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Beat The Heat: 5 Summer Biking Must-Haves Under $25

Posted Jun 09 2011 12:46am

As a young woman, I’ve had to come to terms with a few truths about myself over the years. For one thing, I will never be a size 2. I also probably won't ever be able to do cartwheels that don't look like drunken somersaults. And I will most likely keep losing my belongings till the day I die and even then I'll probably get lost on my way to the "Beyond" or something.

But more than anything in my life, try as I might to fight it and deny the truth, I have finally made peace with the fact that I just never will be one of those chicks who “glow.” And with near-100 degree days ahead of us? You better believe I've officially entered Summer Biking Survival Mode.

One minute outside and sweat is already rolling down my back, stinging my eyes and turning my hair into a frizzy hot mess under my helmet, and those six miles between home and the office can feel like crossing the Sahara. Luckily, this is my second stab at biking in sweltering NYC summer heat and by now I've found some great products that help take the edge off even the stickiest of summer days.

The best part? All of them are $25 or less. Oh yeah.

So save your precious pennies for Pinkberry and street fair sausage dogs this summer, people, and don't let those vicious rays stand between you and the open road. As always, feel free to sound off in the comments with your own tips and tricks for staying cool.


Now, I'm a good ole' Southern belle, in that I was born during the height of a scorching August day in Georgia and have managed to survive 22 summers there and live to tell you all the tale. But despite having half my dark 'n lovely Dad's genes tattooed to my DNA, even I can't get away with going SPF-free. Almost religiously, I slather on sunscreen in the morning after I shower or at least 10 minutes before heading outside to give it time to sink in.

Now, I know sunscreen seems like a no-brainer but finding a good brand that doesn't run into your eyes and burn like acid is the tricky part. My face is super sensitive and even the simplest of moisturizers can be irritating, but my arms and legs can take just about anything I throw at them.

My solution?

I use two different types of sunscreen–one for my face and neck and another for the rest of my body.  For my face, I love Aveeno's Continuous Protection Sublock Lotion SPF 55. It's super light-weight and non-irritating. Most importantly, I don't go blind because it's water- and sweat-resistant, which means (yay!) no stinging eyeballs. Bonus: It actually smells good and hey, who wants wrinkles 20 years from now anyway? Amazon has a great deal now on a 2-pack of 4 oz. bottles for $24 .

Next, for my upper body things are a bit more simple. I alternate between Coppertone Sport Ultra Sweatproof SPF 30 ( $24 for a 2-pack ) and Banana Boat's Sport Sunblock SPF 30 ( $11 for a 3-pack ). I'm leaning more toward Banana Boat because it seems to dry fastest and stinks less than Coppertone.

2. Get Shady.

'Shady' takes on new meaning.
Consider yourself cleverer than I if you invested in a great bike helmet with a handy, sun-blocking visor like these . Mine is a standard Bell model and has no such feature. But rather than go out of my way to pick a visor or splurge on a new helmet, I just dusted off my old baseball cap and managed to squeeze it on underneath. Cost for me? About 20 bucks, but only because I picked up mine at a Yankees game last summer.  I'm sure you can grab one for super cheap pretty much anywhere. This hat was a life-saver during my Memorial Day ride to City Island and my face stayed perfectly shaded even in peak heat.

3. Sweat-wicking duds.

Post-fire hydrant jaunt.
I love blogs by fellow lady bikers who manage to turn their bikes into mobile fashion runways. But I find myself staring at their pictures of cute sundresses, frilly tops and dainty sandals and heaving a sigh of remorse. There's just no friggin' way that would ever fly with me.

First of all, my commute is —for lack of a better word—a Bitch.  Not only do I have the Queensboro (59th St) Bridge to haul myself over twice a day but there are a couple of pretty tough hills in midtown. Couple that with the fact that I actually stop for red-lights, meaning extra time spent standing under the baking sun, and there's just no escaping the fact that my ride usually leaves me a sweaty, slippery mess by the time I roll into the office.

Sundresses, while adorable and deceptively named, only make matters worse and I still haven't quite mastered the art of biking in them (kudos to those of you who have). So, when I'm hitting the pavement on sizzling summer days, I go with light-weight, moisture-wicking capris, shorts and tank tops by the dozen.

I'm no gazillionaire, so I leave the crazy expensive athletic gear to those a few pay grades above me and pretty much depend on staples like Old Navy, Gap and Kohl's. I've found and fallen in love with these moisture-wicking capris from Old Navy ($24.94) and they are absolutely the most breathable pants I've ever owned. I top them off with any kind of light-weight tank top that won't stick to my skin...which brings me to the next item on my list of summer must-haves and the KEY to comfortable summer riding. 

(If you're a dude, count your blessings and skip along to no. 5.)

4. The dreaded sports bra.

It is so hard for me to find a good sports bra that once I discover a brand I like I basically cling to it for dear life. At the moment I'm obsessed with this little number . I promise you, it's like slipping the girls into their own twin cotton candy clouds and I swear I'd wear this with everything if could. At $16.50 they're a steal and I got a deal for 2 for $20 when I bought a pair last weekend. There is no bulky padding or wire, so this probably won't work for the bustier bikers out there, but never fear. I also love this lovely alternative, which is V-neck, supported and great-looking even under regular work tops.

5. Guzzles by the Gallon. 

I love water.  I love it frozen. I love it iced. I love it fortified with fun vitamin powders that taste like they're bad for you but really aren't. Most of all, I love it by the jugfuls and I drink about a dozen bottles a day. Literally. What I don't love so much is warm water that's been sloshing around in a chemical-laden bottle all day and tastes like the inside of a plastic bag. Not appetizing.

To avoid such horrors, I store my fluid of choice in my Polar Insulated Water Bottle , which I recently purchased on Amazon for ONE-THIRD of what my local bike shop is asking. Hello, super saver alert! If you don't have a water bottle holder for your bike yet, get thee to the store and purchase one! They're so cheap. I think mine set me back less than 10 bucks and that's after the bike shop installed it for me.

No matter what we do to prepare ourselves, the reality is it's gonna be one hot summer. But if all else fails and you're desperate to beat the heat, I suggest you high-tail it to your nearest street corner and find a busted fire hydrant in which to frolic. Trust me.

This really should be No. 1 but you can't put a price tag on having the time of your life, now can you?
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