cycling · fashion

On not attending meetings in cycling kit, or the challenges of summer work clothes

There are different challenges about bike commuting in the summer months. One big one is what to wear and I think it’s one that affects women more than men.

I’m writing this at my desk wearing full cycling kit: bike shorts, jersey, cycling socks, and clip-in shoes. I try not to do this but sometimes it happens. I went for a short ride before work with a colleague. I landed at my desk with intentions of changing right away but then the phone rang. It was urgent and so 30 minutes later, I’m late for my first meeting. Now I’m a dean the first meeting is in my office. Luckily it’s not a formal meeting. It’s about our United Way kick off and so I apologized and went ahead. After drafting this post, I’m changing. Promise.

Of course, you don’t need to wear bike kit to bike to work. Often on my commuter bike I wear skirts and dresses. But it’s still a casual look. It’s more casual than some people can get away with at work. And not everyone can afford the time to change at the office. When I’ve got a busy week I drive in on Sunday and drop off clothes, shoes, and food for the week.

This week an article posed the question about office dress codes and alternative methods of transportation.

“When it comes to getting more people on bikes, showing them the convenience of cycling is only half the battle. The other half is creating work environments where looking like you arrived by bike isn’t a source of embarrassment, and where you don’t have to dispose of the evidence by showering and changing clothing as though you just committed a crime.”

TreeHugger followed up, Are office clothes an impediment to green transportation?

Now the CBC is puzzling why fewer women than men commute to work by bike.

Lots of people think part of the story comes down to clothes.

From the CBC story: “Several of my [female] colleagues said to me they would do more cycling if they did not feel compelled to meet certain criteria regarding their appearance at work,” said Noel. “We associate cycling with a sport, we think we’ll be hot or that we’ll have to pedal fast. I had to rethink some of these ideas to make my bike commute more suitable.”

We need more wiggle room. Just like you don’t need to wear fancy cycling kit to commute by bike, everyday clothes are just fine, maybe we don’t need such fancy clothes for work. We can relax the rules both for commuting and working and wear the same thing all day.

Do you commute by bike? How do you handle the clothing question?

Me at work after changing out of bike clothes in a variety of summer casual outfits of the day. #ootd

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9 thoughts on “On not attending meetings in cycling kit, or the challenges of summer work clothes

  1. I got an electric bike (battery power to assist pedaling) to reduce the sweatiness–my commuting route is short but has some steep hills. Thankfully my standard work wear (khakis and buttoned shirts, flat mary jane shoes) is fine for biking.

    1. Hi Pam– what electric bike do you have? I am thinking about getting one to help me do bike commuting more often.

  2. Like you, Sam, I deal with the ‘work attire’ challenge on a daily basis. In the cycling months, I arrive wearing clothes that I’m not comfortable being seen in… in the winter months I walk 3km to work and I arrive by 7:30 so I can change, do my hair etc before anyone else arrives in the ‘executive suite’ to see my toque head and snow pants… Another issue is finding a comfortable, clean and private place to change (let alone shower!)…

    1. Yes, I would think finding a private place (and time) to get into “work face” would be a barrier for a lot of women! I dress pretty casually for work, but I wouldn’t want my coworkers, students or their parents to encounter me with sweaty, windblown hair and no make-up. . . If I were to bike commute, that would be my first concern–that, and not getting hit by the pick-ups that barrel down the road!

      1. I keep make up at work and a hair brush and product, also antiperspirant, a towel, and about a week’s worth of clothes at any one time. I don’t have access to a private washroom but we do have a staff washroom that isn’t much used. My office is full of shoes! And I do keep my bike in my office. It’s a mix of privilege and “making do.” I used to say I’d only take on a senior admin role if I got my own washroom with shower but I think I’m doing okay without so far.

      2. Oh, I’d find it very tempting to hold out for that private washroom, Sam! And the office full of shoes is working for you–love that pink dress and matching sandals combo!!

  3. I’m very privileged when it comes to this in that my workplace not only has showers and ample bike storage, but we are also extremely laid back when it comes to dress codes. The only issue is that there is no way to reach my work without going up very steep hills. If we didn’t have showers, only very, very few people would bike commute, I think. I will blog about my own commute for my next post but be sure to link it back to this discussion!

  4. I organize my clothes and lunch the night before. One panier carries my lunch, phone, keys, lipstick. The other panier carries shoes (always casual – Mary Jane flats, Skechers, Birkenstocks ) clothes carefully rolled, bra and panties, deodorant, and camping towel. I don’t push big gears, but I do get pretty warm. Five admins share one washroom, and I get there early, so I don’t feel I’m monopolizing the facilities.

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