So you rode to work…what comes next?

I am a huge proponent of riding to work, whether all the way from home, or in conjunction with another mode of transport – so-called “bimodal” commuting. Once you get to your workplace though, what do you do to transition from sweaty bike commuter to presentable office worker?

I’m going to share my strategy. Obviously, our circumstances may vary, so not everything may work exactly the same way for you, but I bet you can still pick up some tips.

BRING A CHANGE OF CLOTHES

It’s a fair bet most workplaces frown on their employees dressed in sweat-drenched clothing, so at the very least a change of shirt is required.

An old knapsack houses my change of clothing and freshening-up stuff.

I also found out the hard way that trousers or pants are a general no-no for bike commuting. At least for me and my “don’t stop pedaling” style, the action of thighs moving against saddle nose and sides while turning the pedals at 80-90 RPM wears holes through pants very, very quickly from pure friction. It is just not cost-effective except for shorter rides. For this reason, I would much rather ride in baggy shorts or spandex; there is much less material in either garment to get in the way and be subjected to friction, so they last longer. Ultimately, when you wear through the seat of your baggy shorts, it’s cheaper to replace that with a new pair than doing the same with trousers or jeans. Save your trousers and jeans for when you’re actually in the office.

Best to bring spare underwear as well, to avoid your groin and crotch sprouting saddle sores from the moisture and friction of sweaty skin. Petroleum jelly, if needed, is also a good idea.

SECURE A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN FRESHEN UP…AND CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF

The concept of a shower room for cyclists is a pretty strange one for most office spaces, so you will have to make do with what you do have. For me, it’s a cubicle with a toilet and a nearby tap.

Taking a “shower” this way is bound to leave a mess of a wet floor, so I borrow a mop from the janitor’s closet every day to clean up afterwards.

Alternatively, if you don’t have something like this to work with, I’m told baby wipes are a decent way of freshening up. I’m a little iffy about this though, as baby wipes are also notoriously hard to decompose or biodegrade – I try not to use them unnecessarily.

BRING SOAP AND A TOWEL

Cheap, effective, compact, smells inoffensive – what’s not to like?

If the shower option is feasible, I highly suggest bringing a distilled set of bathing gear. I’ve had success with Aquazorb’s microfiber hand towels and Safeguard’s Pure White body wash in the 200 mL bottle because they are as small as I can get away with, while still remaining very effective.

Aquazorb’s microfiber hand towel is small, but very effective.

The Aquazorb microfiber towel in particular is an underappreciated gem, I think. It’s a “hand towel” per se, and it may feel strange against your skin at first, but in practice, it has enough absorptive capacity to put a full-size terrycloth towel to shame. Even in an air-conditioned office, it dries in after around 2-3 hours of being laid flat. When not in use, it rolls up into a little bundle with its own elastic strap. At PhP180 apiece, it’s perhaps the cheapest you can find a good microfiber towel for in Metro Manila. Just don’t wash it with fabric softener.

BRINGING A DRESS SHIRT?

Fortunately for me, my workplace doesn’t require button-down shirts; simple shirts and denim jeans are fine. For guys out there who have to bring a button-down shirt with them to change into at work, one tip from GCN’s Matt Stephens to keep the shirt wrinkle-free is to employ old magazines and sandwich the shirt there…or to make use of the magazine as a shape-giving filler or “spine” for the folded shirt, and put it all in a relatively tight-fitting envelope. I’ve tried this before, and it’s surprisingly effective.

BRING YOUR CLOTHING IN ADVANCE?

Alternatively, instead of bringing clothing every day, you could bundle all the clothes you’d need in a work week and leave them in a locker at your workplace on a weekend. This method may work for some people, or it may not.

 

In a nutshell, that’s how I freshen up after each and every day riding to the office. What’s your post-commute strategy?

Head sweat solutions, part 2: Halo headband

There are a number of solutions to mitigate sweat buildup while riding a bike, and I discussed one such thing, the Sweat GUT’R, earlier.

When I was still an active recreational runner in 2010, I bought my first Halo headband. At first glance, this is arguably less innovative and more traditional compared to the Sweat GUT’R, which is based entirely on a material that never soaks or gets saturated. No matter what form it takes up, either as an elastic headband, an elastic sun visor, or a loose headband you knot over your brow line, the Halo is really just a piece of material that absorbs sweat and has a silicone “Sweat Block Seal” that diverts sweat away from your eyes and face. Halo does say that while its Dryline fabric absorbs sweat, it wicks it away and lets it evaporate quickly.

My first ever cycling helmet of recent times was a Fox Transition hardshell from 2013, a very basic brain bucket not really known for good ventilation. When I paired the Halo headband with this helmet, it got saturated with my sweat in no time.

I lost this original blue elastic Halo headband at some point. In the intervening period, I got helmets with better ventilation, and I later got another Halo headband – this time, a black one that I had to tie around my brow line. Around this time, the shortcomings of the Sweat GUT’R were beginning to make themselves felt.

Revisiting the Halo, I found it worked better for me – especially when paired with a helmet with better air flow, like the Lazer Blade MIPS or the Specialized Centro. The air flow allowed the black Halo to do its job of letting the collected sweat evaporate into the air, instead of getting trapped as it did on the Transition helmet. Eliminating the elastic meant that this particular headband had a much better chance of lasting many more uses with less risk of getting worn out.

Even better, because it’s absorbent, the Halo keeps doing its job regardless of whatever crazy angle you put your head in. It’s not as susceptible to the tearing that the Sweat GUT’R can display, either.

I used my blue elastic Halo headband for the 200 km Audax Randonneurs Philippines brevet on December 5, 2015.

The one real complaint I have with the Halo is it can affect how you wear your helmet on your head. It’s not exactly thin, and it’s got more width to it, practically covering my entire forehead. There’s a very real chance you can end up pushing up the brow line on your helmet too high while attempting to wear the Halo under it.

Head sweat solutions, part 1: Sweat GUT’R headband

Riding a bike is one of the quickest ways to work up a sweat, especially in our tropical climate. This combination can be a problem. Ride long or hard enough, and it will end up dripping into your eyes after your eyebrows decide they can’t take any more.

While there are sweat wicking foam pads on helmets and tiny toweling surfaces woven into fingerless cycling gloves, I’d guess a good number of people will want a better solution. Today we’ll look at one such solution: the Sweat GUT’R.

Touting itself as the sweatband that never saturates, it’s essentially a silicone strip with a raised gutter on the forward edge – hence the stylized name. The idea is that you wear it like you would a normal headband – the kind so famously sported by many professional tennis players. Unlike a normal headband, there is nothing on the Sweat GUT’R to absorb your forehead sweat – ergo, nothing that will get saturated with a surplus of it. Instead, all the sweat it collects on the gutter will run out the left and right sides, diverting away from your eyes and onto your temples, where it will have less chance of stinging.

At least, that’s the idea.

Because the silicone material itself isn’t the most elastic, the Sweat GUT’R fits around heads by trapping one of three different-sized elastic bands on its Velcro-equipped ends, which you then fold over into loops.

One other touted advantage is how easy this thing is to keep clean. All it needs is a rinse in some water, preferably soapy, then shake it off and let it dry.

The Sweat GUT’R has an impressively svelte, low profile. As far as pure fit is concerned, there’s no problem fitting this under a typical helmet.

The way the GUT’R wraps around my own forehead, at least, the raised gutter portion does clear my eyes. Setting it to a good tightness, the chamfered part of the headband that sits on the head does a good job of collecting sweat and fending off drips into eyebrows. It’s easy enough to think that any sweat it collects will clear my eyes and drain harmlessly off toward my temples.

As I said earlier…that’s the idea.

Unfortunately, the logic behind the Sweat GUT’R works best if you can keep your head in one optimal position. As long as the gutter portion itself remains roughly parallel to the ground, it will work as advertised. The moment you turn your head at too great an angle, or slouch over the handlebars, the gutter concept doesn’t work as well, and the risk of sweat spilling off and into your eyes increases considerably.

This is why this sweatband works great when you’re cranking away at an indoor trainer, but isn’t as effective when you’re in the middle of a tough climb, leaning your body every which way to keep your momentum going.

This smoke gray unit is also my second Sweat GUT’R. The silicone is advertised as being durable, but it can be susceptible to tearing under too much tension. On my first white unit, I noticed that the silicone doesn’t particularly like being stretched too tight across your head, and so I got little rips in it within a year. With the second gray Sweat GUT’R, I have since opted to use the middle of the three sizes of elastic bands, and it seems to be holding up better.

There’s much to like about the Sweat GUT’R. The appeal to me is that the creators were able to innovate on the humble headband and make it better at preventing sweat from stinging in athletes’ eyes. That said, your experience may vary. Actual execution is a little flawed, but if you can live with the design, it’s a good functional piece of apparel.