Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cycling in a heat wave -- it's not about shorts, it's about ventilation!

Heat waves in Austria are not something pleasant. The houses are built for cold temperatures, not warm. Currently I experience:
  • outside: 37°C (= 99 F) in a city full of concrete, few trees
  • asphalt: 50°C (= 122 F) according to some measurements by Asfinag
  • office: certainly > 30°C (= 86 F), estimated 32°C (= 90 F) during the day in a metal-glass-house with no air conditioning whatsoever
  • home: 28°C (= 82 F) and no air conditioning, almost no cooling at night
Anybody out there with more?

sun protection
Cyclist in Jaipur, India -- around 43°C (= 109 F)

Ok, we all agree. Warm weather is hard to bear. And it sucks even more in places with insufficient infrastructure. In Austria, we have no culture of air conditioning (which I generally appreciate because a lot of energy is wasted on cooling) but also no Siesta culture (like in Italy or Spain) and no "heat holidays". Read why we all could do with a Siesta.

Trust me, 43°C in India felt much cooler. Just because houses are build and cooled in a way that inside it has a reasonable temperature (namely below 25°C). Here, I am supposed to be productive throughout the day in an office with a temperature beyond 30°C. Mental work is incredibly hard under such circumstances!

So you might understand that I'm not concerned about sweating during the few minutes of cycling per day. In fact, sweating is a natural process that helps my body to stay cool and healthy. Additionally, every bike trip is welcome because it provides some extra air flow ;-).

But how to deal best with warm weather and sun? Here's what other bloggers suggest (if I missed something, please post it in the comments so that everybody benefits):

And here are my 50 cent for temperatures above 32°C (= 90 F):

  • tight clothes (tank tops are not always the best choice)
  • spaghetti-strapped shirts (skin heats up more and risk of sunburn!)
  • thick clothes (no jeans)
  • black stuff
  • synthetic fabrics
  • slippers (can be slippery on the pedals)
  • alcohol
  • cold showers (you'll heat up even more afterwards!)
  • sunbathing

  • thin and loose clothes (for ventilation, I like skirts and baggy trousers)
  • long clothes and sleeves in order to stay cool when exposed to sun (when I'm not cycling I prefer long wrap-around skirts)
  • light colors
  • cotton and linen
  • sandals
  • suncream
  • sunglasses
  • cap, hat or scarf on head (no headache!)
  • drink, drink, drink -- preferably just tab water
  • eat low-fat and light food (I like fruits and Maki a lot)
  • park your bike in the shade (saddle and grips can heat up pretty bad)
  • particularly avoid exposure to sun around lunchtime
  • shadow (sometimes I stop a few meters before the stop line in order to avoid sun, or simply cycle along a completely different route)
  • visit cool places (museums, shopping centers, A/C restaurants and cafés)
  • avoid getting close to many cars (their engines emit a lot of heat, the metal reflects sunlight), choose shadowy and quiet side roads or cycle paths
  • wash your feet and forearms with water
  • at home: close windows and shade the whole place during the day, only open the windows at night completely (mosquito nets help)
  • be very careful with gas appliances and ventilate the room regularly (to prevent possible CO toxications)

What are your DOs and DON'Ts to outlast a heat wave?

This is me (in my Indian style clothes) on a hot summer's day
[taken by Velouria at our cruise along the Danube]

Just found: Temperatures in public transport in Vienna (in German)


    Steve A said...

    We're hitting 100 fairly often now, but it's Texas. To your list, I'd add to leave a little earlier than usual so you have more time to cool down and freshen up at your destination. Ice in the water bottle also takes much longer to turn into hot water.

    Frits B said...

    @Steve: Texas heat is dry, the heat wave we have in Western Europe now is humid which makes it far worse. I'm lucky to live in a German-built building with underfloor heating which now circulates cold water (which after it has absorbed the building's heat - concrete - is pumped back into the soil deep below, to be re-used in winter; Anna will approve). Otherwise, as Anna says.

    Velouria said...

    How do they build the houses in India so as to stay 25C when it is 43C outside?

    During my last week in Vienna, being in my office was unbearable - it is on the 5th floor of a concrete and glass building with no airconditioning. So I met with my students in outdoor cafes nearby : )

    Frits B said...

    Velouria: Thick plastered walls, relatively small windows placed so as to keep direct sunlight out, porches. Think mediterranean. Or Scandinavian or Canadian: same principle, only the other way round.

    Referring to cave houses around Granada: "In southern Spain, cave houses naturally maintain a steady temperature of around 19-20 degrees centigrade year round. This is quite exceptional in a montane climate like Granada City where summertime temperatures surpass 40 degrees and where it occasionally snows in winter.
    Building a cave dwelling is relatively inexpensive (though not necessarily cheap), cave houses can have all the amenities of a regular house (and more), electricity, plumbing, and HVAC are easy to install, and cave houses remain dry and habitable with normal ventilation, unlike many stone caves that can store dampness."

    anna said...

    @ Steve A: Leaving earlier is always a good idea, I completely agree. One should certainly also cycle slower and more "forward-looking" in order to use as little energy as possible.

    @ Frits B: Thanks for the comments and explanations. I'd love to have such a cooling system myself. And thanks for the exmple of the cave houses, I didn't know so much about that.

    @ Velouria: What Frits B says is mostly right, although India is of course quite big and not everything is true everywhere. The important thing is that they traditionally do not use any glass, which is a killer in the heat. White thick plastered walls. No carpet floor, no wood, no metal. The houses are very dark inside, but cool. Ventilated a lot. On the other hand, I don't want to be there when it has only 5-10°C in the winter... Generally, one can compare their building style to Greece or Santorini. When it get's really warm, they also use coolers. Modern hotels and offices in cities, do also have glass windows, but modern A/C systems and the same concept of "darkening" in order to keep the heat out.
    By the way, I also try to work in the cafeteria, but sometimes I just need to be available in the office or need the computer, phone, books etc. Generally, the best tactic though -- you got it :).

    Velouria said...

    So interesting. In some parts of the US, building houses into the side of a rock or mountain (which I think is the same as cave dwellings?) has become popular in order to create sustainable cooling/heating systems - and just for the coolness factor, too.

    Frits B said...

    Making your home in a cave is an ancient custom :-) provided you chased the original occupant = bear out. There are many more examples of people living in actual caves in the side of a mountain, mostly very primitive. Think West-Africa, central Turkey, China, Italy (near Bari). Even the soft hills near Maastricht in Holland had cave houses. Since then, the same principle has been followed in North Africa (the soukh houses in Morocco and Algeria - thick walled blocks with a patio garden, high ceilings and inside windows only), Yemen is a good example where complete apartment buildings have been built against the sides of mountains. As an alternative, houses can be partially sunk into the ground and covered with soil; windows all facing south, garden on the roof. Cool in summer, warm in winter. We have a number of those in Holland now, built into an earth wall next to a highway or railway tracks as a sound barrier (it's a small country). Modern office blocks are all concrete, steel and glass, very inefficient climatewise. If NY brownstones had modern wall insulation they would be perfect.

    Jean said...

    Every summer, large parts of southern Canada does reach 30-35 degrees C for several days/ weeks.

    When I lived, cycled and worked in Toronto, I started off cycling to work before 6:00 am. It's quite humid there. But then, alot of women who are regular cyclists, do wear shorts and tank tops (I don't. I want to save my skin.)

    On weekends, I found it best to cycle around 6:00 am and be done by 8:00 am or so.

    However I've done a number of our own self-invented bike touring trips with our own loaded panniers in such heat and humidity.

    Sonja said...

    We've had a 3 week heat wave here (Turku), more than +25 every day, and it's continuing after a couple of days break. Exhausting, impossible to sleep or work. Someone please take me to Iceland...

    Sonja said...

    BTW, wet scarfs are the best way to keep cool, especially when there's no fans in the stores left. I use them as my blanket in the night and wear them at work. The factory where I work is just like a huge tin can and collects heat, so it gets like +35 in there. It's absolutely horrible.

    Anonymous said...

    Frits B...Texas heat is NOT DRY. Check your info again. I'm Native Texan and humidity is very high.

    ATX Bikette said...

    It depends on where you are, Texas is a big place. In the panhandle, the heat is dry, like an oven. It is dangerous because you often don't realize how much it is sucking energy out of you if you're moving, and then if you sit still it is as if a magnifying glass is above you.
    Houston and the Coastal Bend, where I grew up, its humid. Houston is a swamp and I will gladly avoid living there. Just standing around you find yourself covered in a thin film of moisture and its difficult to cool down because of it.

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