You know you’re an #OldSchoolCyclist if you put a wet sock over your spare bottle on hot days. Because ice cubes were for sissies.
Let’s talk about Euro. Not the monetary unit, the cultural unit. As in the irreducible essence of All Things European. Expressed, in this case, by potable liquids.
Wine, for instance, is very Euro. The only thing more Euro than wine is wine being drunk out of a dirty water glass very late at night at a table on the sidewalk outside a little café on an unpronounceable street in one of the sketchier sections of the 18th Arrondissement by a guy with a beret and noticeable body odor who is smoking an obscure brand of French cigarette and reading Sartre by the light of a flickering low-wattage bulb.
Espresso is Euro. Beer is Euro. Ricqlès, which is a mint-flavored soft drink nobody but the French can stand, is Euro. Pellegrino. Cinzano. Gerolsteiner. Even that most American of libations, Coca-Cola, can be Euro. But only when served warm and flat on a hot day and—here comes the most important part—without ice.
Sure they’ll offer up a begrudging chip or two, but that’s just to be polite. Europeans would no more put ice into Coca-Cola than they would into beer, wine, or espresso. Which makes ice about the most un-Euro thing there is. In fact, ice is not merely un-Euro, it’s practically anti-Euro. And ice cubes are even worse than other denominations of ice, and probably a major contributor to that Euro crisis you keep reading about.
Bikes—and especially Old School bikes—are quintessentially Euro, of course. Which is why they should never be brought near ice at any time, except maybe on hardcore winter training rides involving equal measures of layered wool, icy sweat, and human suffering.
The insatiable thirst to be Euro is one reason Old School Cyclists do not put ice into water bottles. The other reason is that, until Certain American Companies began Americanizing them, water bottles had rather narrow necks. This made getting ice cubes into the bottles functionally impossible, and made breaking ice cubes down into small enough chunks to fit down the bottleneck’s bottleneck both tedious and frustrating. Especially when your buddies were outside the house, riding in small circles in your driveway and yelling at you to hurry up, come out, strap in and roll out, or get left behind.
Probably the original idea behind narrow necks on bottles was to permit the use of reasonably sized (and therefore reasonably priced) corks. But, for whatever reason, the neck design did not change, even when the first plastic Italian and French bottles (nobody called them bidons back then) became available in North America. And it didn’t change because, well, because that’s the way they’d always done it, and if it was good enough for Ottavia Bottechia in 1925, it should be good enough for us fifty years later. And besides, it was Euro, and therefore good.
So if ice cubes didn’t work, what would? An overnight spell in the freezer would cause a water-filled and already rather brittle Old School bottle to split at the seams, spraying the whole compartment with semifrozen water, which rendered your bottle useless and your freezer unusable until you went in and chipped away at a skating rink’s worth of ice.
What did work was a sock. Preferably wool and depending on your definition of reasonable, at least reasonably clean.
It sounds like Dr. Seuss. Soak sock in sink. Slip slippery sock on second bottle. Slickly slide second bottled sock into second cage. And you’re done.
A string or rubber band around the neck of the bottle held the sock in place. It might be good for a thousand miles, sometimes more. Some Old Schoolers with supportive significant others even showed up with little cloth jackets skillfully sewn into place. On the bottles, I mean, not the riders. Or the significant others.
Yes, it was ghetto, but it was Euro ghetto. It also worked, and, since you essentially had your bottle wrapped in a swamp cooler, it worked pretty well. When you switched bottles an hour or two into a long, hot ride, the sock would still be slightly damp and the bottle’s contents refreshingly cool. Not ice-cold, of course, but plenty cool enough to make a difference on the long death march back.
Inevitably, technology crept in to undermine the bottle-sock tradition. Some innovators would stop at a Seven-Eleven store, fill half a bottle with Slurpee and top it off with water. Freezing cold water plus a sickly-sweet sugar rush for the long journey home, with the added attraction of the worst-ever stains in your bottles until Cytomax was invented years later. Purists disdained such apostasy, of course.
Besides, we all knew that bikes and a company that made Slurpees were mutually exclusive and always would be.