Friday, March 14, 2008

Socially Acceptable Sweat

Weather is starting to warm up again (well it's started getting cold again) and I've been working hard to ride my bike to work more and more. Three times this week, making up for my Five for Footprint goal of 1 day in 20. I'm back on track, though the average was lumpy. One of the things I struggle with in riding my bike to work is sweat, you try to go fast you build up some sweat and depending on who you are it can be pretty stinky. However, grabbing a shower means you have to lose some precious time.

I've been experimenting with different regimens such as not wearing a jacket to stay cool (but feeling cold), to using a fanny pack so my back (the place where it gets most sweaty because of a backpack acting as a big piece of insulation trapping heat in), to riding at a slower pace. Now I'm pretty good since my ride is pretty short, but it got me thinking. When is sweat socially acceptable.

The other night I was at a party at the top of a hill, and I met a nice woman who during our conversation in a group apologized explaining that she rode her bike to the party. I thought, wow she's apologizing for not polluting, and clearly she rode a lot and benefitted from that riding. A lot of greenies are hotties, definitely something for the marketing plan of a green life. I hang with a pretty progressive group when I'm in San Francisco, so all was swell, and there was no smell. Fitness helps.

But it got me thinking, where else do people ride their bikes a lot and how do they deal with the odiferous challenge that might occur, and I was thinking there were two places that really struck me as bicycle active (if not friendly). The first was Beijing in the late 90s. When I was in Beijing, everyone rode bicycles, it was pretty amazing and really crazy. When I went there two years ago no one rode bicycles (they are crazy but they are not THAT crazy now) since the traffic is terrible. I didn't notice it. The other place where bicycles are huge form of transportation is Amsterdam. I was amazed by the number of bicycles and how they were used the same way as cars are here. (This is a great page comparing bicycling in San Francisco and Amsterdam -- struck a similar chord). It was a normal part of life.

I think one thing is that people who bike short distances regularly are in better shape, I notice this among the walkers of New York City. The second thing is that it is common and people adjust. Lastly, it's about attitude.

For some reason exerting yourself in this country in regular life is uncool (but it's ok at the gym) for it implies that you are poor or something. Remember that commercial that said, "Never let them see you sweat!" (I love that NYC Mayor Bloomberg takes the subway). So maybe if you see someone sweating from place to place maybe we need to think, they're getting around honestly.

I'm still trying to ride for trips under 4 miles, but I'm not going to worry is they see me sweat.


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