Bike To Work Clothes

In many other countries, the question, “What should I wear for my bike ride to work?” is not asked any more than the question, “What should I wear to drive to work?” is asked in the U.S.

Picture of turn of the century bicycle costumes
Having never biked to work in something like this, I can’t address the merits of these clothes.

In today’s post, I review your three options for clothing when a bike to work (a fourth option—ride naked—seems to be available only in San Francisco and will not be covered).

You can wear bicycling clothes

I recently read the following commentary: “We are the only country where people get dressed for a race to ride to work.” Perhaps we like the look, or maybe it is a subconcious nod to our view of work as the rat race. Whatever the reason, riding in cycling clothes has advantages.

  • Cycling clothes tend to fit well, provide support and padding, and are generally designed to help make you visible.
  • Cycling clothes are designed for long, fast rides, and if you have a lengthy commute, you will probably appreciate the comfort of padded shorts, moisture-wicking tops, and clipless pedals that make each stroke of your legs more efficient.
  • They can make you feel cool.

The main disadvantage of wearing cycling clothes is that they can be expensive, and if you commute everyday, you will need to either have multiple sets or risk being pretty rank by the end of the week.

Bottom line: A cycling costume (as it was called at the dawn of the cycling age) can make your ride more comfortable and may make you feel more like a pro. Wear them if you have them, but don’t let the lack of cycling  clothes be an excuse to not start biking to work.

You can wear the clothes you have in your closet

My summer bike to work clothes
What I pull out of the drawers in summer.

When I started, I was way too cheap to shell out for spandex, and anyway, (I reasoned) I’m a guy and can tough it out for a few months while testing out this bike thing; if I like it, I’ll save up money and build an appropriate wardrobe piece by piece.

I never did buy specialized clothes. It turns out that I was very comfortable riding in a t-shirt and sweats. My wife just bought a lightweight orange workout/cycling shirt for me this summer, and I have to admit I like it, mostly because it doesn’t flap in the wind when I am going fast.

The advantage of riding in whatever you’ve got is that you already have it, and lots of it. Who doesn’t have at least half a dozen t-shirts, shorts, and sweats? Who hasn’t got old sneakers? If you already have cheap clothes squirreled away in drawers you can wear clean cycling clothes regularly and you won’t care if they get torn, greasy, or mud-spattered.

Another advantage that I see (and this is strictly my opinion) is that wearing regular clothes makes you a regular person. I enjoy a fair amount of deference from motorists, and while most of this comes from the deference I give, I think some of it comes from being relatable. <IMHO>Car commuters see me as a guy going to work just like them, while they see cyclists in spandex as out having fun and getting in the way; people driving off to jobs they hate resent seeing people off having fun (even if those people are, in fact, on their way to work, too). </IMHO>

Bottom Line: Before your shell out for specialized clothes, see if what you have on hand works for

You can wear your work clothes

My winter bike to work clothes
What I dig out to ride in winter.

I don’t ride in my work clothes because 1) I ride hard and am really rough on my clothes, and 2) I sweat profusely if I don’t dress as coolly as possible.

In many cities in the U.S. and especially in other countries, people bike to work in suits and skirts, and with good reason. Not having to pack an extra set of clothes simplifies your day and lightens your load. If the weather is nice and your distance to work is fairly short, this can be a great option. You’ll want fenders and something to keep your pants leg or skirt from getting caught in the chain or spokes. Check the Bikestyle and Let’s Go Ride A Bike websites for more on riding in style.

Conclusion: You have a lot of choices about what to wear when you bike to work and there is no right answer. Through experimentation you can find the clothes that work for you.

Question: what do you wear when you bike to work and why?

2 thoughts on “Bike To Work Clothes

  1. If you are really cheap the option you ignored (bike naked) is the way to go. But seriously, I got my bike kit for almost nothing at the local bike shop. It is covered with sponsor logos, however.

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