What is your bike to work routine?

by Eric Nuzum May 25, 2011 at 10:00 am 118 Comments


For the past two months, I’ve been regularly biking to work–and I love it. While this won’t surprise any seasoned rider, I was shocked to realize that taking a bike to work is the fastest way for me to get from my home in Petworth to my office downtown–way faster than Metro, bus, or even car.

Despite the looming threat of death, squishing, and stuff like that, I think “biking” part of biking to work is the easy part. To me, the hardest part is the “work” part. I’m not a fussy person, really. But after a good ride in, I don’t want to spend the rest of the day smelling like the dude passed out on the sidewalk outside. So that involves a lot of things–like showering (read: being naked in front of other biking/running co-workers), and bringing towels, soap, and shampoo to work.

Then, though I find my tight bike shorts to be quite comfortable (not to mention very flattering), it doesn’t really fall into the category of “business attire.” So I need to have something else to wear all day.

So I’ve been experimenting around with different systems. Sometimes I shower at work–sometimes I bring in some baby wipes and clean up in the privacy of my office (blinds closed–don’t get too excited). Sometimes I bring in clothes in a backpack, sometimes I stop in on a weekend and drop of some clothes for the week.

I ask everyone I know about their bike to work routine and almost everyone has a religious like adherence to their “perfect system.”

But nothing seems to work consistently well for me. For example, the other weekend we were going out one evening and I remembered that my black dress shoes were in my office, thus requiring a last minute drive to the office…to get some shoes.

So I ask all my fellow biker out there–how do you coordinate getting from home to work, then preparing for your day in big boy/girl clothes?

  • Elle

    So, biking to work shouldn’t require special clothes. I have a commuter bike. I wear whatever I”m wearing to work that day.

    If heels are part of the outfit, I throw those in my bag and wear something with a little more suited to stopping and starting.

    I carry a handkerchief to quickly blot my face before getting into the office.

    I bike at a fairly leisurely pace, still make the three miles to work in about 12-15 minutes and don’t have to worry about hauling extra clothes around.

  • Sorry but my only suggestion is to bike slower! I also live in Petworth and bike downtown and it is still faster to bike slow then to take the the metro/bus. Since it is all downhill I can get away with not showering after my ride in. So far that has worked for me and nobody has complained at any body odor! But as the weather gets warmer, and I bike slower, I have noticed a few dirty looks from other bikers. They can suck it.

  • Matt

    My strategy depends on the weather and level of humidity. Since the weather has started to get warmer, I have started rolling up my shirts, putting them in my backpack with my work shoes and wearing a sweat wicking t-shirt while I bike. I am downhill most of the way to work, so it works pretty well. If it’s not going to be particularly hot or humid, I just wear what I am going to wear to work all day. I have deodorant in my bag and change and clean myself up once I get to work. It works pretty well.

  • Pworthy

    I might be a bit less sweatier than thou, but I too bike from Petworth and end my ride in Dupont Circle and so far, sweat/smell isn’t a huge issue with the ride being mostly downhill. This week has a been a bit of a test, but still manageable. I usually bike in the top I plan to wear for the day, bottom half is shorts/sweats depending on the weather because I don’t have a chainguard (I will soon on the new bike). I keep a few pair of shoes at the office, just like wearing sneakers better on the ride. We have a shower, I haven’t used it yet and would rather not do my entire morning routine here, though it’d be handy for a rinse-off on a sweaty day. That said, some people sweat more than others and if you have the shower option a work, you might as well use it. Maybe keep a supply of fresh underclothes at the office, so you can sweat through shirt/shorts and just change them when you get in.

  • Nancy Pelosi’s Botox

    First I make sure to dress like I’m riding in the Tour de France. Then when I get outside, I find the nearest sidewalk and stay on it as long as possible until I find a redlight. Then I move to the street to breeze through it while all those cars are stuck behind me. When I get to the metro stop and board the train, I make sure to stand right by the doors with my bike. After exiting the metro, I get back on the sidewalk, using one hand to steer and one to check my blackberry, all the way to the office. Rinse and repeat for the commute home.

    • slb

      I bike about 8 miles to work. I wear bike clothes because I get too sweaty to wear work clothes and not stink/look like hell. I bring my slacks, shirt, and undergarmets in a backpack, and leave my work shoes and suit jackets in the office. I leave my shower stuff in my locker at the gym at work. It would definitely be harder if we didn’t have a gym with lockers in my building, but if we didn’t, I ‘d do the same thing but just “rinse off” with wipes before changing into work clothes. Once I get to my office, I hang my bike clothes behind the door, so they’re dry by the end of the day when I need to wear them again.

      • slb

        Sorry, I didn’t mean that to be a “reply” to Nancy Pelosi’s Botox. =) And I meant “undergarments.”

    • skh

      What exactly is your angle here?

    • Schweaty

      You forgot the part about being oblivious to your own stench. You may not think you stink, but you do, and nothing says “class act” like smelling like a gym sock the entire day. There is no way you can bike to work now (May) with all the humidity and not get a bit of a sweaty lather on. If your office doesn’t have a shower, do the rest of humanity a favor and get to work in a manner that doesn’t leave you smelling ripe the rest of the day.

      Or you can continue, and we’ll just continue to leave deodorant and a note on your desk for everyone to see when you step away from your desk.

      • Anonymous

        amen. it’s amazing how man people don’t realize that their stench is incredibly rude.

    • kbp

      Hilarious…and very accurate, except you forgot to mention biking the wrong way down a one-way street, and giving dirty looks to people trying to walk their dogs on the sidewalk who dont manage to pull their dogs out of the way fast enough.

    • james

      I don’t bike. In fact, I make sure that as I drive my Hummer into DC from my home in Frederick I fake out as many bicyclists as possible by pretending to swerve to hit them. Of course, no commute is complete without a half-dozen donuts from Dunkin, so I eat those along the way—and, of course, that hour and a half in traffic would just be wasted time if I wasn’t either on the phone or emailing during my entire commute. Usually I’ve got an errand or two to run on the way in, so I’ll double-park in the bike lane and put on my flashers while I grab my dry-cleaning or hit up an early-morning meeting. I wait until a bicyclist is about to come by before I get out of my Hummer, though, just so that I get a chance to try to door him.

      Then, after double-parking at my parking garage, I hail a cab to take me the two blocks to my office, because only chumps use their own two feet when they can use a vehicle, and make sure it spends an extra-long time in the bike lane as I fish for cash to give the driver (of course, no tip, because he’s only done his job and shouldn’t get anything extra for that). But because I weigh about 300 pounds, I’m still soaked in sweat by the time I’ve walked from the curb to my building door; if my secretary or underlings at the World Bank felt like they were allowed to comment on my odor, I’m sure they’d tell me I stink to high heaven.

      Rinse and repeat for the commute home.

      • Anonymous

        +1 Thank you. Remember folks, idiots come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and commuting styles.

        Also I love that the commenter above was complaining about bikes being on the sidewalks and in the roads. I suppose they should all fly through the air lest they inconvenience anyone.

    • laley

      This just doesn’t work because you can’t bring bikes on the metro during rush hour.

      • dynaryder

        You can bring folding bikes as long as they’re in a bag.

    • nettie


  • mca

    In the morning, I will bike 1/2 way to a bus stop that takes me to or close to my job and take biking clothes for the evening. that way I don’t have to worry about stink at work. Then after work I take advantage of being able to go for a long ride home, so I change clothes and go from RFK stadium area through Cap Hill down to Ohio Dr to Rock Cr Pk up to Silver Spring and double back through Takoma Pk and home to Petworth (20+ mi).

  • skh

    Just roll the pant leg up and roll up my shirt in my backpack…I ride fast and tend to sweat, but it goes with the territory. I consider my red face and raised heartbeat a mark of pride while at the workplace.

  • S

    I bike further, from Chevy Chase. I carry my work clothes and my lunch in a small backpack. I keep my toiletries and towel at the office and shower there. I sweat a lot, so I wear bike shorts and a coolmax t shirt (running tights and fleece top if the mornings are cold). I don’t think I could do without a morning shower! I have to shower again when I get home in the evening.

  • anonymous

    well, I don’t wear “big girl clothes”, you know, because I’m an adult woman.

  • jm

    I’ve found biking in work clothes at a leisurely pace to avoid profuse sweating adds maybe 3-5 minutes to my commute, but saves me an easy 10+ minutes by not having to change. we have showers and all that at my office, which is nice, but what makes biking so damn great is its convenience. changing clothes is not convenient.

  • Lemon Meringue

    I was wondering the same thing this morning. I walk to work and still get sweaty when it’s this hot out. I’d like to get my bike fixed up so I can ride it, but I’m not sure if biking would be better or worse in the sweat department.

    • KT

      Until it gets really hot, biking is probably better because you make your own breeze. I find I only really sweat after I stop.

  • Anon

    I drive 1.5 miles each way every day. Almost always avoiding bikers who think that stop signs are suggestions and red lights are for stupid people.

    I have no desire to bike this distance instead.

    • skh

      You get up in the morning and drive 1.5 miles in your car everyday…and don’t feel like sort of a schmuck?

      • Anon

        Nope. I take pride in the ingenuity of the human race to invent something that makes my life easier. It might be more like 2 miles. I’ve walked it before, it takes too long.

        • Anonymous

          Dude that’s why I ride a bicycle. I take pride in the ingenuity of the human race to invent something that makes my life easier, is powered by my own body, doesn’t produce any emissions while traveling through the city, and makes me more healthy.

          • Anon

            From my experience, bikers produce the most C02 emissions of any other group who post on blogs.

          • mndc


        • Dr Pangloss

          You should feel like a schmuck.

          • Anon

            No, I shouldnt. Its called personal choice, you choose to be a self righteous douche bag and I choose to drive to work.

          • greent

            No Anon, you choose to be a self righteous douche bag and drive 1.5 miles.

          • Trixie

            I think greent and Dr. Pangloss are being equally self-righteous and douchey. I’ve lived in places where I felt the conditions were dangerous – although a short ride – that I was uncomfortable doing, because drivers would regularly go 45-50 mph (NOT the speed limit) and there was no shoulder. Thus, I drove.

            And yes… I bike to public transportation now. But it’s all small neighborhood streets.

          • greent

            Dang, and here I thought I was being sarcastic.

      • Lemon Meringue

        He/she could be coming or going from one of those dead zones that the public transit system doesn’t serve. 1.5 miles is a bit far to walk everyday if you’re carrying a heavy laptop or something, and not everyone enjoys biking in the city.

        Or they could be a realtor who needs to go out to various properties throughout the day. Or a contractor who has to haul a truck full of tools back and forth.

        In other words, don’t judge!

        • LisaT


          Judging another person’s mode choice makes one appear small-minded and generally unaware of the world. You never know someone’s individual situation, whether it be job or family duties, scheduling, etc. There may be physical issues that affect one’s choice (or ability) to go with one mode over another. Or someone may have mental issues such as anxiety or fear of crowds that may prohibit them from using public transit. Take whatever mode works best for you, but don’t assume that’s the one way everyone should go.

          • Lemon Meringue

            Or they’re prone to motion sickness. I can’t take long metro rides for that reason.

      • Anonymous

        ah, the little hints of judgement. so cute. so endearing.

        • your sweaty ballsack

          bitch gettin’ pawned.

    • Another guy named Chris

      What is the purpose of this exactly?

      I bike to work and avoid cars running lights and stop signs as well. I once hit a pedestrian who was dancing in the bike lane. We live in a city, there are other people here.

      • Dan

        You are the most sensible person on the internet.

        • sarah


      • er

        Amen. It’s amazing how many cars don’t even stop at stop signs, or plow right through crosswalks when there are people crossing the street. You’d think it’d be easier for them to stop in their car than for me on my bike, but apparently not.

        • Anon

          Yes, people are getting mowed down by the dozens every rush hour. How sensible the hyperbole here is!!

          • Lemon Meringue


    • yowza

      Bikers in my office tend to claim its faster than any alternative but they tend to get testy when I point out that things generally are faster on a street when you completely ignore stop signs and redlights.

      Then the conversation digresses into the regular “well, its safer for me to go through red lights because I am aware of my surroundings ” clap trap, or whatever hilariously ridiculous rationale they come up with for why its ok for them to completely ignore the laws of the road while simultaneously expecting every driver to follow the rules to the letter.

      • your sweaty ballsack

        I stop at all red lights and stop signs when I cycle to work, and it’s still about 50% faster than when I drive (I drive half of the days, cycle the other half depending on meetings, weather, etc.). If I were to blow through those lights and signs,it would be maybe 60% faster, but it’s not worth the risk.

        I agree that running lights, etc. is not safer for cyclists. But, if I come to a 4-way stop sign that is empty, I might do a rolling “stop”, much in the same way most cars do when they approach empty intersections.

        In general, though, there are so many drivers that try to beat the light or take right turns at 30mph (without signaling), that as a cyclist, it is better to take it a little slower in the morning. I always have to remind myself that people may be running late to meetings, be distracted for personal reasons, etc., so it pays to be extra vigilant (granted, it is more likely that many of the drivers are just jerk-offs, but I try to give them the credit).

        • yowza

          I highly doubt it, unless you aren’t actually biking downtown.

          And you would be one of perhaps a dozen cyclists I’ve ever seen total in my life that actually biked up to a stop light and waited there for it to turn green.

          It just doesn’t happen.

          • Anonymous

            It happens to me every morning. I come to a full stop at every red light. If it’s a major intersection, like 16th Street or U Street or Mass Ave for example, I wait for the green no matter what. If it’s a less busy intersection, I stop fully, look both ways, and if it’s clear, run the light. I do witness other bicyclists blowing through lights though. I think they’re crazy and it’s really unsafe.

          • your sweaty ballsack

            You probably don’t notice those of us who stop, instead turning your ire towards those who do not. As someone who drives and cycles regularly, I can attest to the fact that I notice almost every cyclist out there, and I take note of how they are behaving.

            A great many of them do stop.

            Similarly, everyone here always says that al drivers downtown suck, but I would argue that maybe 10-20% suck, but they make everyone else look bad.

          • Anonymous

            Yeah you’re just crazy. I stop at lights everyday and LO AND BEHOLD there are often other people waiting there with me. Not saying all cyclists are saints, just like not all drivers are. But you’re out of touch with reality.

            Also, biking is often faster because cyclists are legally allowed to split lanes in DC, just like motorcycles in many places. That means every time there are dozens of cars held up in traffic, the bike goes right by, especially if there is a bike lane.

      • Another guy named Chris

        Why is it hilarious and ridiculous for a biker to run a 4-way stop sign?

        What is accomplished by forcing the bicyclist to stop?

        • Anonymous

          as a pedestrian i run 4 way stops ALL THE TIME.

        • Anon

          What is accomplished by forcing cars to stop? Afterall, they can tell if anyone is coming, right?

          • your sweaty ballsack

            Seems like many drivers agree at a great many 4-ways in the city.

            I think drivers are worst at intersections near their homes where they are conditioned to not seeing other cars/cyclist/pedestrians 80-90% of the time. I have a couple of 4-ways near me like this.

            What’s even worse are the 2-way stops that are poorly marked, but people THINK they’re 4-ways because most intersections in the city are. There is onelike this near the American Ice House on V, and I regularly see near accidents all the time

          • Another guy named Chris

            Answering questions with questions is THE true sign of genius.

            But I will oblige. Coming to a LEGAL complete stop at a 4-way stop sign for cars, is also generally unnecessary. This is why 95% of drivers just slow down and glide through a stop sign with no problems, 95% of the time. They simply look both ways and proceed. This is also what bikers do. I am generally ok with this.

            The difference is that cars have a limited range of vision, travel at a much higher speed, require longer range to stop, and are a thousand times more able to kill and maim, than a bicycle or pedestrian doing the same thing. These FACTS require a car driver to be more careful and responsible.

            For example, I mentioned that I accidentally hit a possibly drunk pedestrian who was foolishly dancing down the sidewalk and stumbled into the bike lane. I dismounted, helped him up, asked him if he was ok, and apologized. He said he was okay and apologized as well for being stupid. We shared a laugh and I rode off into the sunset to eat dinner with my friends.

            If I were driving a car, he would be dead.

            The End.

      • Dr Pangloss

        Says yowza as he texts this comment from behind the wheel of his car, driving 10 mph over the posted speed limit.

    • anon

      Me too. I drive about two miles to Metro and take Metro the rest of the way. It’s too long a walk for me and I don’t want to lock up my bike at Metro. It’s much more convenient for me.

    • GDopplerXT

      “So I ask all my fellow biker out there…” (from original post)

      I love when people are so eager to judge and complain that they answer questions that were not actually asked of them.

    • lou

      and I walk a mile to my Metro stop daily and sometimes three miles home from work and almost always avoiding car drivers who make rolling stops at stop signs or roll through crosswalks when I have the ‘walk’ sign. To say nothing of the drivers who turn left and slam on their brakes when they see the pedestrian legally in the cross walk.

    • laley

      As a biker, I think bikes should follow the laws, and cars should, too. It is very aggravating, and dangerous, when cars act as if bike lanes are just suggestions.

  • MtP

    Luckily my office has locker facilities and showers in the basement, so I roll out of bed and onto my bike. I wear a bike jersey and tights since its getting hot outside. I carry my undershirt/boxers/socks with me in my bag and keep everything else in the locker at work. Shower and get dressed in the basement then come up for work.

    Works out well, just don’t forget a towel!

  • Jr. Princess of Edisonia

    I keep a pair of black dressy shoes at the office that do not leave the office- these are what I wear if I ride in wearing sneakers and forget to pack shoes. I keep a lightweight rain coat, rain pants, a t-shirt, and shorts in my backpack at all times during this time of the year.

    I ride in about 1.5-2miles a day, all down hill, year round, and I find that if I dress in layers I can usually get in without sweating enough to warrant a shower (no sweatier than I get when I walk a couple of blocks for lunch on a hot day, and you’re not telling me people actually shower after that). Warmer layers go in the backpack, which I carry in the basket on the front of my bike so I don’t get the sweaty back thing. I do change into a t-shirt or tank top for the uphill ride home once it gets hot out.

    I’d highly recommend the microfiber camping towels for those of you who do shower at work- they are crazy absorbent, take up less space in your bag, and dry pretty quickly.

  • LA

    I too bike from Petworth to West End and usually wear either a full bike outfit (sweat-wicking t-shirt and yoga pants) or my outfit for the day.

    Since we don’t have showers at work I have a few toiletries to de-stink myself before work:
    – Extra stick of deodorant (Men’s deodorant is much more powerful than Women’s deodorant. I’d rather smell like a clean man than a fruity, baby’s butt all day)
    – TRESemme ‘Fresh Start’ – Dry Shampoo (works wonders on oily hair)
    – Face wash with salicylic acid (to beat those zits!) and a hand towel

    Otherwise, I just change into my other work clothes when I’ve stopped sweating…

  • Polytasker

    I wear jeans and a tank top (with a windbreaker on top as needed) when I bike, and then change clothes and touch up my deodorant/makeup when I get to work. I sweat very little and my commute is an easy 2.5 miles, so it works for me.

  • your sweaty ballsack

    Another suggestion I’ve followed before is to realize that by cycling, you are likely saving a decent chunk of change in gas, parking, or metro. So, join a fancy gym and just use its shower every morning. Do as others suggest and roll out of bed in the morning with a pre-packed clothing. Get a bag with a place for holding pressed shirts/pants (also, have your cleaners fold your shirts and not hang them).

    Even if you’re paying 100/month for a fancy gym, you’re probably saving money and getting a good workout.

    • Lemon Meringue

      That’s very logical, but what are the odds that there is a gym near one’s workplace? I think the closest one is 2 miles from mine.

      • your sweaty ballsack

        I’m somewhat new to DC, but in New York, there was a gym on every corner (which is not a good thing), so I didn’t think about the fact that DC doesn’t have the insane number of gyms like NYC. Not looking for a DC vs NYC smackdown – just an observation.

        Can you lock yourself in your work bathroom? I also did that at a previous job without gym access, monopolizing the handicapped bathroom (there were no handicapped people in our office, so it was kosher with my boss) for ~5 minutes in the morning while I basically showered in the sink and changed. Just make sure to mop up the mess to reserve the privilege.

      • LisaT

        If you work downtown the odds are pretty good. I can think of four or five gyms within a 3-10 minute walk from my office, plus there’s one in my building. I’m sure it varies by where you are during the day though.

  • Anonymous

    2 mile ride. Sweat enough to smell on Spring/Summer days. Wear shorts, tennis shoes, t-shirt. Pack work clothes in backpack along with deodorant and hair brush. Get to work, head for the bathroom. Wash face and neck in sink. Wash armpits with paper towels, hand soap and water. Apply deodorant. Brush hair. Change into work clothes in office with door closed. No longer stink.

    End of day, close the door and change back into shorts and t-shirt and tennis shoes. Take home work clothes in backpack.

    If the weather is cool enough, just bike to work in work clothes and wash face when I get there.

    Do rolling stops at all stop signs, stop completely at all red lights and check for traffic, only run them if coast is clear. Avoid sidewalks. Try to be considerate to pedestrians, drivers and other bikers.

    Love being out in the fresh air and getting my heart rate up in the morning before work, and saving metro costs and not having to be crushed in an over-packed metro car sweating as much as I do on the bike anyway.

  • Anonymous

    I bike 2.4 miles to work each way. Columbia Heights to Dupont – down hill to work. Unless it’s above 95 degrees I arrive in good shape, just bring sneakers for the ride and leave a pair of work shoes at the office.

    Biking takes 10 to 15 minutes. Walking takes 45 to an hour.

    Even if my $1,000 bike was stolen once a year (this does not happen!) it would still be cheaper than paying to park.

    I can’t imagine not biking to work.

  • ustreetmike

    I live in Bloomingdale and work in Ballston. I used to work at the pentagon, but that ride was only 4 miles. this ride is 7 each way. I am sweaty as all hell when i bike to work. I have to shower when i get to work no matter what. plus, i lift weights during lunch time. Here is my routeen.

    I wear a big camelback backpack when i ride. I pack work clothes (button down dress shirt, slacks, socks, belt, underwear) plus two tshirts, another pair of underwear, and two other pairs of socks. deoderant and toothbush stuff come too. I pack all this the night before. packing in the morning means i will forget something.

    I have always relied on gyms to shower and change in, so that i dont have to carry a towel with me. Here in ballston, the gym is two blocks from my office.

    I leave for work at 550am, no traffic on the roads. I bike directly to the gym. I shower and change there, and then bring my bike to the office (they let me park it in the office).

    Then, in the afternoon, i change in one of the vacant offices and bike home.

    It works out to be the same amount of time if i drive than if i bike. Taking the metro is about 15 minutes longer.

    re: shoes…i have brown and black dress shoes at work that are work shoes. i have black and brown shoes at home that are for going out in.

    • your sweaty ballsack

      Nice system, but you must 3x/day???

      • your sweaty ballsack

        Make that “shower 3x/day”. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

        I would probably prefer cycling to the gym, working out, and then working straight, but time may not allow it.

        • Lemon Meringue

          Showering 3x a day is not good for your skin. I guess you could get away with it if you have oily skin, take ice-cold showers, and follow up with moisturizer. Otherwise it’ll be dry and peeling.

          • your sweaty ballsack

            I am actually a salamander, so 3x/day would work for me.

          • Anonymous

            Not to mention the enormous waste of water.

          • Lemon Meringue

            That too. People shower entirely too much.

          • your sweaty ballsack

            I think those who overshower are counter-balanced by those who undershower.

            I probably only shower 2-3 times a week, but when I do, I stay in there for about an hour. I figure it balances out.

  • 14th St Heights

    I bike from near Upshur Park to Crystal City—pretty much a straight shot down 14th St. I carry simple attire (blouse, slacks, socks) and have a drawer full of shoes at work. Luckily work has a locker room with showers.

  • Tim

    I pack for work daily. The key for me was when I realized that I should fold my clothes in a dry cleaning bag (plastic) so that I can pack them tightly in a pannier. I have kept the same routine of biking to the gym, showering and dressing and leaving my bike there. Not everyone has this option, but it has been a great way to use a special corporate deal we got at the gym.

  • Anon

    I get way too sweaty in the summer to wear the same clothes at work that I bike in with. I stop off at the gym (I’m a member at a gym about 3 blocks from my office), shower using the provided toiletries in the locker room, change into the clothes I bring in a backpack, and wear flip flops to bike the few blocks to the office. I keep half my dress shoes in a box under my desk, and the other half at home to avoid carrying them back and forth. Voila! No smell. Maybe I just sweat more than the majority but it’s definitely necessary for me to shower after biking.

  • Dan

    I can’t walk to the metro without breaking into a sweat, much less bike the 5-6 miles to my office. I’m lucky enough to have a gym in my building, so I pack my dress clothes and shower stuff in a pannier and shower when I get to work. I leave my dress shoes and suit jackets in my office.

    I’m definitely envious of people who only live a couple miles from work and can get there without being covered in sweat, but the combination of distance + wearing a suit makes it a non starter for me. My system is great for getting to work, but doing anything after other than go right home gets tricky. I basically have to go out in spandex or else plan ahead and ride in to work in jeans and a t shirt. I’ve also had the “oh crap my black dress shoes and suit jacket are at the office” moment, which sucks.

    A lot of it comes down to gear. I have a sweet set of extra large panniers. One is enough for commuting, and it has a strap that I can use to carry it over my shoulder when I get to work. It makes it really easy to carry whatever I need. I used to use a big messenger bag, but the pannier is so much more convenient.

    All that being said, I also ride my bike in street clothes and don’t change when I get to the bar or the grocery store. I’ve even occasionally biked to work in a suit and it hasn’t been the end of the world.

    All transportation methods involve trade-offs of time, convenience, money, etc. Biking just adds personal hygiene to that list.

  • your sweaty ballsack

    I hear lots of mentions of paniers people like. I’ve looked around, but have never been able to make up my mind as to which are the best, most portable, most easily removed, best price, etc.

    Any suggestions as to which brand people use and like?

    • Dan

      I have Axioms that I like quite a lot. They come in a range of sizes. The gold standard are Ortliebs, but they’re pricey, and they’re more geared towards touring than commuting. Timbuk2 makes a pannier/messenger bag that looks kind of neat.

    • Anonymous

      Ortlieb! they make all kinds depending on what you need. REI seems to have a sale on them constantly.

      • GiantSquid

        I second the Ortlieb especially because they’re waterproof in case you get caught in a shower. I put a change of clothes on one side and my purse and lunch on the other.

  • cvonspie

    My bike commute is only 2 miles from home to office on mostly flat, neighborhood streets. So I just wear my work clothes and ride leisurely, occasionally in heels, but usually in flip flops or sneakers (with my work shoes packed). If I’m wearing a skirt or dress, I wear bike shorts underneath. I come in to work warm but not sweaty so no need for another shower. Although, I do have access to one if needed.

  • 11th

    mostly down hill to work from columbia heights to farragut square, so i don’t break much of a sweat even on hot days. i wear shorts and a dryfit kind of shirt and keep all my suits down here so i can change. don’t really need a shower in the morning, pretty drenched in the afternoon going up hill and pushing myself more and taking fun detours to get at good hills. i have to get in early (7:30 or so) and leave late (7 or 8), so that helps with missing the hotter parts of the late morning or early afternoon.

  • jch

    I bike Cap Hill to Farragut North – 4 miles. I have a nice garment bag that I fold and put in my backpack. I don’t sweat a lot, so i change when i get to work. The garment keeps the clothes surprisingly pressed. I have a pair of black and brown dress shoes in my desk at work.

  • er

    I live in Columbia Heights and commute to near Union Station. It’s about a 3.5 mile ride for me, and I just wear whatever I wear to work (even heels). It’s not a race, so I go at a pace that’s comfortable for me and let faster folks pass. I pause at stop signs and stop at red lights, get compliments on my bike, don’t may for peak-of-the-peak fare on Metro, and avoid transfering to the red line. I took the Metro for a month when the snow was bad.

    I started commuting when I worked at Farragut Square, and even then the commute was fine. My best advice for staying clean and not-sweaty is to take your time and don’t feel peer pressured by drivers or other riders to go faster than you actually want to go. Commuting to work downhill helps, too – going back home is uphill, but at that point I don’t care how much I sweat cause I can just change at home.

    Another suggestion: if you have a bag or need to carry anything for work, *get a basket or pannier*. Not having a strap around your torso or your arms makes such a difference to not sweating or feeling hot, as does having the weight off your back. It made commuting in DC in July possible for me.

  • RM

    My ride to work is 10 miles each way, so there’s no way for me to avoid getting sweaty and gross. A shower is necessary to avoid being the smelly guy in the office, so I joined a gym near my work. It’s an expense, but it pales in comparison to the cost of taking the Metro to work ($8.20 every day adds up!).

    The drawers in my office are full of work clothes. I have a couple pairs of work shoes that I leave there (brown and black), so I have everything I need at work. When a rainy day comes, I take the Metro and bring all my dirty clothes home to wash.

    People I talk to say that my system sounds like a hassle, but I couldn’t imagine going back to not biking to work. The fresh air, sunshine and exercise is the perfect way to start my day!

  • Anonymous

    The best way to not feel sweaty all day is to get a fan you can stand in front of as soon as you get to work so that you’re dry ASAP. I learned this trick from a guy in my building who used to stand in front of one of the big circulator fansin the parking garage for about 2 min every morning, which might be an option in your building.

  • Dr Pangloss

    Listening to drivers complain about cyclists is like listening to rapists complain about litter-bugs.

    • Anon

      You are honestly the dumbest person who posts on this blog. Seriously. Do you have limited mental capacity?

      • Lemon Meringue


      • Dr Pangloss

        What are you going to do? Hyperbole is one of the few–perhaps the only–effective tools to pierce epistemic closure of the hegemon. To play the fool craves a kind of wit.

        Now slow down, check your mirrors, and use your turn signal.

    • your sweaty ballsack

      May be dumb, but it made me laugh.

  • Anonymous

    I only bike in the middle of the night when I gotta work the early shift and it’s impossible to get a timely cab (even calling for one) in Petworth and the buses and Metro aren’t running.
    Then I catch the bus up the hill and sling the bike on the front for the uphill ride.
    I had a friend who swore he was going to make a fortune, he invented a garment bag backpack for serious bike commuters that keeps your jacket and shirt from getting all sweaty or wrinkled.

    • your sweaty ballsack

      I would buy that. You could also just get one of those luggage inserts for traveling that keeps your shirt and jacket flat, and then get a large backpack that allows you to slide it in like a laptop bag. Sounds like paniers would work too.

  • Anonomi

    Walk to Metro.

  • laley

    My routine depends on the heat/humidity level. In my perfect world, I would bike in my work clothes, so when arriving at my office, I could walk straight to my desk. But I think this week I will have to start changing clothes when arriving at work, to avoid the sweaty arrival. It does make me ponder, if I save 20 minutes on my 2.5 mile commute by biking, but it takes 10-15 to shower/change at the office, I haven’t saved that much time, so is biking worth it? I tell myself it is for me, because it is more enjoyable, healthy, and cheaper. But sometimes getting ready at the office is annoying, and invites the opportunity to forget a belt, or something like that.
    (I would like to mention that I don’t own a car, and paying for a car/parking/gas is not a good option for many people, including myself.)
    Also, sometimes I bike in skorts, and put on a skirt at the office. At risk of opening the door to strange comments, are there any recommedations of office appropriate skits one can bike in? Mine seem to be either too narrow to bike properly, or too billowy to stay in place, especially when biking downhill or in windy conditions.

  • Wow. Holy balls.

    Listen folks. Screaming “BIKERS ARE ASSHOLES!” “NO, DRIVERS ARE ASSHOLES!” “NO, YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE!” really isn’t the vibe we’re shooting for here–or the subject.

    Let’s be civil–please?

    • your sweaty ballsack

      Are you really surprised?

  • Dan

    OK !!!

    1. White shirts – hides sweat!
    2. Unbutton and roll sleeve up and yank tie!! – stop sweating!!
    3. AVOID wool, LINED PANTS!!!



    • Dan

      Back off, other Dan!

      • Dan

        I would like BOTH of you to back off.

  • Dan

    Yeah, all the people that logged on to comment about how bikers run red lights really need to pull those sticks out of their butts.

    This was a post about the best strategies for biking to work. No one asked for your opinion on why bikers are jerks. If someone in their car asks me for directions, I don’t tell them that the CO2 from their car is contributing to an ecological disaster of epic proportions, or that our overly auto-dependent built environment is a leading cause of health problems and environmental degradation. I tell them how to get to where they’re going, because I’m a decent human being.

    • Dr Pangloss

      Hell, whenever a memorial service is announced for someone who’s killed on a bike, you get people lining up to comment about how cyclists don’t come to a full stop at every stop sign. And every time a pedestrian’s run down by a bus, we get treated to comments about how people shouldn’t wear earphones when jogging.

      As a decent human being, you’re in precious short supply.

  • Nick

    For a year I biked from Mt. Pleasant to my office at 14th and H. It took 10-15 minutes and I didn’t take a shower when I got to the office. I just brought my dress shirts to the office over the weekend and biked in wearing my normal work clothes and an undershirt.

    On May 1st I moved to Takoma, right next to the metro. I still work at the same place. The ride is 6 miles each way and takes 25-30 minutes. I wear gym shorts and random shirts. It requires a shower and stretching after the ride. I go to the Washington Sports Club at F and 14th. My membership ends at the end of the month though and I’m going to start using the small gym in my building, because it has a shower and that’s all I really need.

    Keep up with the riding and consider a cheap gym membership, at least for the hottest months. Bring your dress clothes to the office and it will be fine. Don’t feel that you need to wear spandex. I don’t own any and nobody passes me. The same goes for fancy toe clips and clipless pedals. I use power grips and they work nicely. My toe clips use to scuff my dress shoes.

    • Nick

      Also, invest in a good backpack. I recommend Chrome. Stop by there store next time you are in the New York.

      • Nick


  • Anonymous

    I bike to work once a week or so, about 7 miles from Van Ness to Capitol Hill. It would take too long if I rode slow and even if I did on the hot days I think I’d still get sweaty, so I go quick and always wear biking shorts and a jersey and have clothes to change into. It definitely takes some time to prepare in the morning – I have to pack my undershirt, dress shirt, boxers, pants, dress shoes, dress socks, and tie along with my keys, bb, wallet, and personal items.

    Luckily we have showers and lockers at work and they have fresh towels, though you can’t leave anything in there overnight which is why I bring all the work clothes with me. Though I do keep my blazers near my desk, in a small closet.

    It is quicker in total minutes to bike to work than take the metro (and free) though when you add in the shower and getting ready and packing, it probably takes a few minutes longer. But then again, you’re getting in a workout in the time you’d otherwise just be sitting on the metro commuting. Its nice to get the fresh air if its a good day, but it sucks when it a thunderstorm suddenly appears or its 95 degrees when you leave the office. Or when you want to go out after work for a happy hour, but realize you can’t leave your bike and clothes overnight at the office.

    Biking to work is alright sometimes, but I think its ridiculous when people propose it as a complete transportation solution. For most white collar jobs it really is just too inconvenient and too much of a hassle – I bet most offices don’t have showers and there aren’t a ton of truly safe and comfortable biking routes in the city. On the other hand, a lot of people dismiss it outright like its the stupidest idea ever and totally impractical. It isn’t, it just takes some planning and the right circumstances. To each his own

    • Lemon Meringue

      “Luckily we have showers and lockers at work and they have fresh towels” … damn, where do you work? You’re right that most offices don’t have those things. Though, considering I’m the only person I know who doesn’t drive to my workplace I’m guessing they wouldn’t get used much.

      • Anonymous

        Yea its a nice perk. I work on the Hill – there are a lot of employees so it makes sense to have the facilities. Technically its part of the gym that has a monthly fee, but employees can use the locker rooms for free.

  • GiantSquid

    I bike 2.5 miles from Cap Hill to Penn Quarter. I used to walk it when the weather was nice. Cycling saves me almost 30 minutes. I use the bus when the weather is inclement. I always bring a change of clothes and when I get to work, where I have a travel case and towel, and shower. At the end of the day, I change back into riding clothes (which have done some airing out) and ride home.

    I can’t imagine riding in my work clothes. I love the Ortlieb panniers I “borrowed” from Mr. Squid. And for the record, I stop at all lights and signs.

  • TeLLurMomISdHi

    I cycle four miles from Brightwood to 11th and M daily. I press and fold my work gear, store it in my back pack along with my notebook and other items. I usually dress according to the weather. Mostly 501’s and a tee-shirt. When it’s hotter, I’ll wear camo shorts. I am a true soldier since I even bike throughout the winter. Happy to have a cleaner, healthier DC.

  • soggy heat

    I biked to the Hill from near Crystal City for the last year, about 7 miles each way. During the hot summer months I gave in to feeling a bit dopey in bike shorts and just a sports bra on the hottest days, or with a tank/t-shirt other days. Kept a pair of shoes at work, packed a pair of pants/skirt and a blouse in a messenger bag I strap to the rack on the back of the bike. I also kept a washcloth at work, and would manage a sponge bath in the restroom before work, dry myself off with a couple paper towels and a few minutes of evaporation, add deodorant and be good to go. My biggest issue is always that I don’t love sneaking through the office to the bathroom in bike clothes.

    I tried showering once, and discovered that with long hair, I wound up being wet for a couple hours after (no hair dryer available, and that would take way more time). Depending on how your body works, “good clean” sweat shouldn’t smell terrible. I do envy the girls who bike a couple miles looking cute in dresses and heels (and not wearing helmets), but the wonderful thing I’d discovered about being an adult is that I can just not give a sh*t.

    Anyway, it’s a lot of fuss, but having an hour of [semi] fresh air and exercise before and after work really improves my day. I’m about to start biking to Farragut, so we’ll see how this routine adapts.


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