No Sweat: How to Bike Commute in Summer

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CC BY 2.0. How to commute in Copenhagen: 1) get on bike. 2) pedal. /Lloyd Alter

Biking to work in summer can be hot work and Sustrans, the UK org promoting cycling, is here to help. But first, they quote a study that found that 38 percent of British office workers would consider commuting to work if their workplace offered better facilities, which I suspect might be a lot of people looking for an excuse, and that you don't necessarily need proper facilities for people who bike any more than you need them for people who walk. Carlton Reid figured this out a decade ago, writing in the Guardian:

Why are British cycle planners fixated on personal hygiene? Cycling short distances across town in normal clothes isn't a sweat-fest. Installing showers reinforces the view that cycling is difficult, smelly and, well, different.

Sustrans makes a few points that are basic to surviving in the heat:

Slow down

If you can walk without dying from the heat, then you can ride at a pace that doesn't make you sweat any more than walking would. And you will probably be dryer because of the cooling effect of the air movement.

Switch to Panniers

Or get a basket or a carrier, just don't wear a backpack. The point of sweating is to keep you cool by evaporation, and it can't evaporate if it is trapped under a pack.

biking in Berlin

Lloyd Alter/ in Berlin/CC BY 2.0

Dress for the weather

Wear what you would if you were walking. I don't know what to say about companies with dress codes that demand suits and ties; I suppose people who walk or take transit have the same problems about overheating. Perhaps you can keep the suit at the office or put it in your pannier. I wrote in an earlier post:

If you walked to work you would allow enough time and put on weather appropriate clothing, comfortable shoes and carry some money to buy a coffee along the way. When you got to the office, you would likely have a place to hang your coat and perhaps a better pair of shoes in your desk drawer.

Go natural

Sustrans also suggests natural fibres "such as merino wool, are more comfortable and cause less sweat than synthetic materials." I personally have some pretty cool wicking synthetics and avoid cotton.

faraday side

© Faraday bikes

Sustrans also notes that e-bikes are changing the picture:

Electric bikes are on the rise - you only have to look around our towns and cities to see that - but despite their growing popularity there are still some misconceptions, myths and even snobbery surrounding them. One thing is clear: e-bikes are making cycling more accessible to a new audience, people who may never have considered it as a viable option for commuting, popping to the shops or for leisure. What's more, they're also making it possible for people who already cycle to keep doing what they love most. Give one a go and you might well be pleasantly surprised.
Yvonne on bike

© Javier Lovera/ Yvonne Bambrick and bike

Over at Citylab, Yvonne Bambrick had some suggestions for how to bike to work without looking like a sweaty mess that also make sense:

Plot your route

Whenever possible, plan a route along quiet, shaded side streets. Tree-lined minor arterial roads often have better air quality and provide shade. And if you can, opt for bike lanes. Any street that keeps you farther away from hot cars will help you keep cool.

She has other great tips for women riders.

Riding a bike should be as easy as, well, riding a bike, something that you are able to just do safely. It should be, more than anything else, normal. Or as Carlton Reid concluded a decade ago,

Copenhagen doesn't force its biking populace to bathe: it takes space from cars and gives it over to bicycle and pedestrian use. The true test for England's latest cycling demonstration towns won't be which one can install the plushest shower, but whether they can ignore the pleas of motorists and truly "Copenhagenize" their streets.