Work Clothing and Bicycle Commuting.

Most bicycle commuters can’t wear their bicycle clothing at work. I know there are a few of us lucky enough to get away with it, however for most of us the logistics of showing up at work with unwrinkled, unsoiled, fresh smelling clothing is a challenge.

A bicycle commuter has three options.

  1. Ride into work in your work clothing
  2. Pack your work clothing and tote it with you, change into it when you arrive at work.
  3. Stash your work clothing at work, change into it when you arrive at work.


Number 1, Riding to work in your work clothing

This will work for some work environments, short distance commutes, super cycling weather and a easy pace ride. Let’s explore. If you wear a suit in an office environment 20 miles from home in a hot or rainy environment and ride at race speed don’t even think about it, go to option 2 or 3.

We all have seen the picture of the public’s view of a typical bike commuter. It’s a guy in a business suit riding a bike in downtown Chicago or some other business center. This guy may live less than 5 miles from his office. 

Also if he was riding at very fast pace in Chicago during summer this guy’s cleaning bill would be as high as gasoline for a car. 

Number 2, Packing your work clothing to carry with you and changing into it at work.

I ride 15 miles each way in Southern California and carrying my clothing. This (number 2) is my method. I have worked out a process for packing my clothing into panniers.

Left Pannier

My work shoes with my work socks and belt stuffed inside of the shoes go into my left pannier. On top of my shoes go my undergarments and an empty plastic bag to put my soiled bicycle clothing into when I change at work. In the pocket of the left pannier I carry my bicycle light charger (even in the summer, I may have to work late into the dark hours)

Right Pannier

I roll my work shirt into a roll it looks something like a small sleeping bag rolled up, I also roll my work slacks. I place the two rolls vertically into my right pannier. On top of the rolled up clothing I put my Handspring Visor, on top of the visor I put a spare T-shirt to wear on the commute home. In the pocket of my right pannier I carry a cell phone.

My bike tools and spare tube I carry in an under the seat bag. This way I can take off the panniers and still have the bike road ready.

When I arrive at the office, I park the bike in my office turn on my computer check my phone messages. I pull off the panniers and carry them to the fitness center about ½ a mile away. I shower and change, pack my bike clothing into the panniers, soiled shirt and socks going into the plastic bag. I have a nice ½ mile walk back to the office. And I feel great! There is something magic about a good bike ride and walk in the morning.

When I leave the office, I change into my bike clothing and the spare T-shirt in the office restroom. Put on my helmet, a quick check of the bike and I am off. What a great way to travel.

Note: I did not own panniers for the first few months of commuting. I carried all the same things in a rucksack on my back. The rucksack works just as good a panniers. I converted to panniers when I found them on sale at a price I could not pass up. The major benefits I find with panniers is I don’t arrive at work with major sweaty back. Now I am just a little sweaty all over :-)

Number 3, Stash your clothing at work

I have a friend who commutes to work by bike 4 days a week. One day a week he commutes by car and stocks up a storeroom of work clothing. He packs a big duffel bag with work clothing for the week. He also times himself on his commute. Guess, if you want to have speed, you keep it light. 

If you want to travel light, don't want to pack your clothes everyday, or have to look real sharp at work you may opt to keep a wardrobe in the office. 


Final recommendations

No one option is the right solution I recommend you experiment. Try a combination of any of the three. For a short or moderate commute distance you may be able wear your work pants and just change your top when you arrive. I have been thinking about leaving my work shoes in my office. It’s a bit nuts to carry them with me every day. So I may be using a combination of option 2 and 3. Anyway each of our commutes and work environments is different. Let us know here at BikeCommute.Com how you’re dealing with the issue of work clothing.

We love to read and post your commute stories and pictures.

John Meacham, April 2001