This puts a damper on our preferred methods of transportation: the scooter and bike, because by the time we get off work to run errands or go out, it just happens to be the hottest time of the day.
I'm wandering into whining territory though. The point of this post is to share a lesson we've learned from living in the oven that is an Arizona summer: when it's hot (over 100), go slow.
I noticed the other day when I was riding to my barbershop on our scooter, I actually felt cooler when stopping at a traffic light, which was odd. I should be feeling hotter when I'm stopped, because there's no wind, right? But something weird and terrible happens when the outside temperature gets higher than your body's temperature. The wonderful wind that typically cools you down, and makes the summer heat more bearable, changes. It is a bad change. The breeze generated by flying 50+ mph on a scooter turns the already oppressive heat into a kind of evil convection oven, heating your body temperature up even faster than normal. When it's really hot, your usual welcome friend, the wind, becomes your enemy. It actually gets kind of dangerous, too, since you're already wearing a helmet (well, at least I am, since I value the contents of my skull), which is like a plastic blanket on your noggin, and any drastic increase to your brain's temperature is a bad idea.
So, what are we to do? Just drive everywhere during the summer months? Sadly, I've noticed that we do drive a lot more simply because it's so nice to blast the AC and ride around in an icebox on wheels. But comments in Mr. Money Mustache's recent bicycle post motivated me to ride the bicycle more often, since it's the best & healthiest way to travel. And I noticed something cool: when you're biking, you're going slow enough to not generate the convection oven effect. While it takes a little longer to get somewhere, the ride is more bearable. You don't heat up to dangerous, disorienting levels. (My wife and I both contend though that after a certain distance, say, six or eight miles, all the extra time spent on the bike makes the scooter seem more attractive, if only because you're not subjecting yourself to the sun's rays so long and inviting skin cancer.)
Here are some other desert biking tips we've found help us:
- Timing is everything. Leave very early in the morning or after sunset if possible, as the heat isn't nearly as bad.
- Carry nalgene bottles with ice water in your backpack. Not only do you have lots of water to drink, but you also have something cool resting on your back.
- Go at a leisurely pace. Biking fast not only creates some of that undesirable wind, but also naturally raises your internal temperature from exertion.
- Soak your t-shirt in water before going out on your bike ride. (I got this tip from Jimbo in the MMM comments -- thanks!) The wet shirt helps tremendously and typically you are bone dry by the time you arrive at your destination. (And if you're brave and shameless, like me, you can use a public restroom at your destination to soak it again before you head home. Caution: you will occasionally be caught and mistaken for a shirtless vagrant doing his laundry in the sink, if you do this enough.)
- Use sunscreen -- a lot of sunscreen. Whether on a motorcycle, scooter, bike, or on foot, apply sunscreen to your face and other exposed areas before going outside. If possible, cover up with a light long sleeve shirt and a hat, too. Sunshine is awesome and so is using smart forms of transportation. But be smart about it and protect yourself.
Thanks for reading and enjoy the summer!
Photo by YLev at Flickr Creative Commons.