Undoing the work wear tangle
Riding to work and emerging crease-free and presentable at the other end isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Emma Clark explains how you can manage the work clothes load.
Does the thought of riding to work invoke fearful images of huddling at your desk looking all crumpled and dishevelled? Or, worse still, thoughts of spending a day in important meetings wearing colourful lycra shorts because you forgot to bring your trousers in? Well, fret no more. With a little forethought, commuting by bike and still managing to look sharp, clean and fresh at your work is easily manageable.
There are several different options for transporting your gear. You can ride in wearing your work clothes and simply hop off your bike and clock in, carry your clothes with you and change on arrival, or stash a few days’ worth of clothing at work on a non-riding day. Many people use a combination of options, depending on weather, storage and change facilities at their workplace.
Ride On has also reviewed Office-ready riding clothes.
Keeping it simple
An easy and sometimes convenient way of shipping clothes in and out of your workplace is to take advantage of a non-riding day. Bring in a supply of clothes for your next few rides, or even a week’s worth if it’s convenient.
You may be able to keep these clothes at work on a semi-permanent basis, getting them laundered at a nearby dry-cleaner or laundromat. Many dry cleaners have deals where your clothes can be picked up and delivered to your office free of charge, and alteration and mending services are often also available. When compared to what you are saving when commuting by bike this can be a very economical option.
A limiting factor may be if your workplace doesn’t have an adequate shower, changing or clothes storage area. You may have to be inventive. If your workplace falls short, ask around to see if other floors or nearby buildings might have facilities you could use. If there are no showers, you can check with a nearby gym to see if you can use theirs at a reduced fee, or if you don’t get too sweaty, bring a sponge to do a quick wipe down in the bathroom. Baby wipes are also handy for a quick freshen-up.
Carrying it all by bike
Carrying clothes by bike either daily or on an irregular, stock-up basis can be very straightforward. Use panniers or a basket if you have them, or a backpack.
There are various techniques for getting clothes to work wrinkle-free (see our shirt-folding guide). A common technique that works well for many is to roll the clothes up. Putting them in plastic bags before packing adds an extra level of protection from rain and grime.
Ready to go
Riding in your work wear can be a good option if you have a short commute and you don’t raise too much of a sweat. Consider keeping some staple items permanently stashed at your workplace in case you get caught in a downpour. Mudguards, a chain guard and even a skirt guard fitted on your bike will protect your clothes from being splashed with road sludge or being caught in the chain or wheel.
When buying pants, check to ensure they allow a full range of comfortable leg movement. You can now buy work extremely comfortable work trousers that look great and are specifically made for riding.
Riding in skirts can be a good idea, and is often less sweaty than wearing shorts or knicks, but it might be worth asking a partner or trusted friend to do a visual check to ensure you won’t end up flashing your underwear to unsuspecting commuters!
- It is a good idea to leave a complete emergency outfit at work. Riding knicks don’t combine well with a business shirt and dress shoes.
- Don’t get changed straight away upon arrival. It is worth taking a ten minute break after riding in to cool down before you shower or get changed, as you will still be generating heat for a while after riding.
- A squeegee compact towel is worth the investment if towels/showers aren’t available.
- Aim for breathable clothing or more exposed skin. If in doubt, take off a layer. A helmet needs plenty of ventilation holes to reduce heat and sweaty helmet hair.
- If you have a shower at work, hang your shirt on a coat hanger and hook it up in the shower cubicle as the steam can help smooth out creases.
If you start with a clean, ironed shirt and fold and pack it properly, by the time you are at your desk the shirt will likely be less creased than if you wore it to drive or get a train or bus to work. If your job requires a particularly crisp shirt, keep a small iron at work and, use it in combination with a folded towel on your desk as a makeshift ironing board.
Ask ten cyclists the best way to fold a business shirt, and you will get ten different answers. Ride On went undercover and discovered the technique for shirt folding used by the Royal Australian Air Force.
1. Lay the shirt face-down on the folding surface. Smooth out any wrinkles so the shirt is completely flat.
2. From the right side of the shirt, fold about one-third of the body in toward the centre of the shirt. The fold line starts at the centre of the shoulder and ends at the tail. You should see the back of your shirt with about one-third of the front folded to the back.
3. Neatly fold the sleeve forward, creating an angled fold at the shoulder. The sleeve should line up with the edge of the first body fold.
4. Fold the left side in the same manner.
5. Fold the shirt tail up several inches and then fold again, moving the bottom edge to just behind the collar of the shirt. Turn the entire shirt over. Ta-dah!
6. Many riders use the fold and roll technique; once folded, the shirt is rolled up to form a tube.
Shirt folding boards that help ensure a consistent fold can be purchased, or made out of stiff cardboard.
Some advise limiting the amount of friction between fabric layers to lessen the amount of creases. This can be done by layering the shirt between two big pieces of plastic, such as a dry-cleaning or garbage bag, and folding the shirt as normal, but with the plastic between the folds. This will prevent creases ‘sticking’ as the fabric is not rubbing against itself.
Spacious panniers or a big bag minimise crushing or you might also stash a few days’ worth of clothing at work on a non-riding day. Many people use a combination of options, depending on weather, storage and change facilities at their workplace.