It's too hot, too damn hot.
"Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling." ~James E. Starrs
OK. So folks have lots of reasons not to ride their bikes, a big one that comes up a lot this time of year - "It's too hot." This is followed, of course, by "I'll be all sweaty and gross." True, if you are outside during summer in Missouri, you will sweat. Especially if you are engaging in physical exertion. Being sweaty can be unattractive and kind of icky, so what are you gonna do? Good question.
A few years ago, when Max and Annarose were much littler. I enrolled Max in Parent's As Teachers summer preschool program, which was held at Mill Creek School. It is a 5 mile bike ride, mostly on the trail, from my house to Mill Creek School. Wow! What a good work out! I thought, I can get 10 miles in on the bike just riding Max to school in the mornings. So each morning, I would load Max and Annarose into the bike cart and head out for the 35 minute ride to Mill Creek School. Though it was early in the morning, it was still hot and humid....it was Summer in Missouri for Pete's sake.
While you ride, you are create your own breeze which evaporates your sweat, but once you stop it's like someone dumped a bucket of warm salty water over your head...sweat city, uck. When we arrived at school each morning, the sweat would come in sheets. The school's air conditioning was a welcome blast of cool that felt great, but couldn't dry the copious amounts of sweat fast enough. Before taking Max to class, I would duck into the bathroom and wipe the sweat off my face with a paper towel. As the summer progressed, the other moms realized I took my kids to school by bike. It was pretty obvious, what with the sweat, the red face, the heavy breathing, the bicycle and all. Often moms would ask me about riding to school with a sense of awe, disbelief, and confusion. How far do you ride? How long does it take? Do the kids like it? Why? Can't you afford a car? a gym membership?
One day, this really cool mom...you know the type, I call them uber-moms. They are beautiful women. They have amazing gym bodies with year round tans, full makeup, and well coiffed hair. They are always perfectly groomed with stylish, clean, clothes put together in well coordinated outfits. They drive cars that are always clean inside and out...no "fart" written in the dust film, no french fries ground into the upholstery, no crayons melting on the carpet, no greasy nose imprints on the back windows. They always seem calm, cool, and collected. They usually hang together, you don't find many sweaty women with spit-up stained clothes among their ranks. You never see them sweat. But I digress.
So this really cool uber-mom, came up to me one day as I was on my way to the bathroom to wipe my face and asked if I rode my bike that morning. "Yeah. I do most mornings." I smiled in reply. I was surprised that she was talking to me, because she usually just gave me a wan half-smile when we saw each other. Maybe she finally realized how cool I was and wanted to invite me to join the uber-moms' club. Then she asked "Are you feeling OK?" I thought the question odd, but I replied with a smile "Yeah. I'm a little hot, but I'm good." She smiled weakly and walked away. I continued to the bathroom for a paper towel. When I looked in the mirror, I laughed. It was an involutary kind of mortified-ironic-embarassed laugh. My face was coated with this whitish oily looking film. Apparently, my new sunscreen wasn't sweat-proof. On the ride to school, it had sweated out of my pores where it formed a white-lotiony-sweaty film. Apparently my invitation to the uber-moms' club wasn't coming today after all.
This raises many embarassing, albeit valid, questions about personal hygiene and cycling as a means of transportation. This is a common concern for why folks don't ride their bikes more places. The concern, put bluntly, "Won't I be sweaty and gross, eg. smelly, when I get there?" The answer. Yes. If it's hot out, you will get sweaty. The gross issue depends on your (and society's) views of sweat. No. If you bathe daily, you will not be smelly, unless you have some rare glandular disorder. There are many simple things you can do to clean your sweaty self up upon arrival at your destination.
Sweat: What are you gonna do? There are two prevalent schools of thought on this...wipe it off, let it dry. Let it dry is pretty straight forward. Don't do anything, just let it dry. I am generally in the wipe it off camp...it's just faster. It's quite simple, you stop pedaling, start sweating, find a towel, paper or otherwise, and wipe yourself off. No biggy. When I am planning well, I carry a small towel with me so I have something to wipe with. This works surprisingly well in a multitude of situations. There are many forms this quick clean up can take. You can simply wipe your face off with a dry towel. You can duck into a bathroom and rinse your face with cool water, then wipe off. For a more extensive sweat wipe, you can duck into a bathroom and take a mini-bath. Depending on the privacy the facilities you can do quite an extensive clean. If you are fortunate enough to be somewhere with showers available to you (eg. gym, hospital), you can take a shower...no brainer. If you are somewhere with a private single bathroom, you can take a quick spit bath of the most sweaty regions in the sink. Please wipe the sink down when you are done, as a curtesy to the next patron. If you are in a bathroom with stalls, you can go in a stall and wipe off.
I used to ride 13 miles to work at the Museum Center in a previous life. I had the luxury of my own office, where I kept clean clothes. Unfortunately, the bathroom was equipped with stalls, so I didn't have much privacy. I kept a small bottle of rubbing alcohol, a washcloth, and a stick of deodorant in my office. I would put a little alcohol on the washcloth and wipe my pits with it, before applying fresh deodorant...a super quick odor-cutting minibath. You can easily tuck a small bottle of rubbing alcohol, a washcloth, and stick of deodorant in a ziplock and keep it in the bottom of your backpack when you ride. You can also buy packs of bath wipes at a local drug store. They are used by caregivers for bedbaths and are like baby wipes only much thicker. You just wipe yourself clean and you're done, no need to rinse or dry. They have a nice clean smell and can be microwaved to warm them up a bit. With a little planning and a bathroom stall, you can easily get cleaned up and sweat free at the end of your ride.
One last thing about sweat and smell. Sweaty doesn't necessarily equal smelly. There is a saying "The sweat of honest labor has no odor." It 's generally nervous guilty sweat that's smelly, as is the sweat associated with not bathing regularly. I shower each morning, then ride. I get sweaty, but I don't get smelly, because I am clean. I know it seems odd to take a shower before you sweat, but it keeps the smells away. If you bathe daily, you may be sweaty but you won't be smelly at the end of your ride.