A nice warm shower at the end of a long cycle commute is one of life’s little pleasures. Off comes the cycling gear, away goes the sweat and out emerges the presentable human being who is ready for a day’s work. That clean feeling provides the perfect start to the day. However, many people are missing out on this pleasure. Instead, their archaic workplaces don’t provide shower facilities, forcing them to find alternative solutions.
When I inevitably get asked the sweat question on Twitter, I use my 140 characters of generously donated writing space to suggest they go slower. This is the traditional bit of advice you’ll get from different sources. You don’t need to spend six months observing people who cycle quickly and those who cycle slowly, to come to the conclusion that less physical exertion equals less sweat. It also doesn’t take six months for someone to point out the flaws in that suggestion.
Anyone who is undertaking a long commute and doesn’t wish to travel at snail’s pace is going to sweat. No matter what the Lynx adverts will try to convince you. Therefore, the “go slower” suggestion works well for short trips but not for longer commutes.
“The bird bath” is another suggestion you may have previously heard in shower deprived circles. This tends to involve locking yourself in the disabled toilet and washing using just the sink. This is a tough one to master but can be a good substitute.
For more inspired solutions to the shower problem it is useful to look at what other people do in a similar situation. Music festivals are perhaps where the biggest congregation of shower needing people can be found. Here, face wipes are the order of the day. This is effective to a certain extent and is often one of the preferred solutions. You usually end up cleaner but smelling a little like a face wipe. Not everyone’s favourite perfume.
Similarly, there is also the “shower in a bottle”. This doesn’t, as you might expect, involve dousing yourself with so much deodorant that you start to feel bad about the effect on the environment. It’s called the Rocket Shower and it was tested on the Guardian Bike Blog. It involves spraying yourself using various bottles whose contents include witch hazel to cleanse and peppermint to cool the skin. Apparently it worked surprisingly well.
Perhaps the greatest solution to an ill equipped office is a nearby gym with shower facilities. The two downsides to this are the extra money for the membership and also having to make a stop via the gym. In return however, you get to enjoy a full shower and that fresh feeling some of the other solutions can’t quite match.
As much of a dilemma that the shower problem can be, it’s not exclusive to cyclists. Spend half an hour on the tube, on a hot summer’s day, and you’ll emerge feeling less than spring clean. In fact, I would say, that uniquely grimy tube feeling is worse than a little natural sweat.
In large offices there are a decreasing number of excuses for not having shower facilities. Especially as match funding is available to help offset some of the cost. Perhaps the greatest solution to the problem would be to convince management to add shower facilities. Then if we could just get an onsite bike mechanic and massage room, we’ll be good to go…