride around some waterbodies. You can spend a few minutes with your feet in the water to cool down even further.

Try to avoid cycling during the warmest parts of the day. Temperatures hit their highest at around 3pm. If you’re on a long day ride, that would be the time to plan a stop, ideally under shade with some cooling snacks and drinks.

The long days of summer mean riding early morning and in the evening is possible, although you should still have lights with you. If you’re commuting you’ll already be doing this, but you could also time shopping trips to coincide with opening times – when the shops are likely to be quieter!

A group of people are cycling through a field with tents lined up along the left-hand side. Two, a man and boy, are on a green tandem. There is also a woman on a mountain bike and a man on a road bike.
Wear shorts and T-shirt, while more technical kit will wick away sweat. Photo: Peter Cornish

Early morning rides have the added benefits of quiet roads, the possibility of watching the sun rise and wildlife-spotting opportunities.

For your club or leisure rides, you might want to think about shorter distances. Similarly, now isn’t the time to be going for Strava records. Slow down a bit and pay attention to the landscape around you.

The right kit

Sweat is our body’s cooling system and for summer cycling we need clothing that enables this. A sweat-wicking and breathable base layer, short-sleeved cycling jersey and well-fitting shorts are the basics. Mesh panels will aid ventilation, but you might need to use sunscreen underneath to protect from sunburn. 

Arm and leg or knee warmers are good cover-ups if you’re riding in direct sunlight. Fingerless gloves will stop your hands getting sweaty and slipping on the handlebar. If you wear a helmet, make sure it has plenty of ventilation, while a good pair of sunglasses will protect your eyes from UV rays.

If you’re going to work or the shops, you don’t need to dress in full cycling kit – although you can if you want to, of course. But loose-fitting, light-coloured shorts and T-shirts, ideally made from cotton or linen, will help keep you cool. But don’t go for anything too loose fitting or billowy as it can get caught in your wheels or chain.

A mountain bike is propped up on shingle with the sea in the background. It has two rear panniers and a bar bag attached to it
Invest in panniers or a bar bag to carry your essentials

While you need to bring enough snacks and water, everything else should be kept to a minimum. Everything you carry adds weight to the bike– which you have to power. Be ruthless with what you pack and only take what you really need. This is especially so for multi-day tours or bikebacking.

It’s harder to cut things down if you’re commuting and need to take in a change of clothes. One tip is to leave as much at your workplace as you can. Where this isn’t possible, ditch the rucksack for panniers. A hot, sweaty back isn’t the best way to arrive at work in a good mood.

The same is true for your club rides, off roading, bikepacking or whatever type of riding you do. There is a plethora of bags out there that will attach to your bike, from rear panniers to handlebar bags. A nice big basket on the front is ideal for shopping.

Post-ride care

Continue to drink water and have a snack after your ride. A cold shower or even a post-ride swim will be very refreshing. Make sure you take time to rest, too, so you’ll be ready for your next ride.

And now it’s time for that post-ride beer or non-alcoholic drink of your choice. Enjoy!