Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Riding in the heat.

As a rule, people don't like riding when it's hot. As a rule, people just don't like it when it's hot, period.
But what is hot? The other day I was queueing in the hardware store and the person in front of me was rather animated in fanning them self with a piece of cardboard in which there intended purchase was sealed. It was obvious to me that they thought it was a sweltering day. I remember this incident because to me it felt just dandy. Not cold and not particularly hot.

Hot and cold are relative. One mans hot is another mans normal. It's to do with conditioning. Gautenger's are unified in declaring Durban unbearably hot in Dec/Jan. People who reside in Durban generally agree that it is hot that time of year but certainly not unbearable. They are adapted to the heat and humidity.

I have become cold tolerant over the last 8 years primarily because my focus has been on riding winter events. The Munga is going to be particularly challenging for me. The Durban Dash at the end of September brought my heat intolerance into sharp focus. When the Mercury crept up to 37 Celsius I felt rather bleak. But I wasn't beaten by it. I had factored the heat into my planning. Firstly, I did away with a backpack. Backpacks are wonderful for winter events. They keep your back warm, reduce the amount of heat lost and make a great backrest when you need a roadside power nap. In summer I figure they are a liability. Extreme heat is hard to cater for. Dealing with the cold is as simple as adding another layer. Okay, not quiet that simple, but thoughtful layering and smart purchases make cold bearable. Extreme heat is challenging. Once you are down to the basics you can't strip off any more in order to cool off. But you can maximise the surface area that can dissipate heat. First to go is the back pack. It covers a big chunk of sweatable area. Besides, do you really want a river of sweat making its way to your chamois?

Sweat is fine. Not only is it fine, it's desirable. Sweating is the body's way of regulating heat. If it's hot and you can't sweat, you overheat, fall off your bike and die. So you need to embrace sweating. Sweat on your riding top evaporates and cools. Sweat in your chamois is just flipping annoying and has no cooling effect.

Another overlooked aspect is sunblock. This subject is as controversial as it gets - does it or doesn't it impede your body's ability to thermoregulate? It's good advise to use sunblock when you get into the sun. However, make a smart choice. If you use a sunblock that makes the sweat drip off you like a leaking tap look around for another type or brand. Sweat works to cool you down when it evaporates off your skin or close contact clothing. When it is dripping off the end of your nose or chin it has lost its effectiveness. Some sunblocks are more greasy than others and it appears that they may prevent the sweat from keeping contact with and evaporating off the skin, instead it gathers as drops and runs off. You want to sweat but don't want to leak out.
Besides, it's not just water you are losing. Apart from water, sweat contains sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and a host of trace elements. These need to be replaced. If you rush out and do a one day race of a few hours and sweat like a pig you might cramp a bit and feel a bit bleak but that's about the end of it. Try that for 20 hours a day for a few days on the trot and feeling bleak is going to be the least of your problems. I add fizzy tabs containing minerals and trace elements to every bottle. They are easy to carry and simple to use. I also carry sachets of rehidrat that I use at support stations to ensure I get more into my system. If you develop any dysfunction with your bodies ability to thermoregulate through sweating you are in trouble. Hydrate properly, sweat properly and replace lots minerals and elements.

Cooling the body down as opportunities arise is not a bad idea. A dip in a reservoir can do wonders in controlling your temperature as can wetting your buff or clothing. I make a point of pouring water over myself as and when I can.

Making sure you drink enough is also a challenge. Drinking too much is as bad, if not worse, than drinking too little. How much is enough? We can examine that in the next post...

Sent from my iPhone

1 comment:

Stewrat Lombard said...

Hi Mike

May I recommend a head piece made by Coolbit ( It is basically a head and (optional) neck cover that, when wet drops your skull temperature quite a bit.

I think the guys at Haka Hana trails sell them.

I used it on the Race to Cradock and found it to be really cool in keeping my head and neck cool in the Karoo heat.I have the Coolbit Racing hat.

Good luck with the Munga!

Stewart Lombard