2021 Cycling Sun Gear Protection Guide

Sun gear protection
Photo by Himiway Bikes on Unsplash

One of the best things about cycling is that you get to spend quality time outdoors. Our goal in this article is to provide you with a short and concise guide for cycling sun gear and clothing protection.

If you choose wisely, you can find places that are beautiful and relaxing and that offer wonderful opportunities for bike riding. Locations such as shaded bike trails, beach boardwalks, city or state parks, or winding roadways provide miles of thrilling biking. Any time you spend time outdoors, though, you should be aware of the need for protecting your skin and your eyes from the potentially harmful rays of the sun.

Fortunately, nowadays, many successful strategies and products exist for limiting your exposure to the sun. At Like a Bike USA, our goal is to ensure you tap into the best biking advice and inspiration out there. Part of that is being as safe as possible. For some general information check out this advice for staying safe in the sun for the coming season.

A well-rounded approach to defeating the impacts of the sun has a host of side benefits. You get to wear some of the best-looking apparel on the planet, all under the premise of safety: think colorful jerseys, psychedelic biking pants, cool hats and whimsical socks. Then there are the exceptional lines of sunglasses made especially for cyclists, with interchangeable lenses and wraparound frames. All of this allows you to confidently explore the world on two wheels and make the most of an active lifestyle.

The Value of Skin Protection

For many people, sun protection is synonymous with putting on sunscreen overexposed areas of the skin. The primary purpose is to prevent outbreaks of skin cancer, which has been on the rise for several years, but a broad-spectrum sunscreen also guards against the aging of the skin. By reducing instances of sunburn, you protect the look of your skin now and into the future. 

By following a few best practices, you can increase the positive benefits of topical sun lotion. (If you wish to take out a young child or baby on your rides, it is prudent to check with a healthcare professional for advice.) Whenever heading out on your bike be sure to follow these helpful tips:

  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher
  • Read the label and use the lotion accordingly
  • Apply sunscreen even on cloudy days
  • Reapply about every two hours (more often if sweating)
  • Put on top of the head if you have thinning hair or no hair
  • Choose a lotion that you enjoy or at least tolerate wearing

Sunscreens come in lotions, creams, gels, sprays and pastes. Try to find the consistency you like the best so you will be more likely to put it on.

The Role of Smart Decisions

Putting on sunscreen is just the beginning of an effective strategy. (There is a lot to learn about the sun and its impacts.) You should also wear protective clothing as much as possible, including hats, long sleeve shirts, and long pants within reason.

Deciding on which hours you spend on your bike can also play a role. Whenever possible, stay away from the sun at its most intense, usually between the hours of  10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Choose to bike early in the morning or later in the evening, both wonderful times to be out. You should also be aware of any special risk factors you have, such as pale skin or red or light-colored hair. Finally, if you take any medications just be aware that some medicines increase sun sensitivity.

The Role of Quality Sun Gear and Protective Clothing

The world continues to change in many ways, with better, lighter bikes and tons of new gear. Sun-protective clothing can now be part of your routine. You can find lightweight, attractive clothing that you will enjoy wearing on bike rides. This adds an extra protective layer to each outing and has the added benefit of not feeling uncomfortable on your skin. You also don’t have to worry about reapplying if you swim or sweat.

While sunscreens use the familiar SPF rating (Sun Protection Factor), fabrics use the UPF rating (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). Without getting too technical, a fabric with a UPF rating of 50 only allows 1/50 of the sun’s UV rays to pass through, providing a 98% UV block. 

Bike jerseys are always a good choice to wear. They look good and are comfortable and now you can find many that come complete with enhanced sun blocking, often in the 40  or above UPF level. These jerseys come in all shapes and sizes and women especially should be able to find many attractive options. Many top clothing companies provide quality apparel, including these popular brands: 

  • Boure
  • Canari
  • Endurasport
  • Primal Wear
  • Voler

In addition, caps that fit under helmets and apparel for your neck also provide UPF protection. Cycling gloves are always a good idea to increase your comfort and sun protection.

The Benefit of Eye Protection When Cycling

Sunglasses are an essential piece of equipment for any cyclist. Of course, it helps that many models look exceptionally cool, but they also should be considered safety equipment in more ways than one. As you speed along on your bike, your vision is one of your most important attributes. Quality sunglasses allow you to navigate changes in light from the sun to shadow and help you pick out bumps in the road as well as debris that might be in your way. Good sunglasses have kept more than a few riders from crashing into the bushes.

As you ride you will encounter many different light conditions. Some of these increase the level of sunlight reaching your eyes, elevating your risk, over time, of eye complications. The glare off water, snow, sand, and bright objects all have an impact. Lack of eye protection can result in the early onset of cataracts in some people.

When selecting the perfect shades for your biking excursions, there are many things to consider. These tips offer a starting point when shopping for a stellar pair of glasses:

  • Pick glasses with a UV400 rating as these block out 99% of UVA and UVB radiation
  • Do not assume dark-tinted glasses offer better protection than those with lighter tints 
  • Look into wraparound styles that offer more protection around the outer edges of the eye
  • Don’t fixate on price as more expensive glasses are not always better for UV protection

If riding with children, make sure they wear sunglasses with adequate UV protection. Early safeguards for young eyes are important. Finally, a hat with a brim can help shield eyes from sunlight in addition to quality sunglasses. Top brands of sunglasses for cyclists include Oakley, Tifosi Crit, 100%, Rapha Pro Team, and Salice, as well as many others.

The Final Steps for Sun Protection

At this point, you might feel you are definitely protected from even a speck of sun falling on your sensitive skin. That once you have put on sunscreen, donned your sunglasses, and pulled on long sleeves and long pants with a UPF 50 rating, you are more or less invincible. Not true. Welcome to the world of coolers.

While these items are typically the province of serious riders and racers, they might be worth looking into, especially if you have plans to go far and go fast. These items actually use your sweat to convert moisture, cooling your arms in the process. They also offer a covering against the sun, though sunscreen should still be used beneath them. Arm coolers (and leg coolers and knee coolers) can also serve a decorative function and with bright colors, they increase the visibility of the rider, always a good thing.

A good helmet provides the best protection for your head and it can also offer an extra element of protection from the sun. Most helmets will have ample spaces for ventilation, so a lightweight skull cap should be worn underneath. This will keep you cooler than any sizable hat and some even come with a flap of fabric to cover your neck.  

If you are still looking for the best sun gear, a number of brands specialize in gear for women. Velocio is known for cutting-edge materials, sustainable sourcing and artistic designs. Rapha caters to the recreational cyclist and specializes in quality legwear. Sundried is geared more toward the serious cyclist but its apparel often comes with good value. PEARL iZUMI carries a full line of women’s and men’s clothing styles.

The Sweet Spot for Fun and Safety

At Like a Bike USA, we advocate for getting the most out of the biking lifestyle, and we know that a deep sunburn is no one’s idea of a good time. It is important to get out on your bike as much as you can to gain the benefits of exercise and the positive vibes that come with cycling. To learn more about how to maximize your pursuit of biking, whether you are a newbie or a veteran, check out some more tips on how to move forward with biking. A safe ride is always a good experience.

BikeLVR as part of LVR Publishing LLC participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites.