What do you wear on your bike commute?
April 14, 2019 3:04 PM   Subscribe

What clothes for your spring bike commute?

What do you wear on your bike commute? I’m sure there are other threads about this but I haven’t been able to find them. I’m in Denver, CO and a new bike commuter (again). With a new job, I have a short 4 mi commute. I carry my office clothes in a pannier and change when I get there.

I was fairly bundled in the winter with long underwear, soft shell pants, a thicker jacket, Bar Mitts, and gloves. But, springtime is throwing me. I don’t want to wear rain pants, if it isn’t raining, because I get too hot. I’m not interested in Lycra. And, I’m not interested in riding in the same clothes I work in. What do you wear in spring/fall temps (here that means 30-70 roughly)? It certainly doesn’t need to be cycling-specific clothing - I’d probably prefer it isn’t. Thanks for any tips. I’m a tall average build guy if that helps, 6’4”, 215#
posted by fieldtrip to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have much in the way of suggestions for not riding in what you work in (it's pretty much dresses & leggings or tights for me fall through spring, with heavier sweaters in winter) but can speak to the value of lightweight wool sweaters for biking in Denver in spring and fall. Add a light rain jacket over the light sweater, and you're sorted out down to 30F. Remove both and you're fine up to 80F. Spring and fall usually mean carrying three pairs of gloves in different weights (for me, anyway: it's hard to get that just-right temperature and another pair of gloves in the panniers is not a hardship.)

All my rain gear goes in its own drawstring bag; if the forecast suggests rain, I chuck it in my panniers in the morning. Easiest way to make sure I've got it when I need it but it doesn't get mixed up with everything else (sometimes I'll leave the rain bag at the office; it's more likely to rain on the way home anyway.)

Cheapest place to get new lightweight wool sweaters locally is probably Uniqlo. They do the job, breathe well, hold up well enough, and most importantly, don't retain odor. I avoid wearing synthetic fibers in general for this reason, which means I don't need to change my clothes for smell (and also I'm just never in much of a hurry to get to work, so sweat isn't a problem in the morning.)

Alchemist has some nice wool jerseys in light and heavy weights; they're a lot more expensive but have a couple of nice features for biking like zipper pockets. Not totally sure how they're selling at the moment; my partner has picked up a few of their wool jerseys at VeloSwap (which won't be until fall.)

Welcome to the club, and please feel free to MeMail if you have any especially location-specific questions.
posted by asperity at 3:27 PM on April 14 [2 favorites]

Tall dude? You want the Levi's 541 commuter jeans. Comes in a 36 inseam, thigh room for leg muscles, stretch denim, reinforced crotch, reflective seams if you roll up the leg, and u-lock loop. Nice subtle features and completely appropriate for my office without a change. Also consider Aero Tech for other tall biker stuff.
posted by enfa at 5:31 PM on April 14

I have a similar short commute and most days I wear gym shorts and a t-shirt with a light, brightly colored lightweight windbreaker on top, and change when I get to work. Usually I wear a pair of old sneakers to ride in and change into work shoes.
posted by emd3737 at 6:33 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]

I usually bike in hiking pants for fall/spring. Light weight, water resistant, comfortable and flexible (but not water proof, so they’re still breathable). Mine are Columbia brand, but there are a bunch of similar types at REI. Usually a t-shirt with a light hoodie/jacket depending on temp.
posted by chemicalsyntheticist at 7:19 PM on April 14

I wear trousers like this, a merino polo shirt, and whatever jacket is called for by that day's weather, with or without a windproof gilet in between, depending on temperature. I have a light rain jacket in the pocket of my saddlebag in case I get it wrong - I only take waterproof trousers if it's really really going to rain. A pair of rainlegs would probably improve my life a tiny bit.

For a four-mile commute, the only reason I could imagine to change at the office would be if you have a very formal dress code.
posted by rd45 at 1:33 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]

I wear Dickies trousers, vented craghoppers outdoor shirt (actually a lighter model than that but maybe they stopped carrying it, or it's seasonal? The back horizontal seams on mine are a big invisible open vent anyway) and sweat-wicking base layer (merino socks, good activewear t-shirt, etc.)
I also have a mesh flat cap that lets the wind through to cool off my very sweaty head, but when it gets too warm I actually switch to a cycling cap just because it does a better job of soaking that up and wicking it away. I feel a bit too much like a "cyclist" with that on, though.
Ten mile commute, but I take my time on an upright bike and don't get too sweaty usually thanks to the breathable workwear.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 4:03 AM on April 15

Oh yes, I also have a pair of lightweight Columbia cargo trousers that zip off into shorts. Those are quite handy at keeping the wind out but letting the steam out as well. The hip pockets are mesh, and vent nicely, and I can roll the cuffs into funny configurations to have different effects on the airflow.
I'm also a "secret ginger" (gone grey) so I value the sun protection (though I'm at sea level, so this may be more relevant to just about everyone in Colorado!)
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 4:11 AM on April 15

When I was bike commuting, I wore a lot of layers. At the 30s end I'd wear long johns under pants, because the wind will get you. For the core: layers of shirt, light sweater, fleece, waterproof bike jacket (for the pockets, reflective bits, and bright yellow color). On near freezing days I wouldn't sweat at all and would wear my work clothes (wool pants, silk blouse) under my (windproof) rain pants and fleece/rain jacket.

As it got warmer, I'd remove layers. If you've got panniers, you won't need a backpack, which gets sweaty in the warmer temps. Once I stopped wearing rain pants, I'd roll up my pant legs to avoid the dust and gravel kicked up from the road. It that point I'd be wearing washable summer clothes (linen, cotton, chinos). Eventually, it was shorts and t-shirts with work clothes in a roll in the bag.

I still have a bottle of rubbing alcohol, small washcloth, and spare deodorant in my desk.
posted by JawnBigboote at 5:53 AM on April 15

Oh yeah, for layers it's hard to beat a merino wool buff. Merino sheep graze alpine hills, going from snow to Mediterranean sunshine in the same day sometimes, and their wool is amazing at trapping dry heat but venting moisture. A buff makes a good impromptu scarf, face mask, sun hat, or headband at will. Also you can knot it so you look like a pirate!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 9:41 AM on April 15 [1 favorite]

The most important piece of my commuting gear for the in-between weather range you're talking about is my windproof jacket. (I got a nice Rapha one on closeout, but really any good windproof/breathable jacket that isn't too baggy for cycling would be fine) If it's cold I wear a warm layer underneath, if it's warmer I wear a t-shirt under it. I find cutting windchill out of the equation makes dressing for temperature fairly easy. Pants-wise I usually just wear jeans if it isn't raining, and my bike shoes with or without neoprene covers (again depending on temperature).

Additionally, I find gloves and hat are the most important small details, as my hands and ears are the contact points that cause me the most grief if I misdress. I have several pairs of gloves for different temperature/weather conditions, and always keep a windproof skullcap (mine is made by Gore) in a jacket pocket in case I want it to keep my ears from freezing.
posted by lhputtgrass at 5:10 PM on April 15 [1 favorite]

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