Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cycling In Normal Clothes Summer Addition

This is the time that many people leave their air-conditioned houses in the morning, get into air-conditioned cars to get to their place of work, which is of course air-conditioned. Not that I have anything against air-conditioning. I for one find it absolutely a necessity, in the heat of July and August.
Cycling at this time of year can be a sweaty, sticky affair. Aided some what by specialized clothing and sports drinks. All the major apparel brands use fabrics that offer to enhance the cooling effect of evaporation. UV protection is huge, too. The latest must have for sports cyclists are "Arm Coolers".
Arm-coolers & UV Protection
 Arm coolers are the exact opposite of the cyclist's staple arm-warmers combining sheer wicking fabrics and UV protection, absolutely essential if like me you don't like sunscreen. It is just not possible for the fair-skinned to spend several hours in the summer sun without getting burned.
Summer Weight Jersey
Jerseys for summer cycling are light weight, tight fitting, to promote cooling. I prefer light colours but the magic is apparently in the fabric, so dark colours work too. The ubiquitous black Lycra cycling short or bib short are not actually the best suited to hot weather. Here too, manufactures have come to the rescue weaving in wicking fabrics and breathable panels.
All this innovation works together to make 100 km Sunday tours comfortable, reducing the the risks of heat exhaustion. Allowing the cyclist to worry about the town-line sprint and important Strava segments.

As great as all this high-tech apparel is, its not much use for the 8.1 km* commute to work. Or for that matter the shorter neighbourhood trips to coffee or the shops. Lets face it wandering around in cycling gear will make one look a bit or a prat. How can the lowly bike compete with the air-conditioned convenience of the car. It can be done with a few simple tips the bike can be a comfortable and stylish ride even in the summer heat.

Slow Down: First key bit of advice. A relaxed pace will not generate as much body heat think walking not jogging. A walking level of effort will go a long way to keeping cool. You'll still cover more ground then even a brisk walk but with less effort.

Let the Bike Take the Load: No backpacks! messenger type bags are okay. Best option is a rack and pannier. You can carry what you need without putting heavy un-breathable fabric against your body, trapping heat and sweat. If you cheat even a little on the first bit of advice a pack or bag will let everyone know.

Leave Early: This helps with the first point, you will need more time to get to your destination after all. There is a practical aspect to this too. Mornings tend to be the coolest time of the day, if it's over 24c before eight you can be guaranteed it is going to be a warm day. Obviously this bit of advice is best suited to the commuter, for more social bike trips flip the advice and leave latter. Grab some lights and enjoy an evening on a patio rather then lunch in the heat of the day.

Avoid Stops: I'm not advising running red-lights or stop-signs, honestly I'm not. Stopping on the black-top even with morning sun heats up very quickly. if you can avoid it by route choice or riding more slowly, do it. Racing for a light is probably counter productive. If you slow down considerably after clearing the intersection, maybe.

Chose a Shady Route: The sun is not your friend. Shady routes are cooler in both senses of the word. They tend to be the less direct more scenic quiet routes through a city. Its OK you've got lots of time because you left early. Watch out for stop-signs, these routes usually have an abundance of them. This helps keep competition from cars to a minimum, also cool.

Dress Appropriately: Sure this is easy advice if you work in ultra casual high-tech or retail. What if your office is a little more formal. There are still options: buy a light summer weight wardrobe. Summer weight suits do exist but can be hard to find. Pack your jacket, wear an under shirt. Jackets are the heaviest and therefore warmest parts of a suit an under shirt can help protect your dress shirt if you ignore the first bit of advice. Worst case take a spare shirt to change into when you get to the office.

A Bare Head is a Cool Head: Oh, sure modern helmets are well ventilated, and an important bit of safety equipment.** If, you follow the first bit of advice and go slow the venting won't work. As every winter loving Canadian knows: you loose most heat from your head.*** In summer your head is your natural radiator any hat, helmet or other covering will inhibit this natural function and lead inevitably to over heating.

The Hottest Part of the Ride is the End: Get yourself an iced coffee, lemonade or cool drink of your choice. Go to the washroom and wash your face, change your shirt if necessary. Find that cool spot under the air-conditioning vent and allow yourself to cool down.

That is it cycling in regular clothes is possible. Getting out of the air-conditioning for a while and enjoy the summer. It is far to short autumn will be here soon enough.

* Average Ottawa commute
** A surprisingly controversial bit of safety equipment. That may not actually be that effective at the one job it has.
*** This is apparently, a wives tale. One that I am happy to perpetuate.

No comments:

Post a Comment