Cycling is a fantastic way to stay active, get some exercise, and enjoy the great outdoors. However, all that time in the sun can have serious consequences unless you take the proper precautions. Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, so every cyclist needs to take the proper steps before riding in this beautiful country. Sun protection is a simple way to get all the benefits of cycling while minimising the risks and should be as much a part of riding your bike as putting on a helmet.
1. Apply SPF 50+ sunscreen before cycling
Sunscreen is the first thing most people think of when they think of sun protection. Sunscreen provides a protective barrier to help reduce UV rays that penetrate the skin. We recommend sunscreen with an ultraviolet protection factor of 50+ to make sure you get the best protection. Apply sunscreen 15–20 minutes before you hit the road and reapply it every four hours or so during your time in the sun.
2. Ride during non-peak UV hours
There’s nothing like starting the day with a quality bike ride, and apart from feeling good, there are benefits for your skin. Though it may be tempting to wait until the day has warmed up, this is when sun exposure and UV radiation will be at their peak, creating a higher risk of skin damage. The best time is in the early morning, evening, or night. The summer sun is especially dangerous but don’t let cloudy or cooler days fool you. It’s still possible for UV rays to reach you even on grey days.
Just remember that if you choose to ride while it’s dark, always wear highly visible clothing.
3. Protect your neck and ears
When riding your bike, your neck and ears can be particularly exposed to sun damage. These are areas that even those trying to do the safe thing often forget about. Applying sunscreen to your ears and neck and wearing protective clothing will go a long way to stopping those UV rays.
4. Wear a hat or visor
Your head is the most vulnerable place for skin cancer. While the face is the most common area, it’s also possible for melanoma to develop on the scalp, behind the ears, and on the neck. Wearing a thin hat that can fit beneath your bike helmet will provide shade to your face, adding a barrier against UV rays. Specially designed hats or visors won’t even interfere with your helmet vents and will stay in place while you ride.
5. Wear sunglasses
Your eyes are vulnerable to sun damage, which can lead to cataracts, sight loss and other eye conditions. Be sure to purchase polarised UV-blocking sunglasses to guarantee the best protection. Along with protecting your eyes from the sun, you’ll find sunglasses will help you see better, guarding you against any sudden glare from water, metal surfaces, and windows. As you can see, sunnies aren’t just a stylish accessory, they make your entire ride a safer and more enjoyable experience.
6. Stay hydrated
It is important during any ride to stay hydrated before, during, and after your journey. Not only does this help you avoid dehydration, muscle fatigue, headaches, and just feeling awful, but it’s also beneficial for your skin. Research shows that drier skin is more susceptible to sun damage and UV rays.
7. Wear cycling gloves
Cycling gloves make your ride more comfortable and protect your hands in a fall, but did you know they guard you against the sun as well? Gloves help provide an extra layer of protection for your hands against the sun, preventing sunburn and worse.
8. Make sure your kids are practising good sun safety techniques
Cycling is a great hobby to pass on to your kids, so why not get them into good suncare habits while you’re at it? Teaching your kids to apply sunscreen, wear a hat, and sunglasses will make the whole process second nature to them. Children imitate their parents so make sure they see you practising good sun protection habits. Also, if sun protection is followed by fun activities, like a bike ride, your kids will have positive associations with slip, slop, slap.
9. Avoid sunburns
Even careful people can get sunburns from time to time. However, each time it happens, it can increase your chances of developing skin cancer down the line. Avoiding repeated sunburns will dramatically reduce your chances of developing either basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma.
10. Know your risk factor
No one is immune to skin cancer; however, statistically certain groups are more vulnerable than others. People with fair skin and hair, a family history of skin cancer, or those who have personally had skin cancer before are all more at risk of developing skin cancer in the future.
11. Be aware of the skin you’re in
Noticing any changes in your skin, changes to existing moles or the development of new moles could potentially save your life. Monthly self-checks will help you keep track of your skin and catch any changes. We recommend using a mirror or having a spouse or close friend with you to help check places like your back.
For moles, we recommend using the ABCDE method to find skin cancer symptoms:
- A for Asymmetrical: Healthy moles are symmetrical.
- B for Border: If a mole doesn’t have a clear border or is blurred, it needs to be checked
- C for Colour: Moles are usually brown and a consistent colour. Moles that change colour or have multiple shades should be checked immediately.
- D for Diameter: Any mole larger than 6mm in diameter should be checked by a professional.
- E for Evolving: Moles don’t typically change or grow in size, and this is a key symptom of melanoma, particularly if it's happening rapidly.
Along with any unusual changes in moles, keep an eye out for any lesions, bumps, rashes, or sores that won’t heal. If you notice any of the above on your skin, it’s time to book a professional check.
12. Get annual skin checks
While self-checks are great for detecting changes early, the only way to get a proper diagnosis is to see a professional. Skin checks take between 15–30 minutes and involve a professional examining all your moles, freckles, and skin in general to make sure everything is okay.
The thing that’s vital to remember about skin cancer is that it is a very treatable disease if caught early enough. Regular skin checks vastly improve your chances of catching any suspect moles in the early, less advanced stages.
Cycling is a fantastic way to get your required cardio, but it’s important to remember to protect yourself against the sun. By using a combination of all the tips in this list, you can enjoy your next ride knowing you’ve given yourself the best protection against the elements.
Do you have a mole that needs checking or has it been a while since your last skin check? SunDoctors are here for all your skin health needs. Book your next skin check appointment today!