Dr. Fixit; September 1983

Dear Dr. Fixit

What is the best way to keep cool or at least to keep your strength up on a long ride in hot weather? WOW was it hot!


Dear D.N.

The traditional way to get ready to rde long distances in the heat is to ride long distances in the heat. The adaptation process takes a couple of weeks. We have been fortunate to have a nice long heat wave so that the necessary duration of hot weather has been available. Some riders have failed to take advantage of the hot weather, however.

Alternative methods may be needed, when you expect hot weather but haven't actually had any. Putting a space heater and a sun lamp next to your bike while you ride rollers is a popular method, for instance. Be sure to keep riding long enough to get the full benefit out of this. Two to three hours at a stretch seems to be the minimum.

If a sudden hot day coincides unexpectedly with a long ride, you may have to use techniques that reduce the effects of the heat on the day of the ride. Ride a couple of miles an hour faster than usual so that the breeze will cool you off. Fill the pockets of your jersey with ice (preferably dry ice).

On a really hot day or if someone invites you to go on a tour of Death Valley unexpectedly, you may want to remove the styrofoam liner from your helmet and replace it with one made of ice. To mold the new (ice) liner to the proper shape, tape the holes, fill the helmet with water. Put the helmet upside down in the freezer. Then stand on your head in the freezer while the ice hardens. I like to keep several of these liners in the freezer at all times in case of emergencies.

A popular way to cool off is to spray water all over yourself. If you mount a water tank (filled with half ice and half cold water) above the rear rack and route hose to each of the vent holes in our helmet, you can get a nice cooling effect while ou are riding. A water tank containing 69 gallons will keep you cool for about 25 miles and weighs under 500 lbs. even when full.

For weather that is less extreme, you will want to use more ordinary measures. GE makes a battery powered 55,000 BTU air condiditioner that can be bolted onto your rear rack. With the fan pointed forward, this gives a nice tail wind. You can run the unit off a generator if you use a 6V to 12V transformer in the system. An interesting variation on this technique is to mount the air conditioner above you on the bike. Point the fan downwards. The condensation that forms on the air conditioner will drip onto your helmet and help cool you off this way.

Of course, if you have a mountain bike the heat will be less extreme at higher elevations. This is why you saw mountain bikes on WOW in spite of the flat route.