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No sweat bike commute

by Richard Masoner

Greg LeMond famously quiped that cycling “never gets easier, you just go faster.” Rivendell’s Grant Petersen paraphrased LeMond in his bicycle commuting tips when he wrote, “Riding never gets easier, you just go faster, but the effort remains about the same.”

I spent 15 years of my life with a faster bike commute. Each year, I had a new personal best for the time trial home. I wore sport-specific gear — bike shoes, bike socks, bike shorts, bike jersey, bike gloves — to improve my performance and wick away the sweat and I carted my work clothes to and from the office every day.

A few years go I began a radical experiment: I wore my normal work clothes to the office. I discovered something that LeMond and Petersen didn’t know about: you can go slow on a bicycle! The secret to the no sweat bike commute is to take it easy.

If your bicycle commute is much more than about four or five miles this may not work as well for you, but for those of you with short commutes, it’s okay to slow down and enjoy the ride. Your cyclist friends may sneer at the “Fred” appearance, but your bike commute is evidence that you already don’t care what your colleagues think of you.

Go ahead and give the no sweat bike commute a try and let me know what you think.

This commuter knows how to get across town in Washington D.C.  Photo by Fred Benenson.

 
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13 Responses to “No sweat bike commute”

  1. Dan says:

    I’ve been doing this for years. I pack riding clothes during the summer for a long ride in the evening, but this time of year I just head back home after work.

    It is tough sometimes to change the cadence.

  2. Evan says:

    Here in the southeast it doesn’t matter how slow you ride in the summer, you sweat just being outside. But in the winter I usually just commute in my work clothes unless it’s raining.

  3. Don says:

    I dont get to commute as often as I like (only 2-3 days per week) but when I do, I dress normally. Normally can range from cargo pants to slacks and dress shirt so I kind of run the gamut. My ride is 10 miles and does a terrific job of clearing my mind and readying me for the day.

  4. Val says:

    Some secret – all over Europe everyone rides in whatever clothes they have on. In Copenhagen, the city has begun synchronising the lights to a pace of 12 mph (20kph) so as to make city cycling easier. At that speed, you can dress for business or for the opera and look fabulous as you arrive. Most urban automotive traffic never averages more than 12 mph anyway, and the time saved parking more than makes up for the seemingly sluggish pace. You see more, too. Life doesn’t have to be a time trail. Enjoy!

  5. Fritz says:

    Thanks for the comments, all. In the U.S., I wonder if regional differences play a part. In Colorado, for example, the only “Fredly” bike commuters were typically Latinos on discount store bikes. I’m in California now, and it seems many bike commuters bike to work in their work clothes.

  6. Paul Of N.W. GA says:

    I live 4 miles south of Chattanooga.
    Now that winter (Global warming winter) has set in, I don’t see any of the other utility-commuter cyclists around. But for me, I wear my work cloths. And I don’t believe it is possible to go slow on my touring bike, my ride to work is mostly down hill 20 – 25mph, but I am soaking wet when I get home.

    I do seem to feel like a freak when I get to work. I am all pumped up and hit the ground running. Too bad I am the only one like that there.

    During the summer, I don’t seem to sweet as long as I keep over 15mph. It is when I stop that the sweet pours.

  7. Shelly says:

    Ive been a NYC bicycle commuter for the last 30 years.ITo make the ride even better I commute on an Easyracer Goldrush Recumbent with bodysock. Ive always tried to live at least 10 miles from my office.Commuting is always the best part of my workday I get a good workout and travel home at the same time. Because I operate a nyc bike messenger co.I can arrive sweaty(soaked) and just change my shirt. Ive tried the slow thing but as soon as I get to a hill I’m drenched…oh well !
    Ive come in from Queens over the 59th st bridge and from NJ over the GW bridge and down the great West Side Bikeway.
    I now live downtown manhattan and have a short commute just 3mi that I ride the West Side Bikeway. Its great to just blast past all the traffic.
    Everyone always wonders why i’m always smiling , I guess you know the answer.

    Shelly- NYC / GRR

  8. gwadzilla says:

    I hear ya

    I go back and forth

    it sucks to spend more time changing than I spend riding
    but
    I just leave my clothes at work
    so there is not much to carry
    and being in bike gear allows for a post work ride

  9. Bobby says:

    Pardon my ignorance but I would like to know what is a “Fred” appearance. Somebody?

  10. Fritz says:

    Fred: n. a person who has a mishmash of old gear, does’t care at all about technology or fashion, didn’t race or follow racing, etc. Often identified by chainring marks on white calf socks. Used by “serious” roadies to disparage utility cyclists and touring riders, especially after these totally unfashionable “freds” drop the “serious” roadies on hills because the “serious” guys were really posers. This term is from road touring and, according to popular myth, “Fred” was a well-known grumpy old touring rider, who really was named Fred.

    From Glossary of Biking Terms and slang.

  11. [...] Bobby asked what a Fred is. According to the Glossary of bike terms and slang, Fred can either be the poseur buying more bike and kit than he’s capable of utilizing; or he’s (and Fred is generally a “he”) the bearded utility cyclist with sandals, rack, pannier or milk crate and with jeans tucked into his socks. I personally follow this second definition. [...]

  12. [...] This story brought to mind another from a few days ago on the Commute By Bike blog, No sweat bike commute, in which Fritz writes about bicycle riding in clothing other than the latest high-tech fashions. [...]

  13. IB Rich says:

    I agree with Paul. It’s not the speed of the riding, it’s the stops that turn on the sweat faucet. When I do get to commute (when I don’t need to drop off the kids at school), I have to ride to the train (12 miles to the station, 8 if I don’t care about bike-friendliness of the route). I’m sooo embarrassed when I get on the train and sit down and the sweat is just running down my nose (and the wet spot on the seat). I have to pack a small towel to keep somewhat dry and considerate to others.
    I do feel great when I get to the office and shower and can jump right into work. Lucky we have showers here at work…
    Fred Trivia: In Australia, “Freds” are called “Hubbards”. Learned this while following Le Tour around France with a busload of Aussies, Kiwis, Brits and South Africans back in 2000.

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