I have to deal with the Public.
I must Dress Presentably.
I occasionally have people insist they could not bike to work because,
they say, "I have to deal with the public, I have a dress code, I can't arrive all
messed up and sweaty". There are probably 5 or 10 variations on this theme, all
revolving around looks, clothes, and the assumption that maintenance of an appearance is
impossible while biking.
This is not true, cycling and nice dressing can co-exist, and arriving
sweaty does not have to happen, and if it does, it can be easily dealt with.
There are several solutions to the clothing issue. One method often
used by those who do not bike commute every day (due to the distance involved or other
commitments), is to carry several changes of clothes in on the days that they drive.
Using a standard garment bag, you can generally pack three days worth of clothes
without causing any wrinkles. All you need is a little closet space to hang the
garment bag somewhere in your office or work place.
A little planning is needed because you have to think several days ahead
to coordinate your outfits.
Alternatively, you can carry just today's outfit with
you on the bike in a "trunk" pack that clips onto your rear rack, and unclips to
carry in with you. These are large enough to accommodate a carefully folded outfit,
and still have enough room for your lunch, purse, or other accessories. This model
is by REI but there are several
different companies making similar bags. These require a rear rack on your bike.
Many people simply leave a pair of comfortable shoes at the office and
eliminate the need to carry shoes along on their commute. Others use bike shoes that
are styled to look like casual shoes. Some brands such as AirWalk and Nashbar even
make casual (and walkable) shoes that are compatible with Clipless pedal systems. I
use AirWalk shoes, and find that most people can not even tell they are bike shoes.
With your garment bag, you slip into the rest room and do a quick change
upon arrival. You can also do a quick wipe down if you feel it necessary. Just
carry a clean dry washcloth and a zip lock bag to put it in afterward. Other common
toiletries can be carried along, or kept in your desk or locker.
However, if you shower before you ride, there may not be a large enough
germ on colony on your skin to breed odors after a casual ride into the office.
Everyone's skin is different in this regard, and weather has an impact as well, but by and
large, commutes of up to 10 miles can be accomplished with no need to shower upon arrival.
This is so because you don't have to set any speed records on the way to
work (save that for the way home), and leaving 5 minutes earlier than you think you'll
need will give you time to cool down during the last five minutes of the morning commute.
Just ride slowly, unzip your jacket, and you will arrive refreshed and energized.
Modern cycling wear is designed with breathability and cooling in mind.
For this reason, you might want to invest in some of the modern fabrics if you live
in warmer climates. These will help you arrive fresher, and they will still be fresh
for the return trip home. Avoid cotton tops in any event, because these soak up
moisture on your morning ride, and can build quite an odor stuffed into a pannier or gear
bag waiting for the trip home.
Shorter rides can be done more slowly and in simple street clothes. You've
probably seen pictures of businessmen in London commuting in suites and bowlers.
Casual shoes and loose fitting trowsers are all you would need for a two or three
Having a place to store your clothes, and an opportunity for a quick
"spit" bath are all that is needed for the longest and hottest commutes.
Some places of employment have shower facilities. These are nice to have, but
certainly not essential. You will find you simply don't need a shower, unless you
live in a very warm and humid region.
A much bigger problem than looking presentable, is finding a safe place to
lock up your bike.