No shower at your office? No problem!

Guest post by Jude from Cycling with Heels.


The shower at my workplace has recently been deep cleaned. I’m not suggesting that this has never happened before, but it was enough of a novelty that Facilities put up signs weeks before the event, alerting us to its imminent occurrence and asking us to remove any belongings.

I haven’t ventured into the shower room for literally years, so I have no belongings to retrieve. It was the mass of other people’s stuff that put me off – smelly, unwashed towels and festering t-shirts hanging from every available corner. I’m sure I once saw a pair of underpants in there.

It wasn’t a shower room you’d ever want to have a shower in, so I didn’t.

For some people, not being able to have a shower once they get to work is a deal-breaker when it comes to commuting by bike. Yet despite the lack of a useable shower, I’m one of a number of regular cyclists in my office.  As we’ve shown, it is possible to cycle to work and still look (and smell!) presentable all day even without a shower. How? Here are a few ideas.

Bring a change of clothes

I’ve never found the lack of a shower a particular problem – I just bring a change of clothes with me, and get changed when I get to work. Clearly my colleagues – both my fellow cyclists and the ones who have to sit near me all day long – don’t think it’s a problem either, as I’ve never had any complaints from them.

The dress code where I work is fairly casual so it doesn’t matter if my clothes get a little creased on the way in. But if your job means you have to dress smartly, you could always do what a former colleague of mine did. He worked in corporate fundraising – basically his job was persuading big businesses to give the charity money – so he had to look smart. His solution? Keep a selection of suits and shirts in the office, rather than bringing them in every day.

Wet wipes

Wet wipes, baby wipes, any kind of wipes…

If it’s been a particularly sweaty ride – if it’s been one of those rare sunny days – then I’ll have a wipe down with some wet wipes when I get in. That, the clean clothes and a splash of deodorant is usually enough for me.

Use panniers, not a rucksack

I wouldn’t quite go as far as to say that switching from a backpack to panniers revolutionised my life – but it’s not far off the mark.

Sweaty back syndrome used to be a daily fact of life for me. Even in the dead of winter and even on the shortest rides. On a warm summer’s day I would arrive at work with the entire back of my t-shirt soaked through. It wasn’t pleasant.

And then I discovered panniers. These days I still sweat, but nowhere near as much as I used to.

The other advantage of panniers is that, if you invest in some good quality waterproof ones, they’ll also keep your stuff fresh and dry even in the pouring rain.

Cycle slowly

I have to admit I haven’t quite mastered this one yet – I’m far too impatient – but my colleague Kate has.

Kate cycles about as far as I do every day, yet manages not to be a sweaty mess when she arrives at work. Her secret? She rides at a much more leisurely pace than I do. I know this for a fact, as I often overtake her en route.

Such is Kate’s lack of sweatiness, she can cycle in the same clothes she then wears all day, without being smelly. This I can also vouch for, as I sit next to her.

Anything else?

I’m sure there’s something I’ve missed, so if you’ve got any other tips for how to stay fresh all day after commuting by bike, I’d love to hear them!

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33 Responses to No shower at your office? No problem!

  1. john 30/10/2013 at 9:32 am #

    Pay for a gym around the corner? Some people at my work do this.

    The showers at my work were out of action for a couple of weeks, i took Boris bikes to work as it’s pretty hard to break into a sweat riding one!

  2. pingus 30/10/2013 at 9:53 am #

    Same as the author – complete change of clothes. I like to get a sweat on so I make sure my top can deal with it. A good deodorant.

  3. Alan Moore 30/10/2013 at 10:22 am #

    I’m in the Cycle Slowly class. In corduroy, with some shopping. It helps if you are freshly washed when you set off, so I bathe in the morning. I do 5 miles each way and it’s never a problem.

    A colleague wears lycra in and then gets changed. Also no problem.

  4. Ben Brown 30/10/2013 at 10:37 am #

    Hallelujah to cycling slowly. As an excema sufferer cycling slowly is essential, sweat starts the itch and once it’s started it’s hard to stop. Also cycling should be about relaxing.

    Also once you’ve switched to panniers you will always look down your nose at people carrying stuff on their inevitably sweaty backs when cycling.

    great article, because I agree with everything and it satisfies my smugness

  5. Simon Wilcox 30/10/2013 at 1:00 pm #

    I just can’t get the hang of riding slowly. Even on a Boris bike I end up with whirling legs. I think it’s to do with the assertiveness required to ride our busy streets.
    I often think I should get a Dutch style bike and *force* myself to ride slowly.
    In the meantime, I’m the sweaty mess that needs a shower after hid commute !

    • Alan Moore 30/10/2013 at 1:43 pm #

      Dutch bikes make superb commuters for other reasons too. Most have a dynamo in the front hub, so you can have BRIGHT permanently attached lights and never worry about them again: none of that batteries, recharging, clippy on and off nonsense. An enclosed chain and hub gears means less maintenance. They’re designed to survive the weather. And so on. It’s a virtuous circle.

      I’ve also gone one step further than panniers and put a box on a front rack. So for an impromptu bit of shopping on the way home I don’t even need to remember my pannier.

      My pace is way off that of the fastest, but I’m only five minutes behind over five central London miles; time they’ll spend getting changed.

      • Alan Moore 30/10/2013 at 1:44 pm #

        Oh and Simon I don’t feel speed is needed to ride assertively. It’s more about road positioning.

    • David Bates 04/11/2013 at 5:27 pm #

      “I just can’t get the hang of riding slowly….. think it’s to do with the assertiveness required to ride our busy streets.”

      I have to disagree with you about that Simon. Speed is not the same as assertiveness. I cycle in a much more relaxed manner than I did before I got knocked off my bike by a hit-and-run driver 3 years ago – I’m a lot more easy going and don’t push myself on the road anything like I used to. However I’d say I do ride assertively. I take possession of the lane where need be, and will keep it if I think that’s what’s safe for me to do.

      What I’ve noticed following this change in style are:

      1 – I have far fewer near misses than I ever used to
      2 – It doesn’t seem to have made much, if any difference to how soon I get to work.
      3 – I’m a lot more relaxed and enjoy my cycling a lot more

  6. Ryan 30/10/2013 at 4:06 pm #

    Not a fan of cycling slowly; I’ve found it doesn’t always help, depending on the distance, terrain & weather. (and it’s not as much fun)

    But I do recommend giving yourself a bit extra time so you can sit, ideally outside, and cool off a bit when you arrive.

  7. Vincent 30/10/2013 at 5:14 pm #

    > For some people, not being able to have a shower once they get to work is a deal-breaker when it comes to commuting by bike.

    I’d be curious to read a poll from Dutch and Danes about how many of them have a shower at work.

    Still, a lot more of them ride to work, and the weather there is on par with the UK.

    • Alan Moore 31/10/2013 at 2:03 pm #

      I think that’s the point. Many UK cyclists seem to see cycling on the road as some sort of sport, instead of just Going Somewhere. So they go hell for leather and get all sweaty.

      It’s exactly that cultural difference we need to overcome.. the whole ‘cycling is an enthusiast sport’ thing. In most parts of the world it isn’t, it’s just cheap (healthy, eco) transport.

  8. humancyclist 30/10/2013 at 8:48 pm #

    Naked commute? Very cooling and airing.

    Ii like the line “My colleagues haven’t complained about the smell” Well not to you anyway, we are British afterall!

    Good article. I’m a commute slowly in the morning person, race home.

  9. Andrew 30/10/2013 at 9:34 pm #

    I found switching to an electric bike was also a good option. You could go even faster or cycle physically more slowly whilst reaching your destination sooner.

  10. Rob 30/10/2013 at 10:00 pm #

    My office lacks shower rooms so all the cyclists use the disabled toilets to change and freshen up. One tip – use a roll-on instead of a spray deodorant. I did the latter and set off the fire alarms, resulting in about 300 people being evacuated from the building. It didn’t go down well.

  11. Phil 31/10/2013 at 10:38 am #

    I now work 20 miles away instead of two: whatever pace I take, those inclines aren’t going away and more effort=sweat. I do carry a change of clothes in my panniers, and aerosols have been banned on our site for the same reason as Rob outlined.

    • Alan Moore 31/10/2013 at 2:04 pm #

      I reckon you need an eBike mate.. 20 miles is pretty hardcore.

      • Phil 01/11/2013 at 11:40 am #

        Did it this morning; quite a pleasant journey most of the way, but it is a long way so I only do it on Fridays. Ebike? Pah! I’m middle-aged, not knackered- yet *grin*

  12. TJStamp 31/10/2013 at 1:56 pm #

    My office has no showers, if I’m in a hurry I’ll take the road bike and simply change clothes when I get there, if I have a little more time I’ll just take my electric bike instead, it’s a lot slower than the roadbike but the near complete lack or exertion means you’re always presentable.

  13. Paul B. 01/11/2013 at 10:38 am #

    Merino wool base layer soaks up the sweat and doesn’t smell. Don’t buy the horrendously expensive ones sold by such companies as Rapha, go for M&S at one third of the price. Just as good except that they don’t come in flashy colours.

  14. RUSSELL 01/11/2013 at 10:39 am #

    Muc Off make a product called Dry Shower. Its a foam that you rub over yourself after drying yourself off, its scented with coconut – works really well. Approx £3.00 for a small bottle.

  15. Andrew 01/11/2013 at 11:09 am #

    I wouldn’t rely on other people having not complained as proof you are doing enough to keep fresh on arriving at the office. Most of us are very british and the situation has to be pretty bad before people will face the embarrassment of actually saying something.

  16. nilling 01/11/2013 at 11:19 am #

    I leave trousers and shoes at work. Everyday I take in shirt and underware. I fold my shirt in half twice then lay on my boxers and socks and roll up tightly. This then fits into my waterproof gym bag which goes into my panniers.

    I’d rather use a cotton face flannel than wipes.

  17. Matthew 01/11/2013 at 3:07 pm #

    On the subject of being smelly – only once in fifteen years at my workplace has anyone said anything to a malodourous colleague (there have been a few and it wasn’t from cycling), and it didn’t go down well.

    3 times a week one of my 50 year old colleagues cycles the 15 miles over Lancashire hills to work and gets washed in the disabled toilets. About once a week I put my bike on the train to come in (6 miles cycling) and then cycle home. I feel flushed when I get in, so get washed. We do occasionally remind our colleagues that we’d like to be told if we don’t smell so good.

    I leave fresh changes of clothes at work.

  18. Mark 01/11/2013 at 5:01 pm #

    I use panniers on my ten mile commute. I start with everything on, but by the time I’ve covered a couple of miles I’m down to just one layer. The key is storage for clothes you take off. I also wind down the pace a bit when I’m within a couple of miles of the office. Although ten miles is quite a distance, using these two techniques mean I arrive sweat free more or less, but I do spray a deodourant underneath my t-shirt whilst I’m still outside, and then change when I go inside. No complaints so far.

  19. goonz 01/11/2013 at 9:37 pm #

    Our showers were out of action for a few weeks right in the middle of summer so it meant I had to shower before I left and then wipe myself down with wet wipes before dressing.

    Seemed to work well but I was glad when the showers were back up and running.

  20. Sam S 03/11/2013 at 9:12 am #

    Apologies for hijacking this blog to promote a petition, but I believe the audience would agree.

    FYI I do actually have strong opinions about ‘to shower or not to shower’ at work, in particular I think we need to stop having such impractical dress codes. If we can wear comfortable practical clothes then getting sweaty on the way to work isn’t too much of a problem. I believe that even if people do get a bit sweaty and smelly, we should just get used to it. Would you prefer to live in a world where your colleagues sometimes have an odour, or one where 1000s of people die every year from their commute to work or school?

    Anyway, please could you promote my Avaaz petition to have warning signs like on tobacco products put on cars interior and exterior.

  21. Andy 03/11/2013 at 5:07 pm #

    I am going to cycle in tomorrow for the first time in ages. It’s a 17 mile trip in the ever windy Shetland and I am in the 50+ age group, riding a Moulton and a couple of stone overweight. For the first time in a long time the wind will be behind me, and at 25 – 30 mph it should be nearly a pleasure. Despite a short stop and snack in the 10 miles into the ride I have a real sugar crash and am wobbling all over the place when I get in. Perhaps I should just admit that I am too old and fat for this!!

    We also have the fire alarm problem so I will have to see if there is a roll-on deo around the house somewhere. The highlight will be the girlies who have asked to see me in my lycra. I am going to srategically place a rather long Tesco Finest salami. That shoud frighten the life out of them!!

    • sam 03/11/2013 at 7:59 pm #

      Nice one Andy!!

      The first time you do it, you may find yourself out of energy at work, but do not let age or weight perturb you. My grandad is over 80 and he still cycles, maybe not 17 miles to work, but still. Moreover there are a lot of active tournaments for age groups like 50-60, 60-70, I think they are even going to start a 70+ tournament.

      Weight isn’t that important when cycling unless your climbing, the most important thing is wind resistance and having a good bike. Now a Moutlon … hmm, that’s going to be tough, their good bikes but their designed for short trips from station to office. I’d suggest getting a road bike.

      Any good luck, and extra luck with the salami xD

      • Huey 04/11/2013 at 1:15 am #

        Sam, you’re thinking of a Brompton, hence pigeonholing it for a short commute. Andy said he has a Moulton, a different beast which comes in many sporting guises.

  22. Fern 08/11/2013 at 5:07 pm #

    I have never showered at work and 8 miles is fair ride. Yes i perspire, a lot, but I cant see that this alone make me smell bad. I am a very clean person I put on clean clothes and shower every morning.
    Only wearing natural fibers next to my skin helps enormously cotton wool and silk, and especially wool and silk just don’t hold smells like plastic clothes do.
    I have never needed to use a deodorant in my entire life, just splash tiny of a nice perfume occasionally and not even every day and I have never had a complaint or comment ever.
    Try it out, get rid of you plastic under garments and go for cotton and wool,

  23. Jules 30/11/2013 at 12:09 pm #

    I ride 5 miles to work every day and it looks like I’m in the minority, as I always shower. I can’t imagine not showering – perhaps I am unusually sweaty…Nice tips here though. I always employ the baby wipe shower tip at festivals 🙂

  24. Anna 06/12/2013 at 4:04 pm #

    I ride 8.5 miles each way and always become sweaty. Have to admit I always cycle fast because I am always nearly going to be late…
    Although even at a more leisurely pace I still sweat, possibly to do with the hills. In winter time the most annoying thing is being in the cold room and waiting for the top to dry off naturally…carrying an extra top is possible but I don’t have any place to dry the wet one at school…the only consolation is that I do not bother others nr me as I don’t have BO and almost never needed deodorant!

  25. Sheila 03/12/2016 at 9:45 am #

    Try Public swiming pools they have showers and sometimes special rates
    If you only want a shower.

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