A few weeks ago, I had a friend visit from out of town for a couple days. In Vancouver, BC, where I live, bike commuting is incredibly popular, and getting more so every year. It’s in fact so popular that I tend to forget many people from other cities don’t bike for transportation regularly, if at all.
So when I suggested to my friend that we take a ride around town to do some sightseeing and visit breweries, I was surprised and amused by her response: “Can’t we just take the bus?” She asked, “I didn’t bring any clothes for biking.”
Once you’ve been bike commuting long enough, it can be easy to forget how daunting it is to get started. Of course, there is the fear that many people have about riding in traffic. But for many people, the practicalities are also daunting. What should I wear, what do I bring, how do I carry my stuff. The idea that you need special clothing for biking is prevalent, and can be a major hindrance for many people who aren’t willing to make the investment.
But here’s the thing: Unless your commute is extremely long or extremely hilly, you don’t need special clothing at all. What I wear on my bike is basically the exact same thing I wear off my bike: Jeans, t-shirts, blouses, denim jackets, dresses, ankle boots, shorts, etc.
But if you’re brand new to bike commuting, the springtime, with its unpredictable and ever-changing weather, can present some challenges. So here’s a brief guide to what to wear for bike commuting when the weather changes frequently. I hope it helps!
Tip #1: Bring Layers
Countless times in the past few weeks, I’ve left my house in jeans and a t-shirt, and returned home eight hours later wearing a sweater, jacket, and a scarf.
The unpredictability of spring weather is felt acutely when you’re out riding, so a sudden chill that may be manageable if you’re just walking to your car, can make for a very unpleasant bike ride home if you didn’t bring a jacket. At this time of year, my panniers are always stuffed with sunscreen, sunglasses, a light sweater or jacket (or both), and a scarf.
Tip #2: Don’t Forget Your Gloves
Even relatively pleasant weather can feel unpleasantly cold on your hands during a long ride. It’s not uncommon to see people biking in T-shirts with gloves on. I keep a light pair in the bottom of my pannier at all times just in case.
Tip #3: Shorts Make Great Rain Pants
The other day I got caught in an unexpected rain storm and showed up to work with soaking wet jeans. My coworker, however, had ridden in shorts, and consequently had dried off completely while I was still trying to pat-dry my pants with a towel. “Nature’s rain pants,” he joked, while pointing at his legs.
But joking aside, if you don’t want to carry rain pants around all day, throw your normal trousers in your bag and ride to work in a pair of shorts, then change into your pants when you get there and toss the considerably-smaller shorts into your bag. It’s also much more comfortable and breathable than riding in rain pants, especially in the spring when it can be both raining and hot at once.
Tip # 4: Sandals Make Great Rain Boots
Same logic applies here. Bike to work in sandals with your work shoes in your bag. Dry off, change, and you’re ready for the day. There’s no need to invest in fancy waterproof shoes, especially when you’re just getting started.
Tip #5: Get a Baseball Hat or a Helmet with a Brim
If you’re biking in the rain, a hat or helmet with a brim does wonders to keep the water out of your eyes, much better than riding in glasses or goggles and allowing the water droplets to collect on the lenses.
Tip #6: Get a Zip-up or Button-Up Jacket
If you ride in a helmet, constantly taking it off to take your jacket off can be a pain. It’s a small inconvenience, but if you’re inclined to strip down and re-layer up every time the temperature changes, you’ll want a jacket you can remove and replace without having to de-helmet.
Tip #7: Have fun!
That’s it and that’s all. Getting dressed for bike commuting is really not complicated. There’s no special gear required, just wear whatever you like to wear, but put a little extra thought into how the wind or rain might impact your comfort level throughout the day in these shoulder seasons.
Most importantly, get out there and have fun!