Bike commuting is beneficial for more reasons than one. It’s healthy, it saves us money, and it just makes us feel so good!
But one of the BIGGEST roadblocks new commuters face is the fact that they will likely be sweaty and stinky by the time they get to work. And what’s worse, most people don’t have the luxury (or time) to take a shower before starting the workday.
I worked in a fancy NYC office for 4 years to which I biked 13 miles every day and never had a single complaint about my odor or cleanliness (I hope).
Here are 4 pro tips to freshen up after biking to work without a shower that only a seasoned bike commuter will tell. This does not have to be a big roadblock for you to bike commute.
How to freshen up after a bike commute without a shower
Here are the most effective ways to freshen up after biking to works:
- Have a 5-minute cooldown ride right before arriving at the office
- Use baby wipes to wipe down your body
- Bring your work clothes with you or leave them at the office
- Wear breathable wicking clothes designed for cycling
Let’s go further into each of these tips because there’s more to unpack in each of them.
1. Have a 5-minute cool-down ride right before arriving at the office
This pro tip comes from years of personal experience bike commuting in the hot (and freezing) streets of NYC.
It can be tempting to sprint the entire distance to your workplace and even beat your personal best. But it’s actually unwise to exert yourself too much right before arriving at the office. As soon as you stop pedaling and go inside, your body will heat up and you will start sweating like crazy. Even if you’re not panting heavily, your body will still sweat as soon as you stop pedaling and go indoors.
Even in the cold winters, you will find yourself quickly working up a sweat on your bike commute. That’s why it’s even important to cool down regardless of how hot or cold the temperature is outside.
2. Wipe down with baby wipes
Baby wipes are a bike commuter’s best friend (and a parent’s). Who would have thought? Baby wipes are cheap, soft on the skin, cleansing, and leave you feeling and smelling good.
If you don’t have the luxury of a shower (or the time), then baby wipes are the best solution. In just 5 minutes, you can grab your wipes, head to the restroom, wipe down, get dressed, and be ready for the workday. It doesn’t take very long at all, especially in comparison to taking a shower.
You don’t have to bring your wipes with you!
Just leave a box of wipes at your workplace in your drawer or closet. Once you get to the office, take them with you to the restroom, wipe down your delicate areas (especially under the pits!), and change into your extra clothes.
If you happen to have small kids (like me), then you’re in luck! If not, then you can get a cost-effective box of baby wipes from Amazon (I recommend these).
3. Bring your work clothes with you or leave them at the office
Having extra clothing to change into after getting to work is a no-brainer. But did you know you can leave almost ALL of your clothes at your workplace?
I can’t emphasize this enough. Leave as MUCH of your work clothes as possible at your workplace. This includes shirts, pants, suits, shoes, ties, belts, and even underwear. This is important not only because it will make your cargo lighter when commuting every day, but it will also simplify the process of choosing an outfit.
When I was commuting daily from New Jersey to my job in NYC, I kept my entire wardrobe for a whole week in my office. Did I have a closet in my office? No. I just had a drawer in my desk for all of my clothes (including my suit).
“But I need lots of clothes for work!“
Well, do you really? I worked at a fancy NYC job for 4 years and managed just fine with baby wipes and all of my clothes in a drawer. A wardrobe doesn’t have to be so complicated. You might need to give up the perfectly wrinkle-free shirt occasionally, but that’s a sacrifice I think we can all afford.
I recommend leaving your work shoes at the office because shoes are particularly bulky to bring with you on a bike. Instead, if you can get some cycling shoes for the commute, I’d recommend checking those out there.
4. Wear breathable wicking clothes designed for cycling
Cycling clothes are designed to wick away sweat and keep you dry. It’s basically the opposite of wearing your suit and tie on a bike.
At the very least, it’s recommended to get a cycling jersey if you don’t want to get the shorts as well.
The good news is that cycling jerseys don’t have to be that expensive. As a frugal cyclist, I would only recommend doing something if it will make your life better. And cyclist jerseys do that. They are breathable, maintain a good smell, and even have cool little pockets in the back for your phone and things!
As a bonus, cycling jerseys can unzip at the front to cool you down right before you arrive at work.
The real benefit of cycling shorts is the padding on the bum. If your commute is longer (more than 10 miles), then you will want to get a pair of cycling shorts. For shorter commutes, normal shorts will do just fine.
The added benefits of cycling shorts is that they are breathable and they are aerodynamic (due to the tight fit).
(Don’t wear underwear under your shorts!)
Don’t let the lack of shower stop you!
If you follow the above tips, then you will have no problem cleaning up in under 5 minutes. All it takes is a little wardrobe planning, some baby wipes from Amazon to freshen up, and a cycling jersey to keep you cool.
I find it unfortunate that a lack of a shower is one of THE BIGGEST roadblocks that keep people from commuting to work by bike. It is almost always the first excuse people think of when I ask them to consider biking to work.
The bottom line is that biking to work does not have to be a miserable, sweaty experience that your co-workers will complain about. In fact, biking to work will give you more energy and even make you richer.