Tips for Staying Safe in the Sun
It is well known that too much sun exposure and getting frequent burns is bad for you. While burns are uncomfortable, more importantly, too much sun exposure and skin damage can lead to risks of melanoma. While the Empire State Ride is a fundraiser to cure cancer, it is important to be sure to minimize your own risk by protecting yourself to the best of your ability. While I don’t advocate staying inside because of the concern of sun exposure, there are a few things you can do that will help to minimize the risk of getting burned while you are on your bike.
First and foremost is sunscreen. While there are many types and brands on the market, dermatologists recommend a sunblock verses a sunscreen. These usually contain a zinc derivative and when applied they leave an opaque white film that literally blocks the sun’s rays from your skin. And while they are not the most fashionable of creams, they are highly effective. When you are out on your bike, it really doesn’t matter how glamorous you look; your primary concern should be shielding your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
When you apply your sunscreen, be sure to cover your exposed skin generously. Don’t forget your nose, the back of your neck and your knees, as they tend to get extra-crispy when out on long rides. If your helmet has large vents, be sure to put sunscreen on your scalp also! If you have very thin hair or a shaved head, you can purchase a lightweight, wicking wrap that ties around your head, much like a bandana, and fits neatly under your helmet. Not only do these protect your scalp from the sun, they also help to keep sweat from dripping into your eyes.
If you feel as though sunscreens are not working or that you are sweating them off too quickly, you may resort to wearing sun-sleeves. While you might have seen runners and other athletes sporting compression sleeves, sun-sleeves are designed in a similar fashion using sun-blocking fabric. More advanced versions are designed to also act as cooling sleeves by creating a sort of evaporative cooling effect that uses your sweat to keep your skin cool. If you are very pale, you may even consider wearing matching leg sleeves.
While you may enjoy your sleeveless jersey for the summer months, it is often best to keep your shoulders covered. If you opt for sun sleeves with your sleeveless jersey, be prepared to use extra lotion on your exposed shoulders or risk a somewhat funny series of tan lines.
When you are shopping for your warm weather jersey, you’ll most likely choose one that has an open weave. This waffle-like weave, while very lightweight and cool to wear, does not always block UV rays. For this reason, it is also advisable to wear sunscreen on your back under your jersey. The alternative option is to look for a jersey that is designed from a UV blocking fabric that will provide protection without the need for lotion.
Everyone always thinks about protecting their skin from the sun, but not everyone sees the importance of protecting their eyes. Wear sunglasses when you are riding. Not only do polarized lenses help to protect your eyes, they also make obstacles and irregularities in the road more visible when the sun is blazing and mirages appear in the distance.
While you are shopping for sunblock, be sure to purchase a UV protecting lip balm also. Whether you bite your lip when you are riding a difficult climb, or lick them when you are thirsty, the delicate skin will chap easily and exposure to sun can mean painful blisters.
If you are training for the full Empire State Ride and will be doing rides that are several hours long, you will need to reapply sunscreen, much in the same manner as if you are in the pool for an hour or more. Even the most sweat-proof sun blocks will not shield your skin for more than an hour or so with each application. Carrying a travel-size tube in your jersey pocket is the easiest way to be sure you are always protected.
Training for the Empire State Ride means long hours in the hot sun. By protecting your skin with sunblock or fabric, you will not only be keeping your skin healthy, you will be setting a good example for other riders.