Summer bike commute: Tips on how to avoid being a sweaty mess

The benefits of commuting by bike are many. It’s better for the environment, it’s good exercise and it’s often cheaper than alternatives like driving or taking public transit.

Cycling has plenty of upsides — but showing up sweaty at the office is not one of them.

In the summer months, heat can be a deterrent for folks who want to ride their bikes, but don’t want to smell like a teenager who just entered puberty while surrounded by their colleagues.

“Throwing on a suit and getting on a bike in the middle of the summer is just not going to work for most people,” said Randy LoBasso, policy director for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. “Those are the clothes that you have to sit in all day. That is not only uncomfortable but sort of unhealthy as well.”

Fellow perspiration-challenged bikers, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Fortunately, there are several tips and tricks to help you stay cool while biking, and wick away the sweat once you get to work.

We crowdsourced advice from BCGP and members of the Women Bike PHL Facebook group. Here are some hacks to stay cool while commuting this summer.

Have more for the list? Let us know.

Go slowly

It’s not rocket science. If you’re biking more slowly, you won’t exert as much energy and you’re not going to get as sweaty. That’s a tip LoBasso swears by.

The key here is to “choose the path of least resistance,” LoBasso said — avoid hills and fast roads where you’ll be forced to keep up with traffic.

“I try to stay on streets where people can get by me easily if they do have to get by me,” LoBasso said. “I bike extremely slow, especially around this time of year.”

Bring ice for body cooling

A bottle of ice water is essential for your ride. Yes, staying hydrated is super important while you’re exercising, especially in the heat. But also: you can hold it against your skin at stop lights for a quick cooldown.

Don’t store stuff on your back

Most cyclists strap backpacks or messenger bags onto their bodies, since they’re balanced methods of transporting stuff while on the bike.

But when the sun starts beating down on your cargo, it’ll produce some serious backspiration. To avoid wetting your shirt, you could try adding a basket or pannier to your ride.

Bring a change of clothes

You don’t want to carry around the sweat you accumulated while biking. It’ll help if you wear exercise clothes, or at least some breathable fabric, for the ride — and then change into different clothes when you arrive.

Pack baby wipes and deodorant

No matter how slow you go, in the middle of the summer, you’re still likely to break a sweat. So how do you get rid of it at the office?

As a Women Bike PHL member put it, taking a “baby wipe bath” will wash away the perspiration and make you feel fresh. And obviously, it’s helpful to re-up on deodorant before you get working.

And a small towel

Hey, there’s no shame in a good towel-dry.

… And hair products

Helmet hair is a curse — especially sweaty helmet hair. Some good dry shampoo will extract any excess grease from your mane. Plus, bring any products you’ll want to fix up the style.

Wear a sweatband under your helmet

Your helmet sweat is better sucked up into that breathable cotton than spread all over your face.

Get a tiny fan

To expedite the cool-down process, try getting a little fan. There are battery- and USB-powered options that you can use quickly in the office bathroom or at length at your desk.

Just… be sweaty?

At a certain point, there’s only so much you can do to halt a natural bodily function. As another Women Bike PHL member said: “Embrace the stink. Less people annoy you at work.”