real life cycling

How to (really) keep cool on the bike


In the UK, 2018, implausibly, looks set to replace the long hot summer of 1976 as the go-to hottest summer since records began. The standard stoic acceptance of chilly conditions has been replaced by a kind of holiday atmosphere, as people swan around, floppy limbed in flip-flops, feeling that all is well with the world.

We cyclists, of course, love it. We throw on our flimsiest summer kit and work on our tan.

Having said that, 30C is hot in anyone’s books. Except maybe Alejandro Valverde’s – these are the precise conditions under which his blood reaches optimum bike racing temperature.

But we mere mortals need to employ a few cooling off methods to help us cope.

Cabbage under the casquette

In days gone by, when cycling was all woollen jerseys and a nip of brandy at the feed station, the accepted cooling method was to slip a wet cabbage leaf beneath the casquette – that cotton cap, with peak upturned, that was de rigeur for any stylish cyclist in the days of black and white.

These days the casquette is still very much a style statement – we all own them – so why not go retro and stick a cabbage leaf underneath?

Et voila..!

The problem is that here in the 21st century we care almost as much about the integrity of our cranium as we do about how we look. The casquette is universally worn either under the helmet, or in the coffee shop.

If you’re in the coffee shop, other options are available, and you can probably do without the cabbage leaf. A double-caramel Magnum ice-cream would do the trick, for example.

In the mouth, not under the hat.

And the truth is, if you’re wearing a casquette under the helmet in 30C, you’re going to need more than a cabbage leaf to keep you cool. You’re going to need a double-caramel Magnum.

So, in conclusion, forget the cabbage leaf and buy a Magnum.


Frozen peas down the shorts

Continuing the food theme, perhaps you treat your body like a finely tuned temple and the thought of fuelling with nutritionally questionable ice cream brings you out in a cold sweat.

Ironically, a cold sweat is a great way to bring down your core temperature.

Why not also pop a packet of frozen peas down your shorts for good measure. You can use them to make a nice, summery, post-ride pea and fennel salad later.

Two birds, one stone.

Sidi flip-flops

The kit manufacturers, of course, are very happy to monetise hot weather conditions – I’m just not sure they go far enough.

I could shell out a couple of hundred quid on a pair of lightweight Sidi shoes with extra air vents, but I’d rather spend my money on a game-changing pair of Sidi flip-flops – complete with moulded carbon-fibre soles and Shimano compatible cleats, of course.

The only problem I can forsee would come when I stopped for mid-ride refreshments. Being something of a coffee connoisseur, and with a nose for only the finest single origin espresso, some of the establishments I find myself in can only be described as blackboard-scrapingly middle-class.

I’m not sure they’d let me in wearing flip-flops.

Even £200 flip-flops.

Kask sombrero

And that’s without factoring in my Kask sombrero.

The Mexicans know a thing or two about heat, you see, and the wide brimmed sombrero, designed to cast a cooling shadow across the face, neck, and shoulders, is their solution.

Enough of the extra vents: to truly address the heat we need a wide brimmed yet lightweight Mexican style helmet. I realise that aerodynamics might be ever so slightly compromised, but I’m confident the performance gains to be had would outweigh any extra drag.

Once the sombrero helmet (inevitably) catches on they could expand the range and produce an Aussie version, with corks dangling to swat away flies. Let’s be honest, it’s worth a try: it’s not possible to make cycling helmets any uglier than they already are.

Rapha board shorts and Hawaiian shirt combo

Because what else can you wear with flip-flops and a sombrero?

Beer garden

Failing all this, you could just give the ride a miss and find a nice beer garden. Just don’t forget to remove the bag of peas from your shorts: that’s not an acceptable look, even at your local Wetherspoons.

Be warned, though: If you decide to forgo your bike ride because it’s too hot, you forfeit any weather-related credit you already have in the bank.

Come next May, when the temperature is 7C and the rain is sideways, don’t come complaining to me about weather.

(Casquette Image: By Nationaal Archief – cut from De St. Raphael-Gitanes ploeg/ The St. Raphael-Gitanes team, No restrictions,

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