The Solution for Sweaty Summer Bicycle Commuters

Byron Kidd

OK, first up, anyone who says they don't cycle to work in the Japanese summer because they get too sweaty is fooling themselves. You can't set foot outside your apartment here in summer without melting faster than a Nazi at the opening of the Ark of the Covenant. 

If you're going to sweat anyway, why stop cycling? Get out there, get gloriously gross and deal with it when you reach your destination with my number 1 summer cycling tip:

Freeze a towel.

Tokyo summer sky

For years this is the method I used to keep fresh on my daily commutes through the unforgiving Japanese summer.

Its simple, in short simply soak a towel in water, roll it up into a drink bottle sized package, Ziploc it and toss it into the freezer the night before your ride. 

On the day of your ride, remove it from the freezer, garnish with spring onions and cilantro (no wait, don't do that...) and place it in a bottle for your commute. Be sure not to pack it against anything you need to keep dry as there will be condensation build-up. But do experiment with packing it close enough to your change of clothing so that it cools those along the way.

Upon arrival at your destination, allow yourself some time to cool down naturally otherwise you'll just sweat through your fresh change of clothes.  Find some privacy, strip down and wipe down your hot, sweaty body with a nice cool towel before deodorizing and changing into your work clothing. I just complemented you on a hot body, just accept it and lets move on before this gets awkward...

You can also add to the refreshing experience by wiping down with an ice cool body wipes, available at pretty much any drugstore here in Japan.

This ALWAYS left me feeling refreshed and ready for work. Arriving at my desk, head clear and alert, blood pumping from the exercise, cool and fresh meant a much more productive start to the day than when I arrived exhausted, hot and sweaty from riding a packed commuter train.

The towel can go back into the drink bottle for the day and be sealed up to prevent any nasty odours. When arriving home at the end of the day remember to give the towel and the bottle a good wash to prevent unpleasant smells, or worse, mould.

Unfortunately at the end of your ride you're left with a pile of wet, possibly smelly, clothes and unless you have somewhere you can dry them out (unlikely for most city office workers) you may find yourself climbing into cold wet clothing at the end of your workday. *ugh* gross, really, trust me I've been there *eew*.

To avoid this choose rapid drying fabrics. Honestly if you hang your gear somewhere while you towel down, give it a good flap in the wind before you pack it away, through the magic of modern materials technology there is a good chance your gear will be (more or less) dry. It may be a little on the nose after being packed in your bag all day but if your goal is to sweat it up on the cycle home and take a shower upon arrival its bearable.

Of course you can always carry a second, dry, set of clothing for the ride home. But remember if you're storing sweaty gear in your bag the entire day keep it sealed tight, your co-workers will thank you.

Finally get in to the habit of washing everything the second you arrive home and hanging it to dry immediately. I'm not your mother, but trust me, its for your own good.

This simple routine got me through over two decades of daily bicycle commuting through Japanese summers. Give it a try, if you're going to sweat, sweat it out on a bicycle.

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