Sal on Wheels: The Bike Commute

A lot has changed since I first posted about my bike commute back in July of 2009, and since biking season is upon us I figured it was time for an update! For starters …

… I got a new bike. Yes, I traded in my 65-pound one-speed cruiser for a 40-pound three-speed cruiser. My new ride is a Specialized Globe with an internal gear box, and although we got off to a bit of a bumpy start this year with some flat tires and gear tension issues, I’m still thrilled to have made the change. (Especially now that I’ve upgraded to Kevlar-lined tires. How badass is THAT?!?) This bike has seat and front wheel shocks – cheap ones, but still – and they make my ride sooooo much more pleasant.

Especially since I’ve changed up my route. I still spend about 25% of my ride cruising through my rough and sometimes-scary neighborhood, but a friend showed me a route to work that put me on bike trails and in designated bike lanes for the other 75%. Safer, for sure … but the trails are in rough shape and bumpy as hell. So I’m grateful for my shocks! My ride is 45 minutes in the morning, an hour in the afternoon (the ride home is mostly uphill). It’s a little over 6 miles to my workplace from my home.

I’ve been pushing my temperature threshold for biking and am now forcing myself to bike on any non-rainy days when it’s at least 35 degrees when I wake at 5:45 a.m. Since that’s still pretty cold, this is my morning getup. I’m wearing:

  1. Gym shoes
  2. Socks
  3. Cotton leggings
  4. Cotton knee-length shorts
  5. A wicking top that’s too big on me and shows my boobs when I plank at the gym, but is just fine for this purpose
  6. A thrifted red hoodie
  7. A reflective neon yellow windbreaker
  8. Thrifted leather gloves
  9. A black puffy vest
  10. A cotton scarf
  11. Helmet
  12. Cheap sunglasses

I look weird. Especially with the scarf. Which I wear because I NEED my face and neck covered when it’s that cold out and I’m generating wind by riding. And because cotton is both absorbent and washable. But I’m just fine looking weird. As was the case back in 2009, I don’t WANT to look cool or pretty or like I’m wearing anything expensive. I’d rather look a bit weird and hobo-like so that any early-rising baddies lurking around my neighborhood will let me pass by unharmed.*

This is what I look like on my afternoon rides home in the spring. I’m wearing:

  1. Gym shoes
  2. Socks
  3. Cotton leggings
  4. Cotton knee-length shorts
  5. Too-big wicking top
  6. Red thrifted hoodie
  7. Helmet
  8. Sunglasses

Once it gets warmer, I’ll get rid of the leggings and hoodie, too. They’ll be replaced with loads of sunscreen.

Another improvement: Back rack and saddlebags. Where I used to stuff my gear in a big tote and lock it onto a front basket, now I clip these babies onto my rack and roll out.

What goes in there? Many of the same things as back in 2009: A pre-tried-on outfit complete with shoes and accessories, my makeup bag, my cell phone inside a hard sunglass case, my wallet, keys, and lunch. I have finally convinced myself that it’s wiser to pack my bag up the night before. Saves mucho time.

Outfits worn on bike commuting days are photographed ahead of time, which helps streamline the process on several levels: I don’t have to get dressed AGAIN after riding home and showering, and trying on the outfits ahead of time allows me to test and refine them before shoving them into my saddlebags!

I am very fortunate to have access to a changing room with a shower. But I, uh, don’t use the shower at work. Even on hot days. I do a little bird bathing at home, put on my moisturizer and draw on my eyebrows, slather on the deodorant and go. On arrival, I wipe down with a paper towel or two, and pull on the day’s outfit – which nearly always includes a cotton, absorbent, and/or washable top or dress. After work, I change back into my biking duds, ride home, and shower there.

I don’t have an extensive makeup routine, but if I did, I’d do my makeup at work. I ride through some gritty, dirty, industrial areas of Minneapolis and there’s no way I’d want to put on my mascara and eyeshadow and then roll through a bunch of dirt.

My goal is to bike as much as possible this season. There will be times when I’ll need my car for appointments or to meet someone after work, and I’m too much of a wimp to bike in the rain, but otherwise I’ll be hopping on my trusty Globe every day that I can.

I am very fortunate: I live in the most bike-friendly city in the U.S., I live relatively close to my workplace, I have a very flexible boss. My situation is ideal for bike commuting. But I never even gave it a single thought until a friend nudged me to consider biking to work, so here’s my attempt to pay that gift forward: Biking saves you gas money, keeps fumes out of the atmosphere, is a fabulous way to get in your cardio, and just feels fantastic. Could you do it? Have you tried? If you’re not sure, haul out your bike on a weekend and time your ride to and from your workplace. Refine your route. See if you can make it possible.

So, did I cover everything? Got any questions for me about my commute, or about commuting in general? Those of you who bike to work, how do you deal with getting ready and looking presentable at your jobs? Any tips for those hoping to give it a whirl?

*Given, the baddies don’t generally come out until the afternoon commute. And to my neighborhood’s credit, I’d say that a couple of times per month some big, burly guy will lean out of his hoopty to cheer me on as I inch my way up a big hill. Sure those guys are making fun of me, but it’s FUNNY, so I can’t blame them. And I laugh along.

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  • Anonymous

    I’ve been biking to work the last 2 summers. This fall i switched the workplace, and i’m the most bike unfriendly part of a unfriendly city. Since i don’t trust them with my precious trek, i am tring to compensate on weekends. But when i did bike, i didn’t change. I d do the skinny jean/ clammdigger and a blouse/embeloished tee thing. I have some nice flats and a bikeable wedge. And a couple of circle skirts and a skirt-guard. I have puffer to! So my outfit was breathable ennough and i’d use some wet towels to refressh at work. How much time you ride takes? Mine was quite short, like 40 mins or so.

    • Sal

      45 minutes in the morning, an hour in the afternoon (the ride home is mostly uphill). Itโ€™s a little over 6 miles to my workplace from my home.

  • Carbon Girl

    Wow, only three gears with hills? That sounds hard. I bike commute with my 18 speed out of which I only use the top 3 gears but that is because I am in flat Florida. I eventually will move to someplace hilly where I may need those 18 gears again. And yes to the kevlar tires! I was getting a flat a week until I switched to those bad boys.

    • Sal

      HAHA! My investment in those tires is now doubly justified! Glad to hear they worked for you, too.

  • Annika

    Great post ! I also ride my bicycle to work and the benefits are wonderful. It is just the right amount of daily exercise, saves a lot of money for gas and one is never stuck in traffic.

  • I loved reading about your bike commute routine!

    I think I live in the most bike UNfriendly city! I used to grocery shop on my bike and endured yelling, honking, and cursing from drivers when I rode on the road. So I started riding on the sidewalk but that requires extra vigilance when crossing sidewalks or streets. *sigh* Makes we want to move to your city! (Except for the really cold part.)

  • Aimee

    Great post! I commute by bike as well, and find that my absolute must is also packing everything the night before. I usually bike to a bus stop in the morning and put the bike on the bus, since I’m too lazy to get up early enough to bike all the way to work. But I adore my afternoon bike ride home. Nothing de-stresses me like a great ride home, and I’m very fortunate that 90% of my commute also takes place on a bike path.

    My go-to temp is 50…maybe with time I can layer up and bike more often.

  • Hannah

    I’ve started biking to work! My commute is a little under 4 miles and compared to driving (since I have to warm up my car, wait at lights, park, walk to my building) it takes about the same amount of time which is awesome. It’s mostly downhill on the way there. I’ve just been riding in the clothes I want to wear when I get there, but if it gets warmer I might wear proper bike shorts and change into a dress. Most of my commute stays off the main roads so I don’t have to deal with too many people, thankfully.

    Hooray for bikes!

  • Anna

    Well, I’d love to bike to work, but my commute is about 15 steps to the computer in my home office. On Walk to Work Day I e-mailed my son that I was walking to work, and he immediately e-mailed back, “Just be careful not to trip over the cat.”

    But this is a clothing and appearance forum, right? So I’d better stay on topic. Right now I am in jeans, a turtleneck, slippers, and earrings. And full makeup! All the conventional wisdom about dressing for work in your home office is really true. It does make you feel more efficient and professional. The nightgown in which I fumble my sleepy way to the computer does nothing for my productivity. Nor would it be appropriate biking attire, if only….

    • Dee

      Love the cat reference — got a nice chuckle out of that one!

  • I highly recommend a little packet of baby wipes for the postbik, prework clean up. Much better than paper towels, imo.

  • Katharine

    I feel bad because I don’t bike. But my commute is fifteen kilometres, up some pretty substantial hills on busy roads, and I SWEAT. I can’t do it with a birdbath; when I get to the office, I’m a limp rag and need a full shower. Which I do have access to, but still. That’s an extra two hours on top of my morning, biking, and showering, and drying off, and getting dressed, plus carting all of that crap– outfit, towels, toiletries, hair appliances– back and forth on my bike, and it just frustrates me.

    I keep feeling that I’m somehow failing by not biking (especially since my father, until last year and his third accident, was biking 40 km each way into work every day, and all he’d do was bring a suit, five ties and five shirts into work at the beginning of the week) but even with gas at the price it is… meh. I’m essentially lazy, I guess.

    I really want one of those electric “bikes” which are in fact scooters, even if they are slow and my brother will laugh at me.

    • Sal

      No! Don’t beat yourself up! Bike commuting is fab, but it just doesn’t WORK for everyone.

  • Vive

    Love this post. I don’t bike to work, but I often walk to work (about 40 minutes each way) and I love the way it allows me to shift gears as I head to the office and then head back home.

    I’m wondering if you can let us know which outfits are bike commute outfits when you post them. I find one of my biggest challenges in walking to work is figuring out what outfit can arrive without looking terrible after being rolled into my backpack. I’d love to track how you do it.

  • Awesome! Go you!
    I live in Boston and it has recently warmed up enough so that I can bike to work. I used google maps to create a route that is mostly bike path, bike lanes, or through neighborhoods where I do not have to share the streets with many cars because that’s the way I feel safest.
    When I first started biking I made a deal with myself that I didn’t want to significantly change the way I dress for work to do it. There isn’t a good place to change at my workplace and I value that extra 10 minutes of sleep too much. I feel mostly comfortable in skirts and dresses so that’s how I bike. I find that with a few modifications I have not torn any of my clothing and do not arrive at work sweaty. I am often the only cyclist I encounter on my way to work who is not dressed in technical gear. I sometimes get funny looks when I bike in a dress but I also get a lot of compliments too! If I feel silly biking in my regular clothes I remind myself that Dutch people do it all the time so I’m not being a weirdo, I’m “European”.

    I totally understand your decision to bike in exercise clothes but if you ever want to give biking in street clothes you should check out Dottie’s posts on Let’s Go Ride A Bike:
    http://letsgorideabike.com/blog/2011/01/how-to-cycle-sleek-winter-wear/

    She lives in Chicago so she knows a lot about keeping it chic in the cold!

    • I used to ride in my regular clothes, partially due to the impracticality of having to pack my clothes and having time to change (and possibly shower) but I found that it wore out my clothes too soon. My favorite dress from that period, a black jersey dress, has a pale spot on my bottom from the friction of the saddle (I still need to dye it so I can use it again) and I wore out a number of jeans by wearing holes in the bottom.
      Once in a while my clothes would get spoiled from getting caught he chain or wheel as well.
      So although it is convenient not having to change, it gets too expensive not doing it on my daily bike rides.

  • i love your bike to work posts!! i have been considering biking to work… i did it once last year (and then only out of necessity – i woke up one morning to find my truck with a flat & my spare stolen ๐Ÿ™ ) & it was BRUTAL, but i’ve since learned to take my time & enjoy the ride ๐Ÿ™‚ i love cycling & i usually cycle as much as i can in the summer. it is such great exercise!!

    honestly, the only thing that is keeping me from biking to work right now is the scary traffic. my city is pretty bike-friendly-ish, but we only have bike lanes on maybe half a mile of my 5 mile route. and drivers get pretty pissy at bikes during their precious ~commute~. still, i have considered just taking the bus in the morning & staying at work a little late to miss traffic before i bike home. i don’t know! i guess i just should get up & do it, because sitting here & thinking about biking isn’t actually accomplishing anything ๐Ÿ™‚

    anyway, thanks for posting this!

  • M

    It’s awesome you put this post together for people! When first migrating to using one’s bike as a normal part of their commute, trying to figure out all these little details can be a bit overwhelming, on top of trying to find a route that works! I think everyone has to figure out what works for them, but this is an awesome summary!

    I live in the not-so-bike-friendly city of Los Angeles (although the weather is super bike friendly). Unfortunately my commute by bike would be around 7 miles LONGER than my commute by foot/bike and bus (due to lack of sufficient bike paths…) When I do bike the 2.5 miles to the bus stop, I used to do a lot more changing and carrying of extra clothing. Over the last year or so, I gradually started changing what I wore so that I didn’t have to do that (I actually came across your blog when researching how to wear leggings!) I found it to be rather time consuming and it wasn’t uncommon for me to forget pieces of my outfit. Now my standard outfit is leggings/shorts of some sort (for modesty when biking), a comfy & flexible skirt and layered shirts, depending on the weather, and comfy shoes. If it’s going to be super hot, I’ll bring along an extra shirt to change into once I get to work. Luckily my work has a pretty generous, lax dress code and by wearing a skirt, I’m generally more dressed up than most.

  • good for you! bike commuting takes a lot of commitment – i’ve never done it, but both my husband and my dad have, my father for many years. do those gloves keep your hands warm enough? Mr. E’s hands freeze, he’s always checking out the gloves at REI.

    my dad had a truly alarming bike-commuting-related experience. he wore the traditional biking outfit – form fitting top and shorts/leggings with chamois pad, funky cleated shoes, helmet. for many months of the year, he noticed a kind of……’crop circle’ formation on his hindquarters. all of the hair within a circular, butt-centered area would fall out during the summer, then mysteriously reappear with colder weather. seeing as i’m queen of the weird, he had to bring it to my attention. i was flummoxed.

    eventually the penny dropped – the circular-shaped chamois pad in his biking shorts was wearing the hair off when he biked frequently in warm weather. when he slacked off biking in the cold, the hair returned.

    ah, the dangers of fashion and biking! steph

    • Sal

      My hands definitely get cold about halfway through the ride, but they warm up eventually!

  • Loved this post! I’m a stay-at-home mom who writes, so I don’t commute, but my husband does, from NE Mpls to Golden Valley. We only have one car for our 4-person family but 5 bikes! I too recently trades in my cute-but-honkin’ cruiser, for a lighter more maneuverable single speed rebuilt Schwinn. I too live at the top of a hill, so I’m much happier with the lighter bike and skinnier saddle.

    I’ve been meaning to ask, and this post is the perfect opportunity, about biking in cute outfits. It worked on my cruiser in full skirts and cute shoes, but I’m not sure it’s going to on the new bike. What are some cute/casual outfits with shoes that can go on and off a bike?

  • I had no idea you were a fellow road warrior! Good for you! I just got my bike on the road for the commute yesterday.

    And I too always have a big cotton kerchief with me; several, in fact. You can use it in so many ways – keep your face or neck or both warm, catch sweat, wipe hands, wipe chain marks off calf, blow nose.

    Plus, panniers! I love my panniers – so many folks use a backpack, but with panniers you let the bike carry your stuff. And yeah, I don’t aim to look pretty while riding; I’d rather look badass. My ride home is all uphill – takes me 30 minutes to get to work and 45-50 to get home.

    Also, very smart to try on the outfit ahead of time. Every now and again, I forget a key item: usually underwear (cuz I have no-seem acrylic cycling U.P.s for the ride and then change), or a bra (cuz I have to use my Champion motion-proof one for the ride).

    The ride is so good for stress, isn’t it.

  • I’m the same way, if it’s raining or snowing, forget it. But from April to October I try to ride everyday it’s not wet! I’m too lazy to do the whole different outfit thing so I usually just bike in whatever I’m wearing that day (with bike shorts added if it’s a skirt or dress, and usually moccasins instead of the work heels).Though iIn July and August though when it’s super hot, I just bike in a black tank and black skirt every day and change at work. I get too sweaty when it’s sunny, humid, and 90 out. However, my bike commute is only five miles and nooo hills of any kind, and my bike is extremely light weight and fast. So that helps a ton! Plus, I get to sleep in an extra twenty minutes when I bike! My bus ride takes 40 minutes and my bike ride only takes 20! I’ll take the extra sleep and exercise any day!

  • Sasha

    I’m a new bike commuter in Manhattan (which has got to be one of the most bike-unfriendly places in the US). In spite of vile cat-calling and viscous bike-hungry trucks, it’s still the best part of my day because of how powerful it makes me feel!! For those of you out there thinking about becoming a bike commuter, but not sure yet — I hope you give it a try. It is definitely scary at first, but in not too much time, you’ll start to feel powerful and entitled to your space on the road. Not to mention completely tougher than any jerk who catcalls you from the comfort of his polluting car!

    Thanks for re-posting about your bike commute, S — it’s nice to be in a community of sisters on wheels!

  • Kate K

    “And to my neighborhoodโ€™s credit, Iโ€™d say that a couple of times per month some big, burly guy will lean out of his hoopty to cheer me on as I inch my way up a big hill. Sure those guys are making fun of me, but itโ€™s FUNNY, so I canโ€™t blame them. And I laugh along.”

    See, Sal, this is why you’re the coolest and one of my favorite bloggers. Rock on with your bad self ๐Ÿ˜€

  • meghan

    Man, I really admire your commitment to biking. I really like the idea of biking but I can’t deal with the changing and the hair sweating and the different shoes. As a student, I already feel like I’m a hobo, with books and laptops with me too often. I already feel like my style gets awkward because of my giant hobo backpack and when I consider biking, my immediate “impossible!” reaction makes me feel like I’m a slave to fashion (because I can’t imagine doing this) and I don’t like that.

    Mostly, I know that I’m just lazy. But it makes me think a lot about when and where fashion is important to me and when I wish it were less important. But good on you for figuring out a system that really works and sticking to it. Biking reminds me of my youth when it meant freedom for the first time. I’d love to recapture that feeling.

  • One of the reasons why I want to move is because I’d love to bike to work. I’m even thinking about biking from my current place, but that would make one way over 2 hours….

  • Mar

    I commute to work a couple of times a week (on non-rainy days). My ride to work is mainly either flat or downhill, and I don’t push my pace too much, since I don’t want to sweat buckets (it’s around 5ish miles). I ride a road bike with no place to put panniers right now, so all my stuff needs to fit in my backpack. Unless it is unbearably hot, I bike in the bottom layer of my outfit (pants or a skirt with bike shorts underneath to avoid flashing someone) and in a workout shirt, and pack my chosen upper layer into my backpack. I’ve found that it’s mainly my upper body that sweats. I do my makeup at home. Since my backpack already needs to hold my laptop (and my change-into top + jewelry/accessories), I prefer to bike in the shoes I will be wearing for the rest of the day – mainly cute flats. On super hot days, I sometimes just bike in my bikeshorts and gym top, and roll a dress that’s pretty resistant to wrinkling into my backpack to change into. I also keep a towel at work if I do need to do after-biking cleanup, sweat or otherwise. I also keep deodorant at work, and some makeup, but I pretty much rarely use the latter. Whatever constraints I feel with my outfits on biking days (no heels unless I drag them with me in my backpack, no wrinkling/super delicate stuff) are more than made up for just by how good and energized I feel when I arrive to work, and I still have a couple of days every week when I am not bike commuting and get to doll up as much as I please.

  • Katie

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m a new-ish reader, and I was just thinking about how I love biking to work, but feel there is something off about showing up to a professional environment in yoga pants and a sweatshirt. I do change into work appropriate attire at work, but I feel like someone is going to catch me in the transition and not understand that I donโ€™t plan to work in my sweats.

    Just to share, my weather rules are I bike if there is no chance of rain in the evening (I work until 9PM most nights), and in the 40s for most of the day. Also, if you do have cold hands on the bike ride, maybe look for a pair of running gloves. I keep a pair in my coat pocket, and they are just warm enough to keep my hands free from the wind without over heating.

  • I am going to start soon! I live in a pretty traffic-y area though, so I’m nervous. I can’t wait though…when I got on a bike for the first time in years I just felt so happy like a little kid again!

  • You look like such a badass in the first commuting outfit, love it!

    I wish I could bike to work; I guess I could but I go through some really sketchy places and it’s about 22 miles on pretty major roads that are already scary with random people parked here and there. I have a coworker who lives 8 miles from me who bikes almost year round, but he’s the type who could kick some serious tail if put in a tough situation. ๐Ÿ™‚

    We bike and walk on weekends – the grocery store, farmer’s market, bank, dinner out. Hubby got an iBert so Emerson can ride with him & they go every day. Best way to travel for the earth, the body, and the soul!

  • I love hearing stories from other women who bike commute. I bike to work year-round… that means a lot of morning rides at 10 to 20 degrees F in the winter. Luckily my commute is just about a mile, so it’s over quickly, but I go home at lunch so usually put on about 4 miles a day. Since my commute is short, I don’t worry to much about sweating. In the summer my favorite outfit is a knee-length skirt (with bike shorts under), a knit top, and a cardigan to layer in the airconditioned building – no need to change, though I usually take off the shorts while at work. If I want to wear a long skirt, I’ll roll that up and tuck it in my messenger bag. I do change shoes, biking in sneakers and carrying dress shoes in my bag. I keep 2 or 3 pairs of dress shoes in a drawer in my office, so I don’t have to bring them along every day.

    Winter is trickier. I’ll put on whatever shirt and sweater I’m planning to wear at work, tights that I’ll wear under a skirt, then fleece tights, windpants, a fleece jacket and a Goretex shell, plus a balaclava and “penguin gloves”. Can’t do make-up at home, because the cold inevitably makes my eyes water and nose run, so I have to tidy up after I get to work. Also, I don’t usually try on the whole outfit at home, so now and then after I get changed I’ll realize something doesn’t quite work together; then I just try to roll with it.

    I do sometimes feel weird walking in to my office in all this garb, but it has some perks too. This past winter the college president bought me a cup of coffee because he was impressed that I was still bike commuting!

  • I forgot to add – Sal, I think you look awesome in your biking outfit. I love the bright red hoody, and you look so vibrant in these photos!

  • I just want to say how envious I am that people can walk or ride their bikes to work. I commute 35+ miles each way to my job, so bike-commuting isn’t feasible for me. Still, reading this post makes me want to refurb my old Schwinn.

  • You go, Sal! Love the new bike and the rear rack panniers, they look so useful!

    I also bike commute to work but my ride is pretty short – just under 2 miles – so there is no need for an outfit change. It takes me ten minutes to get to my office from my front door and I actually save time by riding my bike over driving (the nearest parking lot I could use on campus would require a 5-10 minute walk alone) and the bus takes longer plus I’d be a slave to the schedule. To park on campus, I’d also have to shell out some big bucks, so cycling is cheaper, quicker, and more time efficient for me.

    I would encourage others who live so close to their work place to give cycling a shot and would also like to add that it doesn’t have to take pre-packing outfits and getting changed at work if your commute is only 10-15 minutes. I wrote a post about this last summer:

    http://simplybike.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/cycling-in-your-work-clothes-the-short-distance-commute/

    And I was shocked by the statistics I saw that showed that over 50% of Americans live less than 5 mile from work (a 30 minute bike ride or less) and only 2% of Americans actually use a bike to get to work. Just think of how much healthier we would be and how much better it would be for our planet if more of those ‘less than 5 milers’ actually gave cycling a try.

    Thanks, again, for spreading the word on the joys of biking! S.

  • Great to hear about your bike commute! Longtime lurker here ๐Ÿ™‚ Ever since you mentioned it the other day, I’ve been curious what you wear and if you had any tips.
    I’ve just started bike commuting in the last month, and I love it! I get to work pumped up, refreshed and wide awake. It’s totally worth it! It’s about 12k total, and I’m so so lucky to have a bike path for 90% of my ride. I love that I’m saving $ on parking and getting a workout built in to my day!
    Except for the rain, that’s been getting me down a little bit. I have been biking most days, rain or shine, but I admit I have ‘cheated’ and taken the car once or twice! I never considered changing outfits completely and have been trying to dress semi-bike-appropriate, and semi-work-appropriate at the same time! Packing a spare outfit sounds like it would actually simplify things. I’ll have to give that a try!
    For my commute these days, I always wear gloves and sneakers (Keds)- even if I’m wearing a dress! I usually wear fuller, knee-length skirts and underneath I have padded bike shorts for comfort. I keep a spare pair of heels at the office to change into so I look more work-ready (although it is strange wearing the same pair of shoes all day – I’ll probably start bringing over some more options!)
    I’m so glad you wrote about this today – I just wrote about biking in the rain yesterday! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • becky f.

    Perfect timing! I’ve been meaning to see about the tires on the bike I nabbed from my cousin a while back, because I’m just over three miles from work, and that would be such an easy (if hilly) commute. Maybe with this encouragement I can bike the last three weeks of the school year and then be ready to bike for summer school, too (though riding home at noon will definitely make me a sweaty mess…). Thanks, Sal!

  • Rona

    Great effort Sal! I also bike to work when the weather becomes a little more clement in “4 seasons in one day” Scotland. My routine sounds very similar to yours. Pack as much as possible the night before and do the wet wipe thang on arrival. I have about 8 miles each way, a very gradual uphill as I cross the city. The best part is…it is virtually all off-road on dedicated walking/biking routes. Edinburgh has a network of old urban railway lines which combined with a river pathway take me door to door. I love the smug feeling of arriving at work, glowing lightly.

  • Sara L

    I don’t bike to work due to frequent out-of-office meetings that require a car to get to, but I do go running on my lunch hour, so I have experience with the getting cleaned up part. I use “cleansing towelettes” to clean up with afterwards. They’re kind of like baby wipes but for adults. They smell nice and make me feel ready for work even after a good workout. Dove is one brand that makes them but I’m sure there are others out there.

  • You are living proof anyone can take care of their body and fit regular exercise into their busy schedule. I figure if you commute by bike at least 3 times a week, you get more than your share of recommended physical activity.
    I even like your dorky outfits, you looks so happy in the photos ๐Ÿ™‚

  • erinsuzanne

    loved this post. I bike commute to work about 9.5 months out of the year- rain doesn’t bother me, but snow and ice scare me. I have a short, flat commute (1.5 miles each way) so I typically wear my work clothes and shoes on the bike. Once the weather warms up this spring, I will start to ride in one set of clothes and change when I get to work- but I also just clean up with a paper towel and/or cleansing cloth. I do shower before I leave for work, and leave my hair damp, so I can scrunch it back into shape after taking my helmet off. I keep my rain gear in my bag all the time so that afternoon rain showers don’t leave me soaked, and I use my panniers to haul all my stuff as well. I HATE wearing a backpack when I’m biking!

  • blackdogramona

    I USED to when I was in my twenties and always wore skirts to work – I think I put some kind of pant thing on under whatever dress/skirt I was wearing and I know there was no shower – I hope I didn’t stink! It was 4 miles to one job and later 8 to another which I did less often. No helmets in those days and only one accident. One thing I remember, I was considered eccentric – did not care!!

  • Penelope

    Very timely post! I was JUST telling my husband this weekend that I wish I could bike to work and we were talking about my dreams of a less car-dependent existence and how to someday make them reality.

    In college I biked everywhere. Of course, it was a residential school with a fairly small campus but still, I love biking and I miss it so. Back then I just wore that day’s outfit. I have a couple of full skirts that have small holes that I had to mend from getting caught in the chain before I got good at not letting that happen. I’d bike around town too, I didn’t have a car, and that was always interesting with the ancient and highly uneven sidewalks.

    Nowadays I only live about 15 miles from work but it’s across a river and none of the bridges allow pedestrians/bikes (being ALL major highways). I also have to be at work so early that I struggle to get up as early as I have to anyway. (I am not a morning person and I have to get up before the sun comes up to get to work on time. Speaking of which, I actually have to go in this Saturday so I should get to bed, sigh.)

  • I love that you’re bike commuting and promoting it on this blog. It’s great to see someone whose writing often focuses on fashion showing others that biking for transportation can work.

    Personally, I’ve been biking to work quite often recently to train for a major charity ride I’m participating in next week. As it’s 20 miles each way, I’ll be scaling back after that! But it’s been really interesting. As cranky as I am in the mornings, I always feel pretty good after the first 5 miles or so. I wrote a similar post last week myself: http://willbikeforchange.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/my-other-job-is-as-a-bicyclist/ I do feel weird walking to my office in bike clothes, but as there’s a photo near the elevator of my uber-boss, the Secretary of Energy, biking to work in spandex, I feel pretty justified.

    Also, you may actually be warmer and more comfortable in non-cotton clothing, as cotton tends to get wet and stay wet when you sweat or it’s raining. Atayne (http://www.atayne.com/), a company local to me, has great workout clothes that are made from recycled plastic bottles and have a great message.

  • I usually bike to work except when there is still snow on the bike-path. I am in Denmark, where there are bike-paths everywhere, making it very easy to commute by bike. Passing through the center of Copenhagen during rush-hour there are so many bikes it get congested!
    Depending on the location it is either 15 or 25 kilometers, taking between 45 minutes and 1:15 hours (one and a half hour in the winter:-). It is a bit slower than public transportation, but on the other hand I get my exercise at the same time, making it more efficient.
    I pack a full outfit to work, and keep towels and bathing accessories at work as well as a spare pair of shoes. I always shower when I get to work and when I get home. I rarely use make-up or accessories because I find it too much effort lugging it back and forth.
    My biking outfit is way old leggings, running t-shirt and a windbreaker in the winter, and a washed out jersey dress in the summer – not much of a gadget kind of person.

  • Bummble

    As a Dutch person, it’s kind of odd to see someone dress like this for biking… We tend to just wear what we wear that day (biking in heels is no problem; you use the ball of your foot anyway, not the heel), no special shoes or shorts or helmets.
    As long as you don’t try and go superfast, you don’t normally work up much of a sweat, anyway.

    But biking to work in any kind of outfit is great!

  • Phyllis

    what brand of saddlebags did you get? I am looking for some and those look great! Thanks!

    • Sal

      The tags say PDX B49 Pannier

  • I’ve been bike commuting (sporadically) too – it definitely takes some coordinating and planning, but feels great! Enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Rick

    Love to hear about people’s bikes and set ups for their commute. I have a commute that I think would be a bit too far to do by bike SO, I use a Montague folding bike to take on public transit part way then ride the rest. Very happy with that investment as I probably wouldnt ride without it. I can also fold it and throw it in a friend’s trunk if I change my plans.

  • Pingback: Bike Commuter Tips « From Grad to Fab()

  • Kat

    I know this is old… but I am just trying to fathom how you manage this on a cruiser bike! Major props.

    I have a REALLY heavy electra petro zillia cruiser (we’re talking old school looking – not newer style cruiser like your’s) which is really long and is 3 speed internal like yours, but… I don’t think I could do it. It’s rather hilly where I am… I’m a bit of a wimp ๐Ÿ˜‰ I HAVE thought about running to work though (short lived upon my realization that I’d have to work out having clothes at work and that we have no way of showering there)

    Also, I work in a mall, so that would probably also be a no go anyway, I’m sure my bike would get stolen somehow.

  • Lauren

    This may be moot now that the post is a couple of months old but maybe someone will be a latecomer like me so I’ll add to the pot. ๐Ÿ™‚ I consider myself a get-presentable-at-work expert – since I bike 8 miles each way AND go running over my lunch hour I have to de-sweat twice during the day.

    Hygiene: I agree with those who have suggested the portable cleansing wipes from Dove, Pond’s, etc. for bike commuting but I find that they don’t leave me feeling so fresh/so clean after a run when it’s warm out. I keep a bar of soap and a washcloth in my desk at all times for those days when a quick wipedown just won’t do it. I usually shower in the morning, apply deoderant, bike, wipe and deoderize when I get to work and I’m good to go.

    Prettiness: I always apply moisturizer with SPF before getting on my bike because SPF is good for you, but no makeup until I get to work. I’ve found easy products I love and nailed down a routine that takes me maybe five minutes when I’m locked in the unisex single-seater restroom and colleagues are a-knocking.

    Clothes: I could probably wear the same thing all day, but I like to push the pace a bit and usually sweat enough to merit a change of clothes. I bike in my pants or skirt (shorts go underneath unless it’s knee-length or longer and pretty full) with a t-shirt or tank top, then just change my top after cleaning up at work. On Mondays I deal with a slightly heavier bag and bring my running clothes for the week, then bring them home Friday evening to wash over the weekend.

    Shopping: The only wardrobe struggle I’ve had is not appearing totally rumply when I either bike in crisp clothes or try to carry them in my messenger bag and change at work. I’ve just started paying attention to what’s wrinkle-resistant, buying drapier dresses and saving my more tailored looks for the odd rainy/impossibly hot days that I take the bus.

    Shoes: I have biked in heels and don’t mind it BUT they don’t weather wipeouts very well. My first (and only, let’s hope) crash happened the day I debuted an adorable pair of t-strap pumps and the heel got irreparably ripped right off. I’m so happy it was a shoe and not a limb that broke, but I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t brought my yoga kit with extra flip-flops that day!

    Oh wow, total threadjack – I apologize for the novel! But this kind of thing requires so much experimentation – I hope the insight helps someone give bike commuting a whirl!