I am not a person who concerns himself with appearances. I’m 43 years old (almost), balding, portly, have no fashion sense at all, and was never good-looking to begin with.
So I don’t worry about how I look, and I don’t mind that a lot of people think my truck — a Honda Ridgeline — is odd-looking, too. This is the best vehicle I have ever had: it’s comfortable, it’s roomy, and it lets me easily hold four people, our stuff, and our bikes for a biking road trip.
Unfortunately, however, my truck stinks.
Naturally, upon detecting that my truck stinks, my inclination is to remove the source of the smell. Sadly, however, it is not that simple. You see, the stench that emanates from my truck is complex. It’s a multitude of things, all of which are intensified when the weather’s warm, and all of them are bike-related.
Helmet, gloves, shoes, shorts and jerseys: If you are a cyclist, you almost certainly have a bag in which you carry your riding gear. So here’s an interesting experiment: Put your head inside that bag and inhale — through your nose, no cheating — deeply.
Once you wake up, go put that same bag — still containing all your riding gear — in the oven and set the temperature to 140 degrees.
No, your significant other won’t mind. Why would s/he?
Let it bake for half an hour, then go open the oven and breathe deeply. You have just accurately simulated the primary smell component of my truck after it’s been sitting in a parking lot all day.
Tubes: Have you ever smelled a bike tube? You haven’t? Go do it, right now. I’ll wait.
[Waits for five minutes]
Surprised, weren’t you?
By itself, that smell’s no big deal. But of course, that smell isn’t by itself. It’s just a part of the stew of stink in my truck.
Lube: I always keep a bottle of Dumonde chain lube in my truck. And of course by “keep,” I mean that there is never a moment in which somewhere in my truck, a bottle of Dumonde is not leaking. And that stuff, in addition to being about as industrial-grade as lube can get, has a sharp odor to it. Basically, Dumonde chain lube smells like a flick on the nose feels.
Go ahead and flick yourself on the nose. I’ll wait.
The Bike: You wouldn’t think a bike would have a smell. Especially a road bike, which is the bike I keep inside the cab; the mountain bikes have to ride coach.
But bikes do indeed have a smell, if you count the saddle.
Go ahead, go smell your saddle. NO. I WAS JUST KIDDING. DON’T GO SNIFF YOUR SADDLE. THAT’S GROSS.
Passengers: I am sad to report that many of my friends, after riding a bike for 2-14 hours, smell pretty bad. And it’s a dynamic badness with peaks and plateaus (but no valleys, alas). And while I theoretically could lay out towels and blankets and demand that everyone apply post-ride deodorant, I am not going to.
Which means that my passengers leave a little something behind.
Me: I’m just kidding of course. I make no smell at all. Ever.
So what does one do when the thing one likes best makes one’s vehicle smell like a cross between a locker room and a bike shop?
Well, there are several solutions, each of which I have tried. Sometimes together.
Rolling down the window. This works great, for as long as you have the window rolled down. And the folks in the back seat really really seem to love all that wind, too!
Those tree things you hang from your rear-view mirror: There are a number of problems with these. First of all, they smell nothing like a tree. Go smell a tree right now, then go smell one of those evergreen-shaped air “fresheners.” I’ll wait.
No, just kidding, I’m going on without you.
The second thing is that these little air fresheners may as well be giant neon billboards with the text “VERY STINKY AUTOMOBILE” flashing. Which, while undoubtedly an effective auto theft deterrent, is still quite embarrassing.
Incense / potpourri: There are almost too many problems to count with these two. First, it’s not easy to keep the incense lit when you’ve got the air conditioner going. Second, every time you stop, the potpourri spills out of its decorative bowl and gets all over the place. Third, I’m simply far too straight to use either of these.
Also, I freely admit that three problems isn’t really “almost too many to count.”
Citrus spray: This is in fact what I have started using to de-stenchify my car:
I’m very pleased at how effective it is. A quick spray around the cab — and a rather more direct and extensive spray at my passengers — leaves my truck smelling just like oranges, for about thirty seconds. Then it smells a little bit like sweaty oranges. Eventually, the smell levels off to orange-y sweat.
Which is still an improvement.