Monday, May 25, 2009

How to Ride a Bike to Work and Arrive Looking (and Smelling) Like a Rose.

I love the idea of Bixi, Montreal's new public bike system for commuters. But no-one's really talking about the social barriers, i.e. the issues associated with arriving at the average corporate workplace with sweaty under-arms, messed-up hair and rumpled clothing.

Obviously, the boss want healthy, energized workers and commuting by bicycle is a great way to achieve that. On the other hand, there's an expectation that workers will arrive at work groomed, sweet-smelling, and client-presentable. This is not about to change. Employees know this, and may fear their careers will suffer if they commit a hygiene faux pas. So, how to manage?

Sure, you can attempt a quick tissue wipe and re-application of deodorant in the bathroom and hope for the best, but managing the more reliable washcloth/soap/new-shirt-and-undies is a bit trickier. What if your boss walks in mid-swipe? Or a junior colleague? Or a client? And how on earth are you going to transport a wrinkle-free change of clothes or a suit jacket? Hook the coat-hanger over the handle-bars?? Not to mention heels or dress shoes. What's a corporate slave to do?

Perhaps office buildings of the future will provide discreet entrances and bathrooms located near the bike racks that include a shower stall and lockers. Until that utopia arrives, here are some tips on how to bicycle to work and arrive ready for that client meeting:

Personal Mini-Pack
1) Carry a small supply of pre-moistened towelettes. Suggestion: Seventh Generation's healthy version of Baby Wipes. Encourage your company to provide these on-site in the bathrooms: a small expense for a large benefit for all, I'm sure we can all agree.
2) Pack a travel-size under arm and foot deodorant, mild or scent-free, if you wish to avoid smelling as if you just showered in cologne. Maybe some smart company will eventually market a compact package that combines a moist towelette with a separate packet of gel deodorant. Until then, you'll have to make do.
3) A comb
4) An extra pair of undies and socks, plus a clear zip-lock baggie for used socks and undies.
This should all fit in a small zip bag. Sound like a gym bag pack? Guess what, it is.

Riding Gear
5) A neutral, classic knee-length trench coat is perfect for those cool early morning and evening commutes, and will come in handy when there's a sudden burst of rain. (Notice I said 'when' not 'if'...) The tough fabric will also protect you in case of a fall, or a careless car splash, and will keep a frisky skirt under control. Look for one with a zip-out flannel lining, and low arm holes for maximum range of movement, or -- better yet -- arm-pit vents that zip/velcro shut.
6) A dark silk or cotton scarf in a pocket will keep you warm at night without weighing you down, and will soak up extra sweat at your destination.
7) Loose pant legs are a serious riding hazard. And don't even THINK of tucking your pants into your socks. Please. You will look like a clown and you'll stretch out your socks. Find some dark velcro reflective ankle strips at the bike store, or wrist coil keychains, and wrap one around each ankle. This will preserve the crease in your dress pants. Not to mention your dignity. Snow gaiters are excellent if it's raining.
8) Swap that purse or briefcase for a stylish leather back-pack organizer or dark canvas bike messenger style lap-top carrier. You need your hands and arms free for hand-signals, remember?
9) Find a pair of comfy, flat, groovy sneakers (e.g. Campers). Dark colors will blend best with most suits. You may need to navigate the lobby, elevator and corporate corridor en route to your desk. Do you really want to encounter the VP and a client looking like a newspaper delivery boy? Make sure the tops squish down so they'll fit easily in your backpack.
10) Fit your new riding shoes with a pair of charcoal Odor-Eaters. You'll thank me later when they're under your desk.

At the Office
11) From now on, your good jacket(s) stays at work, either on a coat hook or over the back of your chair. (Bonus: colleagues may think you're still there.) Use a drycleaner near the office for these.
12) Ditto for high heels and dress shoes: keep them under the desk or tucked in a drawer.
13) Plan on replacing 100% cotton with wrinkle-resistant fabrics (can you say "touch of lycra"?). These will unroll beautifully and fit your body more closely, resulting in a crisper, more polished looked. Dressy t-shirts that hug the body are ideal and look effortless under a smart jacket.

How it Works
Upon arrival at work, head straight to the nearest bathroom, backpack in hand. Perform mini-towelette hokey-pokey routine. (Yes, in private! Would you want to see a colleague attending to their armpits? I didn't think so.) Try to find a handicap-accessible stall, as these will give you more room to maneuver. If changing your shirt, wait as long as possible to pull on the fresh one in order to allow your core to cool down or you'll just sweat right through the clean one. Do NOT use your old shirt as a towel -- you may want to wear it again for the ride home. Changing socks and undies at this time will make you feel extra fresh. (I'm just saying...) Exit stall and check hair and make-up. Note: ladies, mascara is best applied after a ride as wind will make your eyes water.

Back at your desk, stash your helmet, swap your shoes and your jacket. Grab a cold juice or soy milk (you won't need a coffee). Feeling calm, happy and refreshed, greet your colleagues with that marvelous self-satisfied grin.

P.S. Do not attempt multi-tasking like this guy.


Tremendous News! said...

Great blog, and I agree with most of your points. But I think I speak for all of your readers when I say, "we're here to see your briefs."

Your blog name is grossly misinforming.

Thank you.

Belinda said...

: )) So glad somebody finally got that pun.

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