Cycling in Australia : Sun damage and how to avoid it

Cycling in Australia : Sun damage and how to avoid it

Its no surprise, cycling is addictive. We proudly involve ourselves in a sport that mutually improves physical and mental health. Who wouldn't want that? This passion has us identify as cyclists both on and off the bike. The commitment of riders, particularly the fairer skinned variety, is recognised by the visibility of their tan lines. As Australian cyclists there's a tendency to proudly don the stripes beneath shorts or skirts. But paradoxically, as we ride towards betterment, we also risk our longevity from harmful sun exposure.

What can we do to minimise and eliminate the negative effects of UV rays while gaining comfort and retaining performance on the bike?

The Facts

Firstly, we want to highlight that in Australia "95% of melanomas are attributable to overexposure to UV radiation" ( Melanin pigments the skin and naturally protects against UV radiation. Paler people are less protected and therefore at higher risk of getting more skin cancers. Yet even the protective benefits of dark skin doesn't totally eliminate risk.

With attraction to warmer riding conditions summer means we increase our time on the bike. Without protection sun damage contributes not only to your risk of cancer but also the leading cause of Australian blindness; macular degeneration. (

There are five ways cyclists can habitually minimise risk of sun damage while increasing their comfort on the bike.

1 Arm screens

Due to both wind and sun exposure our limbs take a battering. The best method to keep the sun from burning these areas is to cover up. Yet in Australia we often avoid wearing coverings because we think more fabric means additional heat. This isn't the case if you've apparel designed with modern technical fabrics.

alison mcgregor arm screens velocio

Arm Screens should be specifically designed to provide UPF 50+ protection from the sun whilst cooling the skin. That combination limits objections to wearing what can be your best point for skin protection. Pair with lightweight gloves to help keep those hands sunspot free.

How to avoid sun burn cycling

Our Favourite Screens : Velocio Arm Screens. When it comes to offering your best protection option to prevent sunburn these arm screens are a total success. Not only did they offer excellent sun protection, they also work hard to keep you cool. I used the white and navy arm screens, and I've experienced how both screens cool as you ride. In summer months on the hotter days I wouldn't ride without them.

The Arm screens also come in black.

cycling sun protection

2 Sunscreen

It seems so obvious, but so often forgotten. Small bottles of transportable sunscreen can save the day when you're left exposed in hotter than expected conditions. The highest UV exposure times in Australia are around midday. Riding at this time can be harsh on skin, even with cloud cover. In fact, evidence suggests thin cloud or patches of cloud can greatly increase UV exposure with light reflection.(

You can sometimes buy sunscreen at a petrol station if you're caught out and the ride takes longer than expected. In general, its better to be prepared than sorry. Even when cloudy you can burn.

Sunscreen is best used as directed. Not only will it help prevent skin cancer, it also helps prevent pre-skin cancers and age spots.

"Regular daily use of SPF 15 sunscreen can reduce your risk of developing squamous carcinoma (SCC) by about 40 percent, and lower your melanoma risk by 50 percent." (

Our favourite. Select a sunscreen with high protection. I prefer less oily creams, but with the benefit of water proof. Otherwise the oily ones increase the temperature and without the added moisture protection they sweat off. Don't forget other exposed points, like the back of your neck and ears.

3 Caps

When it comes to coverings you can't go past the brilliance of cycling caps. They'll ward off the sun while looking good. If you tend to sweat or over heat easily try ultralight fabrics rather than the traditional 100% cotton cycling caps. Modern fabrics will help wick the sweat while keeping you protected and cool. The shielding of the brim will also protect your eyes.

sun protection cycling cap

Our Favourites. Having used dozens over the years on the hottest days its hard to pass Q36.5 caps. The super light materials help prevent overheating and aid wicking keeping you cool and dry.

4 Sunglasses

Australia's leading cause of blindness is macular degeneration. What's more, sun damage is seen to increase your chances of developing intermediate macular degeneration. The effects are catastrophic.

"Exposure to both visible light and UV radiation is also a factor in the gradual degeneration of the retina, cataract, damage to the cornea, and pterygium." (

No cyclist wants to hear they risk loosing their sight. Sunglasses is an obvious choice and a good pair with excellent protective lenses will certainly help maintain eye health and ward off this disease. Poperly fit glasses can also prevent cataracts, pterygium, pinguecula and, when it comes to the bigger models as ridden currently by pro riders, even skin cancers around the eyes.

alison mcgregor alba sunglasses

Our favourites : The Alba Delta frame fitted with a VZUM ™ F-LENS photocromatic Lens. The frames are lightweight with fantastic wrap-around protection, yet not bulky or ridiculously large. The versatility of Alba photochromatic lenses means the Category rating can interchange between 1-3. They help incredibly clear vision so you can react when riding through rapid changing conditions. I also use the optical clip-on lens fitted to the Delta so my prescription helps me distinguish potholes from shadows. I do have an eye disease, so I don't risk it by wearing cheap glasses. My optometrist has fitted the opticals and, combined with this clear lens by Alba, its a total game changer.

5. Read the UV Index

If you're particularly sensitive to sun exposure avoiding midday riding is a good course of action. However, longer rides can't always allow for this. And while watching the local weather can give an idea of temperature this can be misleading as high UV exposure can also occur on cool days.

To understand when you should be best protecting yourself from the highest of UV exposure times, you can watch Ultraviolet radiation indicator provided by the Australian Government. The network of ultraviolet radiation (UV) detectors are found in major cities around Australia.

network of ultraviolet radiation (UV) detectors in cities around Australia

Sydney ultraviolet radiation (UV) reading. Dec 12 2021 8:01am

The Run Down

Modern fabrics and designs can help eliminate sun exposure, which means reducing the harmful effects. With the best sun protection you not only add comfort to your time spent on the bike, you may also inadvertently add cycling days to your life.


Thank you Leo Lopez for the title photograph

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