Suits on bikes
March 26, 2010 10:27 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way to carry a suit on a bicycle?

My career choice pretty much mandates that I'm going to be wearing suits at work but I love cycling and would like to use it as a part of my commute. Due to various factors my plan is this:
  1. Leave my work shoes at work
  2. Go to work by bus, wearing the suit, with my bike going on the buses bike rack.
  3. At the end of the day putting my work clothes in some sort of bag and biking home
  4. Not ironing the suit before I have to wear it next (quite possibly the following day, I have only 3 work suits)
So what kind of bag will let me do this?

Considerations to help you answer, and to take into consideration if you would like to suggest a better plan:
  • I have no panniers at the moment and if a solution required getting a pannier + some other thing I would prefer it to getting a specialized bag if the end result was about the same (a wrinkle-free suit and a hassle-free ride home).
  • The ride itself is not too far (about 12 kilometres) but it gets too hot and humid here to make riding in the suit a good idea.
  • No shower at work, or near work (ie no gyms nearby).
  • I sweat a fair bit.
  • I can find a place to leave my suits at the office, but would prefer to come in dressed for work (minus the shoes).
  • My workdays are looooong so I do all my ironing on the weekend (ironing during the week cuts into valuable sleep time).
posted by any portmanteau in a storm to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
(a) eponysterical!

(b) The Zipp bag from Marsee Luggage (available here) is a full-size garment/overnight bag that rolls into a duffel shape. It's designed for use on a motorcycle, but could be used on a bicycle with a rear rack and a little homegrown engineering. You can see this bag in various phases of its metamorphosis here.

Also, check your MeMail.
posted by workerant at 10:34 AM on March 26, 2010

Do you have a dry-cleaners near your office? That might help eliminate the need to carry a suit with you from home. Just bike to the dry-cleaners, pick up your suit, put it on right after you lock up your bike.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:50 AM on March 26, 2010

I think that lots of people who commute + need to dress up keep their clothes at the office. There are wipes, etc., that would come in handy in this scenario (like these). - everyone at my work either walks or bikes, and the businesspeople keep three or four suits in a closet. But YMMV.
posted by tmcw at 10:53 AM on March 26, 2010

You can get a garment bag that can be draped over your rack like this one.
posted by Doohickie at 11:01 AM on March 26, 2010

DOH. Like this one.
posted by Doohickie at 11:02 AM on March 26, 2010

I've been looking for the same exact thing, although a step down the dressiness ladder (in the sartorial purgatory of Business Casual). You're actually better off : your wool suit jacket will take a whole lot more abuse before it wrinkles than will my cotton dress shirt.

Most of the commuter-oriented panniers I've seen don't look like they'll accommodate a suit on a hangar. But as I browse around, I see Nashbar has a Commuter Garment Pannier, normally 149.99, on sale for 49.99. Allegedly 39" x 18" unfolded. You would need a cheapie rear rack as well.

I'm going for it, will let you know how things pan out.

(Keeping a few suits at work would be the ideal solution, but whether it's viable depends on your office culture. And you would still have to keep restocking fresh dress shirts...)
posted by a young man in spats at 11:03 AM on March 26, 2010

there are ways to fold jackets that reducing wrinkling and damage... I always fold them inside out... you can gently roll up the whole mess, then spray it all down with wrinkle relaxer afterward (and hang it in the bathroom while you shower in the morning - heat/steam will help relax any wrinkles).

AAA travel stores sell large cans (used to anyway) of wrinkle relaxing spray that works wonders on packed suits.
posted by Jiff_and_theChoosyMuthers at 11:04 AM on March 26, 2010

Keep your suit at work. Have it dry cleaned near work if needs be. Get a respectable looking suit carrier and put your suit in it every night.

I know this isn't what you really want, but you're going to sweat a whole lot more if you've got a suit carrier or similar on your back. Panniers are generally too small to hold a suit without crumpling it. I think any bag capable of holding a suit will be too large, either on your back or on the bike itself.

If you sweat, the aim is to get everything you take back and forth to work in your panniers. Even the best designed bag on your back will make you sweat more than if you don't have one.

Derail: See this thread on washing without a shower: it might be useful.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:10 AM on March 26, 2010

I did this once with a garment bag hooked to the collar of my cycling jacket. My messenger bag kept it more or less in place.
posted by miyabo at 11:20 AM on March 26, 2010

Also, if you want to make it easier to get dress shirts to work, most dry cleaners will return laundered shirts to you in boxes, rather than on hangers, if you ask.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:33 AM on March 26, 2010

I'd say store your suit in your office and keep a bunch of clean, pressed shirts handy (a la Don Draper). Find a dry cleaner near work that will allow you to drop off your suit every now and then.

Do you have a gym near work? (so you can shower right before getting in)

Also, this Patagonia burrito bag may fit a suit. Worth checking out.
posted by special-k at 12:08 PM on March 26, 2010

Well, I wear a suit at work and work long days and do not have a shower at work. I bike pretty much every day as long as it's not icy. I always leave my suits and dress shoes at work, with one spare suit and spare pair of dress shoes at home in case I need to go straight to a client's or somewhere. I have a rack and capacious pannier and use that for all my carrying needs -- in a pinch, I have folded my suit into the pannier and it hasn't been much worse for wear at the end. Ignoring your goal about wanting to wear a suit into the office (but without dress shoes? I'm not sure I can guess the reason), I would say you should do what I do.

Even accepting that you want to be wearing your suit into office, I would at least try carrying the suit home in a non-specialty pannier and seeing how it held up without ironing. Maybe hang it in the bathroom in the morning during your shower, which can help get any wrinkles out.
posted by chinston at 1:13 PM on March 26, 2010

I think you've got the right idea, bus it in the morning wearing your dress clothes, then ride back home in the evening. In addition to the shoes, I'd also leave the suit jacket(s) at work. That way you're only dealing with the pants and shirts which will easily go into a regular pannier bag or backpack. They're the ones which are going to wrinkle most anyway and require washing and/or ironing. Every so often take the jacket(s) to a dry cleaners.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 1:29 PM on March 26, 2010

I've fit a suit jacket and trousers (and a weekend's worth of clothes and gear) into a medium-sized Chrome messenger bag, but I wouldn't recommend this as a daily thing. Instead, I'd second the suggestion above that you keep a suit or two at work, as you don't need it while commuting.

Alternately, leave the suit jackets at work. Trousers and dress shirts are more durable and fold/roll into more compact spaces. I could see putting trousers into a pannier and them begin fine on the far side of the ride.

On the dress shirt front, there are some non-heinous ones [*] that Absolutely Do Not Wrinkle.

Snicker if you will; I think they're impregnated with some kind of plastic. They look crisp. Nordstroms carries them.

[*] Your measure of heinous may vary.
posted by zippy at 2:27 PM on March 26, 2010

There are definitely decent shirts that don't wrinkle. If you absolutely can't find some, Marks & Spencer in the UK have a range of non-wrinkle cotton shirts. I've bought them for years and they're great.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:08 AM on March 27, 2010

Thanks for the replies so far.

Just to clarify, due to the sweat factor I'd be taking the bus to work in the morning whether I leave the suits at work or take them back with me at night.

At the moment I think I'll leave my suit jackets at work and take my pants back with me. Pants are easier to iron, easier to carry, and all I would need to do when I get to work in the morning is take off my coat, put on my jacket and switch shoes. This should take less than a minute and would not require me to commandeer an office/board room (which is not always possible when I come into work).

I want to leave my shoes at work because A) my feet are big and carrying my work shoes on my bike would use up a decent chunk of my carrying capacity and B) I've got shoes that I can wear in a pinch if I need to go somewhere straight from home.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 9:06 AM on March 30, 2010

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