Head sweat solutions, part 2: Halo headband

There are a number of solutions to mitigate sweat buildup while riding a bike, and I discussed one such thing, the Sweat GUT’R, earlier.

When I was still an active recreational runner in 2010, I bought my first Halo headband. At first glance, this is arguably less innovative and more traditional compared to the Sweat GUT’R, which is based entirely on a material that never soaks or gets saturated. No matter what form it takes up, either as an elastic headband, an elastic sun visor, or a loose headband you knot over your brow line, the Halo is really just a piece of material that absorbs sweat and has a silicone “Sweat Block Seal” that diverts sweat away from your eyes and face. Halo does say that while its Dryline fabric absorbs sweat, it wicks it away and lets it evaporate quickly.

My first ever cycling helmet of recent times was a Fox Transition hardshell from 2013, a very basic brain bucket not really known for good ventilation. When I paired the Halo headband with this helmet, it got saturated with my sweat in no time.

I lost this original blue elastic Halo headband at some point. In the intervening period, I got helmets with better ventilation, and I later got another Halo headband – this time, a black one that I had to tie around my brow line. Around this time, the shortcomings of the Sweat GUT’R were beginning to make themselves felt.

Revisiting the Halo, I found it worked better for me – especially when paired with a helmet with better air flow, like the Lazer Blade MIPS or the Specialized Centro. The air flow allowed the black Halo to do its job of letting the collected sweat evaporate into the air, instead of getting trapped as it did on the Transition helmet. Eliminating the elastic meant that this particular headband had a much better chance of lasting many more uses with less risk of getting worn out.

Even better, because it’s absorbent, the Halo keeps doing its job regardless of whatever crazy angle you put your head in. It’s not as susceptible to the tearing that the Sweat GUT’R can display, either.

I used my blue elastic Halo headband for the 200 km Audax Randonneurs Philippines brevet on December 5, 2015.

The one real complaint I have with the Halo is it can affect how you wear your helmet on your head. It’s not exactly thin, and it’s got more width to it, practically covering my entire forehead. There’s a very real chance you can end up pushing up the brow line on your helmet too high while attempting to wear the Halo under it.

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Head sweat solutions, part 1: Sweat GUT’R headband

Riding a bike is one of the quickest ways to work up a sweat, especially in our tropical climate. This combination can be a problem. Ride long or hard enough, and it will end up dripping into your eyes after your eyebrows decide they can’t take any more.

While there are sweat wicking foam pads on helmets and tiny toweling surfaces woven into fingerless cycling gloves, I’d guess a good number of people will want a better solution. Today we’ll look at one such solution: the Sweat GUT’R.

Touting itself as the sweatband that never saturates, it’s essentially a silicone strip with a raised gutter on the forward edge – hence the stylized name. The idea is that you wear it like you would a normal headband – the kind so famously sported by many professional tennis players. Unlike a normal headband, there is nothing on the Sweat GUT’R to absorb your forehead sweat – ergo, nothing that will get saturated with a surplus of it. Instead, all the sweat it collects on the gutter will run out the left and right sides, diverting away from your eyes and onto your temples, where it will have less chance of stinging.

At least, that’s the idea.

Because the silicone material itself isn’t the most elastic, the Sweat GUT’R fits around heads by trapping one of three different-sized elastic bands on its Velcro-equipped ends, which you then fold over into loops.

One other touted advantage is how easy this thing is to keep clean. All it needs is a rinse in some water, preferably soapy, then shake it off and let it dry.

The Sweat GUT’R has an impressively svelte, low profile. As far as pure fit is concerned, there’s no problem fitting this under a typical helmet.

The way the GUT’R wraps around my own forehead, at least, the raised gutter portion does clear my eyes. Setting it to a good tightness, the chamfered part of the headband that sits on the head does a good job of collecting sweat and fending off drips into eyebrows. It’s easy enough to think that any sweat it collects will clear my eyes and drain harmlessly off toward my temples.

As I said earlier…that’s the idea.

Unfortunately, the logic behind the Sweat GUT’R works best if you can keep your head in one optimal position. As long as the gutter portion itself remains roughly parallel to the ground, it will work as advertised. The moment you turn your head at too great an angle, or slouch over the handlebars, the gutter concept doesn’t work as well, and the risk of sweat spilling off and into your eyes increases considerably.

This is why this sweatband works great when you’re cranking away at an indoor trainer, but isn’t as effective when you’re in the middle of a tough climb, leaning your body every which way to keep your momentum going.

This smoke gray unit is also my second Sweat GUT’R. The silicone is advertised as being durable, but it can be susceptible to tearing under too much tension. On my first white unit, I noticed that the silicone doesn’t particularly like being stretched too tight across your head, and so I got little rips in it within a year. With the second gray Sweat GUT’R, I have since opted to use the middle of the three sizes of elastic bands, and it seems to be holding up better.

There’s much to like about the Sweat GUT’R. The appeal to me is that the creators were able to innovate on the humble headband and make it better at preventing sweat from stinging in athletes’ eyes. That said, your experience may vary. Actual execution is a little flawed, but if you can live with the design, it’s a good functional piece of apparel.

Indoor training, part 3: Entering the pain cave

So we’ve got the turbo trainer all set up. How is it like?

First things first: The variable resistance does work. Cranking the shifter all the way up to H results in the feeling of pedaling through molasses, the trainer absorbing your watts like a sponge.

It’s interesting how slacking off on the resistance feels though. Sure, effort gets lighter, but you can never really freewheel with your bike mounted on this thing. Most of it is the drive roller squeezing down on your rear wheel the whole time.

Ramp-up of effort feels pretty natural, so transitioning from warm-up to the meat of a workout is seamless. It’s when I warm-down and dial the effort back in the closing stages that the trainer feels just that bit unnatural. There’s always at least a bit of resistance on the rear wheel, so my legs feel pretty much “dead” afterward.

One concern I had going was the noise generated by the LR340. I’m glad to report I didn’t need to be, at least on the slick 700C x 28 mm tire I used. At higher cadences and harder efforts, the resistance unit’s whine becomes a little more audible, but nowhere near the point where I could wake up neighbors.

A common recommendation with turbo trainers is to use them with some sort of mat. Indoor training will turn you into a sweaty mess, and depending on your model of trainer, the vibration may have a detrimental effect on your floors. That said, once the bike is properly set up, the LR340 felt very solid and stable as I cranked out the watts, even out of the saddle. In the initial training days when I didn’t yet have a cheap yoga mat, the trainer’s large rubber feet form a well-damped parallelogram that didn’t threaten to crack any of my floor’s large tiles.

TURBO TRAINING TIPS

In conjunction with the suggested floor protection, I suggest using at least one large electric fan for ventilation purposes when you do your indoor training. On an indoor trainer, you lose the rush of oncoming air. That means your body heat will build up very rapidly as you do your intervals. Point the fan at you head-on or at an angle to help cool you off.

With the harder thermal load on your body, you get reduced into a sweaty mess very quickly, and you need to replace all that fluid running away from your skin. Don’t forget to hydrate, and often. It’s a good idea to drink before a workout too.

All that sweat has to be dealt with, too, so draping a towel over your handlebars and top tube is a good idea. After a workout, a cursory wipe-down of the frame should stop the sweat salts from corrosive action. Tiny bits and pieces of your rear tire will inevitably end up scattered just behind your trainer, so you’ll want to wipe these off too.

One other reason why I went the turbo trainer route was the availability of relevant workout videos, even on YouTube. There’s quite the variety, too; there are those that emulate climbs up famous and not-so-famous mountain roads, and there are videos that simply emulate a gym-style environment with structured training zones and beat-driven music. These don’t really work as well on a roller trainer. On cold and gloomy days when the urge to stay under the blankets is strong, at least there are options to keep your motivation. When all else fails, you can resort to a workout or two pre-programmed on an interval timer, and your own choice of music.