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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 07-29-10, 12:40 PM   #1
csimons
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A couple months ago, I began commuting by bicycle regularly. As it is getting hotter and I'm getting more into shape and pushing more, I'm beginning to notice that I'm starting to come into work sweaty.

The primarily reason I decided to start commuting by bicycle was mainly for exercise, since I work a sedentary job and don't get any exercise any other time, and so I don't want to take a slow/leisurely pace to avoid sweating.

My office, however, doesn't have showers. I expect this is true of the workplaces of many commuters, and so I'd like to make what might be an unusually personal inquiry: what do the other cycle-commuters here do for "bird baths"? Do you guys just rinse off a bit at a sink? Alcohol wipes? Change clothes? What works best?
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Old 07-29-10, 12:45 PM   #2
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How long is your commute?

Mine is 3-4 miles each way, and I get by okay with simply bringing a clean shirt to change into when I get to work.

I'm sweating profusely when I arrive. So I go into the bathroom and follow these steps:
1. Take wet shirt off
2. Fan & pat myself dry with wet shirt
3. Wash hands
4. Put on clean shirt.
5. Do not tuck in clean shirt until pants are completely dry.

That's it for me. I'm a little damp for the first 30 minutes of the day or so, but not bad enough for me to need to bring a dry pair of pants with me.

Another guy here commutes from further away, and he comes in full cycling gear and changes into work gear. Still no showers though.
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Old 07-29-10, 12:59 PM   #3
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How long is your commute?
Mine is 5.5 miles on the more-or-less shortest-path route I normally take in the morning, according to Google Maps.

I wouldn't say I'm sweating profusely when I arrive, but I'm kind of damp for the first 30-45 minutes as well. I suppose I'm just trying to guard against stinking and not noticing it myself.
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Old 07-29-10, 01:01 PM   #4
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If possible keep some clothes at work so you don't always have to be packing a full set. A damp wash cloth with a little soap is sufficient for a quick cleanup before changing into the work clothes.

BTW, make sure that there might not be a shower in the building. Places where I've worked all had showers, but in two of them no one else seemed to be aware of their existence. In both cases they were around for the maintenance staff in case they had to use some toxic cleaning products and wanted to clean up thoroughly. One shower was down in the basement hidden behind all the building power and HVAC equipment and the other was in one of the downstairs bathrooms behind a closed (but unlocked) door marked "MTCE." No one had a problem with my (or other cycling commuters) using the showers - but they weren't at all obvious or advertised.
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Old 07-29-10, 01:09 PM   #5
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I ride 10+ miles into work.

I do not shower.

I use one of those super absorbent towels to dry off at end of ride. works fine.

when I first started this I was concerned and did take showers but that added a lot of hassle time at the office/shower/change etc. Just hang clothes to dry under desk. should do it.

works well for me. and I'm in Atlanta. it's hot. (currently the smog is keeping me off the roads as I'm having trouble breathing on the bigger hills. we're working on that problem. maybe back to riding soon.) I find yes, I sweat a little on ride but by the time I get inside and dry off before the bacteria have a field day on my skin I can stop the odor before it starts. no worries if you get dried off quickly at work.
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Old 07-29-10, 01:24 PM   #6
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I also have a short commute, but still sweat when the weather is hot. I'll wear a t-shirt for my ride and have my work shirt in my backpack. When I get to work, I go in the bathroom and wash out the armpits and my face before changing into my work shirt. I'll also put on deodorant, which I also bring with me. Unscented baby wipes can also work well for a quick wash up.
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Old 07-29-10, 01:25 PM   #7
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I sweat heavily when I just dance and my commute to school is about 12 miles one way with a backpack. I wear cycling shorts and an athletic t-shirt while t-shirts are in my school's sport complex locker room(I wear cycling shorts into class). When I get to the locker room I walk around shirtlless for a few minutes to cool myself down, then I wet my washcloth underneath the sink tap and wipe down any part of my body that feels slightly uncomfortable. My deodorant is awesome so I just need to dry wipe my armpits. I always feel refreshed in class and have never reeked after arriving to class (except for when I tried my stupid no socks movement)
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Old 07-29-10, 02:08 PM   #8
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It was hot and muggy this morning when I left for work. I took the long way, just over 21 miles to get here. I was wearing lycra shorts and jersey. I'm normally a slow rider, but I pushed a bit harder today and averaged 14 mph. Yes, I was drenched when I got to work.

Once I got into my air-conditioned office, I took a few minutes to cool down and dry off. I had a towel and change of clothes on the bike. I didn't need a shower.

I do this a few times a week. Nobody has told me I smell yet.
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Old 07-29-10, 02:10 PM   #9
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I just sit around in my spandex until lunch, then change before I go.
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Old 07-29-10, 02:58 PM   #10
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I ride 7 miles, don't shower. I do have the luxury of starting at my desk in the clothes I bike in, don't change into work clothes for the day until after I've cooled down and stopped sweating.

Doesn't get as hot here as I imagine it does in SLC, but we've had multi-day stretches in the 90s.
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Old 07-29-10, 03:00 PM   #11
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My walk way between the 2000 watt lazer and the turret punch was 95 degres yesterday. I dont worry about a little swear on my way to work.
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Old 07-29-10, 03:20 PM   #12
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Do you guys just rinse off a bit at a sink? Alcohol wipes? Change clothes?
All of the above. And shower before the ride so my sweat doesn't stink.
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Old 07-29-10, 03:29 PM   #13
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1. Regarding smell, you can sweat quite a bit and still not smell if you're clean. The smell comes from bacteria that lives on your skin, so if you shower before biking you probably won't smell when you get there even if you sweat quite a bit. Some of the same advice might apply to your clothes - don't wear something stinky, haha.

2. As other people said, you can keep a dry set of clothes at work.

3. When you get near your destination, like a couple of miles, stop pushing and take it real easy. Problem is that the air you're going through does a lot to cool you off, but it takes your body several minutes from the time you stop biking to stop producing heat from exercising. If you coast more at the very end of your ride, your body doesn't sweat like crazy when you get off the bike, and you get cooled down by the wind on that last stretch.

4. People say that they use washclothes for the 'pits, and just dry off their face. For me, I'm fortunate enough that I don't really have to do any of that.
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Old 07-29-10, 04:15 PM   #14
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1. Regarding smell, you can sweat quite a bit and still not smell if you're clean. The smell comes from bacteria that lives on your skin, so if you shower before biking you probably won't smell when you get there even if you sweat quite a bit. Some of the same advice might apply to your clothes - don't wear something stinky, haha.
This is why ( or one reason why ) cyclists fall head over heals in love with merino wool. Wool is an inhospitable environment to the bacteria that produces the stink; they don't do any better in wool than naked people do in Antarctica. You can sweat to your heart's content and not smell. People go for merino in particular because it's a very soft wool.

I wear merino almost every day ( even on the exceedingly rare days I don't get on the bike ) and at the end of a ride in, I take a "bird bath."
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Old 07-29-10, 04:26 PM   #15
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Wet naps are great for disinfectant and drying. I have a box of them in my office drawer.
Deodorant is also good for that fresh minty experience.
If possible, keep work clothes in office.
Ride leisurely at the final kilometre towards your destination. The low intensity ride and flowing breeze help cool your body down and dry off sweat.
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Old 07-29-10, 04:50 PM   #17
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I commute 12.5 miles each way. I wear a halo skullcap to keep sweat from my eyes and for wicking purposes. I also wear a light weight wicking jersey/shirt. I'm not too bad when i get to work so I just use baby wipes to wipe my head, face, and arms. roll on some deodorant, put on my work clothes and im good to go.
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Old 07-29-10, 05:18 PM   #18
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Stop pushing on your way into work. And do all that is mentioned above like showering before, using wet naps, having a change of clothes, rinsing off in sink, etc. Especially if you have an odor problem. Also think about your diet. Certain foods have an affect on body odor.
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Old 07-29-10, 05:19 PM   #19
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1. Shower before leaving.
2. Upon arrival, take as much off as possible without scaring your co-workers.
3. Spend about 15 minutes cooling down and toweling off with a damp cloth. Rinse and repeat a few times until you've dried out.
4. Apply deodorant.
5. Change into clean, dry clothes.

I *hate* feeling any amount of sweat on me at the start of the day, so adjusting took awhile. Yeah, I still feel like I'm only about 75% clean, but I can live with it until I get home at the end of the day.
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Old 07-29-10, 05:57 PM   #20
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1. Shower before leaving.
2. Upon arrival, take as much off as possible without scaring your co-workers.
3. Spend about 15 minutes cooling down and toweling off with a damp cloth. Rinse and repeat a few times until you've dried out.
4. Apply deodorant.
5. Change into clean, dry clothes.
I do this, but with the following additions:

1.5: Wear clean kit.

3.5: Take a bird bath in the sink, with running water and soap. The foaming anti-bacterial hand soap at my workplace works great. I keep a couple of small towels in my locker for drying off, and rotate them home with the rest of the work clothes at the end of the week.
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Old 07-29-10, 06:10 PM   #21
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I agree with all of the advice. One place I worked a few of us converted an extra janitor closet that had a sink into a small shower. You might check into that sort of thing at your workplace.
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Old 07-29-10, 07:14 PM   #22
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No showers in our locker rooms either. I use a spritzer that I found on this wonderful forum, to wit:

In a spray bottle, mix equal parts wintergreen rubbing alcohol and witch hazel.
Carefully add several drops (depending on the size of your bottle) of rose and sandalwood essential oils. Season to taste - a little can go a long way!

I sweat *profusely* and have no problems with odor or discomfort after a 10 mile commute on a hot and humid day. Here's my routine:
Shower the night before or just before leaving.
I wear Target 'sport' underwear with Spandex under short running shorts, T-shirt (optional), short socks & shoes and a reflective vest. The idea is to have as much skin exposed as possible for cooling. The light clothes dry quickly and can be worn home.
I moderate my effort in a (possibly vain) attempt to sweat a little less. This means leaving earlier so I don't have to push to get there in time. I also build in extra time for cooling off when I get there. I keep an eye on my cyclocomputer to keep my speed down and coast whenever possible.
A couple of miles from work, I back off and try to start the cooling process. If it's really hot & humid, I'll stop by a grove of trees near the building and cool off in the shade for a bit.
Once in the building, I go to the locker room and splash cold water on my face to trigger the 'diving reflex'. This really speeds up the cool-off period for me.
I stand near an air vent and let the sweat evaporate. If I wipe it off now, I'll just get hot again.
Take off clothes, wipe down with a towel and liberally use the spritzer. The spritzer is very cooling; the alcohol and the witch hazel evaporate quickly to leave behind the essential oils to smell nice all day!
Put on the uniform and start makin' the doughnuts...

Hope this helps!
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Old 07-30-10, 09:18 AM   #23
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Some interesting advice.

I commute everyday in the summer, a bit over 16miles each way and its been hot & very humid as of lately.

If your job allows it Id recommend coming into work early. This helps me a great deal with the long commute since for one its cooler out and two less people on the roads.

If you can get a fan, it will help you cool down much faster. Im lucky enough to work a cushy desk job where i can sit and start up my computer and take in the fan to help cool down.

Also as said before lightweight non-cotton apparel is key, especially if your going to wear the same clothes home.

Other than that about what everyone said, wash your face in the sink, use deodorant/cologne, i guess wipes if thats your thing. I think the key is to not get dressed until your cooled off. If that means you have to get in a bit early to hang out before getting dressed do so or if you have the luxury of cooling down at your desk even better.
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Old 07-30-10, 10:55 AM   #24
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I got a membership at a nearby health club and shower up there.

I used to shower every day when I got home too. Lately I've stopped doing that, only showering in the morning now. I find the sweat from bike riding is different from other sweat from working, or even just sitting still sweltering on a muggy day.... It seems to be much more like pure water that just dries off. Not as grimy/sticky/stinky as other sweat. Meaning that it may not be that bad just going for the sponge bath.
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Old 07-30-10, 09:10 PM   #25
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I got a membership at a nearby health club and shower up there.

I used to shower every day when I got home too. Lately I've stopped doing that, only showering in the morning now. I find the sweat from bike riding is different from other sweat from working, or even just sitting still sweltering on a muggy day.... It seems to be much more like pure water that just dries off. Not as grimy/sticky/stinky as other sweat. Meaning that it may not be that bad just going for the sponge bath.
Agreed. There is just too much press about sweating while cycling. I'm quite sure that regular sweat from an otherwise clean cyclist will stink much less than some of the deodorants people apply.
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