Is there anything I can do to make my cycling gear smell less after I have arrived at work?

My problem is my baselayer tends to stink. Then I stink when I put it on at the end of the day to get home.

Can just feel the comments from others. Geez what do you expect! Am I suppose to bring my entire wardrobe to work.

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    My SRAM setup never smells ... oh wait, wrong 'gear' – Argenti Apparatus Sep 30 '18 at 16:47
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    When you launder the gear, use a detergent that is effective at removing the fatty acids from your sweat. I don't have the names at hand, but a couple of detergents/additives made for hunters (to remove the "human" smell from clothes) seem to work pretty well. – Daniel R Hicks Oct 1 '18 at 0:41
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    merino wool base layers are what you need. – Andy P Oct 1 '18 at 8:10
  • Just hang the clothes up to dry in a suitable place (i.e. well aired room and away from people so the smell doesn’t bother anyone). This is especially applicable if it’s raining. Wet clothes smell worse and putting on wet clothes when riding home is the worst. – Michael Oct 1 '18 at 16:09
  • What color is most of your equipment, btw? – SeldomNeedy Oct 1 '18 at 17:50

I have a similar problem. My cycling shorts and jersey get quite nasty sitting in a locker at work after a sweaty morning commute.

I rinse shorts, jersey (and helmet) in warm water, then hang them where they can dry during the day. (There is no risk of theft where I work.) This helps substantially, although it's only partially effective during the height of summer where I live which is hot and humid.

(For those wondering where and how I rinse my shorts and jersey - the answer is in the locker-room shower, and yes, I have sometimes just gotten in with my gear still on.)

I also keep a number of jerseys in rotation so each gets a proper wash after each hot commuting day.

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  • Seconded, though I only rinse the damp parts of my gear as they don't dry enough, otherwise. Means I tend to cycle home in slightly damp gear but at least it's fairly clean damp. – David Richerby Sep 30 '18 at 18:27
  • I often have a jersey that damp at the bottom, and a little chilly to put on in the air conditioned building, but I'd much rather put on a damp jersey than a sweaty one. – Argenti Apparatus Sep 30 '18 at 19:50
  • Your solution is quite a hassle. The few times I’ve used it I had to carry the dripping clothes through half the office building to a place where I could hang them up to dry. – Michael Oct 1 '18 at 16:05
  • @Michael. Fortunately for me there is a locker room and showers provided where I can leave clothes during the day. – Argenti Apparatus Oct 1 '18 at 16:21
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    @Michael roll the wet cloths in the towel and step on or wring the towel + clothing roll. The towel will absorb water and prevent the fabric from getting stretched. – Rider_X Oct 1 '18 at 18:24

Ideally, if you are using synthetic clothing you should have a fresh change of undergarments for the ride home. If you commute longer distances (i.e., over 45 minutes each way), this seems natural as the last thing you want to do is put on the stiff smelly clothes again. On shorter commutes this can seem like overkill, but if you are smelling it’s obviously long enough.

This can seem like a lot of clothing. And in some ways it is, unless you do more laundry, which has been my option. I have enough clothing for 3 days, wash every second.

There are also enzyme washes that can help reduce the stench, by breaking down the organic materials that can accumulate in the fibers. Some work better than others (we don’t do product recommendations), but they can definitely extend the capacity of clothing to remain stench free.

Finally, wool undergarments tend not to suffer from the same stench issues you get with synthetics. They tend to be more expensive, and require more care, but wool can be a phenomenal material for repeat wearings (as I have found many times on tours where frequent washing is a luxury).

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Your clothes smell, because you are sweating into them, and you allow the microbes to multiply in that sweat.

  1. The most effective way to avoid stinking, is to avoid sweating.
  2. The next effective way is to ensure quick, thorough drying after the ride.
  3. The third effective way is to ensure that you don't have a population of microbes in your cloths to start with.

So, to avoid stinking cloths, make sure you

  1. Don't overdress (give your body the air it needs to actually radiate the excess heat away).

  2. Don't put your clothes on a heap after the trip. Either put them on a hot radiator, or keep them on and let your body heat do the drying. The later does require that you don't overdress. If you overdress, there will be way too much sweat in your clothes, and you'll produce more after you've entered a heated building and your body is struggling to get rid of the excess heat.

  3. Put your clothes into the laundry at the end of the day, and put on fresh clothes the next day.

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    I would have problem with #1. I do sweat no matter how light I dress. And I need to dress to have temperature high enough not to cut off my fingers and hands from blood supply. When it is colder my fingers are frozen and the rest is sweaty. Gloves have little effect on that, though. – Crowley Oct 1 '18 at 9:44
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    @Crowley Yes, the fingers are always a problem. I actually put on gloves before I put anything over my T-shirt. And the gloves are the one garment that can't be thick enough in winter. However, uncomfortably cold fingers are no reason for me to let the rest of my body reach boiling temperatures. I will just try to increase blood circulation through my fingers by moving them, and I will give them a rest when they get too cold by rolling them under my palm (within the glove). Up till now, that has always been enough. – cmaster - reinstate monica Oct 1 '18 at 20:33

I wear a bike jersey, bike gloves, headtube and sometimes cleated shoes along with regular pants. I don't wear padded pants on the recumbent, but I do on an upright bike.

At work, I strip down and cool off. Once sweatting has stopped or reduced, I change my top and baselayer for a clean one that was stored in my locker.

Then I hang up my tops and gloves etc. They either drape over my bike or the bike stand.

We're lucky that the room gets morning sun, and is air-conditioned. So damp stuff dries out in a few hours.

I wouldn't normally wash or rinse anything, and I don't generally have a shower either... riding the recumbent makes that slightly unnecessary.

However I do have to make sure my seatpad gets sunlight/drying time too - that tends to absorb sweat over the commute.

At home-time I'll re-wear the original clothes, which go in the wash at home. The day's clothes get stored on top of my locker for reuse. I'll get a couple days rotating through several sets of at-work clothes before they need to go home for a wash too.

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I've always had that problem with synthetic fabrics -- over time they take on odors that are hard to remove and become more pronounced when sweaty (i.e. after riding to work and sitting in a locker/bag all day).

So I switched from synthetic to cotton. In the morning I wear bike shorts and a cotton t-shirt on the ride to work. At work I change into my work pants and shirt and leave the damp t-shirt on top of my bag to dry. On the way home, I'd wear my work pants and the same cotton t-shirt home.

I can wear that same shirt back and forth for 3+ days without excessive odor (but usually switch it out after 2 days, I bike 4 days/week, so switch shirts in the middle)... My bike shorts don't tend to have that same odor problem, but I wear a fresh pair every day to avoid saddle sores.

This is SF Bay Area commuting, so the weather is rarely too warm. The cotton isn't wicking like a synthetic fabric and tends to get damp and stay damp, but it doesn't hold odors, and for a ~9 mile ride, is still pretty comfortable.

On the rare hot days, I'll wear the cotton shirt to work when it's cool, and wear a synthetic shirt home since it's better in the heat (and shorts instead of work pants)

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A couple of things that can help.

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    It needs to be understood that body odor results from the action of bacteria on the "fatty acids" in armpit (and groin) sweat. If you just wash away the bacteria and don't get rid of the fatty acids the odor will keep coming back (and worse than before). – Daniel R Hicks Oct 1 '18 at 12:00

An important thing to do is never wash your synthetics with fabric softener. Fabric softener is a terrible product for synthetics, it coats the fibres of the fabrics, retarding the wicking ability of the fabric and trapping bacteria within the fibre. Cut the fabric softener from the get-go and they won't stink as much in the future.

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This is a well-known problem with nylon/lycra. There are specialty detergents specifically for synthetic athletic gear to get the stink out.

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I hang my clothes in my pedestal drawer unit like this enter image description here and have put an air freshener in the drawer to deal with the smells.

So far no smell and my clothes have been dry enough to wear going home.

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