No Sweat: Biking in Everyday Clothes Made Easy

Sweating should not deter you from using your bike as a form of transportation! 

Why? 

Because there are so many ways to combat sweat while you’re biking, and, thankfully, most do not involve you switching to a wardrobe made exclusively of spandex and lycra. 

In fact, you probably already have the clothes you need in your closet right now! Biking in everyday, casual clothes is just a matter of knowing and understanding which types of fabrics help control sweat and which don’t. Read on to learn more about how to choose the right biking outfits for your needs!

I’ve been biking in everyday clothes (blazers, dresses, sweaters, button-downs, skirts, you name it) for years now. I have the art of “armpit-stain-free bike commuting” down to a science! Although factors such as terrain, humidity and genetics play a role, the right fabric choice can go a long way in helping you go from a hot, sweaty biking mess to a cool, calm, collected biking pro. 

Whether you’re biking to work, the grocery store, or a date, thinking ahead and simply choosing the right clothes can help you minimize sweat, keep cool and arrive at your destination looking fresh and clean. 

Read on for everything you need to know about the types of fabrics that help keep sweat at bay, and those that you should definitely avoid!  


What To Look For In A Garment

Sweating can be a seriously annoying process, but it is necessary for cooling the body and regulating your core temperature. 

Anytime your body senses that it is overheating (from exercise, the environment, even stress), it releases sweat from your pores and promotes heat loss through evaporation, cooling your body down. 

However, if the sweat does not evaporate faster than it’s produced…we all know what happens next:

  • Sweat sitting on your skin causing discomfort and chafing 
  • Sweat marks in the most unfortunate places
  • Body odor (sweat itself doesn’t smell like anything, but when it mixes with your skin’s natural bacteria – hello BO!) 

With this in mind, you want your clothing to work to manage moisture by allowing sweat to move from the skin to the outside world, so it can be quickly evaporated. Look for clothes that have at least one of these three key features: 

  • Sweat/Moisture Absorbing: Fabrics that absorb moisture draw sweat away from your skin into the fabric.
  • Sweat/Moisture Wicking: Fabrics that are moisture-wicking draw sweat to the surface of the fabric and spread it on the surface of the material so it can evaporate. 
  • Breathable: Fabric that is breathable allows evaporated sweat and moisture to escape and  move freely through the fabric. Think lightweight clothes with loosely woven fabric. Garments with tighter weave are less breathable because air can’t move in or out

An Important Point

One last thing.

There is an extra bonus that only bikers can take advantage of in the fight against sweat…

That wonderful, natural, refreshing breeze you feel anytime you’re coasting along or going downhill. The steady breeze is amazing for helping sweat evaporate. It essentially allows your body to cool down faster – you definitely can’t get that on foot, in a bus or on the subway. 

So for biking in everyday, casual clothes, choose garments that help get sweat off your skin, so your body (and that beautiful bike breeze) can dissipate sweat and keep you cool and comfortable! Let’s get into the details!


BEST

Merino Wool

Moisture-Absorbing

Moisture-Wicking

Breathable

Wool is the number one material for combatting sweat?? This isn’t a mistake or typo – wool is a biker’s best friend! Yes, even in the summertime! Wool not only absorbs moisture into its fibers, but it also actively wicks moisture thorough openings within the fabric and is naturally breathable! Wool isn’t just for base layers anymore – you can find wool dresses, dress shirts and pants nowadays. It is an all-year, all-around winner for controlling sweat both on and off your bike!

Linen

Moisture-Absorbing

Breathable
Moisture-Wicking

Linen is a top contender due to its breathable and moisture absorbing properties. It excels at pulling sweat away from your skin and facilitating evaporation since moisture can easily pass through the material’s fibers. Unfortunately, linen wrinkles easily and may not be the best for workwear attire. However, linen garments blended with other fabrics like cotton or tencel can minimize wrinkling and still help keep sweat at bay! 

NOT BAD

Cotton

Moisture-Absorbing

Breathable
Moisture-Wicking

Cotton often gets a bad rap in the athletic world because it is very moisture-absorbing . This is excellent for getting sweat off your skin, but some types of cotton can stay damp/wet for hours. Luckily, cotton can range in breathability! For example, a thick cotton polo is not going to help you out there on your bike, but a breathable, lightweight cotton is perfect for bike commuting because it provides enough airflow to help facilitate moisture evaporation. There are many types of lightweight cotton fabrics like poplin, chambray or seersucker, which you can usually find wherever you purchase your clothes. You may have to be mindful of colors you choose to wear, since sweat stains can be a problem, or you can use this tip for preventing sweat stains instead!

Bamboo

Moisture-Absorbing

Breathable
Moisture-Wicking

Bamboo may not be the most familiar material for clothing, but it is a wonderful choice for minimizing sweat! Like linen and cotton, it is absorbent and breathable. Furthermore, it is ridiculously soft and has natural resistance to odor, mold, mildew and bacteria – even after multiple washes! Like cotton, bamboo is very good at absorbing moisture, so make sure to stick to looser, lighter weaves.

WORST

Synthetic Fabrics (Polyester, Nylon, Etc.)

Moisture-Absorbing

Breathable
Moisture-Wicking

Synthetic fabrics are the bane of any sweaty person’s existence and should be avoided at all costs.  Synthetic fabrics are hydrophobic, meaning they resist the penetration of water. Lots of sweat on your skin with nowhere to go is a recipe for disaster because 1) your body will not be able to naturally cool down, and 2) the longer sweat sits on your skin and mixes with your skin’s natural bacteria, the more likely you’ll produce nasty odors that keep people away. GROSS

But what about athletic clothes? They are all made of synthetic fibers and they all advertise moisture-wicking properties???

Athletic and technical clothing are made of synthetic fabrics that have been chemically treated or modified to maximize the ability to spread moisture over the surface of the fabric so it can evaporate quickly into the air. These technical fabrics are often lighter and more breathable than their casual clothing counterparts, and, as a result, do help pull moisture away from the skin. In effect, some athletic-ware can be moisture-wicking and breathable.

However, most of us can’t wear athletic clothing for all occasions – especially not to work! Furthermore, synthetic fibers (even technical ones) often retain odor even after washing no matter how moisture-wicking they are! Avoid them on your bike commute if you can – trust me, you will thank me later!


Final Thoughts

You’ve made it! Biking in everyday, casual clothes is possible! Minimize awkwardly positioned sweat marks and general discomfort by curating your biking wardrobe wisely! Focus on moisture-absorbing, moisture-wicking and breathable fabrics that you already own, and build from there! No more stressing about bike commute dressing! 

Don’t think you have to buy a whole new wardrobe either! Focus on moisture-absorbing, moisture-wicking and breathable fabrics that you already own, and build from there! No more stressing about bike commute dressing! 

ONE LAST THING: I know it can be hard to keep all these fabrics and properties straight, and sometimes you just want to wear that cotton polo or polyester shirt that you love. 

And you still can!

If you’re wondering how…check out this post here that gives you 2 tried and true tips for combating sweat, no matter what you’re wearing! 

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