Friday, October 06, 2006

quick cool-off tips

The most common concern we hear about cycling to work is the fear of sweat. Even if you ride at a comfortable pace and wear appropriate clothing, chances are that on some days you’ll glisten a little at the end of your commute. Bike rides are deceptive because you can feel cool from the breeze while riding, but then break out in a sweat as the ride and the breeze end.

I live in Bangkok right now and ride to work most day in 90+ temps and 90+ humidity. Despite my slow pace I’m always sweaty when I arrive at work. Here are a few things that help me cool down before I change into work cloths and sit down at my desk. While I’ve broken them down here, they really are one 5-10 minute experience that make my whole day better.

I used to get off my bike and head straight for the restroom to change, thinking it was a race to get to my air-conditioned desk before I started to sweat. Bad idea. By the time I got to my desk the sweat was really kicking in and my work clothes were looking splotchy with sweat. I’ve since found that if I hang out in my bike clothes for about 5-10 minutes, the sweat will come and then pass, leaving me feeling much cooler and comfortable. Besides, standing in moving air cools you quicker than office A/C.

A few deep breaths (in through the nose and out through the mouth) cool me off. I assume that the passing air cools my head a little and the deep breaths slow my heart rate, but I’m not going to pretend that I understand the science behind it. The bottom line is that it works. Five to ten times is enough for me on a hot day (in Thailand that would be 100+). I don’t need to go into a trance state or anything.

While I’m standing outside the office, I drink a cool beverage. I don’t find that I need anything ice-cold or a name brand sport drink for this to work. A little room temp water works just as well to cool me down.

The first thing I do when I get off my bike is take off my helmet and backpack to increase the surface area available for heat release. The helmet vents work when riding, but once there is no airflow that thing feels like a wool cap. You might shed gloves or shoes as well.

That routine only takes a few minutes and makes my whole morning a lot more comfortable. It will work even faster in Michigan temps. I found that even in the Ann Arbor winters I often need a moment to cool off from the ride. I’ve also considered carrying a cold hand towel to put over my shoulders. Lots of athletes swear by that technique. During her teeter talk, Nancy Shore also suggested walking your bike the last little bit of your trip. You could combine any of the above with that suggestion.

Now back to the reality of the coming snow…

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