The Smell of Bicycle Commuting


CaptureYesterday on Twitter I gave a virtual high five to everyone who responded saying they had ridden to work that day.  All of us who ride our bikes to work can be lumped together as commuters, but the variety within this category differs greatly.  Some get their road bike training in on the way like I do, others simply just use their bicycle as transportation, and others use their own style and flair.

But the one thing that remains the same with all of us… the smell of commuting.  Yeah, whether you push it as hard as you can or casually ride along on your way to work……odds are that you’ll arrive at least a little sweaty.

Lucky for me, we have a shower on the back of our cafe so I’m able to clean up and change once I’m there.  But there are some days where I’m on my mountain bike and ride off doing several errands.  Because I’m in and out so much on these days I don’t do the whole rinsing off thing……and know how badly I must smell.  It’s days like this where I do my best to stay away from our staff and customers.

But I’m curious.  What is your arrival routine like when you commute?  Do you have use of a shower at your office?  Do you need to park at a nearby community center so you can clean up there?  Let’s hear it.

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20 Responses to “ The Smell of Bicycle Commuting ”

  1. Labann on August 18, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Exchange changes of clothes in big bags on rainy days. Keep a pair of shoes to replace cleats. Shave and shower before each ride. Change in a restroom stall, comb hair, and wipe off sweat. Change back into previously used bike clothes for return trip. Did this almost every day for almost a decade while commuting, never much of a hassle. Got no complaints from coworkers, even inspired a few others to try it, too.

    Coincidently, just posted a new blog entry on bicycling’s smells at…

    • Darryl is Loving the Bike on August 18, 2015 at 2:31 pm

      Nice, thanks for the input Labann. Keep on Loving the Bike.

      • Labann on August 20, 2015 at 10:58 am

        Been writing about bicycling culture since 1990, which is sort of a watershed year in terms of legislation in USA. It’s when the great gap in cycling infrastructure was addressed, and Code of Federal Regulations mandated equal accommodations for bicycles alongside motor vehicles where applicable. Automakers and Big Oil wanted to eliminate bicycles from streets, so from about 1965 in USA and 1970 in UK lobbied hardball to remove shoulders and withhold bike lane funding. Now the FHWA and USDOT withhold road funding for states without a plan that includes bike-ped. However, this is not a huge plenty, because governors only have to dip deeper into taxpayer pockets at home or don’t do any work at all until bridges and road are nearly impassable, decades from now, then cry over billions in shortfalls and grab grants to further misappropriate.

        Meanwhile, charities make it a cottage industry to collect private funding for advocacy and educational purposes when states don’t proactively meet CFRs. Everyone comes out ahead but cyclists.

        So, love the bike, but hate the inhumanity of motorists and political corruption that makes cycling so unpleasant at times depending upon where you need to ride.

  2. john on February 5, 2014 at 11:32 am

    You do NOT need a shower at work to commute by bike. I live in Austin Texas, and it gets very hot here. Most days I ride, but other times I run to work. When I ride, I like to push the pace and get in some training. When I run, I get in some trails and take a couple of hours to get to work. I arrive so completely drenched in sweat I look like I just walked under a sprinkler. I still don’t NEED a shower. And I don’t smell all day. Believe me, the people I work with would let me know if I did.
    The trick is to make sure you take a shower before leaving home. Wear clean cycling clothes. I air dry mine in the sun to make sure they are really clean. Sweat does not smell. Bad smells come from the breakdown of sweat later. Two hours of sweating is not enough to make you smell if you do a quick wipe down. Next step is to cool off. I use a small desk fan and cool off for 15 minutes before going to clean up. I use the time to check my emails and open files to get started on work. You want to make sure you have stopped sweating before you clean up. I have found that this is critical. I just use a washcloth and small race towel to clean the key areas. If I ran, I usually wash my hair at the sink. Then I get changed in one of the stalls. This all only takes about 5-10 minutes.

    Also, I don’t use deodorant. I have found that baking soda works better, lasts much longer, and costs next to nothing. Just powder a little on and you’re good to go.

    Most of the time I just let my clothes dry out at my desk. If I run, or when it is very humid, I do bring another set of running clothes for the trip home.

    • Darryl is Loving the Bike on February 5, 2014 at 4:05 pm

      Thanks John, I lived in Austin for many years so I know all about the heat over there. Thanks for your comments and tips.

    • marc on July 18, 2020 at 5:29 pm

      Sorry bud but you’re delusional. There’s no way any human drenched in sweat does not wreak. This is a logical fallacy. Showering before jumping into a vat of urea does not do anything to remove urea from your skin. You stink just like any other human would.

  3. Collin Stringer on January 27, 2014 at 2:15 am

    I easily bathe in a mop closet, but the door cannot be locked. It is understood that if anyone hears noise from within, don’t open — or you might get mooned!

  4. Eric Hutchins on January 24, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Old spice makes some wipes that are surprisingly not overpowering, and they do a great job for a quick cleanup. Makes you tolerable at work. (at least I think so 🙂 )

    • Darryl is Loving the Bike on January 24, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      As you can imagine, Eric….there’s no wipes available for purchase here in Grenada, so it’s a good thing we have a shower. With all the companies making them these days, everyone in North America can get their hands on them and use wipes for their commute.

  5. arobustus on January 23, 2014 at 9:35 am

    When I saw the title I thought it was going to be about road kill! Anyway, a large size wet wipe and a couple of paper towels are all I need.

  6. Jim Williams on January 22, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    I am lucky to have a shower at work. Even when I drive I arrived at work about 45 minutes before start time to plan my day. Even with commuting to work by bike I still have plenty of time to shower, and plan my day.

    • Darryl is Loving the Bike on January 23, 2014 at 2:03 pm

      Having a shower at work sure does help. Thanks for jumping in on the discussion, Jim.

  7. Trent Forbes on January 22, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    I ride to work, it’s usually quicker by about 10 mins than driving. From home to work it’s only 5.5km so not long enough for training and I don’t even bother putting it on strava due to the short nature. I sometimes run to work to mix it up.
    We have showers at work, and bike racks, which I leave a lock on so I am not transporting such a bulky and heavy item.
    We only have one car and me riding is a lot more cost efficient than buying a second car. I do get really hot on some days and really wet, but hey that’s just part of the journey isn’t it.

    • Darryl is Loving the Bike on January 23, 2014 at 2:03 pm

      Thanks Trent. I think the bike is the perfect second car for a family. Thanks for your comment.

  8. Carl Johnson on January 22, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    I was lucky enough to work for several years in a building that had showers (and an ID-card protected bike lockup). My next office didn’t, and I had to use wipes in the communal bathroom in order to clean up. The next office after that at least had a private bathroom, so I could truly wash up with a washcloth and hot water. Now my commute will be to a meeting space in another company’s building, so I guess I’m back to the wipes and trying to go as easy as I can.

    • Darryl is Loving the Bike on January 22, 2014 at 12:54 pm

      Thanks Carl, I guess you have to deal with the situation you’re faced with. The good news is that it hasn’t stopped you from riding your bike to work. Well done.

      • Carl Johnson on January 22, 2014 at 1:35 pm

        Well, have you tried DRIVING to work? It’s awful!

        • Labann on August 21, 2015 at 8:12 am

          The private passenger car has been popular for just a century, that is, after the League of Wheelmen lobbied hard to get roads paved. Neither bikes nor cars would compete well with horses in open prairie or rutted paths. The vast distances from city to city and coast to coast were connected by rail. Midway, Republican POTUS Eisenhower enacted the interstate highways, which ban all other forms of transportation and favor motoring. Now the East and West Coasts are practically single megacities with other megacities in between. GOP still lobbies for automakers and Big Oil.

          A new generation drops every 25-35 years. Before 1930, only one generation drove. By 1970, grandparents, parents and progeny had begun to compete for space on roads. By 1990, legislators felt compelled to include cyclists and pedestrians in road design, but CFRs are seen as intrusions on state rights. As many as 6 generations may be duking it out for road space with every alley, byway, lane, and side street loaded during most daylight hours. New laws have begun to crop up in suburbs with extra fines for racing through neighborhoods, since motorists can’t adapt to red lights at every intersection along main avenues after driving 90 mph on freeways, passing in gore areas and shoulders, and pushing legal limit drivers into guardrails.

          The false advertising of motoring shows motorists happily tooling along empty roads. The reality is 90 hours per year of waiting in Los Angeles traffic. Driving has become infuriatingly intolerable. Sanity is restored by cycling and walking, both for cycling individuals and space they make for speed addicts who can’t kick the habit. Nobody hates bus, cab and delivery drivers and those who perform services for which they need to bring more than a bike can carry. That is interstate commerce. Soldiers also need to be able to move among states. Bikes should be the first choice for personal transportation, though living close to where you earn isn’t always possible, mostly due to irresponsible corporate policies that locate far from population centers and seldom make good use of internet telecommuting. Flextime isn’t enough anymore.

          Take the pledge: “If I can bike there, I will.” The thousands of dollars spent on clothing, equipment and improved appetite is all net gain in length and quality of life as long as you don’t get killed by some lame motoring addict driven mad by road overcrowding.


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Sugar Alternatives for Energy and Hydration

Question: I am using the homebrew sugar formulations (sometimes added to green tea).  I am also trying to wean myself off 1/2 dose adrenalean “lip tonic delivery system” (biorhythm brand- caffeine, hoodia g, synephrine, yohimbe) capsule for energy.

My question is other than juice, can you suggest modifications in lieu of table sugar for energy and hydration.


Both raw/organic honey or agave can work great in the homebrew (substitute in the same quantities for the sugar, or to taste), but you do have to shake well in order to make sure they don’t settle out.  Have you tried either of these?  Also, make sure to use at least the minimum amount of salt recommended in the homebrew as the temps rise, you need the sodium replacement if you’re sweating.

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