The Mechanical Equivalent of Heat…

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011 | Cycling

…in which I talk about cycling in the Texas summer.

I’ve refrained from complaining about the heat because I know everyone is sick of Tweets declaring the obvious “It’s Hot” sentiments, or even worse, photos of thermometers, which are often suspect. Nevertheless, I feel like I should write a little bit on riding in the blistering sun because it seems like any time someone learns that I’m still riding every day, they respond with a sentiment of awe or amazement. And while I do in fact continue to ride, I am more filled with a sense of pride rather than surprise at my persistence and dedication. But more than anything else, I’m proud of my change in outlook.

Heading out on another Rail Trail ride
Another Sunday Ride

They say that this is the hottest summer on record for the DFW are in the last 20+ years. We’ve had days and days on end of temperatures in excess of 100° but to be completely forthcoming, I’ve hardly noticed. Now, admittedly, the air conditioning went out in our building for several days on end. leading to office temperatures in the high 80’s, and that actually bothered me more than the daily weather. But the expectations are different there. When you go outside in the summer, especially in Texas, you expect to be broiled like a Sunday roast, but you always expect your workplace to accommodate the work force. When your expectations are shattered, it’s tough to really change your mindset just on a whim. Believe me, when we reached 90° in the office, I wanted to go home… but that ride home would have been in the low 100’s and I wouldn’t have given that fact a second thought.

Last year, when I was riding pretty regularly, I set minimum and maximum temperatures for my riding. The minimum, I believe, was 50° while the maximum was anything in triple digits. But some time earlier this year, after the weather had started turning really pleasant, I decided that I would drop all restrictions on my riding and just see how often I could ride, and for how long. Since then, I’ve hardly missed a day. I just don’t even think about the weather anymore. I wake up in the morning and know that I’m going to be riding and that it’s going to be hot. So rather than dreading it, I get my self packed up, make sure I have my water, and head out. Yeah, I’m even riding in long pants still.

Water-wise, I was originally just carrying a bottle on the bike and drinking whenever I got to a convenient spot. But a few weeks ago, when getting my handlebars swapped, I took my panniers off and ended up carrying a backpack for all of my daily goods, instead of packing them on the bike. It was an old hydration backpack that I bought years ago, but it still had a good bladder and bits, so I started using that for my water, instead. I preferred the balance of the bike without the panniers and also the convenience of the water at hand, so it was kind of a win/win scenario. Since then, I’ve upgraded to an even more functional backpack, but still with a water bladder. So, even in this massive heat wave/drought, fear not, I’m drinking plenty of liquids.

I think another factor to my continued riding, despite the heat, are my new regular trips down the DCTA/MKT Rail Trail. A few weeks back, a few of us at work got a wild hair up our butts and decided to go one early morning down the trail and back. Since then, I’ve gone every Sunday at 7:30am, without fail. We’ve had different people join us each week, but two of us have been there consistently every week. It’s a nice way to start the day and it keeps my mind focused on the fact that I really am converting myself into a cyclist, full bore. The rail trail is definitely a blessing to my new outlook on transportation as it has opened up some new avenues for me. Last week I took off early on Friday and made my way down to the movie theater at the end of the trail to catch a showing of Captain America. The heat was oppressive, but again, like every day, I didn’t pay it any attention and made the ride with no problems, and in near record time.

Years and years ago, when we thought it was hot, we would always joke about imagining yourself somewhere cooler. The theory was that if your mind believed you were somewhere else, you wouldn’t be bothered by the heat as much. Maybe my imagination isn’t that powerful, maybe it’s tough to really put mind over matter like that, but it never really worked. But now I’ve learned that what really works is not to try to distract yourself from it, but to just not take it into consideration in the first place. I know it’s hard to ignore the temperatures when you can feel the full force of the sun baking your skin, or when every person you talk to extols, constantly, about the records being set this summer. It’s hard, but it’s not impossible. I’m not trying to forget about the fact that this week we officially reached 110°, I’m just trying to accept that this is a force well outside of my control, and to not let it get me down.

So now that I am officially conscious of this rapidly expanding outlook of mine, both the disacknowledgement of the heat and the acceptance of an increased cycling range, I’ve started looking for other destinations to include in my cycling repertoire. Every week, I head down to Reaper Mini for my regular role playing game, and I’ve started to scope out a safe and manageable route there and back. I also go, bi-weekly, to my best friend’s house for more gaming and I’ve thought more than once that there has to be an acceptable path there, as well. It actually makes me sad to get in the car when I know that I could alternately be riding. Weather is no longer and obstacle, and distance is rapidly becoming marginal as well. I really look forward to seeing where I am in another six months when we’re in the dead of winter.

I may need to get a new hat.

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