How to Commute to Work on a Bike and Still Look Polished

how to commute to work on a bike

If you’ve decided to be more active (and get a little stress relief), save money, and feel like you’re doing something to help the environment by no longer relying on your car to get to the office, you may be wondering how to commute to work on a bike and still look polished. We recently received a question from Reader M, who asked:

Can you do a post on professional attire for bike commuters with minimal resources? There has to be a better way than my bursting waterproof backpack, folded blazer, messy hair, and muddy shoes.
Specific issues:
– Keep dress shoes clean.
– Waterproof/helmetproof hairstyle.
– Managing sweat, rain, etc.
– Keeping my suit/dress clean.
– No cabinets to store spare clothes, hair tools, etc.
– Bike stays at a public outdoor park & ride so I must carry all my saddlebags & supplies all day.

It’s been quite a while since we’ve talked about biking to work (we’ve also discussed more specific topics like backpacks for commutinghow to stay cool on your commute, and how to lighten your load), so today we’re sharing advice from me — a lawyer in a midsize Midwestern city who rides a bike for exercise and occasionally commutes to the office by bike — and Corporette® reader (and CorporetteMoms writer) April, who has commuted to work on bike both in NYC (because it was faster than public transit) and to the train in New Jersey (both for the exercise and to enjoy the outdoors). 

Here are some key tips on safety, equipment, where to store your bike, how to plan for a smooth ride, and other tips for how to commute to work on a bike:

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Backpacks for Work

backpacks-for-workAre there any backpacks that are stylish and large enough to hold file folders, binders and more on your commute from work? Backpacks are super trendy right now, but all of the really stylish bags are far too small for file folders or work papers. I was just at an event where I saw a young lawyer carrying a large, stylish backpack and my first thought was, good for her — whether she’s biking to work, walking to work, or just watching out for back problems down the line, it’s a smart move.  Coincidentally, I also recently got a question from Reader B, who wants to start walking to work and carrying large files — so I thought we’d go on a mini-Hunt. Here’s B’s question:

I’m looking to start walking to work more as I recently bought a home which sits about a mile away from my office. However, I’m an attorney and am often carrying case files and other paperwork back and forth. Tote bags, no matter what the straps are like, begin to hurt my shoulders on this. I know a backpack would solve the problem but as a relatively young professional, I’m afraid to look like I can’t let go of my college backpack days. Is it ever acceptable to wear a backpack to the office

Interesting question, B — I’ve written before of my love of walking to work, but I’ll admit that for any real file carrying I took cabs and client-paid cars to and from the office.  A few notes on tote bags, just at the outset: first, note that a leather bag is going to be far, far heavier than a nylon tote for work — and that I always found a single shoulder strap to be more comfortable for a long schlep. (You may also want to check out our advice on how to lighten your load.) Still, if you’re already feeling pain, there are a ton of backpacks right now that distribute the weight better across your back — I’ve rounded up a few of my top picks below, ranging from $29-$550.  Readers, would you consider wearing a backpack to work? Have you bought any backpacks for work lately that you love — and what qualities make one more or less professional and stylish in your mind?

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Makeup For Biking to Work

makeup for biking for work2018 Update: We still stand by this discussion of makeup for biking to work — but you may also want to check out our latest post on how to commute to work on a bike.

Which makeup is best for a biking commute, or another commute where you expect sweat and possibly wind? Reader K wonders about the best makeup for biking to work…the best makeup for biking to the office - image of a woman's bike

Being lucky enough to live only four miles from my office, I’m wanting to start taking a bike to and from work every day for personal fitness, sustainability, and savings on gas and vehicle wear-and-tear. The difficulty is with wardrobe and makeup. Specifically, making sure I don’t look like a war zone every day. I have a feeling this is an issue for women in very urban environments as well, where walking and subway commutes can be the transportation method of choice. Since I’m in Texas heat is the biggest issue, but I’d also be interested in any ideas for dealing with the cold, wind, and other factors. What are some ideas for making sure I don’t look like a hot mess at work after biking in?

Great question. Biking to work (or walking!) are solid ways to sneak more exercise into a busy life — I actually really miss the time I used to spend walking to and from work. We’ve talked about the best bags for commuting, how to cool down quickly after a hot commute, and how to keep your regular bra sweat-free.  We’ve had guest posters share their love of wedges for walk-to-work heels, and I’ve shared my own trick — getting a pair of comfortable/stable “commuting shoes” that were the same height as my regular pumps (so I didn’t have to hem my pants differently), but maybe a bit uglier than what I’d otherwise wear around the office; I’ve also talked about how I’ve logged way too many miles in Reef/Teva flipflops with arch support (not recommended).  But we haven’t talked about which makeup is best biking to work — and a sweaty/windswept commute. [Read more…]

The Style of Cycling: How to Stay Professional While Biking to Work

how to stay professional while biking to work2018 Update: We still think this is a great discussion on how to stay professional while biking to work — but you may also want to check out our more recent discussion on how to commute to work on a bike.

Reader S wonders if her refreshing bike ride to and from the office is harming her professional image…

I ride my bike to work and struggle to look professional and yet arrive at the office safely at the same time. I’ve started keeping my clothes at work, and so now, I frequently wear leggings and sneakers and then run to my office to change before anyone notices. Other times though, I need to go out for dinner or a client meeting after work, and it can be annoying to have to “change” into my sneakers afterwards so that I can bike home.

What do I do? Should I just start riding the subway? I love biking because it’s fast and refreshing, but I wonder if it’s to stay professional while biking to work - image of a woman's bike

I’m really curious to hear what the readers have to say here. I applaud Reader S’s effort for a healthy lifestyle, and I’m kind of envious that her situation is such that she can bike to work. That said… you don’t have to do it 100% of the time to get the effects, and I think some days (such as, say, when you have a client dinner) you should plan to take other means of transportation to work, whether it be by subway or car (or if the distance is short enough, perhaps even walking).  To me, that seems to be the easiest answer — what do you do otherwise, travel by car back to the office, then change, and then bike home? Take your bike with you to the client dinner?  The latter just sounds a bit extremist — and inflexibility is usually not a good thing.  [Read more…]