By John Ray
Northwest Arkansas has an ever-expanding bike trail system, and you have a bike. You also have the desire to commute; maybe for fitness, maybe for saving money as well as the planet, maybe for peace of mind, maybe for all of the above.
So what’s standing in your way?
Well, this time of year it’s probably sweat. Dang it, it’s hawt out there! And showing up to your workplace looking like you’ve just been pulled out of the lake doesn’t make for a comfortable day for you or those around you.
But never fear: Here is your essential NWA summer bicycle commuting guide.
1. Ride when the riding is good. This may sound simple, but most of us are not used to planning our schedule around the weather. When commuting, though, this makes sense. Leave earlier so you can ride in the cool of the morning and knock out a little extra work as you cool down. Heading home a bit later might put you in the early-evening shadows and help you avoid the worst part of the day, as well. That is to say, if you have some flexibility at work make good use of it!
2. Make a “shower in a bag” kit. Toss a package of wet wipes, a few basic toiletries and a small towel into a gallon Ziplock. You can even just leave the kit at your office so you don’t have to haul it on every commute. You’ll be amazed at how good even a minimal freshening-up can feel. And your co-workers will thank you for it…
3. Pack a change of clothes. Assuming that the kit you ride in will be wringing wet, a full change of clothes is essential. But choose carefully: Even after cooling down, your core temp is going to be elevated. Breathable, wicking clothes will serve you well, especially for the first part of the day. A number of big labels including The North Face, Patagonia, Nike and Under Armor feature a vast array of quick drying clothing suitable for most work places. There are also several smaller companies such as Betabrand, Outlier and Always Riding that make great clothes for double duty. Now what about that wet kit from the ride in?
Leave a small fan at your office and hang your kit up with the fan blowing directly on it. It will be dry in no time and be ready for your commute home. Again you’ll need your co-workers to be a little understanding when you temporarily turn your office into a gym locker.
4. Protect your hide. If you do happen to ride in full sun, consider sunblock for areas you can’t cover up, and clothes with SPF rating for areas you can. Lots of companies like Louis Garneau and Boure make such items. Among my favorites are “sun sleeves” like these made by Pearl Izumi. Like it or not, they actually help cool you while offering sun protection.
5. It should go without saying, but remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Pay attention to how you’re feeling as you ride, and don’t over do it. Pick up a couple good insulated water bottles like the Podium Ice from CamelBak. They work great. Fill them with ice and leave them in the fridge until your ready to ride.
With all this in mind, you should be ready to take on sweat — the nasty nemesis — and keep commuting even on the hottest summer days. We would love to know how other hacks in the cycling community deal with summer humidity and commuting to work, so feel free to share your tips in the comments below.