Summer in Italy is considered to run from June to September and for the most part, it is quite hot across the whole country during these four months. Whether it’s just a normal European summer or a ‘hotter than expected’ week across Italy, the ever-changing seasons and the unpredictable nature of weather can often add an unexpected element to your cycling holiday.
So after having experienced a number of tours across Italy this year in the heat, including in the north in Piemonte and Dolomites & Prosecco Road, as well as in central Tuscany, we’ve put together this guide on the top 8 things to consider to both prepare for and sustain the heat during your days of riding on your Italian summer cycling tour.
1. It’s Going to be Hot so be Ready
While the weather is hard to predict, you can be assured that it will be a lot warmer than at home in Australia, with June, July, August and September all having beautiful hot days. When it is hot, we often adjust our start time from our usual 8:30/9:00 am departure, however in the main we like to honour the fact that Italians don’t get started until 8:00am at the earliest (and we are all about immersion) and guests are here on a holiday, so the luxury of riding ‘Pro Hours’ is what it’s all about.
2. Conserve Your Energy
When riding new roads, we believe that you always need to conserve your energy for the unexpected, and this is even more so when the temperature rises above 30 degrees. Our advice is to always ride at your own pace and not be tempted to follow another rider and their rhythm, particularly if they’re riding a fraction too fast for you. We find that as soon as you are out of that “zone” where you are most comfortable, it can be to your detriment, often not at the time but later that day. We always recommend leaving something in the tank for the unexpected and for the following days.
3. Nutrition & Hydration – Listen to Your Body
Nearly everyone has their own formula or special products and solutions that help get them through their regular rides and also longer, more challenging days on the bike. This can range from specific brands of bars and gels, to whole foods such as bananas or peanut butter and honey sandwiches, and also a wide array of potions for electrolyte replacement. While we supply whole foods such as bananas, fruit, nuts and muesli bars on tour, if you use specific products on your summer rides at home, make sure you pack them when you travel for your next Italian cycling tour, so your ride experience is as close to what you are accustomed to at home.
4. Recovery – Whatever Works for You
Everybody’s recovery requirements following a day’s effort, particularly in the heat, is different. If you need to have a sleep in the afternoon to aid your recovery, you can and you should. If it’s a massage, we can assist in arranging. It could be yoga, a regime on a foam roller or simply having some quiet time by the pool at our beautiful accommodation. Whatever it is that works for you, there is always time in the afternoon on our Italian cycling tours to rest up and take the time you need to be ready for the next day.
5. Know Yourself and Your Limits
Knowing what you are capable of and your limits is critical. Some people use data to determine how they are going and others listen to their body to determine how much they should be ‘pushing’ or not. Whichever method works best for you, it is important that you know the feeling or the numbers of that point/speed you can hold for hours, without blowing up. Find it and then hold it, and if it means that one day you fall off the back of a group, so be it. It may end up being the difference between you completing and enjoying every km, or not.
6. Don’t fall into the ‘competition’ trap
We believe that on a cycling tour, you need to have the mental strength to not get caught up playing the game of ‘who’s the quickest up the hill’. We say this for a couple of reasons; one of which we have mentioned about riding to your capacity, but the bigger reason is because if you’re intent on hanging on to the wheel in front, with your head down, you’re going to miss the details of the ride; the little water fountain set into the rocks, the fleeting glimpses of rugged peaks in the distance and stone hamlets set on top of ridiculously steep hills. These are all the reasons that you have travelled to ride in another country and we want you to experience them. So don’t fall into the trap of aligning the enjoyment you feel on a ride with where you think you need to be placed in the ride group – a trap that is exacerbated in the heat and on challenging riding days.
7. Time to Acclimatise
We still see many guests not giving themselves enough time to acclimatise. They land one day and the tour starts the next. At the very least, they are often tired and jetlagged from the flight and the huge build-up of finishing work, and at the worst, they haven’t allowed enough time for their body to get accustomed to the significant temperature change from an Australian winter to an Italian Summer, and often end up getting sick on tour. We recommend arriving to Italy at least 3-4 days before a tour so that your mind and body have time to acclimatize to the Italian heat.
8. Embrace Summer
If it’s summer in Italy, then it’s winter in Australia and an Italian summer cycling holiday is the perfect way to break up a long winter, but it is just that; summer, shorts, t-shirts, aperol spirtz and more than a little sweat, which in our view is the perfect trade to avoid woolly socks, puffer jackets, grey skies and often miserable riding conditions.