What cycle clothing to wear when it’s hot and sunny

What should you wear for a long cycle ride in the summer?

What cycle clothing to wear when it’s hot and sunny

It's almost Bike Week (8-19 June) and thousands of people will go cycling for the first time. It's also when it is warmer and hopefully the sun is shining too - the perfect weather for a bike ride. If you’re going for a long cycle ride wearing the right kit will make all the difference. Cycling journalist and Cycling UK member Matt Lamy explains how in the summer you should choose clothes that are comfortable, breathable and offer sun protection.

Nothing special

If the weather’s fine, you don’t have to get dressed up to go for a bike ride, especially if you’re only popping out to cycle a short distance. Once you’ve spent a fair time in the saddle, your posterior will be able to cope with a quick ride without the need for padding. But if the temperature is warm, we’d still recommend you go with some form of shorts rather than trousers and don't choose to ride in jeans as they can rub more. Then, on your top half, a light airy t-shirt is just fine.

Base layers

Let’s assume you’re going out for a ‘proper’ long summer’s day bike ride to make the most of the weather and daylight. The first thing you need is an effective base layer. This will wick sweat away from your skin to keep you dry and comfortable when you perspire. Then, if the temperature drops, it will also help keep the cold away. For summer rides, a short-sleeve or vest-type base layer will work just fine.

Padded shorts

As we mentioned, once you’re a regular cyclist, short rides without padding are no problem. But for full-day efforts we’d always recommend padded shorts or – even better – bib-shorts. For leisure rides and mountain biking, padded baggies are fine, while for road rides, bib-shorts are probably the best choice. Bib-shorts’ shoulder straps are generally more comfy than a waistband that can dig into your tummy over long distances. The one downside of bib-shorts is that the straps and back panel can get soggy with sweat on hard days, so look for products made with either well-ventilated sections or which feature quick-drying material with some element of breathability.

Jersey

There’s truly nothing better than knowing the only clothing you need for a ride are a pair of shorts and a jersey – that’s when cycling is at its most beautifully simple. Top of your priorities with jersey choice should be breathability – there’s little point having a great base layer if your self-made moisture gets trapped in the next layer. Also, look for a jersey with a decent range of pockets. Because you won’t have a more utilitarian jacket with you, your jersey will have to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to carrying food, cash, mini-pump, etc. Finally, don’t be shy - pick a design that stands out and celebrates summer riding.

Rain cape

Despite its name, a rain cape doesn’t turn you into a weather-themed Batman-type character. These days the term ‘rain cape’ generally refers to an ultra-packable, lightweight, waterproof jacket that you can stow in your jersey’s rear pocket. Water resistance is its raison d’être, so wet weather ability has to be paramount when buying. Also prioritise breathability as even if it’s raining, you’ll probably still be warm and the inside of non-breathable rain capes can quickly make you feel like a boil-in-the-bag chicken – in fact, you can become so soggy you might wonder why you didn’t bother just letting the rain get to you. Although you might never want to use your rain cape, buy wisely and you’ll certainly appreciate it when the time comes.

Arm and leg warmers

For early morning starts, arm and leg warmers are a must because they allow you to fend off the chill from your most susceptible parts – your limbs – yet they’re easy to remove and store when the sun kicks in. Although these garments may seem like they are most naturally associated with road riders, don’t be put off if you’re a leisure or mountain biker – they look pretty cool under baggier clothing, too. If the full leg warmer is not your thing, some people use knee warmers.

Neck warmer – multi-scarf

Another great bit of kit for cool rides in early mornings, modern Buff-style tube or tunnel neck warmers can be adapted to fulfil a multitude of roles, from bandana, to helmet liner, to very welcome headband that will block sweat from running into your eyes.

Cycling sunglasses

The importance of cycle eyewear goes way beyond vanity. Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness and ultra-violet light plays its part in causing the condition. Buy glasses with lenses that block out UV and invest in your future eyesight. 

Cycling mitts

You really won’t want to wear full gloves on a warm-weather ride but a pair of light cycling mitts will keep your hands comfortable on the bars. They’ll also offer some protection in a crash, and their little terry-cloth sections will allow you to wipe away sweat from your face. Just be aware that open-backed mitts may leave you with some interesting tan marks. Talking of which…

Sunblock

Finally, sunblock. There is a certain type of all-year-round, leathery-skinned cyclist who may mock the wearer of suncream, but he or she is playing with fire. If you don’t spend much time in the sun on a daily basis, then one long exposure during a bike ride with leave exposed skin burnt and painful. Far more seriously, unprotected exposure to sunlight can cause skin cancer. So cover up with sunblock.

We recommend the almost-invisible spray stuff that isn’t too greasy or sticky and really does work. Apply liberally to legs and arms. Don’t forget the back of your neck, face and ears. And for anybody who is follically challenged, do the top of your head, even if you’re wearing a helmet. Then expect some interesting telltale cyclists’ tan lines on your upper arms, thighs and even stripes on your head for helmet-wearing baldies. 

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