How does heat affect cycling performance?

With the help of Dr Lee Taylor, researcher at Loughborough University, Ollie Bridgewood examines the relationship between body temperature and riding output

Clock11:21, Sunday 17th December 2023

Keeping cool on a bike ride isn’t a new phenomenon. Helmets, jerseys, and even shoes are designed to allow the air to flow close to our skin in an attempt to keep us cool.

If you have ever ridden for any length of time on an indoor trainer without a fan, you will know just how hot you can get. You may have also noticed that as your temperature increases and as your body struggles to dissipate the heat, your performance on the bike starts to suffer.

GCN's Ollie Bridgewood decided to look in to just how much keeping cool can affect your performance on the bike. To do this, he enlisted the help of Dr. Lee Taylor who is a researcher and scientist at Loughborough University.

Taylor’s research specialises in preparing athletes and teams for competition in hot climates. Along with climatic preparation work, he also studies the therapeutic properties of different temperatures on the body.

Ollie tries to understand the basics behind why we generate heat as we exercise. He also asks more nuanced questions such as 'does the colour of your riding kit effect how your body deals with heat?' and 'what we can do to better prepare ourselves to perform in warmer conditions?'.

If you are planning on entering an event in 2024 that you know is going to take place in a hot or humid climate, the tips shared here might just be what you need to hear. Interestingly Taylor discusses the topic of thermal acclimation, where the body adapts to the physical demands of heat similarly to how it can adapt at altitude.

One of the biggest issues that Taylor identifies for dealing with hot environments is giving the body no time to adapt. Spending a winter in the UK or northern Europe, training outside, and then immediately heading to southern Spain in March will leave your body struggling to cope.

There is some good news, though, Taylor goes through how you can easily get the stimulus required for these adaptations even in a UK winter.

How do you find heat affects your riding? If you have any tips for making it more bearable, let us know in the comments section.

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