|Newsletter - 2003 Archive|
So here I am, lying on the beach at Larrabee State park, deliciously melting in the sun. It is hard to believe that yesterday I was cycling into driving, freezing rain on the way to Darrington, where we even saw an unmelted snowman by the side of the road. Then I couldn't have written about 'hot weather' cycling. But know I can.
I have lived in hot places, but never really cycled in them, so I was a little concerned about it when I decided to ride out rte. 3 through the Southern Okanogan in July, 2002. A randonneur had heat stroke on a route that started the same way, so it is no laughing matter. Most cyclists have had the experience of 'bonking' after running out of glucose, but running out of water or salt is far more serious.
"Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink". One of my most brilliant decisions was to get a Katadyne filtration bottle. It looks like a regular bike bottle, but has a 3-stage filtration system, and it costs over $60. Money very well spent, if there is a chance you will run out of water. There are creeks, rivers and lakes everywhere in BC - and I bet every one can give you Giardia! I got it myself in the Seymour watershed, and I can tell you that diarrhea is not the best thing when you are dehydrated. I used this bottle several times on the OK trip, but it really paid for itself over Paulson Pass where it got me over a 40 km climb when it was 42 degrees (and no services for 70km).
Water is not enough when you run out of salt. All your nerves stop working - not just your muscles and brain as in when you bonk. Normally this isn't a problem as most of the food you buy has too much of it. And your body doesn't store much of it. It comes out in your urine and sweat. I had a very graphic demonstration of the latter when I was cycling from Chartres to Versailles. I was wearing a navy nylon shirt on which appeared numerous deposits of pure salt as the day progressed. Too bad, because it was a pretty cool shirt!
Now you can get extra salt in lots of food-pretzels, peanuts, chips, pickles, olives, if you want to eat that sort of thing. But I wanted the quick-fix solution popular when I lived down South- salt tablets. But they seemed to be impossible to find in Vancouver, anyway. I did finally find some in Anacortes-(and coincidentally in Darrington). However I only took a few on that trip on those few occasions when I was many hours from the next store, and out of peanuts. Cheap insurance (although not as cheap as salt should be!) Editors Note: I get mine at Choices.
Other than salty stuff, I ate tons of fruit. It is a good source of water as well as sugar, and is easy to eat and digest no matter how hot it is. The fiber in fruit slows down digestion so you don't trigger the insulin response like you do with pure fruit juice. Pure fruit juice has too much sugar, so always cut it with water (I like carbonated). I don't drink 'sports drinks' any more - you can get the same amount of stuff cheaper in regular drinks. For example Clamato is loaded with glucose as well as salt and water.
I won't talk about things like sun screen and lip balm - you know about them. But don't forget to cover everything exposed. I got a bad sunburn doing Paris-Brest-Paris just on my heels above my sock, where I guess I never thought to cover. And the back of your hands where the gloves don't cover is another neglected spot.
The first thing I discovered in the way of clothes is the wonderful UBC Trek Burnoose. I have no idea what an authentic burnoose is, but this one consists of a triangular piece of heavy navy cloth which attaches to the back of a helmet by Velcro at two corners, leaving the third corner to hang down. Its purpose is to just keep the sun from beating down on your neck. That this has that effect is not surprising, but what is, is that it makes such a difference. You do immediately feel cooler. But being navy, it does tend to show salt spots from the fling sweat (so don't wait until the end of the tour to wash it like I do). But I think the dark color is functional- having to do with OV or I R opacity. Ask UBC or some Bedouins.
I have always been a believer in sweat bands. You see, I have these bushy eyebrows, which collect about an ounce of water each, before releasing it ail in a deluge onto my sunglasses, rendering me temporarily blind. Sweatbands prevent that by not only collecting the sweat, but also by presenting a surface to the wind to hasten evaporation. I carried two, and dried one on the handlebars alternately. Unfortunately that practice soon resulted in both bands being blown away! I was so desperate for a replacement that I fashioned one from one of those quick-dry towels and some safety pins. It worked but was so thick that it pushed my helmet up and my glasses down, causing me to grimace. And since it looked like a bandage, I must have looked like a brain-trauma case running away from some terrible accident. The right kind, as far as I am concerned are the thin ones, but I have not seen them in BC. You can find them in Bellingham, though. If your glasses DO get sweat-covered, it is a good idea to carry a little absorbent microfiber cloth to clean them off. Sunglass Hut has them.
On the way back from Larrabee, I picked up something new - a combination skull-cap headband. I wore it home but it wasn't hot enough to tell if it works as well as a sweatband. But a skull cap is a good idea if you have a bald spot like me, and if one product replaces two - that's great. It just depends on if you want to look like a professional wrestler, or a tennis pro! Only problem is that it costs more than two products - $18 USd (sweatbands are about $8 USd, and you can get a skull cap at Taiga for $6 Cdn.) It is Coolmax, which explains the price, so it should work. I CAN wait to find out!
As far as clothes, I usually just use cheap nylon shorts with Andiamo padded underwear under them. Keeps you dry and cool. Jerseys are a little more complicated. When it is just moderately hot, long sleeves are a good idea to minimize sunburn. It is a good idea to have a zipper that comes down as far as possible (from a guy's point of view, anyway). The lightest ones from the MEC are pretty good, short sleeve or long sleeve versions. But when it is REALLY hot, the MEC has a better solution - the Rapid- T shirts. These are pretty well the same poly material as the cycling shirts, but they transport much better. When the breeze came up on my back climbing up into Manning Park last July, my back actually felt cool because of the rapid evaporation. These shirts are truly amazing. Unfortunately I had mine fall of the bike along with a pair of Andiamos, on the ride down the hill to Kootenay Bay, and I didn't realize it until Creston. I found a very similar shirt in a bike store in Fernie, but it didn't work as well. But past there into the Rockies it wasn't that hot anymore, anyway.
Another thing I found useful, was a cooling neck thing I found at 3 Vets. It is a little hard to describe. It is packaged like a triangular scarf folded flat, about an inch wide and 15" long. But it is actually sewn in to a tube, and it contains some magic powder. The magic of the powder is that when you immerse it in water, it absorbs the water and creates a kind of gel, which takes at least a full day in the sun to dry out again. Until it does, it really helps keep your neck and the rest of you cool. Every time I passed a roadside creek I stopped and left it in the water for 5 minutes to fill up again. You just drape it around your neck and it comes with a brass ring to pass the two ends through to keep it on. Quite a fashion statement too. Too bad I don't have a picture of all my hot-weather regalia - Trek Burnoose, sweat band, skull cap, sun glasses, zinc oxide on the nose, neck thing. On second thought, that is just as well!