How To: Bike Commuting in a Suit

The need to look professional is an excuse I hear often for not bike commuting. Please. Don’t try that one with me! As a lawyer, I often wear business suits to work and – yes – I ride my bike dressed up. Riding a bike in a suit is quite easy, especially if the weather is mild and the distance is not very great.  I have only a few tips:

  1. If the weather is hot, leave your tie, hosiery, jacket at work.
  2. If the weather is freezing, layer sensibly as I discuss here.
  3. If you wear pants, secure your cuff from hungry chains and crank arms, unless you want your fine Brooks Brothers suit ripped (sob).
  4. If you get hot while riding and want to remove your jacket, roll it before placing it in your pannier or basket to prevent wrinkling.
  5. Take it slow and steady.  No need to race the yoga-pant and lycra crowd.

If you follow these simple tips, riding in a suit will be a practical and simple course of action.  As a bonus, you’ll find yourself sitting up straighter and feeling super dapper.

Sure, you will definitely stand out, but is that a bad thing?  Drivers will pay more attention, while pedestrians and other cyclists smile at you more than usual.  Public perception is far from acknowledging biking in business suits as normal behavior, but that’s all the more reason to do it :)

An example of public perception: I attended my company’s Wellness Committee meeting this week to propose that we participate in Chicago’s Bike to Work Week (hosted by the Active Transportation Alliance) for the first time. (Challenge accepted, and I’m the Team Leader!) I passed around a flier advertising the ride and one of the young women immediately saw the picture below and cried out: “He’s riding a bike in a suit! Ha!” General tittering followed. I piped up that I often ride in suits.  “Really?”  “Yup.”  End of story.

Now at least all of us here know that riding a bike in a suit is not at all silly.  If you want to try riding in your work clothes, have at it!

Does anyone else out there ride in a suit, at least occasionally? Any other tips?  I almost never see other cyclists in suits.  I’ve appreciated the dapper/ladylike eye candy on the few occasions I have seen suits out there :)

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134 thoughts on “How To: Bike Commuting in a Suit

  1. Love the idea of dressing up and riding. I have some logistics issues. I teach high school in northwest Houston, TX. Because of the time change, I go to work for most of the winter in the dark. I’m worried about riding in the dark. Later, when the time changes again, light is not a problem, but it is often 98 degrees. Any advice?

    • Dottie says:

      I ride in the dark pretty much all winter. I don’t worry about wearing reflective or neon clothing, I just use front (white) and rear (red) lights on my bike. Chicago has plenty of street lights, though, so my issue is more being seen, rather than seeing the road myself. Some lights are better than others for each purpose. If you feel safer with reflective clothing, you could get a sash to wear over your regular clothes.

      If I were in Houston riding in 98 degrees, I wouldn’t even try to ride in a suit! I would simply change when I arrived at work, after ducking into the restroom to give myself a sponge bath. In the middle of summer, I usually do this because I tend to sweat A LOT. That’s one reason I’m glad I no longer live in the South :)

    • Step-Through says:

      There is definitely some strategy to riding in really hot weather. When it gets really hot in Atlanta (and humid) I may ride in a tank top and then put a dress shirt over it at my office. If it’s really bad I sometimes change shirts. Other important parts of the strategy include deodorant salt spray under my anti-perspirant, body powder, hand sanitizer, iced beverages in my handlebar-mounted cupholder, and an absorbent cloth soaked with water and little bit of perfume in a ziploc bag… Yes, it’s worth it!

    • Jordan says:

      This article interviews cyclists who only commute by bike, and they talk about how they deal with temperature, weather, sweat and everything. Hope it helps:

      http://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com/current-issue/features/pedal-powered/

      • Diana says:

        Hello Dottie,

        I just read a little of your blog and enjoyed it very much. I live in the Netherlands and everyone rides their bikes in their suits (and ladies in their dresses and heels). It’s a normal look over here. I would love to visit Chicago sometime. Keep up with the cycling!
        Diana
        Den Haag, The Netherlands

        • Dottie says:

          Hi Diana,

          Thanks so much for your comment. I love to hear from people living in a real bicycle culture. I hope to visit the Netherlands some time!

  2. cycler says:

    Hear hear! I don’t wear suits much anymore (funny how much LESS formal Boston is than Texas, where I wore a suit to work on a fairly regular basis), but it’s the same as riding in any other dress clothing.

    Nothing much sexier to my mind than a man in a nice suit on a bike!
    (much sexier than lycra which leaves too little to the imagination).

  3. Amy says:

    Hey! Congratulations on being the team leader! How exciting! I don’t ever get to opportunity to wear suits anymore, since giving up the desk job. Work clothes for me are jeans and tee shirts or shorts and tank tops. And flip flops! I love the looks I get from motorists when I wear the flip flops. :) I do wear sun dresses and skirts for leisurely weekend rides, and lots of lovely woolen things in the winter.

    • Dottie says:

      That sounds like my dream! I’m not crazy about wearing suits and heels – jeans, tees and flip flops sound much more comfortable. Sun dresses are my favorite, though.

  4. Amanda says:

    I love it. I’m the leader of our Bike to Work team too! But it makes me super nervous for some reason. Perhaps because I’m the new kid still.

    • Dottie says:

      Yay! I’m a new kid, too. Started this job in November. I’m not so nervous, mostly because I really don’t expect anyone at all to participate. Hopefully, I’ll be proven wrong.

  5. simone says:

    ok I must be the only one with a sweaty a** no matter what I wear

    • Dottie says:

      LOL. Nope, I sweat a lot. When it’s really hot, I simply bring a change of clothes with me, or else wear a skirt and stop once or twice during my ride to turn it around so sweat doesn’t build up in one spot and show up. Yes, sweat – kinda a yucky topic but a fact of life.

      Here’s my “How To” for fresh summer cycling.

  6. Steve A says:

    If you live somewhere your commute is short enough and temperate enough to wear a suit, that’s great. However, I cannot imagine doing so when the North Texas temperatures are over 100F. That’s what those racks/baskets are for, so you can ride comfortably and still have dressy clothes at the destination. Dottie’s point #1 should definitely not be ignored. Work is a GREAT place to keep those items that are too hot to carry/wear on the bike.

    One other thing that helps when the weather is hot is to wear a “do rag” underneath the helmet so you don’t drip sweat all over your shoulders.

    Mainly, if you want to ride, you WILL find a way.

    • Dottie says:

      I agree! If you can’t wear a suit, you can’t wear a suit. The important thing to keep in mind is that you have options and shouldn’t be afraid to try new things.

  7. Richard says:

    Riding in a suit is the reason I bought my Breezer. I raced to a meeting with my dean (I’m on a med school faculty) in a suit once five years ago on my old Bridgestone, and decided then and there that I never wanted to roll up a pant leg to ride on a bike again. Nor did I ever want to ride on a bike with aggressive geometry or have to swing my leg over a diamond frame again. Hence the Breezer Uptown 8 with a step-thru frame. Bought it the next week and have biked below the sweat barrier ever since.

    • Dottie says:

      Mark, There are a million things I love about this picture!! It would make my day (heck, my week!) if I saw you out there like that.

      [Scratch this question - you don't live in Chicago. Duh!] Do you ever ride around Roscoe Village? My husband’s seen a guy with a bakfiets a couple of times on Roscoe.

  8. parker says:

    Hi Dottie,
    Absolutely! (Yes – for long rides, if I can arrange a change, I usually wear comfortable stretchy stuff.) But around town I wear “destination” clothes. For example, I’m a singer and I sometimes ride to a concert in black-tie & tux. :-)

    • Dottie says:

      If I saw someone riding in black tie, I would swoon. Could be dangerous :)

      • jjfantastic says:

        which reminds me, we had the school auction last weekend – i need to get this year’s pics of us all dressed up and heading out by bike. mac wore his tux again, though a bit more sleezed out since the theme was Saturday Night Fever. and no full-length formal gown for me this year, but i did have on knee high gold boots. must bug my friend tricia for the photos!

  9. Sungsu says:

    Our mayor bikes in a suit all the time.

    “It’s an easy 10-minute pedal to the day’s first appointment. On an overcast morning, on a warm January day, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson tucks his grey suit pants into his blue dress socks, dons a helmet and sets off from his two-storey home near City Hall. The 45-year-old co-founder of the Happy Planet organic juice company could drive or be driven where he needs to go to lead Canada’s Olympic city.

    Instead, in a business suit and bike helmet, never mind the regular rain, Mr. Robertson puts 80 kilometres a week on his two-decade-old mountain bike.

    On arrival, there’s not a bead of sweat on him. Vancouver’s green capitalist-in-chief locks up against a fence and shifts with ease from cycling to conversation with the Belgian ambassador and a Bombardier Inc. executive, partners on the trial project of a streetcar line that will run during the Olympics.”

    http://www.visionvancouver.ca/news/the-green-mayor-goes-gold

    Another photo of the mayor:

    Burrard Bridge bike lane-34

    • Dottie says:

      Awesome! I’ll add that to my long list of why I want to move to Vancouver.

      • Frits B says:

        Re your recommendation #5: a few days ago I narrowly escaped a collision with the mayor of Assen who sped around a corner in a great hurry to get back to town hall (he on a bike, I on foot). In a suit of course, and without helmet, equally of course.

  10. David says:

    Is this like an anti-lycra/biker shorts site? I’m not into all that glowy touring bike wear, but I do wear the tight biking shorts in summer. I do it because of chafing, and with the support it’s suppose to reduce leg fatique. I have a long commute. I’m fortunate to have a shower room, with a bunch of dress shirts I keep hung up at work.

    But, if you don’t have a shower at work. One can always take a cold wet wash cloth, rub inside your armpits (and wearever else). And feel pretty fresh and clean in a matter of minutes. I’ve also read other bike bloggers say they use like baby wipes. But I don’t like the smell of those things.

    And like Dottie says, take it easy. Do coast when you can and enjoy being outside. No need to race.

    • Dottie says:

      This is a “do what works for you” site. Since lycra doesn’t work for me and Trisha, we do not tend to blog about it. Anyway, there are plenty of other sites where people can get that sort of information (see 98% of other cycling blogs, websites, magazines, popular culture). :)

      I’m all about the wash cloth wipe down during the summer! I agree about the baby wipe smell. No thank you – I’d rather use the pump soap in the wash room.

    • Herzog says:

      If you have problems with chafing, then you’re riding the wrong kind of bicycle, IMHO.

      • David says:

        Really? How so? I’ve always read it was common, and about the clothes and seat. I think my seat is too wide, but I just haven’t changed it yet.

        Interesting, though my bike is very comfortable for me. But I would like to try a road bike for commuting vs. my hybrid.

        • Dave says:

          This post doesn’t have anything to do with seat design, per se, but has a lot of good things to say about different types of bikes and what the advantages/disadvantages of them are. Worth a read before deciding what type of bike you want for daily riding:

          http://clevercycles.com/2007/06/26/dutchness/

          • David says:

            Good article thanks. I don’t know what my post seat angle is though. My Raleigh Passage 3.0 is suppose to be a hybrid. But it’s oversized/overstuffed seat gets poor reviews from other users. It’s comfy on the test ride, but after using it for awhile, it chews up your thighs.
            With the length of my commute (24mi roundtrip), and the number/size of hills I deal with, I just can’t see commuting with a Dutch bike. But they are cool looking bikes.

          • Dave says:

            You might try replacing the seat with a Brooks or something similar – more narrow and less padded. I love the one on my old Raleigh, and I can ride around on it all day with no problems – no soreness, no rubbing, nothing. Less money than a new bike, too :)

        • Herzog says:

          David,

          1. Take a look at the page that Dave links to and ask yourself the question: on which part of the body is the weight of the rider concentrated? The steeper the geometry, the further forward in between the legs the weight is concentrated. On the racing bike, most likely a lot of the rider’s weight is resting on his perineum, which is a very sensitive part of the body. The recumbent is at the other extreme, its seat distributes the weight over the outside of buttocks.

          Clearly, it would seem intuitive that having weight distributed outside of sensitive areas is good. But there is a second issue too — area! The perineum has a surface area that is a fraction of the outside of the buttocks, so the pressure it has to be put under to support your weight might be an order of magnitude higher.

          You can’t easily mitigate the pressure issue, because the maximum area of the saddle is determined by what part of the body it supports. A racing bike simply cannot have a wide saddle, because you can’t fit it in between your thighs.

          Gimmicks like gel padding don’t help. Pressure is still weight divided by area, and does not depend on material. A less abrasive material, like the leather of a brooks saddle might help.

          Hybrid bikes are often very uncomfortable because they occupy a gray area with respect to bicycle geometry. The steep seat tube angle makes it impossible to use a wide saddle comfortably. At the same time, hybrids lack the low handlebars that make aggressive geometry efficient.

          2. Can you do a 24 mile commute on a Dutch bike? What is most important is not the “style” of bike, but whether it fits you correctly. If you are having problems with chafing, then most likely your bike is not fitted properly. Dutch bikes can be surprisingly fast. Even on hilly terrain. If your commute is over flat land, they can be devilishly fast. But again, there are many other styles of bikes that would do the trick. I would not, though, recommend a road bike for commuting. Just look at the road cycling forum on bikeforums.net to see how much problem those riders have with saddle comfort.

          3. There are a few other factors that affect comfort in subtle ways. You may have often heard that you should have at least some of your weight resting on the handlebars to unweight your spine and provide a little aerodynamics. This is bullshit. Not only can your back support your body weight, but it has a natural S shape which provides shock absorption. When you lean forward, you replace this S shape with a rigid triangle which transmits shocks into various parts of your body. The aerodynamics argument is silly too, because there is almost no difference in how much wind you catch between sitting 92% upright and 100% upright.

          Finally, many hybrid bikes are designed completely backwards when it comes to comfort. First of all you do not need shock absorbers unless you are doing extreme mountain biking. Let me repeat. You do not need shock absorbers unless you are doing extreme mountain biking! You also don’t need a suspension seat post. Why are these included in most hybrid bikes, you ask? To compensate for poor frame design. Steel frames offer very good natural shock absorption. Thick aluminum frames do not. A steel frame with relaxed geometry, moderately wide tires, and a sprung saddle will offer more shock absorption and a better ride than any hybrid frame.

          • David says:

            Thanks for the comments Herzog. I’ve also been to Peter White’s site about fitting a bike. So, I’ve purchased a thin saddle, after trying several in-store on a trainer. And by using the tips on his site, I’ve adjusted the geometry by moving the seat and changing/lowering the handlebars. I went on a test ride, and it seemed okay. But my commute will be the real test.
            I agree about the hybrid, shocks are ridiculous. But when I bought it years ago, it seemed so comfy in the store and I didn’t realize I would later get addicted to bike communting. Previously I was riding a ten speed that was too small for me. So my raliegh felt like a dream to me. Still does feel good. I really think the seat will solve the chafing.

            Also, I’ve always been into “whatever i can find used bikes”. I’m probably never going sink huge cash into a bike. Like over a grand. Had a re-built Ross ten speed, cost $40. And a Specialized MTB that was left in a parking lot with no brakes. So that was pretty much free. But then someone stole it.

            Now, I have a used Raleigh that I spent a whopping couple hundred bucks on. And riding up to a 100 mi a week or more. It’s holding up.

        • Herzog says:

          Here a two (very elegant) blog posts on Lovely Bicycle that touch upon the relationship between comfort, saddle width and geometry.

          http://lovelybike.blogspot.com/2009/10/brooks-saddles-demystifying-system.html

          http://lovelybike.blogspot.com/2009/10/lady-has-home-thoughts-on-brooks-b18.html

  11. Karen says:

    I often pedal in dress pants and heels, as I did yesterday. I wore pearls as well. I occasionally get surprised glances from drivers but just as often someone will lean out the window and compliment me on my shoes (especially the 4-inch kiwi pumps).

    You do look really elegant and the Oma is the perfect compliment to your outfits.

    • Dottie says:

      You know ALL about cycling in nice work clothes. 4-inch kiwi pumps sound awesome!

      I’m glad you mentioned pearls – they are my secret weapon. My hair may be in a ponytail 90% of the time, but pearls blind others to such professional faux pas and elevate my whole look, yet require no fussing or maintenance.

  12. I do ride in a suit, but can only do it on a specific type of bicycle (loop frame, upright, chaincase, dressguad, etc.), and in a suit where the skirt is not too narrow. I think having the right bike is imperative to pulling this off, especially if you are a woman who wears skirts and heels.

    • Dottie says:

      Having a bike without a diamond frame certainly helps, but I ride my Betty Foy in a suit often with no problems, even though there’s an exposed chain, no skirt guard, bent over positioning, etc. I have only one suit skirt too narrow to cycle in, which means I never wear it. Usually suit skirts have slits in the back, which is enough to make them work, maybe hitching them up a tiny bit.

      • I know that some women are able to cycle in a pencil skirt with a slit – alas, I am not, unless it’s a really long slit! I need an A-line or wider in order to be comfortable getting on and off the saddle without incident.

        As for mixtes, I think it depends on the specific bike. On one of my vintage mixtes, the “mixte tubes” are set so high, that it almost might as well be a diamond frame – in the sense that climbing over them in a skirt can be challenging. On my other mixte they are lower, though still not as comfortable as a loop-frame. Having tried the Betty Foy, I remember the “mixte tube” being set lower, and thus easier to mount. So I guess if a mixte will be one’s only bike, that’s one aspect to look at if planning to commute in a skirt.

  13. Maria says:

    I almost always ride in whatever I’m wearing to work. If it’s extra cold and I’m wearing a skirt, I might put an extra pair of leggings over my tights. I do have a couple of skirts that just don’t work well because they’re a little too straight, even for my mixte, and when I wear those I simply wear a pair of stretchy pants and put the skirt in my bag.

    But shoes are a different story… I’ve had two instances with heels getting seriously (and dangerously) stuck on my pedals (it’s all that power in my pedal strokes, LOL). I wear my Chucks and toss my girly shoes in the basket. No probs.

    • Dottie says:

      I mostly agree about heels. I generally leave my work heels in the office and wear boots/sneakers/sandals on my commute. It really helps to know your individual shoes well, though. Some of my heels I never try to cycle in, while others (like those in the first picture above) never give me problems.

      A suit, Chucks and a bicycle sounds kick ass!

      • Maria says:

        It is pretty kick ass! ;-) Ita on knowing your shoes. My campus boots, for example, are fine with my old Bridgestone XO-2 (which is small so it does have a slanted top tube) but don’t like the pedals on my mixte. So I have to sometimes plan my wardrobe around the bike I want to ride that day….or vise versa. I also keep some things at work, just in case. I have several pairs of shoes and a change of clothes.

  14. Kit Cat says:

    OK – it’s official. Not only are you super adorable in your fancy clothes, riding a bike, but now I am considering getting the same bike! You are truly an inspiration! :)

    • Dottie says:

      Do it! Well, unless you live in a really hilly area. Feel free to email if you have any specific questions about the bike. LGRAB [at] letsgorideabike [dot] com :)

  15. Dave says:

    I wear a suit to work probably about once a month or so – I really have no need to for work (I’m a computer guy at the Dental School at Oregon Health & Science University), I just like doing it :) I have a feeling my co-workers and probably some of the faculty think I’m a little eccentric :)

    ...it's off to work we go

    I would agree with your tips – the right kind of bike helps, but I think it should be possible on anything short of a racing bike with drop bars – though of course, I don’t have experience wearing a skirt, so I’ll trust your judgement on that one. I’ve never had a problem with pant legs getting caught on my Raleigh, but if you have an exposed chain, best to tie up the pant legs.

    I usually wear a hat as well, which helps both in winter and summer (keeps head warm and dry in one, cool in the other), but during summer, I often go without, at least in the afternoon, and just let my head breathe, it makes a huge difference on those really hot days. I also often stop somewhere partway and grab a drink or something (we happen to have a good supermarket at about the midpoint of my ride home).

    Good luck with the bike to work week! Get those lawyers out there in suits! Cycling can be simple and easy, it’s great to see more people being exposed to that side of things. Best wishes!

    BTW – you should totally look for some vintage 1950’s or 1960’s hats – the small either round box kind with no brim and potentially a bit of lace hanging down, or the kind of flat wavy ones (since you mentioned on flickr that you needed a hat).

    Cheers!

    • Scott says:

      Dave, regarding summer hats, I recently discovered Tilley hats. They are great for hot weather and have a genius chin strap system. I also like the non-camo US army summer field hat and straw hats. Only problem with straw is that the brim is often not rigid enough to stand up to the wind. If the hat is well ventilated, you still get the cool wind-in-the-hair feeling, but without the sun.

      • Dave says:

        Yeah, I’m making it a point this spring to get a straw fedora for the summer. There are a couple fantastic hat shops in Portland, so I should have a pretty good selection to choose from. I’ll make sure to post about it if I find one I really like :)

  16. Academichic says:

    Dottie, great job on getting a work group together for ride to work week!

    Here in Germany, MANY cyclists ride to work in suits and work clothes, I can’t say statistics, but they’re enough that they look more like a majority than a minority during daily commute hours. It’s funny that in one country it’s a norm and in another an anomaly (especially since we’re talking about relatively similar Western countries here whose cultures are not all that different).

    I hope your message spreads to more people in the US! S

  17. aparisiancyclist says:

    Very charming! I completely share your opinion about the “normal” wear for bike commuting. I feel bicycle is an excellent occasion to be very elegant, as people see all the body in movement! You are an example of it.
    Cheers!

  18. wilhelm says:

    last winter in vienna i rode my bike going a ball, wearing a tuxedo.

    whatever the other people were thinking – while they were stilling waiting in line to get a cab when leaving, i was already home on my bike.

    • Kit Cat says:

      I would have loved to see that in person! Did you take a picture? Man in a suit – nice. Man in a tux riding a bike – priceless!

  19. AJ says:

    oh my gosh, i am SO glad i stumbled across this blog! i’m a recent transplant to chicago and have been finding myself lately to be reeeeeeaaaally itching to ride a bike because it’s so flat and i could go for miles… but i live way too close to the uber-stressful intersection of irving park/damen/lincoln and am afraid i’ll die on my first day out. keep posting about how amazing it is, though, and i might be converted after all!

  20. Michael Andersson says:

    Since I only own one suit (a Brooks Brothers) and have no need to wear it for work, no, I don’t ever have occasion to wear it while riding. This is Seattle, after all; home of all clothing boring and casual. I will, however, once in a while, forgo my usual lycra and wear some nice slacks, a french-cuff shirt, a sports coat, and a dapper hat. Makes ‘em wonder what I’m up to. :-)

    • Dave says:

      I think the whole Northwest is like that :) It’s all baggy jeans and polar fleece, or skinny jeans and t-shirts (depending on the social group) :)

      I have no reason to wear my suits to work, but sometimes it’s fun to anyway :) It does make people wonder what you’re up to, I think :)

    • Anne Hawley says:

      I’m in the PNW too, and it DEFINITELY makes people wonder what I’m up to when I ride in a skirt, nylons and heels. Right now I’m sitting at my desk at work in black knit trousers and a buffalo-plaid lumberjack shirt, so dressing up is a choice that I make only occasionally, it’s really fun when I do.

  21. Dave says:

    I just wanted to make one more comment regarding tips for riding in a suit (or any nice clothes).

    *It’s perfectly fine to walk if you need to.*

    This is a mindset I hope changes in the U.S. – I feel like we think we need to be tough cyclists who can do anything. But seriously, if you are wearing nice clothes and you don’t want to get sweaty, just get off and walk if you come to a big hill, then get back on again. You don’t have to prove anything, you’re just getting where you’re going.

    • Anne Hawley says:

      This may be the single most empowering comment I’ve ever read in the bike blogosphere.

    • Dave says:

      I hope so! Especially for people who are not athletes, I know the issue of riding up hills is always a big one, and the simplest answer is, you can walk a few blocks if you want to.

      Right there you eliminate the need for sweat-wicking clothing, 24 speeds on your bike, and pedal clips in most places.

      I know some places like Seattle and San Francisco, which are basically built on hills, you could potentially just be walking everywhere with this philosophy depending on where in the city you live, but most of the U.S. is relatively pretty flat.

      I mean, Portland is the only city in the U.S. with a volcano in city limits, but 90% of the city is mild incline to flat. The few places where there are really steep hills (Alameda ridge, for instance), it’s just a matter of walking a few blocks, and then it’s flat again. The West Hills are really the only place where this doesn’t hold true.

      Hope the Omafiets is treating you well!

  22. tina says:

    i’m actually doing a survey for why people do not commute by bike in san francisco and i found work dress code to be a huge influence. i’m glad to know there are people out there resolving this issue by giving tips and suggestions. thanks for sharing this.

  23. Beany says:

    Like you, I sometimes have to wear suits. I’ve also worn suits to interviews and important meetings. I am a pant suit lady. I ride slow anyway, so sweating is not a big issue. Plus the destinations always have a restroom I can use to freshen up. I do get waaay more public attention when I suit up and ride and being as shy as I am it is a bit unnerving, but I hope that maybe someone sees me and changes their mind about what to wear on a bike.

    And I agree with the others, men in suits on a bicycle is the sexiest thing ever!

  24. Melissa S. says:

    There’s a dude around here that’s always riding a bike in a suit. He’s hott.

  25. Scott says:

    I am also a lawyer, and I roll in a suit all the time. I often appear at court in the morning, and no one has any idea that I arrived on a cycle.

    Over the past few years, I have found a system that works for me when wearing dress clothes on the bike. First, I only wear suits made of natural fibers. They breathe very well, dry fast, don’t smell bad, and look good. I remove the synthetic fiber lining that comes in almost all men’s jackets and pants; I either use no lining or a cotton lining.

    I vary the thickness of the material according to the temperature. It seems that even custom clothes makers sometimes do not understand the difference between the weight of material and the fineness of the fibers; therefore if you ask the weight, you may get an answer such as “super 120s” even though this is not a measure of the weight. In summer, I wear the thinnest material I have found, 7.5oz. Together with a well ventilated hat with good sun coverage, I can ride comfortably like this up to about 85 degrees. In spring/fall, I use 9oz, and for winter I use 11oz. In Winter, I will wear also either the 150 or 200g icebreaker leggings. Because there is no synthetic liner, the two layers breathe very well together. I can stay warm (11oz + 200g baselayer is fine at -10 windchill) on the bike, but still be comfortable in my warm office. All I need to do is match up the weight of the clothes to the temperature.

    Now that it is hotter, it is common on my commute to see someone who looks like he is trying to maintain a professional appearance but failing. Choosing a helmet rather than a hot weather hat and riding too fast are their main problems, in my opinion. Once you make the decision that your commute to work is not the same thing as a bike race, it is not hard to do it looking like a professional.

    I think people in the USA are just not accustomed to seeing a man in a suit on a bicycle. Their mental picture of this is something like a joke (a man sweating profusely on a road bike, like Michael in the TV show Arrested Development). I get double takes and big smiles (hi ladies!) from people every day who have probably never seen someone riding comfortably in dress clothes before.

    • Dottie says:

      I love that you keep track of the weight of your suits! You should do a guest post from the male point of view.

      I’m intrigued by your hats. I wore a great hat for the tweed ride, but it kept trying to fly off my head.

      • Scott says:

        Heh, maybe I am taking it a little overboard . . . but not having a car really frees up some money to spend on nice clothes!

        The hat blowing off can be a problem. If it has a small brim, I wear one 1/8in smaller than I usually would, but still have a blow-off a couple times a year. If there is a big brim, then I need a strap which really limits the selection.

      • Dave says:

        So far I’ve only once had a hat fly off while riding, though if I’ve worn one on a particular day, and we’re having 60mph wind gusts like we did a couple weeks ago, I will probably just throw it in my panniers.

        On our Raleighs, I’m leaning forward a bit, which actually seems to work as an advantage with a fedora, as then the brim catches the air and pushes it *onto* my head :)

        Granted, Chicago is much windier than Portland in general, so it may be more or less of a problem depending on where you live.

    • David says:

      The problem with cotton is it absorbs moisture. So it’s really not a good fabric for outdoor activity. Stick with synthetics or wool. Especially in winter, to stay warm, and to wick moisture away.

      • Scott says:

        I only use cotton for my shirts and the lining of two heavy suit jackets. You’re right that it is a bad choice if there is any chance of getting wet. I have not had great luck with synthetics in general. There is a little in my socks, in a real super-cold winter coat that I wear a couple times a year, and in my rain jacket and rain pants. Brooks Bros. make an 80/20 wool/synth blend socks that are extremely thin. I wear these all summer.

  26. neighbourtease says:

    How about seersucker suits for summer riding? J Press makes a fierce beige and ivory one. Classic, hot, kind of hilarious. Atticus Finch on a bicycle. Come on, gents.

    • Dottie says:

      Seersucker – yes!

    • Scott says:

      I explored this idea with my tailor. Seersucker is cotton (right?), so I was concerned that it would get soggy if it ever got a little wet. It can also get very wrinkled, which is a problem for me because I can be kind of lazy about properly hanging up my clothes. In the interest of (cycling) science, however, I think I will try a pair of seersucker pants and see if I think it would work for a suit. The temptation to speak like I am Foghorn Leghorn while dressed like this may be overwhelming.

      • Dave says:

        I’ve thought about trying linen for this as well, though it has the same issues potentially, especially the wrinkling. But would be nice and lightweight and breathable for summer. I wouldn’t want a whole suit of linen, I don’t think, but it might be nice for just pants and shirt.

        • neighbourtease says:

          Linen looks better when wrinkled! Just think of a thousand rumpled Milanese in pale linen going to work on their bicycles (and Vespas).

          • Dave says:

            Yeah, good point :) May really have to try some linen this summer, we’ll see :) At the moment, I’m still thinking about wool, as it’s dumping rain and windy outside.

  27. Todd V says:

    I get a little concerned about the “seat” of my Brooks Bros. finest getting worn from my saddle. I guess the solution is to not wear the same suit every day.

    • Dottie says:

      Hm, I hear people mention pants getting worn from riding, but that’s never been a concern or problem for me. Maybe because I usually wear skirts and dresses. But, really, seems like you’d have to wear the same outfit over and over and over again for this to happen.

      • ridon says:

        actually i have noticed that with a supervisor i had who rode a lot. she’d have a seat imprint on all of her black jeans (it looked like a weird butt bleaching distressing detail). maybe a plastic bag over the saddle would help?

      • Dave says:

        I had to stop keeping my wallet in my back pocket, as it was wearing holes in my pocket, but other than that, I haven’t had a problem with pants wearing out.

  28. donnarino says:

    I’ve noticed some definite signs of seat wear on one of my stretch corduroy skirts but not my jeans or anything else.

  29. Dottie's Gram Bev says:

    Great photos as usual. I see an occasional biker in a suit here but not many. I’m exercising my right hand and wrist – broke wrist in February – like mad trying to get the strength back to ride my poor neglected bike which stands in my living room giving me, “poor neglected me” looks. : )

    • Dottie says:

      Aw, I hope you’re 100% healed soon, Gram!

    • Ginger says:

      Ouch — broke my left wrist in February — all that snow in the northeast got me in a slip and fall. I’ve just been able to start riding again in the past month and I know how you are feeling. It felt so good for the doctor to release me and to get on the bike. I still have wrist pain but riding doesn’t seem to hurt it and I think it’s actually making my hand stronger.

      Speedy recovery!

  30. mia says:

    I really love the basket on your bike. Where can I find one like it?!

    • Dottie says:

      Thank you. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how you can find one like it. I bought this last year from Velo Orange online, but don’t think they stock it anymore. An Amish family (the Hershbergers, I believe) made the basket.

  31. ha1ku says:

    I don’t have to wear a suit where I work, but I do wear slacks and dress shirts. I select only fabrics that air-dry easily and don’t smell. I pack fresh under-garments for me to change into when I arrive at the office.

  32. mike rubbo says:

    Hi Trisha and Dottie. A friend just sent me your link. It’s wonderful to find a blog which resonates so strongly with one’s own feelings and efforts.

    Even though I’m an older guy, my message is very similar on my blog, situp-cycle.com. I’m proposing that riding a sit-up on your normal clothes, sends a very different message to that of the Lycra look. It flies a different flag,namely, “Come ride with me”

    This is key because, as your blog points out, the change has to happen in heads, furnished with new images to draw on, like the woman who said to you, “On a bike in a suit?”

    My blog often delivers via film, shorts, which I make as elegant as possible. Bike it or Not, for example is about Gill who rides different bikes for different hikes.

    This is my attempt to reach out to the Lycra crowd and show them that they can “cross bike,” as it were.

    Also take a look at, Councillor on a Bike. It features a professional local Pollie, Jackie Fristacky on her sit-up E bike.

    The E bike motor, as you find on my blog, I see as the perfect addition to the sit-up style, in that it compensates for the extra weight, greater wind resistance, and the need to arrive sweat-less and un-puffed at meetings, etc.

    I’ve just linked to your blog to mine.

    Cheers, Mike rubbo

    • Dottie says:

      Hi Mike, I’m a big fan of your blog and your videos. I like the idea that we need to show roadies that they can “cross bike.” So true! They seem to like challenges, so riding in a suit would be a good one :)

      • mike rubbo says:

        Dottie. I never got round to thanking you for the nice things yous aid about my videos.

        I got chest pains out riding in Sydney one moring last week, and when my wife insisted, via my mobile (you call them cells) that I take said pains seriously( I was more worried about my bike, whee to leave it.) I flagged down a passing ambulance,literally, and a day later was being double stented in a very good hospital, all for free, as it our luck.

        The bike was pushed home (her home) by a kind girl out walking her dog. I later got it back of course.

        Anyway I’m sorta back in action and have just reported on the great news from Denver.

        http://www.situp-cycle.com/2010/05/08/the-revolution-is-rolling/

        Two questions. In those superb photos of yourself and Trisha, you both have helmets dangling from the handlebars. Do you wear them,sometimes, always?

        Secondly Ive linked my http://situp-cycle.com to your great blog. Would you consider doing the same?

        PS. if an ID photo comes up of me as a very old lady, that’s Olive Riley who died at 108, enjoying the title of the world’s oldest blogger. (I did all the actual writing for her) and now Ollie’s pic haunts me.

  33. Dr Paul Martin says:

    Dear Dottie & Trisha,

    Wonderful site.

    I am a 36 year old Australian male doctor and I have been riding my bicycle to work, in normal work clothes (often a suit), for the past 5 months and I love it. I REALLY love it. My journey to work is stress free (I cycle almost exclusively, when I can, on bike paths off the road).

    I have a modern dutch bike with a little friend on-board to help me with the big hills on hot days – an electric motor.

    My choice was a dutch Gazelle Innergy and it really is fantastic to ride. The upright style is very comfortable and my 20km trip to work is no trouble. My upright position ensures my back is pain-free, my legs don’t chafe (it’s just like walking) and my wrists have no weight on them. I have a chainguard & skirtguard so I can wear my normal work clothes. It has a sturdy rear rack on which I hang my panniers and it has large wheels 37×622 (700c) for a smooth ride.

    I am very fit, but the electric motor takes the edge off some of the hills I need to conquer. If I didn’t have it though, I would just get off and walk as has been sensibly suggested by Dave earlier in the thread. Having the motor means I don’t have to get off. I still pedal and exert myself but without the sweating.

    My wife has a Gazelle Chamonix Pure (non electric – although I think she wishes it was quietly!) and we often cycle into the city (7km) for dinner on weekends, all dressed up, with my wife in high heels. It is fabulous and it really turns heads.

    Here in Australia cycling = sport. If we can get this attitude changed perhaps we can rid ourselves of our silly mandatory helmet law and wear one if we CHOOSE. I’m pro-CHOICE.

    Times are ‘a changing… the momentum is building. We need more normal women and children on bicycles, cycling without fear from motorised traffic!

    Greetings from Australia!

    Dr Paul Martin
    MBBS, FANZCA
    Brisbane, Australia

    • Dottie says:

      Hi Paul, Thank you for sharing your story! The whole situation in Australia is fascinating to me, though a bit heartbreaking.

      I’ve never heard of the Gazelle electric bike before. Very cool! I love the thought of you and your wife dressed up on your Dutch bikes for a night out.

      • Dr Paul Martin says:

        Hi Dottie,

        Yes, the situation here is frustrating but we must persist!

        I see you have a Batavus – they also have an e-bike version I think. The upright style bikes are just so much easier to cycle as a means of transport. We choose the bikes over the car now almost all the time – in fact, we’ve just sold one of our cars in celebration! There is a good site which looks at these bikes here in Australia http://www.situp-cycle.com – it is very good.

        We have a bit of a cycling mono-culture here in Australia but I think there are cracks starting to appear as a few bike shops are starting to sell these ‘upright’ bikes.

        We also have a bike share coming to Brisbane soon which uses upright bikes (I think they all do, don’t they?) but I’m not sure how they’re going to encourage ordinary folk to cycle without a helmet solution for our mandatory laws. We’ll see!

        Cheers,

        Paul

  34. Patty Huber says:

    LOVE this post! Perfect timing. Today is the first bike to work week committee meeting at work and I’m going to bike in a suit to show them it can be done! I’m the Team Leader for my company this year too! Good luck!

  35. [...] How To: Bike Commuting in a Suit [...]

  36. Here in New Orleans during the summer, temperatures are regularly in the 90’s with humidity frequently hovering at 90%. At these extremes, bicycling any significant distance in a suit means that you are likely to arrive dripping in sweat.

    My solution was to bike to work every other day, driving my car on the alternate days. This allowed me to ride to work on my bike in bike clothes, then change into a pressed shirt and suit that I had stashed at the office the previous day. We had no shower at the office so baby wipes had to do.

    Recently, I joined a health club near work. My plan is to shower and dress at the health club. Believe it or not, this is actually cheaper than parking downtown and I can work more fitness into my day.

    • Dr Paul Martin says:

      Very similar conditions to here in Queensland, Australia.

      This is the reason I’ve bought an e-bike (Gazelle Innergy) for my commuting. When it is that hot and humid it makes an enormous difference. I don’t need to shower when I arrive.

      Regards,

      Paul

  37. Bekah says:

    Your bike is gorgeous! What company is it by? I’m going to college soon and want something sturdy yet stylish. I’ve got a balcony to keep the bike on so it won’t get stolen. And if it rains, i’ve got my side of the room. xD

    • Trisha says:

      Hi Bekah,
      In this post Dottie is riding her Workcycles Azor Oma, which she got at Dutch Bike Co. in Chicago. I also write on this blog, and have a Batavus Entrada Spirit, which might be what Paul is thinking of. They are both great bikes; the Batavus is a little lighter and sportier and perhaps more suited to hilly areas (I live in Nashville, so the Oma probably would’t work for me).

  38. Dr Paul Martin says:

    Bekah,

    I think it is a Batavus but this style of bike is made by many, many other companies (Gazelle, Electra, even Giant in the NL makes them). The upright bike with lights, mudguards, chainguard, etc. makes cycling an easy quick decision (no need to change!) and a real pleasure – they are great bicycles.

    Dottie,

    Some news from down under regarding helmets: I’ve been booked and am going to fight the law:

    http://freedomcyclist.blogspot.com/2010/05/queensland-specialist-anaesthetist.html

    Cheers,

    Paul

  39. Dan says:

    Here in Cambridge (the one in Britain) I see people riding in suits every day. I don’t wear a suit to work, but I always ride to job interviews in a suit, and sometimes to formal dinners in the evenings. I always leave my jacket and tie in my panniers and put them on as I’m parking.

    Cambridge being a very traditional university town, it’s not unheard-of to see students riding around town in not only a suit but also an academic gown – but you don’t see many mortarboards these days.

  40. Louisa says:

    Wow, I can’t believe how many people bike in their work clothes–impressive! Even in the dead of winter, I sweat a lot on my 6.5 mile commute. I can wear casual clothes to work, but I always bring my work clothes with me, allow time to cool down when I get to the office, and change when I’m no longer pouring sweat.

  41. Hi, interesting discussion, I am from The Netherlands, where even the prime minister cycles to work in a suit!

    There is a Dutch bicycle brand introduced to the US which shows a lot of suits in there ads – so stylish cycling is taking off in the US as well I guess:

    http://www.hugogo.com

  42. Mike says:

    Hi, Great blog!!

    I was just wondering if you had any recommendations for urban/city bikes.

    I will be starting work shortly in London and was looking into a good bike that is suit friendly, while also looking classic.

    I only know of Trek, Garyfisher and Giant. If you know of any other brands that specialize in that area of biking I would be most appreciative.

    Cheers

    • Dr Paul Martin says:

      Hi Mike,

      You should look at some of the following bikes (all can be purchased in the UK)
      – Workcycles (NL)
      – Gazelle (NL)
      – Batavus (NL)
      – Velorbis (DK)
      – Pashley (UK)

      They all have very classic bikes and some have modern takes on the classics. I’m sure you’ll find something to suit.

      Cheers,

      Paul Martin
      Australia

  43. Dave says:

    Mike: Being in the UK, you might also look out for old Raleigh bicycles, as there are probably quite a few of them about – and they were made very very well, so often they can be found in good condition and very functional. Particularly the UK versions often came with a fully enclosed chain case as well (the U.S. imported ones often just had the “hockey stick” chain guard).

    My only bicycle right now is a 1953 Raleigh, and I love it, it’s a brilliant bike.

  44. i think it is expensive to get a hair transplant but the procedure is well worth it “.

  45. Aaron says:

    I have been cycling to work in a suit for about a year. I do not live in a bicycle commuting city, so I get lots of strange looks. I was able to sell my car about 5 months ago and have loved every minute of it. I hope I’m alive to see the day when it’s considered weird to drive a car to destinations so easily reachable by bicycle.

  46. bogyman says:

    dottie… i have a wonderful picture of the late, great, sheldon brown, (that wonderful genius of cycling) on his wedding day riding a tandem with his wife… he in black tux and tophat, and she in a white wedding dress… if you’ve not seen it, let me know how best to send to you…

    tandem-wedding.jpeg

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  48. Balanicustom says:

    ,

  49. [...] who bike commutes to work and writes for letsgorideabike.com. She has a great related post on how to bike commute in a suit. The sweat threshold is the level of physical activity above which you begin to sweat. Bike [...]

  50. [...] While I honor and admire the daily bikers, I believe I will continue my commute on four wheels. Want to learn more about commuting on a bike, or commuting in a suit? Visit this site. [...]

  51. My chain seems to prefer suit pants. I never ride with a suit on. Found these on ShopwithDex that some of you might find handy for late commutes

  52. [...] embrace messy hair (after riding with a helmet). And yes, they’ve also got some tips for  riding in a suit, for those who want to arrive at work looking smart. (One key point: take it slow and [...]

  53. [...] riding less sweaty and more comfortable, so you can wear regular clothes (even skirts and suits) and arrive looking fresh (This is probably overly optimistic for much of the year in TX but I work [...]

  54. Poqui says:

    I spent two years riding bicycles while wearing a suit (Mormon mission) and discovered that if you ride at a nice, easy pace, you can get by without sweating too much. I did have a clip for my pants (like these http://www.amazon.com/Pant-Cuff-Clips-Bike-Bicycle/dp/B000MM5MSQ) that kept my pants from getting caught by the chain. It works.

  55. R.Bell says:

    Fantastic! I always carry my work kit, and change! Who knew? But, I always turn the commute into a “hammerfest”, so there is much perspiration, even in the winter. Hands, toes, face and ears, they get cold!! As an old cyclist, it is great to read your blog and see you and your friends riding in the windy city. My daughter is close to your age I guess!

  56. bobfairlane says:

    I use sections of old bicycle tubes, cut open to make flat strips, as pants leg bands to keep the legs from flapping in the wind or catching in the chains. The woman in the pearl necklace is pretty and seeing her with a bike was very pleasing.

  57. [...] {For more on wearing suits on bikes, see my earlier post, How To: Bike Commuting in a Suit.} [...]

  58. Stephen C. says:

    Just now reading “Commuting in a Suit” article. I am the proud owner of a bright green Civia Twin City and I’m also a newish bike commuter, having just started last month. I am an attorney and most days need to have on a suit or be ready to change into one. Yes, that makes bike commuting challenging and I do NOT like having to change out of riding clothes and into a suit once I get to my office (or the courthouse) but I’m determined to ride my bike as much as possible and not let clothing challenges deter me.

    Living in Tacoma, WA, there’s no shortage of bike commuters and recreational cyclists but my city needs even more and I’m doing my best to become one. I find that the best thing to do is wear my suit pants (cuff bands are a must to keep my lower pants’ legs clean and also makes for an easier ride), dress shirt with no tie and I stuff my suit coat into one of my panniers. Fortunately our weather from April through October is very pleasant for bike riding/commuting. It’s rare to have really hot weather and even when that happens, the humidity is usually low. The test is going to be November through March (yes, like Seattle, we have more than our share of drizzly days but it’s rare to have heavy rain so commuting in the winter is very doable – just need to be prepared to get a little wet).

    Thanks to everyone for all the tips and to Dottie for the original article. All of this adds up to encouraging me to “stick with the program.” Bike commuting is my new-found passion!

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