Hot Riding

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Photo illustration by Guy Wheatley
Trying to ride through July and August of 2011, it felt the bike was on fire.

I watched the meteorologists on TV predict a high of 105 degrees. I’m happy to say she was off by 3 degrees. Unfortunately she was on the low side. It hit 108 degrees. And I felt every degree of it riding to work. I usually ride to work, except in cases of extreme weather. Extreme weather usually means excessive precipitation or cold weather. Now I’m starting to consider adding heat to the list.
When the weather people tell you it was 108 degrees, they take the temperature from an official weather station. It’s gauges will be in a vented box, out of the sun, and away from large masses of concrete. So when the official temperature is 108 degrees, you can bet the air hovering over the strip of black asphalt in the middle of the concrete jungle we call a city will be at least 4 degrees higher. The air I’m riding through will be at least 112.
The human body tries to keep it’s core temperature at about 98.6. You can imagine the difficulty being engulfed in a constant stream of 112 air presents. Additionally, if the sun is shining on you, you are picking up additional radiant heat as well as the convective, atmospheric heat.
Somebody asked me if I had sweat pouring off of me while riding. The answer is no. While on the move, my clothes are usually dry and very little sweat drips into my eyes. But in the few minutes it takes to turn off the bike, grab my brief case and get to the door once I reach work, my shirt will be soaked. This tells me that I’ve been sweating during the ride, but that the hot air blowing over my body is evaporating it. That is a lot of water being sucked out of my body. And while I drink a plenty of water to stay hydrated, I’m losing salt and other electrolytes that water won’t replace.
The most direct evidence I have of the heat while riding is that my finger nails sting from the heat. It’s the same sensation I got when I ran a hair dryer over them, back in the days when I had enough hair to need a hair dryer. I may actually start wearing gloves to protect my hands. Maybe some welders gloves.
I’ll continue to ride the bike to and from work, and for short hops around town. But I won’t be making any long motorcycle rides until it cools down.

- Guy Wheatley

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