Skin-tight padded shorts. A stretchy jersey designed for someone with 6% body fat. Garish shoes you can barely walk in. The racer’s unflattering uniform makes sense for racing and long-distance leisure rides: it won’t flap in the wind and those padded shorts will aid undercarriage comfort. For a typical cycle commute, it’s overkill – like wearing Formula One racing overalls for a drive to the supermarket. Normal clothes work fine for short-distance cycling, given the right bike.
As you’d expect, non-sporty bikes best suit non-sporty clothing. Roadsters or town bikes, which you see everyone riding in the Netherlands, top the list. Hybrids are another great option, as are many folding bikes. Other bikes can be adapted to suit…
Contact points (handlebar, saddle, pedals)
To be more comfortable in everyday clothes, sit more upright. This requires a shorter, higher stem and/or a higher, more backswept handlebar. You’ll be resting more of your weight on the saddle so it’s important to have one that’s wider and more supportive, or that has an anatomic groove or hole in it to stop trouser seams pressing. Use flat pedals suitable for normal footwear.
Full-length mudguards are essential to keep water and dirt off your clothes. Soggy cycling kit can be hung up to dry but everyday clothes are what you’ll be sitting in all day. Not fun with a skunk stripe of dirty water up your back and soggy underwear!
Since you can use cycle clips to keep your trousers out of the chain, a chainguard isn’t as critical. It’s still a worthwhile upgrade. Fit a partial chainguard, which looks like a hockey stick or a flipped number nine, if your bike won’t accept a fully enclosed chaincase.
Carrying luggage on your back for more than a mile or two can make you sweaty. Let the bike carry the load. Take your pick from panniers, a rack-top ‘trunk’ bag, a front basket, bikepacking bags, and more.
Lighting & reflectivity
While it’s vital to be conspicuous to other road users, a retina-scorching hi-vis jacket isn’t the only solution, particularly now the shorter days of winter are behind us. Start with the bike. Good lights and reflectors are required by law. But why stop there? Use tyres with reflective sidewalls. Wrap Scotchlite reflective tape around the frame tubes. Add an extra blinky rear light.
To make yourself more visible on the bike without looking like a highlighter-pen off it, just add a hi-vis reflective waistcoat. It’s much cheaper and it can go back in your commuter bag when you park up. The same goes for reflective ankle bands.
It’s colder, darker, and wetter, but cycling to work can still be the highlight of your day if you have the right equipment and attitude.
Spread the cycling message by logging your journeys and encouraging colleagues and friends to ride. There are prizes – and prestige – to be won.
Cycle commuting improves your physical and mental health, as well as boosting productivity at work – so long as you do it right.