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5 thoughts on riding in hot weather

Road across Dallow Moor

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far. It was more than 30 degrees celcius in North Yorkshire, which can't be right.

The morning was warm but bearable, but by early afternoon, the temperature in my flat was not. I'd long since sacrificed the insulation my double glazing affords from the roar and rumble of traffic, judging that the hope of a breeze through an open window was more important. It didn't help much, and I just ended up sweltering in a noisier environment.

About an hour after lunch, my hands were hot and sticky enough to make typing annoying; dragging my finger across the mousepad was near impossible. I couldn't stand it any more, so I grabbed my bike, and headed out for a ride.

As I passed some school kids near the start of the Nidderdale Greenway, one of them said (in a cheeky but cheerful way), 'Who goes cycling when it's as hot as this?' 

'You get a breeze,' I explained. 'I recommend it.' They didn't seem convinced, but as I pedalled along the path, I did indeed get a breeze. This'll be great, I thought. 

It does make a difference when it's abnormally hot, though, in various ways. These are my 5 thoughts on riding in hot weather.

5 thoughts on riding in hot weather: (1) it's nice not to have 20 minutes of feeling cold at the start of a ride

I often head out early in the morning, dressed appropriately for the temperature I'm expecting later on, and for my body temperature once I've made a physical effort. I use the unscientific method of sticking my arm out of the bedroom window before I set off, to check what it's like outside. 

Not only is this method unscientific, it also doesn't work. I've lost count of the times when I step outside and think, 'oh, it's colder than I expected.' Then when I start riding, and get a bit of wind chill, I shiver and look forward to the first (up)hill.

I should probably stop complaining, and invest in some arm warmers.

Castelli Thermoflex Arm Warmers

Castelli Thermoflex Arm Warmers, at Wiggle

5 thoughts on riding in hot weather: (2) melting tarmac

Some of the roads round here have recently been resurfaced using the cheap-but-crap method of tar and loose chippings. I'd usually ride in the tracks of the car wheels, of course, to avoid the loose chippings, but yesterday that part of the road was doing an impression of black treacle: the tarmac was melting in the hot afternoon sunshine.

I thought back to Mark Cavendish's interview after Stage 8 of the Tour de France 2016, a Pyrenean stage from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon. He mentioned melting tarmac, and said, 'I hate it in the Pyrenees. It's just too hot for me. I'm from the Isle of Man, I have white skin, and I can't deal with this heat.'

Should roads melt when it's 30-odd degrees? The BBC magazine explains what happens. 30+ degrees is the air temperature, which is measured in the shade, and up to 2m above the ground. The road surface is hotter than the air - dark road material in direct sunlight absorbs a lot of heat. When the air is 30C, the road can soon reach 50C, at which point, depending on the quality of the surfacing material which has been used, it will start to soften.

5 thoughts on riding in hot weather: (3) my tolerance for poor overtakes sinks as the mercury rises

Loose chippings Skid risk Max 20mph sign

To get to Ripley from the bottom of Scarah Bank, you have to ride a short stretch of the B6165. I hate that bit of road. It curves, rises, then curves again. Drivers can't see whether there's oncoming traffic or not, but obviously they must overtake someone on a bike immediately, so they give you less space. If it turns out that there is oncoming traffic, they squeeze you even more.

That road has recently been resurfaced with tar and loose chippings, and there are 'Skid risk - Max 20mph' signs. Nobody pays any attention to the 20 limit of course - they drive at 40-50mph. I was subjected to the usual inconsiderate overtakes, but with the bonus of a light spray of chippings.

Because I was hot, I lost my sense of humour more quickly than usual. If it had been possible, I would have asked one of the drivers overtaking me to hang up for a minute, and lend me their mobile phone, so I could call the cycling minister. 'I would like to make a complaint. The Highway Code is no more. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. It is an ex-Highway Code.' I expect the minister would have told me that the Highway Code isn't dead, it's just resting, or pining for the quiet country lanes of the 1950s.

5 thoughts on riding in hot weather: (4) people are happy to give you water

It's obvious that you're going to need more water when it's hot. I tend to go out with my usual one bottle, and scavenge for more H2O as and when I need it. If Ray Mears can do it, it can't be that hard. Most pubs, cafes, and shops are happy to fill up your water bottle, especially if you buy a drink or a snack (which I always do, because I'm hungry and thirsty, but also out of courtesy).

If there's no pub, cafe, or shop near when I run out of water, I ask someone in their garden as I pass by. People are always happy to oblige. That's what I did yesterday, and as well as filling my bottle, they gave me a glass of water with ice cubes. Bliss!

I'd speculate that there's an overlap between the people spraying loose chippings at me, and those giving me water. They don't overtake like that because they're fundamentally bad people - they do it through ignorance, impatience, thoughtlessness, because of a poor driving culture, the inadequacy of a one-off driving test when you're 17, the lack of enforcement or serious penalties for bad driving, and for a million other reasons.

5 thoughts on riding in hot weather: (5) putting a lid on

At times during my ride, I was overheating. I knew it was exceptional when I realised that my eyeballs were hot. I didn't even know that hot eyeballs were possible. Direct sunlight had heated my sunglasses, and that heat had passed to my eyes according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

My helmet was a problem too. It was acting like the lid on a pressure cooker, preventing steam from escaping. When I reached a long stretch of uphill and flat, I took it off, and that was a relief and a release. 

I thought about professional bike racers. I've been watching them hauling their bikes and bodies up mountains in hot temperatures in France, keeping their helmets on, as they are obliged to do. I bet they sometimes wish they could bin their lids, if only for the final climb to a summit finish, as was permitted when helmets were first made compulsory by the UCI in May 2003.

I remember watching the Tour de France before riders had to wear helmets. One race that's etched on my memory, from Channel 4 early evening highlights, is Stephen Roche's 1987 ride to La Plagne. So, more for the pleasure of re-living that race, than for its relevance to helmets, here it is.

'And just who is that rider coming up behind? Because that looks like Roche...that looks like Stephen Roche...it's Stephen Roche, who's come over the line! He almost caught Pedro Delgado, I don't believe it!'

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