Take the 2-minute tour ×
Bicycles Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people who build and repair bicycles, people who train cycling, or commute on bicycles. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I would like to bicycle commute to work, but we don't have showers or any place I can change. How can I clean up and carry clothing? My office is business casual, but I need to look neat and presentable.

share|improve this question
1  
Community wiki, there will likely be many answers. This is also a test question to see if non-riding but related activities are in-scope on this site. –  Neil Fein Aug 26 '10 at 20:28
    
The Eagle Creek packing folders are great for carrying shirts and keeping them wrinkle free. eaglecreek.com/packing_solutions/packing_folders –  McGin Oct 28 '11 at 12:36
5  
Cleanliness is for the weak. –  naught101 May 11 '12 at 5:54

16 Answers 16

up vote 33 down vote accepted

My commute was fairly short, so my major burden was the rain. For this I invested in rain proof panniers & waterproof jacket & over-trousers. I had both a summer & winter jacket to make sure I didn't arrive in too hot during summer. I didn't have overshoes, so kept spare socks/shoes at office. I cycled at leisurely pace on way there to avoid building up too much of a sweat. I'd let rip on the way home to make up for that.

I had a colleague who cycled in from further afield, and wore the spandex gear. He just discretely got changed in the toilets when he arrived. It was never an issue (odour wise) - I guess he went with the babywipes & deodorant.

Our dress code was pretty casual. If you need to be smart, just bring your freshly ironed office clothes in a pannier. See if you can get a suction bag to prevent them from flopping all over the place enroute.

share|improve this answer
21  
One trick to try with ironed shirts is to roll them up - reduces the amount of wrinkles when unpacked at the office. –  Anthony K Aug 27 '10 at 1:24
1  
Plus one for rolling shirts and pants, and try to get wrinkle resistant clothing –  Andrew Lowe Aug 27 '10 at 10:20
4  
It's odd that this is the accepted answer, and is voted so high, when it gives (a) a story about not having to clean up, and (b) a story that only speculates about what someone did. –  Kyralessa Dec 9 '10 at 20:14
    
Another +1 for rolling up, and also check out "bundle wrapping": onebag.com/pack.html –  Hugo Jul 17 '11 at 17:57
2  
Regarding the odor; sweat only begins to smell after some time. If you arrive, give yourself 10-15 minutes to cool down, and then promptly change you'll avoid the "gym-shorts" smell entirely. No need for wipes or even extra deodorant (although it's not a bad idea to keep on hand). The real key is changing out of sweaty clothes after cooling off for a few minutes. –  STW Aug 26 '11 at 3:44

In the past, when I commuted to a job without showers (I've managed to luck out recently) I made sure to:

  • Keep my hair relatively short, as to avoid helmet-hair
  • Get in early enough that I can have a quick wash in a bathroom sink without too many people around to take notice
  • Always bring a full change of clothes
  • Like @curtismchale, leave a pair of 'work' shoes under the desk
  • Bring deodorant!
share|improve this answer
    
+1 for full change of clothes. In my opinion, sweaty clothes are the worst source of smell. –  jaustin Oct 28 '11 at 21:35
    
How would you wash yourself in the bathroom (especially if it's a tiny bathroom)? Did you bring a cloth and would wipe any sweaty areas and then put the cloth back in your bag? –  Dennis Aug 17 '13 at 6:55
    
Also, what are the work shoes for? If you kept your cycling shoes on, wouldn't that create less of a smell since you're not taking your feet out to switch shoes? –  Dennis Aug 17 '13 at 6:57

I use a Chrome Metropolis messenger bag (waterproof) to carry my stuff. Lots of room to carry a laptop, shoes, clothes...If you can leave a pair of shoes at the office under your desk. I've known a few people with no shower to just use some baby wipes in the bathroom and get the essentials freshened up. Also leave deodorant at work and put it on.

share|improve this answer
4  
+1 for the baby wipes - don't wait until you have babies to discover just how useful & versatile they are –  Kevin Aug 26 '10 at 20:59
1  
Any of the Chrome messenger bags are completely waterproof: I've ridden for an hour in torrential downpour and the contents of my bag stayed completely dry. The best on-body bag solution for carrying dry clothes to work IMO. And yes, baby wipes are essential. –  Scottie Aug 27 '10 at 9:15
    
Targus make some good backpacks with waist and chest straps to hold the bag steady and is waterproof and hold a 17 inch laptop with plenty of padding if you need to carry a laptop. –  Andrew Lowe Aug 27 '10 at 10:24
    
"Action wipes" are a good alternative to baby wipes. –  jenglert Aug 27 '10 at 16:10
    
I've got two Chrome bags (one mini metro and one citizen), and while they start out waterproof, after a year of wear and tear they end up more damp-proof. –  mikeTheLiar May 1 '13 at 21:10

2 pro-tips for not smelling bad.

One, and this may seem odd, but cool down before you change. If you can hang out in what you rode in on for like, 15 minutes, you can avoid immediately sweating into the clothes you've just changed into. For me, I've got a regular morning call so I show up 10 minutes before that, get through the 10 minute conference call and THEN go change. Even in summer by the time I do I'm no longer creating more sweat. There's nothing worse than changing your clothes in the bathroom only to notice your back is still sweaty 10 minutes later onto the shirt you carefully rolled up in your pannier.

Two - and this I think is key, not only should you keep deodorant at work, but put it on before you leave too! There's a reason they call the stuff "anti-perspirant". The aluminum oxide in deodorants actually works. So put a bit on before you leave, and more after you get there and you shouldn't be offending anyone.

share|improve this answer
2  
Pay attention to what you buy... some products are strictly deodorants and others are a combination deodorant/anti-perspirant. –  James Schek Nov 6 '11 at 19:00
3  
I have a relatively similar approach: towards the end of the home-work commute, I slow down, so the last five minutes I ride at cruise-in-the-park pace, slow cadence, moderate speed so the air helps cooling down and makes the sweating stop. Doable on rather flat or descending routes but very effective. Combine this tactic with almost any other answer given here to improve it's already excellent results. –  Jahaziel May 11 '12 at 15:39
    
The first one is good, i tend to park my bike a good 10 mins slow walk away, just for this reason. –  Xareyo Oct 1 '13 at 16:35

Another strategy that some people use is to drive to work one day a week with what they will wear for the next four days. You can stick that in your desk and change when you get there.

share|improve this answer
1  
Clothes aren't that heavy. Panniers are gonna be a lot cheaper in the long run. –  naught101 May 11 '12 at 6:04
1  
Depends on how formal you need to dress. If it's suit'n'tie when you're out of luck with panniers. I don't like panniers for commuting anyhow. –  andy256 Mar 19 at 22:10

Lots of people have mentioned a full change of clothes, and to that I would add just one thing: have a separate "emergency" pair of socks/underwear with you at all times. If you have space, extra pants, shirt, and shoes may also come in useful.

Every morning I pack myself a change of clothes, but the spare socks/underwear live in a separate bag which I put in my bag next to emergency bike tools and such. You just never know when you're going to get caught in a downpour or something, and they don't take up so much room in the bag.

share|improve this answer
1  
Sounds a bit odd, but I always make sure I have a spare set of undies and socks at work - for the days I'm rushing the kids off to school and don't remember to pack a pair. –  stib Dec 15 '10 at 10:47
    
don't forget to keep a spare belt there too; nothing worse than having to decide between regular pants that won't stay up and riding shorts –  STW Jun 17 '11 at 15:22

When I used to have 32 mile round trip commute, I used to keep a cache of clean clothes at work to change into. I'd refresh the clothes store every couple of weeks.

Not having to carry anything on my back, and wearing lycra gear meant that I minimised sweating.

I'd wash my face and upper body whe I got in using the little sink in the toilet.

I did look a bit crumply, but happily I make software for a living and noone particularly minded.

share|improve this answer

A cloth, such as a bathroom hand down, in your bag, that you can wet in the bathroom sink, and use to wipe down works wonders, it cools you down quicker, and wipes away the sweat. Just remember a plastic bag to pack it away, and don't forget to put it straight in the wash when you get home.

+1 for the shoes under the desk.

A full change of clothes are definitely a must.

share|improve this answer

It takes approximately twelve hours for bacteria to grow in your sweat and produce the waste products that we know as 'body odour'. Therefore, if you shower in the morning before you start your commute, you can work nine to six and not worry about having not baby-wiped every orifice on your arrival. If taking the 'only stale sweat stinks' approach you may want to avoid nylon clothing as this can harbour bacteria in the nylon fibres, beyond the reach of the washing machine.

'Business casual' is a uniform of sorts, I recommend 3 easy iron shirts, a spare selection of undies, a jacket, a couple of pairs of trousers and some shoes in the desk at work. It should always be possible to carry an item or two in your panniers/rucksack/saddlebag to rotate the clothes selection and a fresh T-shirt for ever day. Nobody will ever think you are weird for always wearing a variation of the same outfit as your reputation as a cyclist should go before you.

In Copenhagen and the Netherlands people commute to work in regular clothes at affordable cycling speeds on heavy bikes. To my knowledge they do not have to then shower on their employers hot water (and time) or do something weird with loads of baby wipes. They probably also do a better job of attracting the opposite sex by radiating their own pheromones rather than the fake ones included in the better deodorant brands.

share|improve this answer
7  
Please cite a source for your assertion that it takes 12 hours for bacteria to cause body odor. This seems inconsistent with my observations and I have yet to see any clinical study that claims it takes that long for body odor to develop. –  James Schek Nov 6 '11 at 18:58

I have used a Chrome messenger bag and would highly recommend it as highly visible and rainproof. I also have a pannier from Swift Industries that is great for taking larger amounts to work. I know of several people who swear by Ortliebs as visible and virtually waterproof. As others have noted, rolling your clothes will minimize wrinkles. This also works great when traveling.

I cannot recommend enough the previous note for Action Wipes - http://www.actionwipes.com/ They are bigger than most wipes, definitely more sturdier, they smell better and they can be recycled for other purposes after being washed.

share|improve this answer

I commute about 6 miles to work with a couple of good hills to get me nice and sweaty and I live in Seattle, so rain is a factor. I have fenders to keep the worst of the rain off and rain gear, but I wish I had booties. For cleaning up for work, I get the face wipes at Costco and clean up in the bathroom. They don't smell strongly and aren't "girly" and aren't expensive. My work is fairly casual. I keep a couple pairs of shoes at work and some pants. I usually wear the shirt I rode in. I trade out the pants as needed and if I need to dress a little nicer, I will bring something in my bike bag.

This system works well for me and I don't have to worry about washcloths that get smelly and have to be taken home to wash. I also take the bus occasionally and try to do most of my porting of laundry and other items then.

share|improve this answer

My work has showers, so I pack a fast-dry/ultralight towel (brand is MSR). Think about getting two towels, because the towel doesn't get any real time to dry while at work so I alternate each day. The towels aren't as soft as cotton, but dry faster & are much lighter. Still, I try to remove as much water from me before using the towel because of how long it sits in my bag.

Check the local pharmacy/convenience store for "trial" or "travel" size shampoo/soap containers...

I have "waterproof" panniers, but have found that wrapping my clothes in a plastic grocery bag was still necessary for the really bad days, even with fenders. Speaking of fenders, photochromic sunglasses are a good idea because fenders only help with what comes off the wheels. Between fenders & glasses, I'd choose glasses -- easier to pack, lighter than fenders, can be used for other activities.

I have booties/overboots, and tend to wear them even if the rain has stopped -- keeps a lot of the mud & muck off my shoes. They provide some additional heat too on cool days.

share|improve this answer

You don't say how far your commute is. Mine's just 4 1/2 miles (though soon to go up when we move offices). One answer to consider is not bothering to freshen-up at all. If you take the cycle in easy, it isn't too long, and your work do not need you to look besuited and amazing then you can get away with just wearing your work-a-day clothes on the bike. I started off turning up in lycra and then changing into clothes I kept at work (taking in a new set of shirts and a pair of trousers every Monday) but found disadvantages. If I turned up late for a meeting it would freak out my colleagues to have me in lycra (understandably). So now I just cycle in in what I'm planning to wear that day, shoes and all.

On wet winter days I need to use waterproof over-trousers (I use some Goretex hiking ones) and I have a bright reflective cycling jacket, a helmet, cycling gloves, and trouser clips but other than that it's fine.

share|improve this answer

For odour reduction (and comfort!) wear natural fibres. Synthetic materials are particularly bad at making the worst of a good sweat. Of the natural fibres, cotton is probably the worst, while in my experience hemp is excellent at reducing smells (even though it seems to stay damp longer).

Of course, different synthetic fibres perform differently, but as I don't often wear them, I haven't noticed which are better or worse, and I can't find any good references about the topic.

share|improve this answer

A lot of good answers below. I cycle 5 miles either way each day and use the 'spare clothes routine' left at work. Each day I have something new to wear, just one item, so clothes are continually being transported back and forth. The shoes always stay there. Get a good back pack, they are light and should not make you sweat if they are the type that sit off your back. I also have double cycling gear - 2 shorts, 2 leg warmers for winter, 2 socks etc, just in case it rains and one lot doesn't dry by coming home time. And who cares about getting wet on the home trip anyway? I would also seriously ask at work about somewhere to change; they want a healthy and active workforce, don't they? Tell the others in the office what you want and get their support. I've also been given a key to a small boiler room where I also leave the bike.

share|improve this answer

One rather drastic solution: https://www.eta.co.uk/2013/05/07/cycle-commuter-holy-grail-shirt-remains-wrinkle-and-odour-free-without-washing/

(Not the shirt in the URL, though that has obvious applications if it works as advertised, but scroll down to the "DIY shower for commuter cyclists".)

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.