Treating Fire Ant Bites

Levitra low priceom: 10px;” title=”West Palm Beach skyline from Southern Blvd. 09-22-2010″ src=”×106.jpg” alt=”” width=”500″ height=”106″ />I posted some photos of a Palm Beach Full Moon ride the other day. In it I mentioned getting attacked by fire ants while shooting this photo of the West Palm Beach skyline from the Southern Blvd. causeway between Palm Beach and West Palm Beach.

Here’s a link to a sunset photo of West Palm Beach, the full moon and The Breakers Hotel taken during happier moments of the ride.

Stabbed with red-hot ice pick

Here’s the photo I shot just as I thought someone had jabbed my ankle with a red-hot ice pick. If you’ve lived in Florida, and, I suspect, most Southern states, you know that feeling. You’ve have managed to tick off a mound of fire ants.

I quickly did the Fire Ant Shuffle, grabbed a light and started brushing them off my legs around my ankle area. You do NOT want to spray them with water. That just makes them grab on all the harder.

(The Fire Ant Shuffle is not to be confused with Mathilde’s Frog Dance performed under a Lake O Full Moon.)

Fire ants attack without provocation

Suite101 has some great info about fire ants: Fire ants bite without provocation; simply walking within 15 feet of a fire ant’s anthill is enough to spur an attack from these aggressive ants. The fire ant sting is painful and understandably so, as the ant uses its mandibles to literally bite away a tiny chunk of skin while simultaneously injecting a venom. According to, if left in place, the fire ant will pivot and begin to inflict bites in a circular pattern.

First aid for fire ant bites

I didn’t realize that I had been nailed so many times. I always carry some Sting-Kill insect bite swabs on the bike. They’re designed for bee stings, but I’ve found them effective for jellyfish and fire ants, too. They are a plastic-covered glass ampule with a swab on one end. You crush the ampule, which causes a mixture of Benzocaine, Menthol and Isopropanol to flow onto the swab.

Swabs last forever, are easy to use

I like them because they are one-use-only, last forever and work to relieve the symptoms of a bite.
I didn’t bother to pull a swab out this night, because I thought I had only been nailed once.

Where can I get Sting-Kill Swabs

Some folks have said they are available at Walmart, but I haven’t been able to find them locally. Sting-Kill Swabs are available from several vendors through Amazon.
I’m going to try a different brand, Soothe-A-Sting Insect Sting Swabs, that looks the same as the Sting-Kills, but is cheaper. I’ll post an update when they come in.

What do fire ant bites look like?

I’m going to run this photo small. Click to enlarge at your own risk
The evening after I was bitten, my ankle area began to itch and burn. When I took a closer look, I saw about a dozen bites, indicated by red marks and white pustules. Just rubbing against the sheet was enough to trigger the burning and itching sensation.
My first attempt to reduce the symptoms was to wash the area carefully, then apply Benadryl Gel to the bites. That didn’t help much.

Cortisone cream provided relief

Then I remember that my dermatologist had prescribed a cortisone cream for a rash some time back. He said that it would be good for insect bites, as well. He was correct. The cream brought the itching and burning down to bearable levels.
I told Wife Lila that the bites almost look like perforations ar0und my sock line. I hope my foot doesn’t break off along the dotted line.

Don’t squeeze the pustules

One thing I WON’T do is squeeze or break the white pustules. I’m told that will only push the infection deeper into the skin and increase the chances of scarring. If things don’t look better by mid-week, I’ll head off to the doctor. Generally, though, these things usually start to clear up in about a week.

Stylish, De-Dorked Bike Helmets

My buddy, Keefer, sent me a link to check out high-fashion bike helmets.  I have to concede that they are the un-dorkiest helmets I’ve seen, although I have to agree with one comment to the review that your first reaction to seeing one in the wild would be, “WOW, that dude / dudette has the biggest head I’ve ever seen.”

Here’s the PR Blurb

YAKKAY “SMART ONE” is a new smart design that differs by its rounded ear straps and adjustment buckles in polished stainless steel. But the real difference shows when one of the many different covers is attached to helmet – It changes from its characteristics of a helmet to a hat and becomes an accessory to your outfit. You adjust the helmet to your head with a number of adhesive foam circles which have the added advantage that air can circulate between them. When you are riding your bicycle, air will be pushed into the helmet, and pleasantly cool down your head. In addition, your head will stay dry in rainy weather, as the covers are designed without open holes. The helmet fully meets the European CE standard (EN1078).

Cool looks don’t make a cool helmet

My gut reaction is that this looks like an old-fashioned brain bucket. I can’

t see how that could be anywhere near as cool as my Giro Atmos Helmet. (Temperature cool, not fashion cool.)

The Atmos has eight-gillion holes in it and I still snatch it off my head every chance I get. I can’t see how a half-bowling ball with about five holes in the top of it could work in hot weather. (For the record, I never ride without my helmet. Here’s the reason why.)

Maybe the WEARER makes it cool

Somehow or another, I don’t quite see myself wearing the fur model or the Tokyo Jazz Pink version. If you’re interested in seeing all the models in all their spendor, go to the YAKKAY site.

They ain’t cheap. $165 plus a ticket to Europe. I didn’t see any U.S. dealers nor anything about shipping to the states.

The site DOES have a short video about how to adjust the helmet that would apply to any helmet. (Don’t have it cocked too far back, nor pitched too far down.)

Perfect Bike Fit by Boca’s Racer’s Edge Cycle Shop

It’s an old saying in the cycling community that “the most expensive bicycle is the one that sits unridden because it doesn’t fit the rider.”

When I was middle school age, I can remember some of my friends getting bikes that were so oversized that their parents would attach blocks of wood to the pedals so they could reach them. Since most of them had high, squeaky voices, I can only assume that the bikes standover height was equally out of proportion to the rider.

I bought a couple of bikes in my 20s from yard sales. When you are young and flexible, about the only “fit” is, “does the top bar contact my soft parts in a negative manner?”

My Trek and I are showing our age

I bought a used Trek 1220 that “mostly” fit me several years ago and it has served me well for many thousands of miles. It’s beginning to have mechanical problems, though, and so am I.

Now that I have retired and have started this blog, I want to do some multiple-day rides on a bike that is dependable and comfortable.

A Surly Long Haul Trucker caught my eye…

…when I was back home in Missouri. The phreds, folks who ride bikes all over the world for months and years at a time have very good things to say about it.

Just about the time I was doing serious research, a buddy said he was getting tired of stumbling over his Cannondale T800 on the way to the dining room table. He already had two bikes in his living room and three (not counting the two bents chained outside) was a bit much. (Do I need to mention that he’s single?)

He offered me a deal that was either too good to be true (one source) or about $100 too much (from another). The real question was, did it fit or could it be made to fit? I described my first ride here.

It was time for a formal fitting

The Racer’s Edge, in Boca Raton, was the closest Surly dealer and they also do bike fits. To be honest, I wasn’t completely comfortable with a shop that sounded like it catered to go-fast riders and their web site reinforced that image by saying “We are a full service cycling shop specializing in high performance racing equipment. We also sponsor five championship mountain, tri, and road teams.” Way too much testosterone for me, I thought.

John Palmquist made me feel comfortable

Son Matt came and hovered to document the fitting process. I brought along my Trek and the Cannondale and I have to give Fitter John Palmquist credit. He didn’t recoil in horror when I wheeled my bike past wheels that cost more than my whole bike.

It starts out with questions

Q: What kind of riding do you do, solo or group? Florida flats or mountains?

A: Solo. Most folks are either way faster than I am or slower, so I shake out by myself. Mostly flatland, but I did get in some rolling hills a couple of months ago. 300 feet up, 300 feet down, no mountains with long, high climbs.

Are you comfortable after a long ride?

Q: At the end of your longer rides, are you comfortable or do you have aches and pains?

A: About nine months ago, I started getting the sensation of having a pebble under my middle toes. Finally, after changing pedals, cleats and shoes, I went to an orthopedist to see if I needed new inserts. He said that I had developed arthritis in my big toes, which was throwing off my gait (and pedaling), causing the discomfort.

A closer look at my shoes

That’s when he asked to take a look at my Shimano Sandals equipped with Crank Brothers Candy C Pedal cleats.

“You might be more comfortable with a less comfortable walking shoe, but one with a stiffer sole so it spreads the pressure over more of your foot,” he suggested.

“I really don’t want walk-like-a-duck shoes and I ride in the rain from time to time and like shoes that don’t get soggy,” I countered.

“Your cleats should be just slightly behind the ball of your foot. Millimeters, not centimeters back, like these. Do you have any knee problems?”

“From about Mile 3 to Mile 10, I have a pain in the left knee, but it goes away and doesn’t come back until around Mile 40 for about 10 miles. Move and center them if you think it’s worth trying.”

Time to get on the Size Cycle

John has been fitting bikes for about nine years. When he first started, he used the rules of thumb that most of us have read (and which frequently contradict each other). His whole approach changed when he went to a four-day class at Serotta Cycling Institute, where he learned how to use an adjustable bicycle to achieve a neutral cycling position that produces the most power while being less apt to produce injury.

We started out with “average” settings

When I complained that I felt a little stretched out, he explained that we were going to work on getting the settings for the lower body first: saddle height, seat tube angle and saddle fore-and-aft adjustments. After that, he’d adjust for the upper body.

When I first started pedaling, the trainer made a WHIR! WHIR! WHIR! sound and I pedaled in a jerky, not round motion. It was like all of my power was on the downstroke. After warming up a bit, he started checking the bend in my knee when it was in the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions and adjusting the bike.

The pedal strokes started smoothing out

It was amazing how much difference the subtle changes made. Before long, the trainer started making a WHIRRRRRRRRRRRRR! sound as my strokes became more round and I was able to exert force more evenly.

He said he was shooting for about a 25-degree knee angle. He also suggested that I consider a 170-mm crank instead of the more standard 172.5 mm. The shorter crank would be easier on my knees and tests have shown that it wouldn’t reduce my power.

Time to work on upper body

Now John started to tweak the bars and stem.

Little things didn’t escape his notice. “Are those the glasses you ride in?” he asked. “If you’re getting neck pain, you might do better in sport-specific glasses that don’t slide down and cause you to have to crane your neck.”

“You’re not in your 20s anymore and you’re not a gymnast, so I’d recommend using a short-reach bar and short-reach drops to make yourself more comfortable and to be able to make use of the drops,” he added.

The non-intrusive measurement

Two final measurements remained. Checking my shoulder width to see how wide the handlebars should be and one that he called the “least important” and non-invasive. That didn’t sound like fun.

He pulled out a $260 wooden stick on a spring that I was supposed to stand over to measure my (surprise) standover height.

“Just how strong IS that spring when I let it go? I asked.

“It won’t change your voice,” he assured. Yeah, that’s what they told my buddies in middle school, too.

So, what’s the verdict?

Boiled down, my inseam is 86; my stem height is 176; stem length is 100; seat tube length is 54; seat tube angle is 73 degrees; crank arm length is 172.5; my seat should be set forward about 3mm.

Does my buddy’s used bike work?

“I’d love to sell you a new bike, but we could get the Cannondale to fit you if we replaced a couple hundred dollars worth of stuff.”

What am I going to do? I posed the question to the phreds. I’ll post some of the responses another day.

Was it worth $100 for the fitting?

I think it was. (I’ll get a discount if I end up buying a bike from them, so the hit wouldn’t be quite so bad.) In the long run, it was probably cheaper to have a pro evaluate what I need than to keep swapping out parts. Even though I have enough miles under me to be acutely aware of subtle changes in saddle height and alignment, I was really surprised to see how those tiny adjustments altered my pedalling style on the Size Cycle.

Insulated Water Bottles vs. Uninsulated (BPA?)

Today, my cycling friends, I’ll be discussing the difference between insulated water bottles and uninsulated water bottles. I’ve done extensive testing and am ready to present my results.

If you’re the lazy type, look at the pretty chart (shamelessly borrowed) below and then buy a BPA-free 24-ounce Polar Bottle.

Why do you need cold water? Or water at all?

Insulated versus Uninsulated Water BottlesIt is hot.

I realize that South Florida hot isn’t the same as Arizona hot or Africa hot but it is still pretty darn hot. Add in our world famous, not available in stores, humidity and bike riding is punishing. Keeping well hydrated is absolutely necessary, not just to maintain performance but for survival.

With an uninsulated bottle, water reaches air temperature in less than half an hour on my bike.

I used to ride with an iced-up Camelbak and there was usually still ice in the bag four or five hours later. Yummy! It worked great but I never liked the heavy weight and the massive reduction of air flow across my back.

Freeze Water Bottles Overnight

For the last two years, I have been freezing my water bottles overnight 3/4 full then putting cold water on top right before I leave the house. A large, solid chunk of ice kept the bottle cold about twice as long as did ice cubes.

Even then, that just means cool water for an hour.

My normal Saturday morning group ride is 31 miles and we are out there for an hour and a half. Not even to the turn around point, my water is 85 degrees. Yeah, it’ll keep you hydrated but it is not at a temperature which would encourage you to drink.

You want me to spend how much on a water bottle?!?!

Over the years, I have amassed quite a collection of free water bottles…

Water Bottles of all Shapes, Sizes and Materials

Just about every event I do, there’s a free water bottle available. I bet I have 20 of them in the garage. The low end bottles have tops that sometime leak. The higher end bottles are acceptable in every way shape or form with the exception that they don’t keep the water cool.

Did I mention they are free? Until a couple weeks ago, I had never actually paid for a water bottle. It seems almost seedy, maybe reckless, to pay for a water bottle. It would be as though I were lighting my BBQ grill with $10 bills.

Hello, my name is Matt and I paid about $10 for an insulated water bottle.

So, do insulated water bottles really work?

Continue reading “Insulated Water Bottles vs. Uninsulated (BPA?)”