This week ends the third week in a row that I’ve biked to work all 5 days. I’ve been thrilled to be participating in National Bike To Work Month, and wanted to share some information on logistics that make it MUCH easier to do. Helping out today is Mr. 1500 from the blog 1500 Days, who works from home now, but has done pretty epic bike commuting in the past.
Between the two of us, we’ve got hot weather and cold, a medium commute and a LONG one with some public transit thrown in for good measure, and both the male and female perspectives. Hopefully this helps cover the bases for most needs for anyone who needs help figuring out how to approach biking to work.
Mrs. PoP’s Bike Commute
- Length of Commute: 9 miles ~35-40 minutes
- Gear & Accessories: Jamis commuter hybrid bike with a fab basket & (brand spankin’ new) helmet
- Locale & Weather: South Florida. Hot and Humid by most standards. Occasional clouds of flying ants.
- Work Attire Expectations: Business casual
Weather Adjustments: The name of the game in FL is keeping the sun off of you (which I learned pretty brutally after my first ride – go here for the sunburn pic!). So I now wear capri length running tights and a long sleeve white top to keep the sun off as much as possible. Dry wick fabric keeps it comfortable and it airs out and dries easily at the office. And I can’t forget SUNSCREEN. Lots of it. Face, neck, ears, and the tops of my hands are all slathered in SPF ~20-30 minutes before every ride. Jump in the pool at the end of the day to cool off when you get home to cool off if needed. =)
Clean Up Routine: No shower at work, but that’s fine with 9 miles in the am. I keep a cleanup kit at the office that includes: baby wipes (I LOVE Huggies One and Done – Cucumber and Green Tea scent!), deodorant, comb, face wash and washcloths, daily use face lotion and sunscreen (Have I said sunscreen enough? This is the freakin sunshine state!), and mascara if I feel like it.
Do not underestimate the power of a baby wipe. If they can make a baby’s blow out disappear, they can handle a good amount of sweat and stink from a bike ride.
Keeping Clothes Professional: I purchased a few lightweight sundresses (avg $10/dress) made out of synthetic fibers to augment my more casual work wardrobe. They don’t wrinkle when folded and placed in a grocery bag in my bike basket for the trip to work. I always kept a stash of cardigans in the office in several neutral colors (white, black, brown), and now store flats in the office as well – a pair of white and a pair of black. We’re not a cubes company, so I have plenty of storage space in my office which is really nice.
Coworkers Comments: My coworkers love it! I learned one of them used to bike commute before I joined the company, but had to stop because he has eye problems and lost his peripheral vision. Occasionally they tease me about dressing nicer now than when I drove to work, but it’s all in good fun as we’re very much like a (dysfunctional) family at my office.
Random Comment/Suggestion: For women, embrace showering before you head to the office and braiding your wet hair under your helmet for the ride. It makes it so much easier to avoid helmet hair and tangles if your hair is still wet from the shower when you get to the office and can just comb it out. Also, I’d recommend storing an emergency set of bra/underwear in a discrete location in your office just in case. Somehow I forgot a bra (not good!) one day, but luckily had my emergency one in the back of one of my desk drawers.
Mr 1500’s Bike Commute
- Length of Commute: 30 miles, ~2 hrs each way. Could also take train for part, biking 2 miles to train, riding train for 30 minutes, then biking another 6 to work.
- Gear & Accessories: Ancient mountain bike (ca. 1990) for riding decommissioned train lines converted for bicycle use. I always wear a helmet. I spent $50,000+ on my college education; there is no way I’m putting my brain at risk. My sister is a speech therapist who works with many folks who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. The stories she tells me are horrible. Trust me, wear a helmet.
- Locale & Weather: Chicago, IL and suburbs. In the Midwest the weather is unpredictable, so effective bike commuting was a matter of looking at the weather report and trying to prepare as best as possible.
- Work Attire Expectations: Business casual
Weather Adjustments: I always enjoyed riding in adverse weather. I installed plastic fenders so that I wouldn’t get sprayed by wet tires. In the winter, it’s all about bundling yourself up correctly. As long as you have windproof clothes and make sure you don’t have any gaps where wind can get in, winter riding was fine. Often, I’d actually get too hot.
Clean Up Routine: My work had a shower. When I did the train version of my commute, I almost never had to use it. Even in the middle of summer, I’d get going early before the heat set in. Unscented baby wipes were a great way to wipe down if I was a little sweaty, but not enough to warrant a shower. When I did the whole 30 mile ride, I’d have to take a shower.
Keeping Clothes Professional: On Monday, I’d drive to work and bring in clothes for the whole week. We had small cubes, so I’d just hang my clothes over the cube wall.
Coworkers Comments: It was very unusual. Even the people who lived less than 2 miles away never considered anything but driving. I received all kinds of crazy questions: “What is wrong with your car?” “Why don’t you own a car?” “Are you preparing for a triathlon?” “How do you keep from getting run over?”
Co-workers knew that I didn’t live close to work and many thought I was some kind of super athlete for being able to bike 60 miles in a day. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. I have asthma, two torn knees and have never run a mile in under 7 minutes.
Random Comment/Suggestion: My biggest problem was restraining myself in the morning. I’m the type who is either “full on” or nothing at all. However, I found that if I maintained a reasonable pace, I could usually get into work without working up a sweat. That was always hard for me to do.
I think that the keys are not to exert yourself, leave early, and dress appropriately. If you live in a hot place and your work hours are negotiable, try to start as early as possible. You’ll miss the heat of the day and arrive without being soaked in sweat. Wearing layers is key as well. I would often start off with 2 or 3 layers, but by the end of the journey, I’d be down to just my bike jersey.
And in case you didn’t think Mr 1500 was hardcore enough, he shared this little tidbit, too!
The longest commute I ever did was from a job site near Chicago back to my home near Madison, Wisconsin (we lived there after Geneva). The ride was 127 miles, but I was able to do almost the entire trip on trails. It took me 13 hours and my butt was redder than a baboon’s, but it was a ton of fun!
If you bike commute, join in the fun and share your answers below. Here are the questions I posed to Mr. 1500 and myself!
- Length of Bike Commute
- Describe Your Gear
- Locale & Weather
- Work Attire Expectations
1. Weather specific adjustments you had to make to your riding routine depending on the time of year?
2. Since I’m presuming you don’t slip into a phone booth Superman style and change from BikeMan to Clark Kent, what do you do to clean up when you get to work?
3. How do you deal with keeping clothes professional looking for work?
4. Did your coworkers ever have anything positive/negative to say about your bike commuting? Was it unusual?
5. Any other comments/helpful suggestions for someone who wants to give bike commuting a try but is afraid of losing their job because they smell like death at the end of the morning journey?
Have we convinced anyone to give it a shot? There’s a few days left in National Bike To Work Month, but the National Bike Challenge goes on through September 30!