Saturday, September 19, 2009

Japan Biking Tip: Dealing with the Heat

It's not just hot, it's hot and humid, so heat management is very important while biking here in Japan in the Summer. Here are some thoughts so far:

- Drink tons of water. Seriously. I usually go through about 4 liters (over a gallon) in a day's ride, and I'm usually still a bit dehydrated when I arrive. Take every opportunity to drink a bit of water (barley tea or juice works great, too), it's better than trying to chug a liter of water every other hour. When you're close to town, traffic lights work well as reminders, farther out use road distance markers. :)

- Buy ice. Most convenience stores will sell a bottle of frozen green tea or orangeade for about $1.50. Put that in the back pocket of your jersey for instant cooling action. Plus, you get to drink something that's ice cold as it melts. (Note: if you drink all the liquid, the ice won't be touching the bottle walls anymore, meaning your back won't be getting cooled anymore. To remedy, just add water to the bottle after drinking. As long as you don't mind slightly diluted tea, it works great.)

- Towel and handkerchief. I've started carrying a towel on my handlebar to dry off occasionally. Unlike in dry climates, where sweat dries off and cools you in the process, around here it just soaks your skin for the most part. To avoid heat rash and make it easier for the sweat that remains to cool you off, just towel off occasionally. The handkerchief I soak in water and tie around my neck to help with cooling. (They also sell something for that purpose in sports stores around here for about $10. Advantages include keeping more water and dripping a lot less, so it cools you for longer. Disadvantages include not working as a handkerchief should you need one, possibly looking dorkier, and being pricier than a handkerchief.)

- Take a long lunch break. The hottest part of the day is usually around 1-2pm. That's also the best time to find a restaurant or michi no eki (see below) and spend sometime out of the sun and in the a/c while refueling and drinking as much water/juice/tea as you can.

- Stop at michi no eki's (translates as "road stations"). They're really nice, have good food and a selection of local produce and goods, and plenty of space to relax for a bit from riding. Not all areas have them, though, so check ahead. If you're in an area where there aren't any michi no eki's, there will likely be convenience stores (not nearly as nice but, well, convenient, and they're always blasting the a/c at artic settings). Another stop that works is a Gasuto ("guest") chain restaurant. I like them mainly because they have a drinking water spiggot I can use freely during the meal, so I don't have to bug the waitstaff to refill the tiny water glass eight times during the meal. :)

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