Sunday, June 3, 2007

Comfort Zone

The other day at the office, a guy asked, "Are you still riding your bike in this hot weather?" (Strangely, it was on a perfect spring day when the high temperature was in the mid-80s.)

I remember a couple years back - an overheard conversation in the elevator. (The most inane conversations seem to take place in elevators. No... wait! I take that back. Perhaps nowadays the most meaningless yammer is by people trying to use up their 3000-anytime cell-phone minutes. But I digress.) It was on a partuclarly nasty winter morning when I'd ridden the bicycle in with slush spraying up from the road, and slush falling in my face from the sky. A man and a woman were talking on the elevator. The man was boasting of the power-heated seats in his SUV, and the lady was lamenting that she had passed on the heated-seat option, and how much she regretted it on days like that. Yeah - that's pretty tough allright - not having heated seats. I was totally sympathetic... NOT!

So what's my point?

I consider it a blessing to have a very broad "comfort zone." Sure - I love it when it's 70 and sunny. But I'm not particularly un-comfortable when it's 30 and dreary. Or 99, with the sun beating down.

Isn't that a blessing, compared with people who need to turn on the heat when it drops below 68, or the air-conditioning when it rises above 73? I certainly think so. And frankly, I pity those (and there are many!) whose definition of success seems to include being as comfortable as possible, as often as possible... because they are deliberately shrinking their comfort zones.

I believe bike-commuting has contributed to my broad comfort zone. The body has some awesome built-in systems to compensate for hot, or cold, weather. I love observing those systems, and marveling at them. On a hot day, as long as I stay hydrated, I love riding. I'm water-cooled. (It's scary to stop... even if it's just for 30 seconds at a red light, it's pretty amazing to see the puddle that forms.)

I'd appreciate your feedback... whether there's some merit to today's psychobabble, or if you think I've been out in that hot sun too long. (I did a Gowen / Federal Way loop ride today. Granted, I was taking it at a relaxed pace. But it was 97 when I left, and 99 when I got back. Summertime... and the livin's easy.)


db said...

(Long post alert - sorry)

I am laughing my butt off, Bikeboy, because we went for a ride this morning, and the whole idea of acclimatization returned to me then!

My wife and I went off and did almost 30 miles. And my wife really struggled with the "heat", which was only in the 80s when we wrapped it up. We had left at 8:30 to avoid the heat, and I really thought that we had done so quite successfully. But not my better half. She was melting.

And that's when it hit me - she doesn't bike commute, although she does ride a scooter instead of her car. But even that doesn't affect your comfort zone like WORKING (out) in the heat. And I think that's really where my advantage lay today.

So right before I hit my "Bike Nazi" bookmark, I was lamenting that if I posted about this phenomenon, which I haven't heard discussed outside of this very fine blog (I think Danielo was the first I saw mention it), it would be an annoying tangent to whatever thread I replied to, since we hadn't brought up the topic lately.

Talking about hitting the nail on the head. You're a psychic!

Bikeboy said...

Indeed, Danielo has commented on this topic, at least once.

On March 22, he posted this about the weather acclimatization from cycling - "I stayed more comfortable on the hottest days last summer, and the coldest days in winter, than all of my car-addicted coworkers. When you're always in a climate-modified environment, your body gets soft, and it's so much more miserable to step outside."

It's funny - after a week of 100-degree riding days, a 90-degree day feels downright sweet! (But the 100-degree days are tolerable, if you're acclimatized.) And likewise, as winter comes to a close, a 45-degree sunny day is shorts-and-shirtsleeves weather!

db said...

Absolutely. Two of my coworkers have already nodded at my bike today and told me how crazy I am to be riding when it's this hot!

When your choices are to sweat on your bike in clothes made for just such a purpose, or sweat in your car in work clothes, well...

Jamie said...

It's so hard to hold your tongue when you hear people talking like this, isn't it? There's so much of people talking about how bad traffic is, or the heat/cold, or whatever sort of weakening-of-the-world complaint people have and I nearly have to bite my lips together to keep from commenting.

I used to be one of those people who was always hot and sweaty - cold has never bothered me but heat has. But the more I've commuted to work by bike, the less of a problem I've had with the heat.

I'm pretty convinced that the comments one gets about how crazy it is to ride a bike on hot days, cold days, etc. are just the same sorts of things you hear any time you do something that's out of the mainstream: the people commenting are actually jealous of your individualism, but afraid to be that much of an individual themselves. So they criticize you to make themselves feel better.

Smudgemo said...

I very much notice this. My wife and her mother are usually freezing in the house unless it’s heated to near 70, and any time it gets warm out, my wife says it’s boiling (although her mom seems to actually like hot weather.) Like you, I also seem to have a huge range of comfort compared to most people I know.

I do think some of it is perspective, though. Having worked on a farm growing up in the Midwest, I’m aware of what real work is on hot days. For anyone wondering, I suggest loading hay in a barn maw on a sunny 90*+ day with lots of humidity. Do that once and you won’t stress riding a bike on that same type of day ever again.

One advantage of being a furnace during winter is the snuggles I get from Mrs. Smudgemo when she is trying to get warm at night.

Apertome said...

I hear what you're saying and I agree, mostly, but I am still having a lot of trouble getting acclimatized to the heat. I am pretty good at dealing with cold, but heat is trickier for me. You can always add layers, but you can only take so many off before you start getting into trouble.

Hell, this morning, it was only in the 60s and I arrived at work fairly sweaty due to the near-90% humidity. I guess humidity is more of a problem for me than heat, but around here, they can't be separated. And I don't mind sweating, except that I don't like to arrive at work too sweaty. That's the real challenge.

I'm hoping that more riding will help this, but realistically, I probably need to adjust my routine for after I arrive at work to give myself a little extra time to deal with the sweat. If you have any pointers, I'd love to hear them.

You guys have to remember if riding with your wife, or someone else who doesn't ride as often, that they are inherently going to have more trouble with it. Any time I ride with my girlfriend, I consider myself lucky to spend time doing one of my favorite hobbies with my favorite person. We may not go as far or as fast as I could go on my own, but it's a fun way to spend quality time together -- and that's the purpose of those rides.

Anonymous said...

That's why this weekend hit my so hard -- I haven't had time to acclimate yet! It's true that last summer, even in the highest heat, I never really felt the need to complain, thanks to riding in it daily.

Now I hear tomorrow and Wednesday should be in the 60s.... Crazy fun weather!

Anonymous said...

I guess I am lucky. Dress code at work is casual. Flip flops and shorts. Colder temps do bother me either. It gets me acclimated for snow skiing.