Dear PoPville – Biking Without a Shirt: Do it or Disgusting?

Photo by PoPville flickr user katiecampbell

“Dear PoPville,

I’m wondering what people think about biking shirtless. I have a 6 mile commute and am not looking forward to biking home in 90+ degree heat. I understand bike jerseys are good for this but I’ve always avoided buying biking gear. I don’t want to dress like a middle aged Lance Armstrong wannabee. I wonder if there is any consensus on biking shirtless. I wouldn’t be doing it to show off or anything, it’s just hot. Ultimately I guess I’ll do it if I feel like it but I want to know if I’ll be offending everyone I pass?”

56 Comment

  • I’d be more worried about road rash and sunburn than who you might offend. Get a non-cotton t-shirt or 2 (not necessarily bike gear) and it might actually be cooler than being shirtless.

  • If people are “offended” because of how you look without a shirt on a bike, I say f*** ’em 🙂

  • Are you hot?

  • I guess it depends on whether you are male or female 😉

  • colheights67

    Guys who don’t wear shirts while cycling doesn’t bother me. Guys who take off their shirts during yoga — well, that’s just gross. Ugh.

  • Just be sure your butt crack is covered.

  • I don’t think anyone would really mind if a guy is biking shirtless in 90 degree heat. But like another reader said, imagine the road rash if you take even a minor spill.

    Just wear a loose fitting white cotton t-shirt.

  • I wouldn’t worry about it. Unless you offend people when you have your shirt off at the pool.

  • Wish I had the option to take my shirt off in public whenever I was too hot.

    • you can! it’s legal for women to be topless in dc.

    • Assuming you are female based on your wish of going topless, I only have one response – stop whining, you get to wear skirts and dresses to work all summer if you choose, not suits, ties & pants.

      • +1 I’m so jealous of that. Women can pretty much wear whatever they want to the office.

        • well, we got to make up for the 80 cents we make to a man’s dollar somehow! if that means comfortable summer clothing, so be it.

          • And offices tend to be over-airconditioned. On the rare occasions I wear a dress/skirt to work, I am usually freezing, despite wearing tights.

  • They make lots of sweat-wicking shirts that are lose nowadays, just get something like that.

    • This. Also if the author is commuting with a backpack or something similar with shoulder straps, I think wearing a shirt would be more comfortable than no shirt.

  • I’d really strongly advise you against this, and not for risk of offending folks with the site of your abs or flab, whichever it may be. I was clipped by another biker 20 years ago and still have significant scarring from it — I was wearing a tank top and you can almost see the line between the parts of my torso and shoulders that were covered and the parts that weren’t. I wasn’t hurt otherwise — it was a low speed tumble — but bare skin doesn’t need to hit the pavement very hard to get completely shredded. I was careful even then but the guy who clipped my back tire was a little sloppy and it only took one time.

  • I’d be more worried about melanoma. The sun is not your friend.

    • Oh please Morticia, you can be in the sun for a short periods. In fact, no sun will cause you to be vitamin d deficient. But by all means limit your exposure and wear sunscreen.

  • bike without pants for all that I care.

  • gotryit

    I’ll go shirtless when it gets really hot like that. Wicking shirts just don’t do enough for me, and I’m stubborn about sticking through the worst of the heat.
    Road rash is a risk, as is sun burn if you’re as pale as I am.

    Also, consider that hunched over in a bike position tends to make even skinny people look a little chubby in the gut.

    As an aside, look around you in DC – there’s a lot of people who reveal waay too much that’s pretty gross. Big deal.

  • Strongly disfavored. Most people can’t pull it off, and the rest probably shouldn’t.

    But to deal with the Lance Armstrong wannabe issue, I go with stuff from Club Ride ( ).

    That’s not at all a paid plug, they just make the shirts that I put on when I’m riding home on a very, very hot day and don’t want to wreck my work shirts. Really, you can wear these out in casual settings and no one will think you’re in sports gear.

  • Just make sure you take off your shirt at Bannister pool. I got in trouble there for wearing “gang colors.” LOL

  • Lance Armstrong is middle aged. Looks pretty good, character issues aside.

  • Go for it! As long as you’re moving fast, nobody is bothered. It’s certainly the case that you can wear less while biking than you can while walking and remain socially acceptable.

    And shirtless beats fancy shirts. I’ve done both, and you get cooler from the breeze shirtless than in a bike shirt, unless maybe you’re in direct sun the whole time.

  • Just do it. The human body isn’t obscene. If people are offended, that’s their problem, not yours.

    • Depends on the body.

      • Eh, see, that’s the kind of comment I’d shrug off in the “your problem, not mine” category.

        • What people find is obscene is up to each of us individually. But yeah, that is our problem. Unless it’s someone taking a dump in public. Cut that out!

    • Obscenity has nothing to do with it – this issue is aesthetics and the public landscape. I don’t really want to look at some sweaty lumpy hairy naked torso in the middle of a city any more than I want to see someone picking their nose. Or playing bare-naked footsie in an Adams Morgan cafe!

    • +1000

      • Clarification, +1000 to Allthethings, not to Anonymous. The reply system isn’t putting comments where I want them today.

  • Active has some great sales on work out shirts etc and you can get one of those biking tops that’s a size too big so you don’t look like a wanna be Lance.

    This is a small town and you might run into people you know who may be embarrassed to see you without a shirt, client, boss, employees.

  • Like others said id be most concerned witj road rash

    if that isnt one of your worries bike away without a shirt

  • post a pic of yourself, then we’ll tell you if its okay or not 😉

  • If you offend anyone, it’s their problem not yours.
    If you catch the eye of anyone, then get off your bike and go talk to them.

  • Why don’t you just bring a T-shirt?

  • go ahead an pop your shirt
    Dennis Reynolds

  • You don’t need a cycling jersey. I bike a little farther than you and just use one of those moisture wicking T-Shirts. Not a fan of tight bike gear.

  • Bike shirtless. Screw the haters.

  • Bike gear is designed with a purpose in mind. Buy some and don’t worry about looking like a wanabee Lance looking for a peloton. I like the zip up jersey style – I can open it up for air flow and it wicks away the sweat.

  • Presumably you wear an undershirt of some sort beneath your work shirt. Why can’t you just take off your work shirt and ride home in the undershirt?

  • logistics question: when do you take the shirt off? you can’t leave the office like that right? do you get one light out, and then pop it off?

    • yes – I do that. Military base rules are that you have to wear a shirt, so I go a few blocks off of there then it comes off. As an aside, putting on a shirt after running a few miles in 90+ weather is probably one of the most disgusting feelings. Or at least top 100.

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