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Baby Wipes and Anti-perspirant are not the answer
If you delve into the murky world of the hard-core bike forums (tread carefully, leave a note to tell someone where you’re going). The traditional advice to this common question is along the lines of:
(1) Well, I cycle 58 miles each way and I don’t sweat a drop! But, if I did, then I’d…
(2) Have a quick freshen-up in the lavish office bathrooms (the ones with proper gold taps), using a couple of tiny baby wipes, and…
(3) Apply a light coating of anti-perspirant on my pits and bits
This, frankly, is a load of (sweaty) men’s dangly bits.
Apologies for the language, but d’you know, this really annoys the hell out of me.
Standing naked and rubbing yourself all over with moist towelettes in the office toilets is quite weird and likely to get you arrested or, at the very least, given an official written warning from the Human Resources department.
Using two sticks of antiperspirant a day? Well, that gets expensive after a while. It also just masks any sweaty smells for a bit and leaves the rest of your office colleagues gagging from the cloud of fumes that follows in your wake.
Look, I’ll give you a round-up of all the main points made on the bike forums below. That way you’ve got a fair and balanced picture of the options.
But, to be honest, it’s all a pile of garbage, smelly garbage at that.
Your mileage may vary, but really, if you’re anything like me, you’re gonna start sweating bucketfuls as soon as you get pedaling.
As you can tell, I’m really not a big fan of the wipe-and-swipe approach.
I think there’s another, better way, which allows you to shower when you get up, bike to work and arrive fresh and dry.
Which, after all, is the holy grail of bike commuting.
Quick Answer: Antlers Lane Retro S
A Round-up of The Traditional Advice for No-sweat Cycling to Work
Have a seat and let’s talk about some of the BS suggestions that people come up with for dealing with a soggy commute.
I’m sure these work great for them. But me? Not a chance.
- Use Baby Wipes
- Apply Lots of Anti-Perspirant
- Go Slow
- Take a Full Set of Fresh Clothes
- Cool Down Before Baby Wiping
- Use Big Baby Wipes
- Wear fewer clothes to avoid getting so warm en route
- Pay for gym membership near office to use their showers
- Shower before you leave for work
1. Use Baby Wipes
Let’s deal with the most common suggestion first, shall we?
Firstly, baby wipes are, as the name suggests, for babies. They are not designed for you to ‘shower’ with.
Different types of baby wipe have different ingredients in them. Whilst I can’t admit to being an expert on them, I do know that wiping any part of yourself with them leaves your skin feeling quite sticky. Not a pleasant feeling.
If you’ve seen a baby wipe, you’ll also know that they’re quite small. Say 7″ x 9”. If you want to give yourself the best chance of a thorough cleaning with them, then you’ll end up getting through a large number of packets on a fairly frequent basis.
…and as for the smell…
Nope leave baby wipes for the babies.
2. Apply Lots of Anti-Perspirant
Next on the list is anti-perspirant. Lots of.
I’ve seen various recommendations for this. Apply a liberal amount before you cycle. Then apply an even larger amount when you’ve finished your cycle.
In theory this is fine. But if you’re like me you’ll end up having to use quite a lot to mask the BO smell.
This then leaves you with an over-powering aroma of whatever brand you use and means that you’ll be shopping for anti-perspirant regularly.
It’s also only masking the smell of your exertions. That whiff is just going to sit there all day, waiting for an opportunity to come back and bite your colleagues in the nose….
3. Go Slow
The idea here is that, instead of powering into the office at Race Pace and trying to beat your Personal Best, you should take it slow, watch the sun rise, listen to the birds sing, etc, etc.
Two problems for me with this:
(a) I’m competitive. Sorry, but if I see someone in front of me, then I’m going to have to try and beat them. Go hard or Go home and all that
(b) Even if I go slowly I’ll still sweat!
4. Take a Full Set of Fresh Clothes
The suggestion is that you wear your spandex for the journey and then change at the office into your suit/slacks and button-down shirt/A-line skirt (Delete as appropriate).
The issue with this is that it misses the obvious sticking point (pun intended) that you have no showers (or probably changing facilities) at the office.
So, you can either strip down and change in the open-plan office (again, a note from HR is on its way). Or you take your clean office clothes into the bathroom, where you hop about trying to change and inevitably drop your shirt in a puddle on the floor. Yuck.
5. Cool Down Before Baby Wiping
Right, you cycle into work on your traditional bike and work up a good sweat. What you’re supposed to do then is cool off by cycling round the car park a few times. This apparently allows the sweat to dry, at which point you can head inside and change out of the spandex and into the crisp suit.
No? Me neither.
6. Use Big Baby Wipes
When I first saw these, I though they might be a joke. Sadly, I was wrong.
I believe they were originally intended for use at music festivals, where you’re covered in mud and can’t get near a shower for 3 days.
Basically they are a massive baby wipe. Roughly 2×4 feet. The idea is that you just need one of these rather than a full pack of the smaller baby-sized variety.
Take a look here, but I think it’s best if we just move on, don’t you?
7. Wear fewer clothes
The idea is that, when the weather is warmer, you wear fewer clothes to sweat less whilst you’re cycling.
Again, fine in theory, but plenty of us will be cycling in really hot and humid conditions. Now, I don’t know about you, but Naked Cycling, isn’t really a ‘thing’ in many places.
It would, I imagine, lead to more than just a letter from HR…
8. Pay for gym membership to use their showers
An expensive option and one that relies on you having an affordable gym within a very short walk of the office. Silly.
9. Shower before you leave for work
…and then what…?
Ok, so I’ll be clean and fresh when I leave the house. But, five minutes later, I’ll just be dripping in sweat. How’s my pre-cycle shower going to help with that?!?
None of this works.
I know, I’ve tried all of the different methods above and still ended up in a yucky, sweaty mess in my cubicle.
I’ve tried them on various different commutes, with different gradients and of different lengths.
Yep, you guessed. Still sweaty.
And I live in Scotland and it’s always freezing cold and raining here!
I just have to face it that I’m a sweaty dude.
Well, ok, I might get some arguments about the “dude” bit, but no-one can argue with me about the “sweaty” part.
My way is the eBike
My Big Secret, which I may just have revealed with that subtitle. Damn. My secret is that the best way to cycle into work and arrive fresh and dry, is to ditch the traditional bike and get yourself an electric bike.
If you’re short on time, I’d recommend taking a look at my article here on cycling to work on an ebike with a not inconsiderable 15-mile each way commute.
There’s lots more detail there and advice on the best commuter ebikes available right now.
If you’d like to hang out here for a while (please do) then we can take a look at why ebikes make so much sense for commuting and why they’re a great way of getting a sweat-free commute.
eBikes Are The Best Option for Commuting
My view is that the best and only way for normal folk (i.e. people, like me, who sweat when they exercise) to commute to work by bike is using an electric bike.
eBikes have been around for yonks, but they’ve started getting much more popular in recent years. This is due to a number of reasons, mainly that the battery technology has improved massively, so you can cycle for longer. Also more and more cycle manufacturers have seen the potential and started designing a wider variety of ebikes at a range of different price points.
All of which is great news for us as we now get more bike for less money.
If you go down the rabbit hole of electric bike research, it can get quite confusing as there are multiple different options and styles.
Essentially though an ebike is just a standard push bike, with three things added on to it:
- A battery to give it some juice (Lithium-ion or Li-ion batteries are the best type to go for as they give the highest amount of energy for the weight of the battery)
- An electric motor to turn the battery energy into moving energy (that’s called ‘Kinetic’, if you remember your High School science!)
- A controller, which usually sits on the handlebars, for you to adjust the power that you get from the motor
Most ebikes are called Pedal Assist bikes. What this means is that to make the bike go, you start pedaling and the motor kicks in and gives you a boost of power that whisks you effortlessly along for mile after mile, on the flat and (here’s the best bit!) up hills.
Personally, I think Pedal Assist is a bit of a misnomer. I think they should be called No Sweat bikes.
Hmm. Maybe I should trademark that and start selling my own brand of:
No Sweat eBikes
What do you think? Ok, you’re right. Stick to the day job, Ben.
Dreams-of-world-domination-through-ebike-sales aside, I sincerely believe that ebikes can be the answer to the problem of sweaty cycle commuting.
Whilst baby wipes are great for, well, babies’ butts. And antiperspirant is great for avoiding yellow armpit stains on your dress shirts. Really the only sensible answer for cycling to work when there’s no shower available is the wonderful ebike.
Want my top ebike recommendation for sweat-free stylish commuting?
Antlers Lane Retro S
This, Sir, will suit you down to the ground. Literally. You should wear your finest Italian silk suit and waft into work.
The Retro S model from Antlers Lane is absolutely gorgeous. A vision in shiny stainless steel, with the battery snuggled in the imported Italian leather bag on the crossbar, and the powerful motor inside the rear wheel hub.
Frankly, if you turn up on the Retro S, I will be shocked if your boss doesn’t take you directly into his office and give you a promotion.
Final word on Cycling To Work if there’s No Shower
You’re very welcome to try all the suggestions from the bike forums for dealing with the ickyness that results from cycling into work on a traditional bike.
But if you do, don’t come crawling back to me, in a sweaty bedraggled mess, asking for forgiveness. I did tell you.
Save yourself all that bother and experimentation. Grab yourself an ebike and commute in style, fresh, dry and ready for the day.