11 Top Tips for your Spanish Summer Cycling Holiday
Whilst it is true to say that summers in Spain are hot it is also true to say that you can still ride in these conditions, afterall, the local Spanish boys are out riding all summer long. So long as the right precautions are taken, hot-weather workouts may boost your performance if you’re training for an endurance event, such as a triathlon or some other weekend warrior cycling event. Research has indicated that hot-weather training may even eclipse high-altitude training when it comes to enhancing your performance.
Here’s my 11 Top Tips to sweat it out safely.
- Hydration, Hydration, Hydration. After a good nights sleep we all wake up slightly de-hydrated (check the colour of your pee on your first wee of the day). So the most important thing to do to start the day is to drink. However, don’t just flood your body with water as this can slush out all the salts in your body. I’ll have tea/coffee 2-3 mugs full, fresh juice, water &/or isotonic drinks. Try to consume 1.5-2 litres before you go out, even better is enough to have a clear pee before you go out. Don’t stop drinking once you get out on the bike. You should be drinking 1x800ml bidon per 30-40 minutes on the bike. Take two bottles one filled with electrolyte/isotonic/sports energy drink and the other just water (very handy for tipping over your head or down your back to cool off)
- Don’t go to hard to soon. The first few days of your trip you’ll need to acclimatise to the heat so choose shorter less intensive rides to start with.
- It’s all about the Siesta! Get up and go out riding early. Unlike northern Europe the temperatures do not abate in the late afternoon, generally it will stay hot until night fall with the temperatures reaching their peak around 1-2pm. So get up and go out at dawn. Ride in the cooler part of the day and your body will adapt as the temperatures rise during the morning. After you ride hydrate, eat & sleep. Try to drink 1-2 more bidons 800ml bottles of liquids (again not just water) before you start on the beer and wine. I would recommend starting between 7-8am and plan to get back between noon & 1pm, afterall 5 hours riding in the sunshine should be enough for most of us.
- Protect yourself. Apply a high factor sun cream to stop getting sun burnt. Trust me it is not pleasant having to ride the next day with sun burnt arms, so cover up. If you are prone to burning, I am, then you may even consider wearing long sleeve cotton tops to start off with. A cotton buff for the neck is good too as you can always soak this in water to keep cool.
- Slow down. When the temperatures are high, don’t expect to go out and set a personal record! Don’t try to ride the same pace as you do at home in cooler climes. Be careful about trying to keep up with friends who are more fit or have a higher tolerance for heat. Just accept you are going to be slower in the heat.
- Plan your route. Key to a successful day riding in the heat is not only knowing your route, knowing a few short cuts home and knowing where the next village/town/petrol station is for picking up extra supplies. If you make a stop for refreshments ALWAYS fill up your bottles even if you are only 10k from home NEVER ride empty. If you have a mechanical & you are out longer than you expected you’ll need that water. CHECK water levels everytime you pass a place to fill up. Better to have too much than be wanting extra! Let some one know where you are going and how long you expect to be arrange to call them when you stop for refreshments so they know how you are getting on.
- Keep a cool head. We all have to wear a helmet even if it is 40 degrees. Take a spare cotton buff to soak in water and wear on your head. Also when you stop for refreshments or to wait for fellow riders take your helmet off so your head can cool down.
- Be sensible & listen to your body. If you feel unwell you need to get inside or in the shade as soon as possible. If you don’t feel up to it in the morning, don’t go. Best to ride another day!
- Maintain your bike. A well maintained bike is less likely to cause you problems when out riding, this is especially important when it is hot. You don’t want to be walking home, waiting to be picked up or trying to repair your bike in the blazing heat.
- Never ride alone. If you are unfamiliar with the area get a guide, they’ll take you on the best routes, know where to get water and generally keep you safe! If you fall off, when riding alone it could be disasterous, least your ride companion/guide can get help if it is needed.
- Salt. The body can not naturally produce salt, so whilst riding in the heat add salt to your diet/food or take salt tablets to replace all the salts that you have lost through sweating
There are health benefits and hazards to riding in the heat but if you are well prepared, have a plan and sensible then there is no real reason not to go out and enjoy the sunshine!
Stay safe and enjoy the ride!