How to Bike to Work (and Look Like You Drove)

Photograph by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Even if commuting to work by bike has become cool, by most standards, arriving at your desk with helmet hair and a wet stain down your back should not become the new normal.

Looking smart after a ride is a fine art that is becoming relevant to more and more office workers. In New York City, where growing numbers have already embraced two-wheeled commutes, a new bike-share system launched this week will only expand the pedaling workforce. Similar networks have already taken root in London, Paris, Melbourne, Boston, and Washington, spelling trouble for workplace comportment on an international scale. Can the bike-commuting crowds smoothly transition from exercise to office life? Here are a few practical tips on how to bike to the office like a pro.

Don’t bike in a suit: James Bond wore a tux under his wetsuit, but who ever said the average office schlub should try to pull off anything from a Bond movie? Better to bring your work clothes in a pannier, especially if you’ll be on the bike for more than 30 minutes and want to be comfortable. To avoid wrinkles, fold pants along the seam and shirts along the shoulder and then roll them from the top down. There are also packing kits, like this one, and wrinkle spray for the highly meticulous. Leave a blazer and dress shoes at your desk. The goal is to appear as if you didn’t come in on a bike after all.

Have a comb, and deodorant, ready at the office: This will help you deal with helmet hair and your, er, “musk.” If dignity is important to you, don’t powder your armpits at your desk—go to the bathroom. Big-time sweaters might also want to bring a towel (or a ShamWow) to mop off, as well as a hair dryer. Ladies, this is the time for you to do your makeup, not before you ride.

Pace yourself: On a long commute, riding really fast may seem tempting. But more speed means more sweat. Not to mention a Citi Bike, as the clunkers used in New York’s bike-share system are known, weighs more than 40 pounds. Yes, it would be easier if you could just hitch your bike onto the back of a car à la Marty McFly in Back to the Future, but we can’t encourage that. So just go at an easy pace.

Live close to work: OK, this would probably solve a lot of commuting woes. No one’s asking you to move, but it’s worth considering that bike-share fees, typically based on the duration of each ride, can add up if your commute is too far or you’re pedaling really slowly. While New Yorkers who pay for annual membership in the bike-share system get unlimited rides of up to 45 minutes, there’s an additional charge of $2.50 for rides lasting 46 to 75 minutes (equal in price to a ride on the subway), and a $9 charge for each half-hour after that. Those fees are higher for riders with seven-day and 24-hour passes. And who wants to bike that long before 9 a.m.?

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