Friday, December 16

Bicycle Commuting Tips: The Truth and Myth of Blood, Sweat, and Tears

On my blog, I try to avoid simply regurgitating material I see on other blogs. However, other blogs do provide inspiration. One such provided the title for today's post. Well, almost, because I couldn't resist adding two words to John Romeo's excellent essay entitled "Bicycle Commuting Tips: The Myth of Blood, Sweat, and Tears." If you haven't already, go read it. THIS post is, however an entirely different theme. JRA's premise is that bike commuting really isn't something to get worked up over. He thinks cycling is, and I fully agree, fun and safe.

However, besides the myth of blood, sweat, and tears, there is truth in each of the items. What's more, a lot of the truth is different than a prospective bicycle commuter might imagine.

Even a Minor Impact Can Make a Lot of Blood if You Happen to be Taking Blood Thinners!
This Incident Didn't Even Do Much to the Helmet Other than Get Blood All Over the Strap

You're More Likely to be Hurt HERE Than By a Car
I have experienced two episodes of this during my bike commutes. Contrary to commonly expressed fears, neither involved any sort of motor vehicle by any stretch of the imagination. In the first case, a deep vein thrombosis caused a pulmonary embolism. In the second, while I was away for a week on vacation, a construction crew dug a trench that I rode into on my first day back. During the same period, two of my friends DIED of chronic breathing conditions that would likely never have become serious had they done things like cycle regularly - and I know many more that are dealing with other, mostly avoidable chronic conditions. In my own case, cycling has helped me sustain a 100 lb weight loss and quit smoking. The blunt truth is that, while I have fallen a number of times during my commutes, these falls mostly occur on the small minority of miles associated with bike paths. ALL the objective evidence is that cycling is pretty safe and gets an order of magnitude safer with a minimal amount of instruction about how to operate the bike safely. Of course, Bike Ed will not protect you against DVT. Sorry. Of course, I am not the best authority on blood since I seem to draw it even on the rare occasions I need to use a stapler to complete an expense report. Is that really an industrial accident?

Sweat DRIPS From My Headrag as I Stop for Coffee

Sweating is a major way your body helps regulate its temperature. If you live around Dallas, and ride anywhere much over a mile, you WILL sweat. What's more, as I have discovered, after a ride of 5 or 10 miles, you will sweat again even after taking a shower. However, I was fortunate enough to read Effective Cycling by John Forester. What? Isn't he that "crabby old vehicular cycling guy?" Yup. But in that book, he also taught me stuff I didn't realize about sweat. Stuff I have since confirmed elsewhere. And, as it turns out, the presence of a shower at work, while nice, is much less relevant than people imagine. If you doubt it, take a good shower, then work up a good sweat. Relax and towel off after about 15 minutes. Now enlist reliable sniffers. You see, as it turns out, what makes sweat stinky is the bacterial culture associated with stale sweat. Your reliable sniffers will not be alarmed while you are fresh, but they'll be cranky by your stink the next morning. What this means is it really does not matter a whole lot whether you take your shower immediately before or after your morning commute. Either way, use lots of soap. Give yourself time to cool down, towel off with a fresh towel and apply deodorant. What's more, this is a good procedure even if you have showers at work since you'll otherwise simply sweat some more after your shower. From a personal standpoint, the ideal situation is an individual shower room, lockable from inside, with adjacent assigned lockers, in a location where you can work or relax for about 15 minutes before the shower. Like a cafeteria where you eat breakfast before your shower. But basic sweat is easier to deal with than most imagine. I sweat on my commute even in the winter. I have learned other sweat secrets, but there may be co-workers reading this. Still, if it is hot and you STOP sweating, worry about the first topic.

Men Like it Simple. Soap and Shampoo and No Messy Goo!

Safety Goggles Can STOP Those Tears
Sweat? Not So Good
I think that JRA was "turning a phrase" with the tears item. However, those that commute in freezing conditions know this is a real problem. You see, going down a hill, the 20 or 30 mph wind in the eyes will quickly generate enough tears it can be hard to see properly. However, this problem has a solution that is simplicity itself. Simply pick up a pair of safety goggles. Most manufacturing areas make these freely available to employees. Much more stylish ones can be picked up at any hardware store. And safety goggles don't seem to work very well at keeping sweat out of your eyes.


John Romeo Alpha said...

Steve, the cool down is key and I probably forgot to mention it because it's been so cool outside that it's been a while since I needed one. In fact on the days when it was in the low 40s at commute time I needed a warm-up when I got to the office. One question that neither of us raised is if people who shower when they arrive at the office also shower again when the arrive home, and possibly before they leave in the morning, too. I would think three showers a day would end up drying out your skin. I have noticed that my hands seem to be drying out, and am wondering what moisturizer you prefer. Bag balm?

Steve A said...

If you shower at the office, the shower before leaving home is redundant. It is better to simply leave a little earlier and add that to the cool down period. And the evening shower can be pretty perfunctory.

I wear gloves which help avoid skin drying. Anhydrous lanolin is something to look into for those with dry skin.

Jon said...

I use safety glasses when it's cold or raining on the commute. I have a pair of bifocal safety glasses, now, so I can actually see up close when I am on the bike!

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