Keeping a Cool Head

Vent-a-palooza with 21 air gulping vents and internal air channels.

Mother Nature finally took a break after keeping us in monsoon-like conditions for the past five days, well at least this morning as it’s looking ominous outside right now, letting me squeeze in a 30 mile ride. Although she gave us a respite from the rain, she made sure the morning was as uncomfortable as possible with a temperature of 91°, humidity in the high 80% range, an out of the norm northerly wind and a heat index approaching 110°… and you wonder why we Floridian’s hate the summer months.

Although I have acclimated (well at least as much as one can acclimate) to riding in the Florida heat, there has been one thing in particular which has annoyed me more than anything else, and that is the constant drip (actually drip is an understatement, it’s more a Niagara-like cascade) of sweat mixed with the obligatory sunscreen into my eyes and down my glasses while riding. It’s an endless battle managing the sweat, constantly having to remove my glasses and wipe my brow with my riding gloves. In fact the terry inserts in my gloves have become completely bleached from the acidic sweat.

While waiting for the rain to break, I started doing some research online to see what, if anything was available to try and reduce or manage the sweat pouring down my forehead. Stinging burning eyes are rather annoying, not to mention dangerous while on a bike at speed on the road, with traffic. I saw many products online including scull caps and headbands, all to be worn under your helmet. Some looked promising, others looked to be only sponges which would saturate and drip even more. Many offered wicking materials, but just how effective could these be under ones helmet considering wicking materials do not wick unless they have a great deal of airflow.

Unconvinced from all my online research, I headed over to my LBS (local bike shop), the fantastic Trek Store of Estero, where I could pick a few brains about keeping ones noggin cool on hot Florida summer rides.  I was directed to a well stocked section containing many of the same products I saw online. Headbands just didn’t seem to be a logical solution, as they would eventually saturate and exacerbate the issue even more. Skull caps, seemed a better solution, but frankly adding more cover on your head seemed counterintuitive, especially with our unrelenting sun.

My Halo II headband...Yes it's very 1970's Bjorn Borg-ish looking, but it works, and it's kept hidden under my helmet

Eventually I was shown a simple yet ingenious product called the Halo II. The Halo II is a pullover headband made of a dryline fabric (wicking material) with a patented “Sweat Block Seal”, which is a soft and comfortable watertight seal between the headband and your forehead, which redirects sweat away from your eyes and face once the fabric gets saturated with sweat. In short, it’s a headband with a built in gutter….genius!

This looked to be a good solution to my sweaty dilemma, but before heading to the register, the Trek rep asked a very important question…”what kind of helmet are you wearing?” My answer, a Trek Vapor, which I purchased  back in 2008 along with my dearly departed Trek 7200. The Trek Vapor was a stylish helmet providing great safety and comfort, but, and it’s a big one folks, it was designed for use while taking a more casual boulevard cruise on a hybrid bike vs spending hours in the saddle racking up high mileage on a road bike.

All helmets sold, be it an entry level $30 helmet or a premium high tech $300+ helmet, protect your noggin equally in case of an accident. The big difference, at least concerning road cycling, is weight and ventilation. Now in my case an extra gram of weight is not going to negatively impact my riding, but the ventilation is crucial, and frankly, it’s something I had over looked since starting this trek.

Bontrager Circuit vs Trek Vapor...no comparison

My current helmet simply was not providing enough airflow across my head to keep me comfortable, particularly on long rides under our relentless sun, so it was time for helmet 101 as I was reacquainted with the large variety of helmets they had in stock from the futuristic $300 Catlike Whisper Plus, to more economical yet fully featured road engineered models from Giro and Bontrager. Wanting to maintain a budget, I selected the Bontrager Circuit. It’s light, comfortable, highly rated and has tons of airflow with 21 vents and channeled airflow inside the helmet. Best of all it came in the exact same colors as the paint scheme on my bike….who said cyclists aren’t vain?

Now all I needed was for Mama-N to bring a halt to the monsoon to test my new Niagara plugging helmet and sweatband. I anxiously headed out this morning and was immediately struck by the huge amount of air flowing over my head. I know this sounds cliche-ish, but it almost felt as if I had no helmet on at all. The combination of great fit, comfort and airflow of the Bontrager Circuit helmet virtually made the helmet disappear. The hugely increased ventilation combined with the “gutter on a headband” Halo II kept all the dreaded sweat out of my eyes and off my glasses for the entire ride. I did not wipe my brow at all. I’m a happy camper now.

So today’s post monsoon, sweat-free brow ride was a modified 30 miler to Three Oaks Park and back, including two “climbs” of my favorite SW Florida mountain, the Estero Parkway I75 overpass. It was ridiculously hot and muggy, but my eyes were sting free for the first time ever.

Route: Three Oaks Park
Ride Time: 2:11:29
Stopped Time: 1:16:12
Distance: 31.88 miles
Average: 14.55 miles/h
Fastest Speed: 23.00 miles/h
Ascent: 163 feet
Descent: 102 feet
Calories: 2080

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