Selle Anatomica
Rear view of a biker holding up his bike while looking into the sun from a hilltop

Where Should a Cyclist Never Put Sunscreen (And Other Cycling Sun Tips)

Cyclists don’t generally have a shortage of time in the sun. In a sport that regularly consists of hours- and even day-long rides, you’re soaking up a lot of vitamin D.

But, with all that sun exposure comes the downside: higher risks of skin cancer. That’s why every cyclist needs to have a plan for sun protection. 

You may wonder, Where should a cyclist never put sunscreen? Well, there are certain spots need special attention, but there’s also one you might not realize you should avoid. And no, it’s not where the sun don’t shine. Longtime sun-soaking cycling coach Darryl MacKenzie has a few cycling sun tips on where and how to apply sunscreen for your bike rides.

Why Every Cyclist Needs Sunscreen

If you’re a committed cyclist, consider just how much time you spend in the sun each week. For Coach Darryl, a good rule of thumb is to estimate you are in the sun about an hour for every 10 miles you pedal. That factors in time spent driving to and from the ride and talking with friends and outside before and after. So, if you ride 100 miles per week, that’s 10 hours of sun exposure just from cycling.

A 2000 study published in the Journal of Dermatology found that cyclists who were training for the Tour de Suisse were exposed to sunshine levels of more than 30 times the recommended limit. You may not be training for a major international event, but that gives you some perspective. As a cyclist, you’re exposed much more than the average person.

According to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the sun can damage unprotected skin in as little as 15 minutes, and a history of sunburns can increase your risk of getting skin cancer.

These are realities every cyclist should take seriously. To help you prevent sun damage while enjoying your ride, our team at Selle Anatomica will provide you with a guide that will carefully outline where a cyclist should (and should never) put sunscreen.

Sun Safety Tips for Applying Sunscreen for Your Bike Ride

Taking it seriously doesn’t mean you need to be terrified of your time in the sun, though. There are a few cycling sun tips that Darryl recommends you do to make sure you’re well-protected.

Cover Up

Sunscreen isn’t your first line of defense against the sun. Covering your skin with proactive cycling clothes wherever possible is priority number one. Not long ago, Coach Darryl expanded his protection by regularly wearing sun sleeves on his forearms.

“For the first time in decades, the hair on my arms is black, because for decades it was bleached by the sun,” says Darryl. 

That goes to show you the difference some extra coverage makes. Cover up well — and don’t forget your sunglasses.

Put It on Early (And Reapply as Needed)

But clothes aren’t sufficient. You still need to apply sunscreen to your exposed skin. Put it on anytime you ride, regardless of the time of year, and rub it on thick. If you’re riding at high altitude or in the intense daylight of summer, apply extra.

The best time to do it is before putting on your cycling clothes. Rub it in anywhere you won’t be covered, and be sure you’re applying it on your upper arms and thighs where the sleeves and shorts will likely ride up and expose more skin than you expect.

Depending on the length of your ride, you may need to reapply every few hours. So be sure to keep your sunscreen with you for when you need it (either in a ziplock in your saddlebag or attached to the outside of it). 

The less often you have to do that, the better, though, since you’ll be sweaty and dirty later in the ride. Darryl recommends a sunscreen such as Coppertone Sport, which lasts longer and is strong enough to stay on when you sweat.

Protect Your Most Exposed Areas

There are a few spots you should pay special attention to, as they tend to get the most time in the sun when you’re cycling:

  • Your arms: As mentioned, sun sleeves are great for this. If you don’t have them, then be sure to rub on extra sunscreen here.
  • Your legs, above the knee but below your shorts: Make sure you’re getting up underneath the bike shorts!
  • Your ears and nose: These spots constantly find their way into the sun, so be sure to reapply liberally.
  • The back of your neck: Although this area is often shaded by your helmet, it can be vulnerable at times.

Where You Should Never Put Sunscreen When Cycling

Now we have come to the ultimate question: Where should a cyclist never put sunscreen? There is one spot that you should be careful to avoid when putting on sunscreen for your bike ride: your forehead.

“The helmet, if properly put on, should go down far enough on your forehead so that it’s all covered or at least shaded from the sun,” Coach Darryl explains. 

And it’s a good thing your helmet takes care of this, too. Otherwise, the sweat from your forehead mixes with sunscreen and runs into your eyes, causing irritation and watery eyes. If this has regularly been a problem for you, now you know how to avoid it. Next time when you go for a ride and you are thinking of the how to protect your skin from the sun, remember to keep that sunscreen away from your foreheadand be sure to wash your hands after you apply so you don’t inadvertently rub any into your eyes.

Our team proudly provides you with safety tips that will keep you protected and strong on your next cycling adventure.  So, in addition to sunscreen and cycling sun sleeves, we also recommend eating breakfast before your ride. Learn the health benefits of eating breakfast before a bike ride here. 

Now you know everything you need to know for sun-safe cycling. So, rub it in, layer up, and get out there — and be sure to enjoy your ride on our comfortable bike saddles. Contact us today if you would like to know more about cycling sun protection.


Look for more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.

Photo by Daniel Frank on Unsplash