Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Too hot to hurry

It was a toasty 102 at the middle of the day today in Cambridge, and it was already a muggy  87 when I rode in this morning.  It got so hot that the Scientist came and picked up the dog from the un-airconditioned house and brought him to his office to make sure he didn't get heatstroke.

Tricks I've found to help ride into work without melting.
Wear a skirt- less fabric and more airflow.  Guys, unless you're into kilts, I guess shorts is the best you can do, but all that extra fabric is definitely hotter. Don't get me started about skintight lycra vs flapping linen.  If you can, layer-  Wear a tank top or camisole on top, just enough to feel decent,  and cover up with a more office appropriate shirt once you arrive.

Drink a giant glass of icewater (or in this case lemonade) as soon as you arrive.  This cools your core temp down and stops your sweating much faster than anything you can do on your outside.  For the short (5 mile) rides I do, I don't need to carry hydration with me any more than I would if I were walking to the T.  If your ride is longer than 30-45 minutes,  or if you were racing in the heat it would make sense to carry water with you.  But drinking plenty of water before and after the ride seems to work fine for me.

Get a handkerchief or towel to mop your brow.  Nothing makes you feel more presentable faster than being able to have a sweat free face.  I keep a linen hankie in my basket so that I can wipe my face when I'm stopped at lights.

I have a giant bottle of alcohol gel (Purell) in the bathroom at work, and wipe down with it anywhere I feel especially sweaty to kill any bacteria that might cause B.O.  I've never had a problem when I felt like I was smelly at the office.  You might say that I would be the last to know, but if you've ever been smelly (like after a a marathon, or a multi-day camping trip), trust me, you know.  If nothing else the Scientist wouldn't let me wander around stinky,  and he's never complained.

And finally, but most importantly, sloooooowww it down- this is a perfect time to practice extreme slow bicycling.  I picked a low gear (4th of 8) and didn't go above it the whole ride in.  If I was spinning and tempted to shift up, I coasted.  It added about 10 minutes to my 30 min commute, but when I arrived I was no more sweaty than an average day when the temperature is 20 degrees cooler.

On arriving home this evening

honestly I would have been hotter and sweatier (and definitely grumpier) if I'd walked 10 minutes on each end of the T ride home.  At least on the bike you have a breeze.
 I did bike on the Charles River path so that I could go helmetless, and in a concession to the extreme heat, I did wear my "which way to the peleton"  racer style helmet on the part of my ride that's on the street. 

What are your strategies for dealing with the heat?


  1. I take my proper soap shower at home right before going to get the bacteria off. Then I just take a cool rinse at work now that I have a shower available. Without a shower, Purell or wipes will do fine, along with a good toweling off. The trick is to not let that sweat sit on your skin acting like a petri dish for too long. If I take my shower the night before, it doesn't work.

    BTW, our high here today in Texas was 94F. I rode fast to avoid the storms.

  2. I did much the same as you did - rode real slow - took more time but arrived in the office no more sweaty than usual. Ride home was harder - but still managed to not die of the heat.

  3. Fortunately Denver heat is a dry heat and mornings are generally cool. I do keep some baby wipes and deoderant in my office and sometimes take a change of top if I anticipate working up much or anything related to a sweat.

  4. I love the suggestion to Purell -- I never thought of that!

  5. i left work in cambridge early yesterday so that i could ride home slooooooooowly... it was still 97F when i left the office and i was soaked with sweat when i arrived home (i was wearing jeans and a short-sleeve over a t-shirt).

    one thing i did to try to stay cool on the bike was to make sure i didn't wear a messenger bag or backpack. i emptied my pockets and kept everything in my saddlebag.

    another thing i did was change my route so that i could ride as many shaded streets as possible. for example, i completely avoided mass ave, since it's never shady at that time of day. instead, i meandered through leafy side streets. shade makes a huge difference in this kind of heat.

    this morning, i went for a 15 mile pre-work ride into winchester on my road bike. it was already 84 degrees when i started, and 87 when i arrived at work an hour later. despite the heat, i averaged 14mph! no lycra for me, i just wore cargo shorts and a T-shirt, and i'm still wearing them now at work :-).

    for hydration, i'm going to get flamed for saying this, but i started out with two hot cups of coffee, and ended with a third :-). yes, i am dehydrated. time for some water.

    good tip on the purell/wipes-- my normal deodorant just ain't cuttin' it this morning :-o. maybe i'll steal some baby wipes from my daughter's room and keep them in a ziplock bag.

  6. Normally, as you recommend, I have a glass of something cold both before I start and after I finish. Shortly after passing you last night, I stopped at the Whole Foods to shop for dinner and just got a bunch of things that didn't require cooking. Cucumber and mangos for cold soup. Tomatoes and goat cheese for making into sandwiches. In weather like this, I find that slow constant movement is preferable to stop and go, so will tend to get into slow rolling approaches when I see a red light ahead.

    also, more than ever, this is not weather for a backpack or messenger bag. It's all panniers and carradice saddle bags from now until September.

    I had to attend a funeral a few weekends ago for a fellow randonneur who had a heart attack on a 1200k recently, and we did a 6 mile memorial ride to the funeral home from Framingham's downtown green. Sweating was unavoidable in that heat, but a pack of baby wipes was good to have for making ourselves presentable before the service started.

  7. You look nice and perfectly cool in that outfit in the "after work" photo!

    Oh, and I saw your bike on the Charles on my way home from the airport! Not you - just the bike standing in the fading sunlight and looking unmistakably yours with its basket and chaincase : ))

  8. Welcome back Velouria,

    You saw my bike this evening?
    I was riding along the Storrow side for once, and stopped to take pictures of the overpass- You must have seen Gilbert patiently waiting for me!