EBike vs sweaty person
June 20, 2019 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Two of the big things that have put me off cycling to work are (1) I hate uphills and everywhere is uphill both ways where I live and (2) I am a horribly sweaty person and there is nowhere to shower at work. I am thinking about an ebike as a solution to (1), but wondering if I'll still end up starting work a revolting sweaty mess. Ebike users: how much of a sweat do you raise?

I realise that you and your sweat glands are not me and my sweat glands, but I was thinking "riding an ebike to work makes me as sweaty as [other physical activity]". I also know weather is a factor, but I live somewhere where the weather is (relatively) mild for most of the year. I can get changed at work and am aware deodorant wipes exist.
posted by Vortisaur to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I can't comment on an ebike, but I bike to work and live in a sweaty area, and am a seriously sweaty person. The key is to take change of clothes and just towel off your face (assuming dude or non-make up wearer - I have no advice for that) when you get to the office. Unless you are ill, then your sweat is not as smelly as you think. I have to wear fancy clothes and interact closely with co-workers, and most of my office mates didn't even know I biked until we changed offices this year.

I look like a normal person about 20 minutes after sitting at my desk.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:58 PM on June 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yes, a change of clothes and a wet facecloth to wipe face/neck plus anywhere you're especially sweaty does wonders. I skip makeup for the day or bring it with me to apply after.

I get horribly sweaty and red-faced for a long time after exercise so in addition to the above, I try to arrive early enough (arriving about 20 min early is usually enough) to hang out in the bathroom/etc a few minutes to cool down before interacting with people. It works pretty well - I'm still red 20 min later but at least not shockingly so.
posted by randomnity at 1:18 PM on June 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

It looks like your assumption is correct! Study shows e-bike riders sweat three times less than normal bike riders.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:22 PM on June 20, 2019 [9 favorites]

I don’t regularly ride an ebike, but when I have it has been noticeably less work. You’ll likely be moving faster, as well, which means you’re spending less time out in the elements in general.

What I’ve found as a daily regular-bike commuter is that it’s not so much that I’m sweating during the ride, although there’s some of it (and I ride decently fast). Most of my sweating happens after I’m at work. I have some shirts I wear just for biking (synthetic jersey-type shirts). I get in, sit for 10-20 minutes until I stop sweating, then change into work clothes, as the other comments have said. Having the bike-specific shirts/pants are nice cos they dry quickly and I don’t have to worry about exercise or bike stains on the work clothes.

I just change clothes in a bathroom stall. I do keep deodorant and a hairbrush at my desk to finish any tidying up as needed.
posted by curious nu at 1:25 PM on June 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I love an e-bike because it makes me sweat WAY LESS! I am a sweaty person, the sweat level is not zero on an e-bike, but-- for example-- I live in a cool climate but nonetheless an ordinary bike regularly makes me perspire even on flats. The e-bikes I've tried were basically effort- and sweat-free on flats and slopes. Like, it was the sweatiness I would accrue from fast walking, at most. The very last hill of my ride home, which is a steep vertical incline, still made me work and sweat at ordinary bike levels.

(Where I had to dismount, wheeling the bike around was not sweat-free because they tend to be very heavy. Like carrying groceries.)
posted by peppercorn at 1:35 PM on June 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

I've only ridden an ebike a few times, but they're easy and powerful, and basically not a lot different (in terms of how much effort you'll have to exert as a rider) than a scooter -- with the exception that if your battery were to die, you could ride it home pretty easily. The last time I rode an ebike, it was twenty or thirty miles from the little Swiss town I was staying in, into Lausanne -- a city built on a steep hillside. Cyclists are everywhere and cycling infrastructure is quite visible, and I'm not sure if I saw a single person on a bike without power-assist. Everyone, from punks to elegantly-dressed office workers in suit jackets and hose, seemed to ride ebikes.

As for "regular" bikes, I've bike commuted in the past and my partner rides twenty miles twice a week, and here's what we both do: wear shorts and a comfortable merino or non-stinky synthetic top to ride in, then change at work. I tend to bring a change of underwear, too. He works in a casual office, and I work in an academic environment, and neither of us have access to showers at work (but we do have single-occupancy bathrooms we can change in). I usually change my clothes fairly quickly, wash my face, brush my hair, and am ready to start the day. Since my commute was often windy (and strenuous since I'm perpetually outta shape), I usually try to arrive at work 15min early so I can change and spend the extra ten minutes lazing around the faculty lounge recovering, too, which makes me a bit more coherent by the time I'm actually working with students.
posted by tapir-whorf at 1:36 PM on June 20, 2019

I don't sweat any more than I would walking on my 6-7 mile commute, and that's on an e-assist cargo bike with a kid in.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:36 PM on June 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

The key is to take change of clothes and just towel off your face (assuming dude or non-make up wearer - I have no advice for that) when you get to the office.

This is my solution as well. You can also finish off with some antideodorant if you're especially worried about smelling funky.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:36 PM on June 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I should add - now I have the ebike i cycle in my regular clothes (in UK weather). I don't wear anything cycling specific any more (aside from waterproof trousers if it's raining badly).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:38 PM on June 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've only ridden an ebike a few times, but they're easy and powerful, and basically not a lot different (in terms of how much effort you'll have to exert as a rider) than a scooter

Important clarification - there are two types of e-bike, class 2 or pedal-assist e-bikes and class 3 or throttle e-bikes. Class 2 e-bikes require you to pedal at all times, but give your pedaling a boost. Class 3 e-bikes can be ridden with no pedaling at all, and are more similar to e-scooters in that regard. They both require significantly less exertion than a regular bike though.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:28 PM on June 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'd suggest going to a store that specializes in ebikes and trying one out. You'll get a good sense of the effort required. I have a short commute on a regular bike, but what I've heard from my friends with ebikes: they can zip all around town (this is Portland, Oregon, where we do have some hills) in their professional clothes without getting sweaty, at all. My neighbor hauls three kids (3!) on her ebike to work. There's no way she could do on a regular bike.

There are all sorts of hacks for not having a shower at work when you get sweaty on a bike, but I think you're right that you're not going to need these hacks with the right ebike.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:41 PM on June 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I recently bought a Class 3 ebike (Pace 500) to ride 8 miles to work, and it really only asks you to add force to the pedals if you want to go more than 20 mph uphill. (I do peddle the whole time rather than use the thumb throttle, just because I like it better.) I've found there's a notable cutoff around 75 degrees where I'd want a change of clothes -- below that I'm just as happy in jeans and maybe a sweater. If you went a little slower I think the main sweat factor would just be being outside.

Agreed that it's nice to try out a few at bike shops first -- the stealthy e-assist bikes are very different from what I ended up with, but they all seem like they'd be fun for the right person.
posted by john hadron collider at 2:55 PM on June 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I switched to an e-bike (without thumb throttle) about two years ago. I definitely get less sweaty. Like, I can wear a raincoat in bad weather and not sweat, and in summer I still sweat but not much more than if I were going for a brisk walk.

My daily commute is about 20 minutes each way, but has some big hills. I sweat a little on the hills because you do have to put a little more effort in, but it's not like with my non-e-bike where the hills were intense cardio.

I ride a 1.5 hour each way trip every couple of weeks (but flatter) and the sweating doesn't increase over the 20 minute one. I don't have to shower even after that.

However I am not a sweaty person generally. I rarely showered after cycling in the past either.

As a calibration, I'd say with the e-bike my heart-rate sits about where it does if I'm doing light housework/gardening, or going for a walk at a pace where I can comfortably talk to someone. Those activities don't really make me sweat unless the weather is very hot, and nor does cycling on the e-bike.
posted by lollusc at 3:27 PM on June 20, 2019

One thing, you can set the e-bike to provide more assist on the way to work, thus less sweat.

On the way home, less assist, more exercise.

Also, still shower before you leave for work as usual. Previously stinky + wearing already-stinky clothes + then sweating more on top of that = a stinky person. Clean person + clean clothes + moderate sweating + a minor bit of cleanup as soon as exercise is done = not stinky.

I am personally the epitome of sweatiness and also live in a pretty hot/humid place. What I personally do when riding say 50-60 minutes quite hard in the middle of summer to get some someplace I need to be presentable, like in a suit, is a combination of what everyone has said above:

- Shower first
- Bike clothes for the ride (wicking jersey plus some form of bike shorts - both are wicking type fabrics and this helps a lot with handling sweat. But you the second you stop, you want to get those kind of fabrics off-off-off of you because once you stop they are holding a bunch of sweat at body temperature for an extended period of time, no more is being produced and none is evaporating. So 60 minutes or so later you've got smell.)
- Arrive say 20 minutes early
- Cool down 10-15 minutes (a fan or fanning yourself helps a lot)
- Change out of bike clothes & into normal clothes. Towel off sweat while doing this.

Honestly this takes no more time than other people do to derp around searching for a parking spot etc. I've gone to meet the Governor or whatever after following this routine and it's fine.

With a e-bike plus shorter commute plus more moderate weather you would only need to do some parts of the above to be equally comfortable. Maybe it's shower first only, maybe it's shower first, wear a workout shirt and change it when you arrive, with a brief towel-off. But definitely start with "shower first" just as you would any other day going to work.
posted by flug at 3:51 PM on June 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have a pedal-assist bike and ride 7 miles to work. The way to work is mostly flat, with a 98 foot elevation gain and a 400 foot loss (most in the first half mile, I'm on a hill). It is work, but only as strenuous as I make it. It's quite easy to cruise without too much effort if I want to.

I wear some comfy pants that I'll wear at work and a change of shirt and underwear. I consider myself a VERY sweaty person, the type who has a deodorant stick in my drawer and sometimes wears undershirts to hide perspiration. For packing of clothes, I highly recommend packing cubes, they're easy to throw into your pannier, and then take to the bathroom when you have to change back into your gear to ride home.

The last half mile of my ride into the office I dial it back, slow down and let the wind dry me off. I allow enough time (often stopping for a cup of coffee nearby at a cafe and sitting for 5 minutes) to really cool down. Then I get to the office, dampen some towels in the bathroom and wipe off. I change my underwear and put on a different shirt. More antiperspirant. Wash my hands in cold water (really helps with the cool down).

If you don't have a cafe option, then just bring an extra water or something and sit and look at your phone for 5 minutes before changing ... not being rushed makes the biggest difference in the "cool down" part. For the hottest part of the summer, I do use some pre-moistened wipes. But I'm also told that just packing a little washcloth with a few drops of tea tree oil may also do the trick and be a bit more eco friendly.

For me, the way home (that 300 foot hill) I get the sweatiest, because it's warmer and there's just more traffic to navigate (stopping and starting makes more work). I do get to shower when I get home though.

It's a shift, as I have to add thirty minutes to my "commute" budget because of the longer time it takes to prep the bike, ride (extra ten) and the coffee/clothes change. Being more fit, though, does seem to make a bit of a difference with my sweating. Not a lot, but I can rationalize my funky smell to "oh, I rode today" and at least be smug.
posted by typetive at 5:58 PM on June 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have a pedal e-assist bike for work commuting, and it makes all the difference. I usually wear my (business casual) work clothes in mild weather. I definitely still get sweaty, because it is still exercise, but it’s like dewy-face-sweat, mild-sweat-in-armpits, sweat-at-hairline but not soaking my hair, temporary sweat that doesn’t penetrate through all of my clothes.

If it’s super hot or very humid, I bring clothes to change into, because on days like that I feel like the seat of my pants can get gross (bike seat + sweat!). I almost never shower at work, even on the hottest days, but I do occasionally use a wipe or splash my face with water.

Slowing down on the last mile or so, so the sweating can stop and can dissipate, also helps.
posted by chemicalsyntheticist at 6:20 PM on June 20, 2019

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