Cycle Commuting: Looking Good When You Arrive

“But I’m going to arrive at work all sweaty and gross! I could never cycle commute!”

Over the years, I’ve heard every excuse in the book for not commuting by bike, but cycle commuting and looking good at work don’t have to be opposing goals. Over my years of commuting to work by bike, here are a few pointers, tips, and tricks I’ve picked up along the way.

To Spandex or Not to Spandex?

bike jamie full roadThe first question is whether to fully kit up for your commute or just to ride in work clothes. This question is mostly dependent on the length of your commute.

For commutes longer than 5 miles, riding in spandex is the practical choice. A longer commute means that you have plenty of time to work up a good sweat and there’s nothing worse than sitting at your desk in soggy pants.

When I had a 10-mile commute, I brought 5 or 6 mix-and-match outfits into work and then wore them for a week or two until I had another convenient opportunity to refresh my wardrobe. The major benefit of this approach was that I never had to think about outfits in the morning, since they were all waiting for me at work!

My current commute is a much shorter 2.5 miles and so I ride to work in street clothes. There are tons of fashionable, bike-friendly clothing makers out there, from Betabrand to Levis to REI to Club Ride, so I never have to worry about my jean legs getting stuck in my chain.

But even with my current short commute, I still keep a set of spandex in reserve at work, because you never know when you’re going to want to go out and ride some hill repeats on the way home!

Showers, Skin, and Hair Care

The second major excuse I’ve heard for not riding to work is not having a shower at the office or not wanting to shower upon arrival.

A shower is a nice convenience to have, but it’s really not necessary. Sweat stays on your clothes much more than on your body, so if your commute is long, a quick towel-down upon arrival and then a change of clothes and deodorant re-application is more than enough to leave you feeling confident for the day. If you need a little more clean-up, there are several manufacturers of shower wipes you can use after your ride.

Hair can be a challenge for the cycle commuter. After my first few weeks of riding to work, I felt like my hair was always in a ponytail and it drove me crazy. I decided to just cut it all off and now I have a short-and-messy style. When I get to work, I dampen my hair, scrunch the curls back into place, and I’m good to go. If chopping your hair off isn’t in the cards, try out dry shampoo to refresh your hair upon arrival at work.

The biggest trick I’ve found for happy skin while cycle commuting is keeping cotton balls and toner at work. My forehead tends to break out because of the helmet pads, so I give my face a quick swipe with a toner-soaked cotton ball when I get to work and all is well.

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

When it comes to cycle commuting, finding clothing, skin, and hair routines that work for you may require a little creativity.

But any inconvenience is more than made up for by the sheer joy of leaving all the stress behind and jumping on your trusty steed after a hard day’s work.


Jamie is a Moxie Cycling Ambassador and blog contributor. Check out her bio here!


About jamieamstar

Wife, mom of 4, full-time software product manager at Qualtrics, crusader for orphan's rights, encourager of girls interested in Computer Science, grateful member of the CenterPoint Church family


  1. Good tip with the cotton balls and toner! Another thing I do to make commuting less stressful is when I bring my clothes for the days I’ll be commuting, I also bring my lunches and store them in the fridge and non-cold items at my desk, so I don’t have to worry about toting them to work on ride days!

  2. I take a backpack full of clothes and snacks in on a Monday morning and home again on a Friday afternoon. Lunch I carry in a saddle bag every day. That way I can ride backpack-free for the rest of the week. I’m lucky enough to have showers at work, which is great after my 16 mile commute (sometimes longer if I extend it).

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