Cross-posted at the SDCBC blog
One of the most common reasons people give for not riding their bikes to work is that they have no place to shower and they don’t want to spend their day sticky and smelly with sweat.
Of course not! Who would?
And yet not having a shower available does not have to be a deal breaker. At my last office job I bicycled to work 3 or 4 days a week, 13 miles each way, and even though I did not shower at work, I managed to keep looking (and smelling!) professional by following these 4 easy steps:
- Start clean. It may seem counter-intuitive to shower immediately before getting on the bike. But in fact sweat itself doesn’t smell: what smells is bacteria breaking down that sweat and kicking out stinky waste products. Showering before you set out gets rid of all the old gunk marinating on your skin, so when you arrive all you have to deal with is nice clean sweat that the bacteria haven’t had a chance to get started on yet.
- Cool off. Most people are at their sweatiest not on the bike (riding makes a nice breeze, after all), but in the 10 minutes after stopping. Taking a few minutes to cool off after you arrive will help keep you from sweating all over your nice clean clothes. Where you do this depends on the culture of your office: I usually went to our break room, though if a client was expected I would steer clear and visit the coffee stand or sit outside for a bit before moving on to Step 3.
- Wipe down. Once you’re cool, hit the restroom and wipe away the sweat. Some people use paper towels; others swear by baby wipes. I usually used a damp washcloth with a few drops of lavender essential oil on it.
- Change to the skin. After your cat bath, dress in clean clothes from the skin out. You can carry them with you or stash them at the office if you have a place to do that. I always had a few outfits hanging on the back of my door and swapped them out for fresh clothes on days when I drove. Dress shoes lived in the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet.
In nearly 10 years of bike commuting these steps helped me look neat and presentable and avoid offending my co-workers (at least with my smell). Granted, I have the advantage of being fairly low-maintenance when it comes to hair, cosmetics, and other accessories. If your professional look requires hot rollers or immaculate makeup, then this may not be for you.
But if you want to give it a try, biking to work without a shower can be totally doable. Plan ahead, take your time, and enjoy the ride!