Saturday, August 07, 2010

Beating the weather and staying on the bike: commuting tips

Yes, it's early August here in Gotham and we've all been sweating it out more than usual. Temperatures climb daily into the 90s, while a single measly window A/C unit fails to rise to the challenge of cooling my railroad apartment. An undulating layer of superheated air hovers just above the floor and sweat drips from my brow into my bowl of Grape Nuts.

All this reminds me that it's time to address one of the most common excuses people give for NOT riding their bikes: the weather. Be it too hot, too cold or too wet. Let's look at each excuse individually. I'll proceed to blow each excuse out of the water in this and coming posts. Starting with:

Too Hot
Given the insane cost of living in Gotham, it's likely that the vast majority of residents under the age of 25ish can't afford to live in 'fancy' air-conditioned apartments, and must rely on a legion of floor fans to circulate oven-hot air throughout the home.

What the heck, you can get the same current of hot air while riding your bike! Should you happen to ride on the West Side bike path, you'll also get a view of the Hudson, scantily clad members of the opposite sex and, if you're really lucky, a cool breeze wafting down from Canada now and then. So get out and ride!

But, what about bike commuters, the very focus of this blog? People with jobs can't arrive all sweaty and stinky to their cubicles. And  there's always the alternative of subway cars, taxis and private helicopters, where A/Cs work great.

Here are a few ideas to help make biking to work on a hot day more plausible:
1. Ride to the gym near your office, take a shower, go to work. New York Sports Clubs and YMCAs blanket the city. New York Recreation Centers have basically the same amenities as fancy health clubs, but without the glitz, while a year membership costs just $75. You read that right, and one membership gets you into all of the Rec Centers, many of which have pools to help cool off.

Hitting the gym before work sounds like a hassle? Well, you were going to go to the gym anyway, right? How about getting up a little earlier and riding to get warmed up for a good weight workout, and skipping a boring half-hour on the treadmill. Overall weekly time at the gym remains unchanged, even reduced.

2. If you can't swing the cost of a gym membership or the closest location is really inconvenient, take a change of clothes to work in a rack-mounted clothing bag, along with baby wipes to clean up. Yes, baby wipes are pre-moistened, clean, compact and leave you smelling pretty darn fresh (but cyclists who don't want to smell heavily of nursery and baby oil will avoid Pampers standard wipes: they reek. Pampers sensitive skin are a better bet, while Costco's Kirkland brand comes in easy to use, resealable pouches and are cheap - get a relative in Stamford to pick them up.)
 Um, yes. This is a cycling blog.

Wipes are designed to handle the mess on a baby's bottom and, as yet, riding through NY traffic hasn't gotten anyone that dirty.

3. Advocate for showers in your office building. Sure, this is a process and success isn't guaranteed, but someone has to do it.

Shower stall. 
Image courtesy of jonbrak

Finally, remember that it's insanely hot a relatively small portion of the year, even in NYC. So, if none of the above work, slack is cut from mid-June to early September, at most.

I'll tackle rainy days, and super cold (which is easy to deal with. Really) in my next posts.


Dale said...

I ride in the heat so I can comment from real experience. I carry a fresh ironed shirt folded in a packing cube (like this: pc-set/13032). I also carry an old-fashioned wash cloth. When I arrive at work drenched in sweat I go to the rest room, get the wash cloth thoroughly wet, remove my t-shirt, wash with the washcloth, then put the fresh shirt on. The washcloth travels home in a plastic bag where it goes in the wash.

Forget the baby wipes. Go to Century 21 (or some other cheap source for bath linens) and get 2 or 3 washcloths. You should be able to find them for under two bucks each.

CatZoo said...

that's a good idea for the washcloths, eco-friendly too, thanks. Do the packing cubes help keep clothes from wrinkling?

Andrew Brown said...

Dale, that is brilliant. Thank you for such a great idea.