cycling in your work clothes: the short-distance commute
When I first thought about riding my bike for transportation and not just leisure, I embarked on an extensive internet search for any sites with tips and advice on the matter. I especially loved sites that would show the cyclist (and author behind the words) actually bike commuting in regular clothing. That visual proof made it all the more feasible to me. Unfortunately, I found sites of this nature to be in minority to those offering advice on how to pack your clothes in your panniers, how to shower or change at work, and how to commute with basically your wardrobe in your backpack.
Now, I’m not saying that those latter sites aren’t offering crucial information to cyclists who tackle a lengthy or strenuous commute to work each day. But where was the information for someone like me who was only going to be riding an easy two miles to the office and two miles home on most days? Did I really need to roll my clothes using a non-wrinkle method just to bike ten minutes to campus? Should I be dropping off a week’s worth of clothes to my office on Sunday night and taking it home to launder on Friday? Did I need to keep my heels in neat little rows under my desk?
Thanks to sites such as Let’s Go Ride a Bike and Bikes and the City (my first bike blog discoveries that actually spoke to what I so badly wanted to see possible), I understood a different kind of cycling approach to exist. An easy and relaxed approach to cycling that didn’t require a change of lifestyle or of wardrobe.
My commute to campus and home is an easy four miles roundtrip. If I add in a trip to the grocery store, to the public library, or anywhere else that I may need to stop for errands, I may clock ten miles total for that day. This is both the joy and curse of living in a small town and near anything you need to have. (I say curse because on most days I feel like my short bike ride is just a tease and I’m temped to loop around the block just to get a little bit more time outdoors). For this kind of relaxed cycling, I have implemented no real wardrobe or lifestyle changes. I dress as I would for teaching and I stick my bag with my laptop, lunch, and work things in my bike basket. I save the money I’d spend on a costly parking permit for campus and I’m not bound to the bus schedule when getting around. I wouldn’t give up this kind of convenience for the world.
According to a recent article on cycling in Whole Living magazine, only 2% of Americans commute daily by bike. This percentage is all the more striking when considering that over 50% of Americans live less than five miles from where they work. Crazy!
But maybe some of those less-than-five-milers just need more resources on how to incorporate cycling into their daily lifestyle without having to think about clothes bundles in their panniers or shoes stocked up under their desks. And the well-intentioned Whole Living article did little to mitigate some of those fears; the products listed in their ‘must have’ sections included a backpack with a breathable back, shoes with ‘special grips’ on the sole, and possibly the least attractive helmet they could round up. The lock they featured rang in at $80 and they noted having had their models remove their helmets for the photo shoot – despite their disclaimer stating that helmet use is important – because ‘we all know they [helmets] look a bit ridiculous’.
While Whole Living did get it right by featuring actual bike commuters and showing some really beautiful photography, I was once more left feeling dissatisfied. I would like to see more emphasis on encouraging short-distance bike commuters – who appear to make up a large portion of the working population and whose taking to the road by bike would certainly make a difference – to cycle in a way that’s simple and with little fuss. I would like to see more attention being paid to short-distance transportation cycling as something you can just do; no special shoes, backpacks, or clothes bundling method needed. Let’s hear it for the daily short-distance riders!