After weeks of freezing temperatures and rains, the past few days have been super-sunny, hot and humid. The rapid transition has plunged me into a frantic search through my abode for appropriate attire and sufficient sunscreen.
Complexion-wise, I am pale - with purple rather than orange undertones. Venturing out after a winter season, I tend to look like something from Flowers in the Attic. And I am ridiculously sensitive to heat and humidity, to the point where a mere stroll down a street without shade on a summer day can result in heat stroke or sun poisoning. What then, of the miles of sun-drenched bicycle routes in greater Boston?
A long bridge over the Charles River (Longfellow Bridge), its menacing sunshine ready to devour me.
A hazy view of the city from the bridge.
Massachusetts Avenue - the most popular bicycle commuters' route through Cambridge - with hardly a tree to defend from the sun's rays (picture taken pointing backwards, while stopped on red).
The way I've been dealing with the sun so far, has been mostly via the avoidance method. In my head I have a sort of alternative bicycle map of the areas where I frequently ride, with tree-lined routes at the ready if a day is sunny and hot.
I also tend to avoid being outdoors in the summer from mid-morning till late afternoon, trying my best to schedule my trips and meetings during times when the sun is gentler. Sometimes these methods work, but other times they are insufficient.
I do drink water, wear loose and light-coloured clothing, and use sunscreen - but that too has proven to have its limits. Until recently, it had always been my understanding that the potency of sunscreen beyond SPF 35 is marginal and that higher SPF numbers are mostly a gimmick (and potentially hazardous). However, last year - when cycling daily on the open roads of Cape Cod for two weeks at the end of September - I repeatedly got burned while wearing my SPF 35 sunblock. So this year I have purchased SPF 80 sunblock and pray this does the trick, while on some level being uneasy about the possible adverse effects of overusing this stuff.
If anybody has advice on this issue, please share. Last year, I noticed visible damage to the skin on my face and hands after a summer of cycling, and I want to avoid this in future. Are there other pallid and sun-averse cyclists out there, who have gotten adept at combating the sweltering heat?