The well-dressed biker

Q: What should you wear when you bike?

A: Short answer? Whatever you want.

As long as you can comfortably pedal, there are no real limitations on how you should dress for biking. There's no need to buy specialized clothing. Many people bike to work in business attire. Others prefer to bike in exercise clothing and change at their destination. If you're dealing with bad weather, rain or cold weather gear may be helpful. Just pick clothing that makes you feel safe and comfortable.

Basic Guidelines

  • Wear light-colored clothing if possible. Bright greens and yellows are most visible under a variety of conditions. Whites can be difficult to see against cloudy skies, and darks are difficult to see at twilight and at night.

  • Check the weather forecast before you ride, and choose your clothing appropriately.

  • Remember that you warm up as you pedal. Layer your clothing, so you can adapt to changing temperatures (both body and weather!) as you exercise.

Biking in work clothes

Biking in your work clothing means you don't have to change when you reach your destination. If you bike in long pants or a long skirt, you may want to get a chain guard or ankle straps to prevent your clothes from picking up chain grease. You need flat, comfortable shoes for bicycling, so consider carrying dress shoes with you or storing shoes at work.

Biking in exercise clothes

If you don't want to wear your work clothes, just wear comfortable clothing and change at your destination. If you leave a few days worth of clothing at work, that will save you the effort of bringing a change every day. Otherwise, pack a change and bring it along-and roll your clothes rather than folding them (helps you avoid a rumpled look!) Once you arrive, give yourself time to cool down and then wipe yourself off with a cool wet towel before you change.

Riding in the rain

If your bike doesn't have fenders, you may want special gear for riding in the rain. You can purchase a rain suit specifically tailored for cycling. You can also just use normal rain jackets or hooded ponchos that fit over your clothing. These may not stop mud spatter, so you may want to change at your destination on rainy days.

Riding in colder weather

As the temperature drops, your clothing needs change. The Colorado Bicycling Manual recommends:

  • 40 and 60 degrees: Long pants, windbreaker, thicker socks, light to middle weight gloves.

  • 20 to 40 degrees: Add an insulating layer, liner gloves, shoe cover, ear band or hat to go under the helmet.

  • 0 to 20 degrees: Change to heavy mittens with liner gloves, shells, heavy knee socks and still more insulation on the torso.

  • Below 0: Convert to hiking boots, knee-high gaiters, full face mask.

Wool or synthetic materials are generally preferred over cotton for cold weather riding. Cotton next to the skin will often become wet from the effort of cycling, but wool keeps its insulating abilities even when it becomes wet. Many synthetic fibers like polypropolene wick moisture away from the skin, and are also good choices for cold-weather clothing. Silk is another useful material.

Cleaning up

Many bicycle commuters find that a quick sponge bath is all they need to feel refreshed, especially if they ride to work early in the morning before it gets too hot. Here are a few tips for freshening up:

  • Plan ahead. Give yourself enough time in the morning that you can ride at a leisurely pace.

  • Allow yourself a few minutes of cool-down time before changing.

  • Keep a towel and washcloth in your desk or locker at work. Sponge off with cold water in the wash-room.

  • Use talcum powder to help absorb moisture and odors.

  • If you truly need a shower, check with your employer or building manager to see what your options are. They may be willing to make arrangements with a local health club, or install a shower when they realize there's a demand.