- I don't have a place to shower at work. What can I do to stay clean after a sweaty ride on a summer day?
- Where should I keep my stuff? There are no locker rooms where I work.
- What kind of bike should I get?
- I have to wear a suit to work, but it won't fit into my panniers, and I don't want to fold it.
I don't have a place to shower at work. What can I do to stay clean after a sweaty ride on a summer day?
Firstly, if you leave in the early morning to go to work, chances are the temperature won't be that high, and sweat will be limited to your scalp, back and patches of your upper torso.
I am fortunate in that my office building has shower facilities. I also always shower and shave at home, before leaving for work, then take another quick shower when I arrive to wash away the sweat and cool down.
If you don't have a shower in your building, and there is no public facility nearby (such as the Y, a gym, etc.), you can try brining baby wipes or "moist towlette" products and wiping away the sweat.
You can also try what some backpackers call "train showers": Fill a basin in the bathroom with water, and repeatedly douse your head and upper body with water, then apply soap and shampoo, then refill the basin and rinse off. It's messy but it does the job, kind of.
Where should I keep my stuff? There are no locker rooms where I work.
I'd say treat your panniers as you would a purse or bookbag, and hide it somewhere at work - under a desk, in a closet, etc. (Browse Panniers)
If you worry about your stuff being stolen, leave the top open - the sight of sweaty biking clothes should be enough to keep all but the most desperate of thieves at bay.
What kind of bike should I get?
There are three or four kinds of bikes sold to adults in most North American shops: Mountain bikes, touring bikes, hybrids, and what I call "granny bikes."
If you are only using the bike for commuting, forget about a mountain bike. Mountain bikes have fortified frames, and fat, knobby tires designed for rough trails and off-road riding. In fact, on paved roads mountain bikes will be counterproductive, because their weight and the extra friction from the fat tires will slow you down.
Of course, some don't really care about this -- they get mountain bikes to project the image that they dabble in off-road activities, or are a little on the wild side -- kinda like your average city/suburban SUV driver.
However, they are good in commuting situations where curbs, potholes, or rough patches are common. (Browse Mountain Bikes)
These are the speediest option, thanks to their light frames and thin tires. Up until the mid-80s they were commonly known as "ten-speeds," but most newer models have 24 or more speeds.
If your commute takes you on long stretches of road without any interruptions, and you can build up a lot of speed, you may want to get a touring bike.
However, if you are driving through city streets and have to deal with red lights and frequent intersections, a touring bike is probably not the right choice.
Touring bikes are also not meant for mild off-road wear (such as detouring on a dirt path) or jumping curbs, which can damage the bike.
I have also found them to be slip-prone when encountering sand on pavement, which is a common situation in the spring in northern climes.
This is like a mountain bike with narrower tires and a lighter frame. I think they're perfect for commuting, and even for semi-long tours (I've managed a 100-plus-mile ride on mine). They're rugged enough for mild off-road detours, and for traversing curbs, potholes and roots, yet can build up a fair rate of speed on the straightaways.
I don't know if this type of bike has an official name, but this is what I call them.
This type of bike is the descendent of the solid model you might have seen an elderly grammar school teacher riding in the 1950s. They have curved handlebars, wide seats, a simple three- to ten-gear transmission, and mud guards. A few even come equipped with lights and baskets. Recent models tend to be black and ruggedized a bit, with wider tires and stronger frames, kind of like a hybrid lite.
They are subtly ubiquitous in university areas, and even overseas. They are also entirely practical and maybe even right for you if your commute is a short one, or you don't need to go that fast.
I have to wear a suit to work, but it won't fit into my panniers, and I don't want to fold it.
I would suggest leaving your suits at the office. If you have to wear a suit to work, chances are you have some kind of office or at least a closet you can use.
If this is not the case, or you need to bring them home to get cleaned, you can get panniers with an over-the-top attachment that allows for bigger items of clothing, such as suits or sportjackets.