In my experience being a woman bike commuter has some extra challenges. I’ve figured out some ways to deal with them – here are my top 9 tips for women bike commuters!
When Joe decided to commute to work by bike he took a deodorant and a couple of extra shirts to work, bought a Gortex rain jacket (read his review of the 7 best waterproof cycling jackets here) and he was pretty much done. Must be nice. As I say to Joe, it takes a village to be a woman and never did I realize this as much as when I was getting ready every day out of a gym locker. However, here is an inspirational video about women cycling to work:
Over the last few weeks I’ve made a lot of mistakes and had many bad hair days, but I have learned!
Mistake #1 – Thinking that if your gym has a hair dryer you don’t need to bring your own. Yeah – no. What happens when there are two or three women trying to get ready at the same time? So here’s my first tip:
Tip #1: Invest in the Necessary Equipment
Best to have your own hairdryer if you don’t have time to wait around. Be prepared to spend a few dollars to have what you need. In my experience, the investment is well worth the reduced stress.
Mistake #2 – Thinking that toiletries, clothes, shoes, towels and sweaty cycling gear will all fit in a 1 foot by 1 foot locker … and that everything will dry out during the day. Actually, not so much.
Whether they are hanging from your bike or crammed in a locker, your clothes may not dry out. Even worse, if you keep them in a locker, your work clothes may start to smell either like sweat or moist towels. Yikes! So here’s my second tip:
Tip #2: Make Sure You Have a Good Place to Dry Your Stuff
To solve the “smell” problem I got really smart and bought a second lock for a second locker. Now when I get undressed in the morning I put everything in a vacant locker, including the wet towels, so they get a chance to dry out during the day and most importantly my cycling gear stays away from my working clothes. When I get back into my cycling clothes at night I transfer the now dry towels back into my main locker. Most gyms will allow you to keep a day locker at no charge.
Alternately, Joe put up some hooks on the walls of his office, to hang things up. The point is, know that your stuff will get wet, and figure out a practical way to dry it.
Mistake #3 – Thinking one water bottle will be enough. In the morning I usually finish my water while I’m getting ready in the gym, keep the bottle in my locker and then refill at night before I leave. Every so often I forget to bring my water off the bike in the morning and I suffer. My commute is 14 km (8.7 miles) one way with a few good hills and a water fountain about half-way home. More than once I have had to ration my left over morning water until I could refill.
So here’s my third tip:
Tip #3: Make Sure You Have a Spare Water Bottle
Now I keep an extra bottle in my locker for those emergencies. A really cheap solution to what can be quite a crippling problem.
Tip #4: Don’t Cheap Out on Panniers!
Invest in a good quality set of panniers. There is no way that I could survive without mobile storage. My daily needs are too big for a backpack, and besides cycling is enough of a workout without extra weight on my back. You wouldn’t go camping without a tent – don’t try to bike commute without the right equipment.
I highly recommend getting panniers that make it easy to take along your dresses and suits without getting them creased. For me, it’s important to be able to ride my bike to work but still look like an executive when I get there. I have found the perfect panniers in the Two Wheel Gear Panniers – read my full review of Two Wheel Gear Garment Pannier for Women Bike Commuters here. You can also read Joe’s review of the Two Wheel Gear Panniers here.
Tip #5: Keep your bike lock at the place where you park your bike
Locks are really heavy to drag back and forth daily. Get a really great lock and then leave it wherever you park your bike. I recommend a really strong U-Lock. Don’t ever rely on a cable lock. We are fans of the Kryptonite U-Locks.
Tip #6: Keep dress shoes in your office
I have mine under my desk. I keep a pair of flats in my gym locker to get to the office. I also keep my suit jackets in a closet at the office too. They would take up far too much room in the gym locker. Figure out a plan that works for you, and be organized and systematic about it. It beats being at work with nothing appropriate to wear!
Tip #7: Have a double set of toiletries
I keep a supply of makeup, hair products, creams, and hair dryer in my locker rather than packing things in and out daily.
Tip #8: Pack lunches in bulk
At the beginning of each week I bring in a pannier packed with all the foods I need that week. We have a full kitchen at our office so I can bring in soups, leftovers, bag-of-salad, whatever. I pack in my work clothes at the beginning of each week and pack home my laundry at the end of the week.
Tip #9: You cannot have enough plastic bags!
I always keep at least 2-3 empty bags at the bottom of each pannier. Makes it so easy to keep the laundry from smelling up the locker and your panniers, especially the towels. (Note from Joe: And you can wear plastic bags between your socks and your shoes if there is a sudden downpour – they do an excellent job at keeping your feet dry, and are much cheaper than so-called “waterproof” socks, which are hideously expensive and don’t work anyway.)
It took me about three to four weeks to get most of this sorted out, but now I’m organized. Keeping the second day locker has been my final tweak. Since I work downtown I can buy make-up, shampoo, and some foods locally so that makes things easier. Once you are organized, the maintenance is easy.
One thing that I’m still having trouble with is organizing my locker. It is hard to keep shirt, pants and skirts all looking fresh when they are hanging off those three small hooks. I’m trying a few different methods and I’ll let you know how I make out!
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