Yesterday, I unveiled the Team Fatty jersey. And there was much rejoicing.
Among the rejoicers, however, were a number of rabble-rousers, each of which was rousing the same particular rabblet (“rabblet is the singular of “rabble”):
Black jerseys are too hot.
Now, I very nearly started compiling a list of helpful suggestions to ameliorate the “black is hot” problem. This list would have included (but not been limited to) the following:
- Turn the jersey inside out. Voila! It’s white! Also, I have no idea how to put the accent mark on the “a” in “voila.”
- Wear a really big, chrome helmet. Then always ride at noon, when the sun is directly overhead and will reflect off your highly-polished helmet, which incidentally acts as an umbrella for the rest of your body.
- Move to Alaska. Hey, it worked for Jill! Except for the frostbite, of course.
- Move to Scandinavia. Really, this is basically the same suggestion as moving to Alaska, except with better chocolate and bread.
- Ride at Night. But not on the road. Fat Cyclist jersey at night on dirt = awesome. Fat Cyclist jersey at night on pavement = strictly forbidden.
But then I started thinking. And it occurred to me that, sure, a black jersey might be a little warmer than a pure white jersey. But white jerseys have their own problems. Anyone who’s ever seen a large, sweaty, hairy man in a white jersey knows what I am talking about, and I believe will confirm that it’s less attractive than it sounds. And it doesn’t even sound all that attractive to begin with.
And then I started questioning the easy assumption: that a black jersey is going to be meaningfully more warm to wear than other colorful jerseys. For example, would a Team Fatty jersey be hotter than this jersey?
Well, that depends. If, by “hotter,” you mean “sexier,” then I think the answer is an unequivocal yes: the Team Fatty jersey will make you look much, much hotter than a jersey with a frog pole-dancing on a seatpost.
But if you mean “warmer, by temperature,” then I’m not so sure.
Let’s Ask The Internet, Because It’s Always Right
The Straight Dope (not a site about heterosexual drug users) makes some interesting points, based on actual science. First, if it’s cold and there’s no wind — which pretty well describes the opposite of the conditions one experiences when riding a bike on a hot day — black is indeed warmer.
But when it’s warm and there’s wind (or you’re in motion)?
With even a modest wind (anything above 3 m/s, or about 7 m.p.h.) fluffed white plumage exhibit the lowest net heat loss. This explains the large number of arctic animals that are fluffy and white. It’s not just camouflage.
At high temperatures, as I say, white is best at not transmitting solar/ambient heat to the skin when windspeed is zero (only barely better when fluffed). However, with an increase in windspeed (again anything above 3 m/s), fluffed black plumage is the best at reducing the amount of heat transmitted to the skin. Flattened black plumage is the worst in terms of heat gain no matter what the windspeed.
So yes, they’re talking about birds here. But if I understand correctly (and I always do), if you’re in motion and you’re sweating and you’re wearing wicking material, that black you’re wearing is efficiently conducting heat away from your body.
More efficiently than any other color, in fact. Which, according to this article, explains why polar bears are white (no, it’s not just for camoflauge), and why “desert-dwelling nomadic people such as the Tuaregs wear loose-fitting black clothing.”
Here’s the thing, though: that Straight Dope piece makes sense to me anecdotally, because I’ve worn the black Fat Cyclist jersey on hot days without feeling unusual heat, and I always wear black biking shorts and haven’t ever thought to myself, “Hey, the parts of my legs covered by my shorts are a lot hotter than the rest of me.”
But still, it does feel counterintuitive, doesn’t it?
So I thought to myself, “I wish someone would conduct some sort of experiment to see whether the Fat Cyclist jersey does in fact make you hotter. And by “hotter,” I of course mean “higher in temperature,” because the fact that it makes you look hotter — as in sexier — is not even up for debate.
Where are the Mythbusters when you need them?
OK, that’s kind of a stupid question (yes, there is such a thing), because of course the Mythbusters don’t change their location based on whether I need them or not.
So I decided to do the experiment myself. But the thing is, this isn’t an easy experiment to conduct. I mean, how am I supposed to:
- Factor out the difference in material between two jerseys? If one of the jerseys is made of burlap, it’s going to be warmer no matter what.
- Factor out the difference between test subjects? I can’t have the same person do the tests on different days or even different times, because outside conditions can vary considerably. But finding two people who are similar enough that I can expect nearly identical results is not going to be easy.
- Measure temperature on the subjects? Should I measure skin temperature? Core temperature? Both?
But then I realized: I am in a really excellent position to conduct this experiment. Here’s why:
Yep, I have identical twins. They’re within a quarter inch in height of each other and within two ounces in weight. And — most importantly — they think anything I want to do is awesome right now. Yeah, I know that won’t last forever. I’m enjoying it right now, though.
And how about the jerseys? Well, that’s easy:
One of the twins will wear a jersey inside out. Magically, it becomes white! And hilariously embarrassing when captured for posterity in photograph albums!
So anyway, here’s the experiment, which I will conduct this Saturday, which is supposed to be warm:
- I start by measuring their internal and skin temperature.
- We go outside during the warmest part of the day and ride bikes, jump on the trampoline, play tag, and otherwise generally stay very active for half an hour.
- I measure their internal and skin temperature again.
I will report the findings, however they turn out.
Suggestions and Predictions?
I’d be interested to hear any suggestions on making this experiment valid. Especially if you have suggestions on how to accurately measure skin temperature. And if you have a pretty good idea of how this will turn out, I’ll be interested to hear your prediction.
Fat Cyclist: It’s not just comedy anymore. We’re downright educational.