The best cycling sunscreens

We look at the best sunscreens for riding and explain what you need to look for when buying cycle friendly skin protection

Best Cycling Sunscreens
(Image credit: Luke Friend)

Wherever you live, applying sunscreen before a ride is a sensible idea. Even in the UK, where there are seemingly plenty more overcast days than those featuring bright sunshine, protecting your skin against harmful rays is vital; the UV index can still be strong even if the temperatures suggest otherwise.

The best cycling sunscreens will protect you against sunburn, which is certainly painful but can also potentially lead to skin cancer. But they also need to do this without impairing the ride. Look for sweat and water-resistant sunscreens to prevent them ‘washing off’ and worse still running into your eyes, while at the same time still allowing your skin to breathe and sweat naturally. 

A light, easily absorbed sunscreen is also a good idea. After all, no one really wants to undertake a long road ride slathered in enough cream that you look like you’re about to swim the channel. 

It’s also worth remembering that no sunscreen offers complete protection against the sun. As well as finding an effective sunscreen you should also look for clothing that can help you cool as well as offer some SPF protection, as many of the best summer cycling jerseys do.

Planning your rides to avoid the time of the day when the sun’s rays are strongest is also a top tip for cycling in hot weather and high UV conditions. This is usually between 11am and 3pm, but if you can’t completely avoid these hours, perhaps plan a lunch stop to give you a break from the sun. 

We’ll discuss in more detail what to look for in the best cycling sunscreen but before then here’s our pick of the bunch.

Best Cycling Sunscreens: Our top picks

Best Cycling Sunscreens: Premax Suncream

(Image credit: Luke Friend)

Premax Sports Sunscreen For Sport

Protects, hydrates and smells good too

Specifications

SPF rating: 50
UVA/UVB rating: Broad Spectrum
Protection time: Frequent reapplication encouraged; 4 hours water resistant

Reasons to buy

+
Combined with Weather Defence cream it does stellar job of hydrating skin in cold, windy conditions
+
Non-greasy texture makes for easy application
+
Very nice scent
+
50ml tube fits easily in jersey pocket

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive if you choose to combine with Weather Defence cream
-
Requires more frequent application than some other creams 

Premax is made in Australia, which given both the intensity of the sun down under and the average Aussie’s propensity for spending as much time as possible outside, inspired plenty of confidence. And its Sunscreen For Sport SPF 50+ didn't let me down.

The cream comes in a small 50ml tube, which is easy to use and also to stash away in a jersey pocket ready for re-application. With a SPF 50+ rating it’s designed to offer high protection as well as being a broad spectrum sunscreen, meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

The product itself is lightweight with a pleasant smell, similar to both LifeJacket and Piz Buin in its thickness and a little lighter than the Riemann P20. Like all of the best cycling sunscreens it's non-greasy and absorbed quickly into my skin. While Premax doesn't claim a ‘protection’ time, preferring to encourage you to reapply frequently, it does state that its both sweat and water-resistant for up to four hours.

I got on very well indeed with the Premax sunscreen. It prevented sunburn whenever I used it as well as doing a great job of keeping my skin hydrated, probably due to its use of aloe vera and Vitamin E. I also used Premax’s Weather Defence cream, which features shea butter and an array of natural oils, as an additional layer of protection on colder, windy days and the two products together were nothing less than superb. 

My face can often dry out in these conditions but the combination of both creams has prevented this each and every time. The Weather Defence cream also benefits from a lovely smell that comfortably rivals the Piz Buin cream in the best scent stakes. 

Best Cycling Sunscreens: Pelotan SPF 30 spray

(Image credit: Luke Friend)

Pelotan SPF 30 spray

Lightweight formula for long days in the saddle

Specifications

SPF rating: 30
UVA/UVB rating: Broad Spectrum
Protection time: Up to 8 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Long protection time means you're unlikely to have to reapply while riding
+
Very lightweight and quickly absorbed
+
Pleasant smell
+
Impressive sweat management

Reasons to avoid

-
Clear formula means its not obvious if you've applied with full coverage

As the name suggests, Peloton makes sun protection products that are specifically designed for cyclists (including the EF Education WorldTour team). 

It's SPF 30 spray uses an alcohol-based formula and is designed to be both lightweight and breathable as well as resistant to sweat and water. Perhaps its biggest selling point for cyclists, or any outdoor athlete, is that it claims to offer up to eight hours of protection. If you’re planning a long ride or are heading for a training camp in the sun this means that you’re unlikely to need to carry the product in your jersey pocket, leaving more space for snacks.

The spray is straightforward to use and allows you to target the required areas without any apparent waste. On the first spray you can smell the alcohol content but it's quickly masked by a familiar fragrance that wafts in like a summer holiday breeze; it’s either coconut or piña colada depending on your penchant for cocktails.

Being a clear ‘liquid’ formula it’s incredibly lightweight and absorbs almost immediately into your skin - both lighter and faster to absorb than any of the other creams or gels. It’s also mess free. The only downside to this is that it’s less obvious if you’ve achieved full coverage compared to any of the creams reviewed here.

I was mightily impressed with both Pelotan products. Apart from the lingering smell I soon ‘forgot’ that I’d applied the product due to its almost invisible nature. I was able to sweat as I normally would when cycling without it running or building up as an unwanted layer on my skin. And while I didn’t manage to log eight consecutive hours in the saddle it did protect me for the couple of hours I was out riding. In essence, it's a product that seems entirely suited for its intended use and one I’d favour for long, hot rides.

Best Cycling Sunscreens: Pelotan SPF 30 roll-on

(Image credit: Luke Friend)

Pelotan SPF 30 roll-on

Eight hours of protection in an easy-to-use container

Specifications

SPF rating: 30
UVA/UVB rating: Broad Spectrum
Protection time: Up to 8 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Eight hours protection makes need to reapply unlikely
+
Roll-on application is easy to use
+
Lightweight formula that's quickly absorbed
+
Allows skin to breathe without the product running 

Reasons to avoid

-
Clear formula means its not easy to see if you've applied to all areas of your skin

Pelotan SPF 30 roll-on uses the same alcohol-based formula as the spray; you get up to eight hours of protection, greatly reducing the need to reapply while riding. Only here it's delivered via a roll-on container that works exactly like an under-arm deodorant. It's small size means that it could be carried in bar bag or similar, should you need to.

I found myself using the roll-on in conjunction with the Pelotan spray, using the former to apply the screen to my nose and ears with precision, while the latter covered larger areas such as my arms as legs. The coconut aroma appeared stronger when using the roll-on but as with the spray I found it to be a pleasant one.

Again, as with the spray, the clear formula is exceptionally lightweight and absorbs quickly into your skin. Being transparent it's not obvious if you've fully covered the desired area as it is with a cream. That said, the roll-on application gave me a high-level of control with my burn-free face after riding suggesting that I'd applied enough and to the right places! 

Used alongside the spray or as a standalone sunscreen the Pelotan SPF 30 roll-on is product that's well-considered and a worthy addition to the UK brand's skin protection range.