You would LOVE to bike to work, but there’s one problem. Your employer doesn’t have a shower. Understandably you are worried that a bike commute would turn you into a sweaty mess, and you can’t work looking like you just left the gym. How can you bike to work when there is no shower to freshen up?
As bike commuters ourselves we have put together a list of 19 tips and tricks to looking and smelling good after a bike commute. Not every tip will be for everyone, but hopefully a few will help you clean up so that you can work without looking like a slob. We promise no shower needed.
Tip #1 – Wash Rag & Sink
This by far is the best tip we can give you to smelling good after a bike commute. Bring a wash rag to work that you can use with water to wipe down with. Wipe your face, neck, and under your arm pits to clean off any sweat or stink. We would recommend keeping a small plastic bag that you can utilize to put the used wash rag in so that you can take it home to be cleaned later. A simple ‘birdbath’ in the sink with a wash clothe will do wonders. Don’t harp on it until you’ve tried it!
Tip #2 – Deodorant
You would think this one is a no-brainer, but make sure to have deodorant to apply once you arrive at work. You don’t want to offend others with body odor, and applying a fresh layer of deodorant will get you smelling good.
Tip #3 – Change of Clothes
Pack a fresh change of clothes in your pannier or backpack to bring to work. This is essential if you’re riding a longer distance or you just sweat more than the usual human. You can take off all your sweaty bike clothes, clean up, and put on your fresh clothes. The nice thing about fresh clothes is that it doesn’t matter how sweaty you get on the ride. Your commuter clothes can be drenched in sweat (or rain), and you’ll still be looking good at the office. If you’re able we would recommend airing out your bike clothing while you work.
Tip #4 – Pedal at a Moderate Pace
You’re not in the Tour De France so why the rush? Unless you’re late to work slow down and pedal at a moderate pace. If you kick it into high gear you’ll get to work quicker, but you’ll also get much sweatier. Enjoy being outside on your bike, and move at a leisurely pace. We have heard of bike commuters riding 9 miles to work and hardly working up a sweat, because they intentionally ride slowly. Pedaling at a moderate pace means sweating less and allows you to show up to work without your heart racing.
Tip #5 – Light clothing
If you wear heavy clothing you’re more likely to heat up while riding and get sweaty. Unless it’s the winter we would recommend wearing lighter clothing. Great bike commuter clothing has wicking capabilities that take care of perspiration. It’s one of the reasons you see a lot of cyclists in lycra gear. If you’re wearing slacks and a shirt be sure to carry your jacket or sweater in your pannier and putting it on when you get to work.
There have been times when I wore light clothing to work to avoid sweat, and felt a little chilly at the beginning of the ride. The good news is that once you start pedaling you will warm up.
Tip #6 – Don’t Wear a Backpack
Backpacks are sweat magnets. Even at smaller distances a backpack can create a tremendous amount of sweat on your back. The fact that you’re wearing a weight, coupled with the truth that it doesn’t allow your back to air off creates a real sweat storm. We would recommend getting panniers rather than wearing a backpack if you want to bike to work without sweating.
Tip #7 – Cool Down
Simple trick, but take 5 to 10 minutes once you arrive to work to cool down. If you jump into your work clothes before cooling down you’re more likely to sweat in your fresh clothes. Take a breather, let the heart rest, and let your body temp cool down before changing.
Tip #8 – Wet Wipes
Some bike commuters choose to use wet wipes or baby wipes to wipe off sweat and stink after their ride. They’ll keep these at work, and can toss them in the trash when they’re done. I have heard some refuse to use baby wipes, because they “don’t want to smell like a baby.” If you would rather have some type of disposable wipe make sure it’s a smell that you’re ok with.
Tip #9 – Keep Hair Short
Are you worried about showing up to work with helmet hair? Shorter hair is less likely to get messed up from a helmet. This is a commitment, but if you’re looking for a new hairstyle you could consider a shorter-haired look. Helmet hair is a valid concern. A comb, hair gel, or simply some water can do wonders to combating helmet hair.
Tip #10 – Work Shoes
Some bike commuters swear that having a pair of work shoes under your desk is essential to not only looking good in the office, but feeling good. Why would you want to put on fresh socks only to put them into the hot shoes that you biked over in? Having work shoes allows you to air out your bike shoes while you work.
Tip #11 – Shower at a local gym
Is there a local gym that’s close to your work? If so, you could consider joining the gym so that you could utilize their showers.
Tip #12 – Keep a Week Worth of Clothes at the Office
This one isn’t for everyone, but some bike to workers would rather keep a full week’s worth of clothes at the office than carrying their daily work clothes. It’s an idea! We haven’t tried this one, but maybe this sounds like a wonderful idea to you? Of course, you’ll need somewhere at work to store all of these clothes.
Tip #13 – Get an E-Bike
Get yourself one of those new hot e-bikes! You’ll pedal less and the bike will work more. The end result? You will sweat less.
Tip #14 – Shower before the commute
This may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s not. A shower before your bike commute will clean off any old sweat on your body. Body odor is produced when old sweat sits on your skin and combines with bacteria. Even a quick shower before the morning bike commute will wash away that old sweat. Even if you do sweat on your ride you will be less likely to be stinky.
Tip #15 – Dry Shampoo
If you’re worried about your hair and want it clean and looking good you could try out dry shampoo. Simply spray the the powder into your hair, massaging it in, and then brushing it out. The dry shampoo will absorb any excess oil or dirt leaving your hair clean.
Tip #16 – Pick the Right Route
Does your route to work have a lot of uphills? These calve burners are also sweat inducing. If you’re hoping to get to work without breaking a sweat take a route with less uphills even if it means that it is less direct.
Tip #17 – Start Earlier
For some parts of the country it can get HOT as soon as the sun starts rising into the sky. If work allows you to have flexibility in your schedule you should consider commuting to work earlier. Get yourself a bike light and start riding before the heat comes. Sometimes even 15 minutes earlier can mean the difference of multiple degrees.
Tip #18 – Take Public Transportation
Did you read all of these tips and you’re still worried that you won’t be able to look good and feel clean at work? One option is to take your bike with you and ride on public transportation to work. This way you can show up to work looking exactly how you want. Once your work shift is over you can hop onto your bicycle, and ride all the way home without worrying if you are a little sweaty when you arrive at home.
Tip #19 – Drink Water
Drinking water before, during, and after the ride will help. Water helps flush out the toxins in your body, and toxins are part of what causes body odor. If you’re well hydrated your body will continue to sweat, but less toxins means you will smell less. In addition, if you’re drinking water during your ride it can keep your body temperature in check.
One of the biggest excuses that people use for not commuting by bike is that they are worried about sweat and their work doesn’t have a shower. We hope these tricks and tricks will help you feeling fresh and clean after a bike commute. Not having a shower at work shouldn’t be a deterrent from becoming a bike commuter. Figure out what works best for you, and fine tune it over time. Enjoy your commute!