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During the summer, I like to go for rides on trails without a shirt. Is this safe?

Also, related: is it rude to other people on the trail not to wear a shirt?

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Rude? In certain events it seems to be positively encouraged! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Naked_Bike_Ride –  PeteH Nov 30 '12 at 16:29
    
Try riding in a shirt with buttons, all of them undone. While a (cotton) T-shirt only gets wet with sweat, an unbuttoned shirt provides many benefits, such as sun protection, increased air flow, kickass style. –  Vorac Nov 20 '13 at 14:22
    
Having said that, during the hot summers I ride exclusively shirtless. Only places I have had problems with this are banks, large general stores and at work. And the realization about unbuttoned shirts came to me only last summer, while touring with panniers. –  Vorac Nov 20 '13 at 14:29
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4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Safe is a relative term in this instance. A shirt might protect you in a fall, but only just. You'll know immediately whether a shirt can protect your skin from sticks, branches, and prickers dangling into the trail. If you were going fast enough flying insects may even make an impact, though I can't imagine it'd be terribly painful.

Shirts do offer some protection from two things: sunburns (and subsequent skin cancer) and bites from insects (potentially carrying disease.) For lightly complexioned people, skin cancer is a huge danger and can develop even without having been sunburned. Insect-borne diseases are also a big deal in most places. Having been treated for Lyme disease, I can attest to the importance of wearing insect repellent and, yes, shirts.

Additionally, that thin layer of material actually keeps you cooler by blocking the sun from reaching your skin - this is the same reason why desert dwelling peoples wear lightweight material all over their bodies. Having a shirt on also keeps you from sweating all over your bike and other gear.

In terms of etiquette: if you're out in the woods and there aren't many people around, go for it. If you're bumping elbows with people on a multi-use trail, maybe consider some modesty.

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+1 for not getting sweat on your bike. Keep the bike safe. –  James Bradbury Nov 24 '12 at 22:21
    
I'd say you covered the issues. The point about being cooler with a shirt on is important. As for rudeness, it depends on your local norms for behavior (and, to an extent, your physique) -- on a sparsely traveled trail or on the open road I wouldn't find it offensive. On a busy city park trail with kids and old folks and everyone in-between it's a bit more questionable. –  Daniel R Hicks Nov 24 '12 at 23:29
    
Although a shirt won't stop gravel rash etc, it will help stop dirt entering wounds. –  mattnz Nov 24 '12 at 23:55
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Safety

  • If you fall off, I can't see how a shirt would protect you. It might reduce grazes slightly, but it's negligible.
  • A shirt may protect you from sunlight and risks of sunburn and skin cancer, although, unless it states UV protection, most shirts let some sunlight through.
  • Depending on where/when you ride, you may be more at risk of insect bites or simply getting them stuck in your sweat - nice!

Rudeness

Bit of a personal opinion on whether it's rude. Personally I'm not bothered at all. I'm more offended by dry creaky chains. I think legally (in the UK, at least), it legal for anyone to show their bare chest in public, regardless of gender.

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A typical shirt or bike jersey has no security benefits. Depending on the terrain some special protectors might make sense when thining about security. One might even argue that a shirt might reduce security as it might be caucght by a tree or something Whether iit is "rude" depends on your local environment. In some areas it's absolutely accetable, in others not.

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You'd have little to no protection against scrapes on trees or bushes close to the trail. A shirt will give some protection from the sun, bugs/insects, and those who share the trail feel being shirtless is best saved for the beach or pool.

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