What to Wear for Biking to Work: 3 Simple Criteria

One of my primary goals for my bike commuting journey was to simplify my commute. No more stressing out about a late bus, no more ridiculously expensive Uber rides, and definitely no parking fees. But most of the advice I read regarding what to wear for biking to work involved changing clothes or showering at work – aka NOT SIMPLE. 

I just wanted to bike to work in the clothes on my back, and still arrive looking polished and ready to go. Lucky for you, I figured out just how to do that! 

Learn tips that you can use and build upon to fit your budget, your style, and most importantly your life!

The Criteria

In addition to passing for professional/business casual, there are only three criteria to consider when choosing your bike commute attire.

1. Non-Restrictive Clothing

This one is easy because most people do not wear clothing that significantly restricts their movement in the first place. So most of the clothes in your closet probably already fit the bill!

However, I will say: no more pencil skirts or palazzo pants, my friends! Pencil skirts are an actual contraindication to biking (the tight fit makes it impossible to actually pedal), and very loose, very flowy pants will most likely get caught in your bike gears. Other than that, there aren’t that many limitations.

In my outfit below I am wearing comfortable canvas pants that taper at the ankle. I can easily pedal and do not feel restricted in my movement. Furthermore, I do not have to worry about anything getting stuck in my drivetrain!

What to wear for biking to work. Clothes that do not restrict movement

2. Fabric that Minimizes Sweat

This criteria is where you may have to think twice about wearing some of the things you may already have in your closet – but don’t worry it’s not an overly restrictive criteria either. It is not necessarily the type of attire you decide to wear on your bike commute, but rather the type of fabric you choose to wear

We are all familiar with moisture-wicking, synthetic fibers found in workout clothing, spandex, etc . Fact is, they work; but often they are not the most work-appropriate or business casual. Not many of us can show up to work in moisture-wicking yoga pants (for those of you who can, I applaud you). 

Fortunately for my fellow bike commuters, natural fibers (think cotton, linen, tencel, merino wool) fit the bill and fulfill criteria 1 and 2. These fibers absorb sweat, are breathable, and naturally temperature controlling. Bonus, fabrics like merino wool are also moisture wicking!

Avoid clothing that is made of 100% synthetic fibers! Despite the popularity and ubiquity of rayon and polyester clothing, they are the WORST for bike commuting. Synthetic fibers are water-repellent, which means rather than absorbing sweat like natural fibers, they allow perspiration to accumulate on your skin, reduce evaporation and just cause general discomfort. Unfortunately, the same goes for silk. Although it is a natural fiber, it is a NO for your bike commute. 

I am wearing a navy merino wool turtleneck (one of my absolute favorites!) in my outfit below. Whether it’s 20 or 60 degree weather, I never have to worry about feeling sweaty and hot with this top! Layered on top is a lightweight jacket made of 100% linen, which also goes a long way in keeping me cool and comfortable!

What to wear for biking to work. Sweat minimizing fabric

Read my post “No Sweat: Biking in Everyday Clothes Made Easy” that breaks fabric choice down even further. It also gives ideas for what to wear for biking to work that encompass many styles.

Wear natural fabrics like
cotton, tencel, bamboo, linen
and merino wool
Wear synthetic fabrics

Wear silk

3. Smart Shoes

This criteria simply involves prioritizing shoes with a durable sole that fit securely on your feet. 

This is easy in the fall and winter when boots and closed toe options are the primary shoes of choice; but in the summer and spring it’s time to show off your cute, nice-weather footwear, and no one wants to be changing out of sneakers at their desks! 

Shoes with tread simply hold up longer once you begin your journey to bike commuting. Every time you stop at a light or intersection, your soles bear the brunt of the work as you push off the pavement to continue your ride. Thin soles will wear out more quickly and could potentially ruin a good pair of shoes! 

It is also important to wear shoes that will stay securely on your feet. Loose sandals or slip-ons are not ideal for biking because you very well may lose a shoe as you pedal – you are only one gnarly pothole away from this, trust me. Feel free to continue wearing sandals, clogs, etc. just ensure there’s a firm buckle or other point of security!

For example, the fantastic slip on shoes that I am wearing with this outfit have a thick strap at my midfoot near my ankle that serve as an additional point of stability. I wear these shoes all the time to bike and they stay securely on my feet!

What to wear for biking to work. Smart Shoes

If you can wear shoes that do both during your bike commute, you’re ahead of the game in choosing what to wear for biking to work!

Wear shoes with durable soles that fit securely
Wear loose shoes like flip flops

Final Thoughts:

Now, I developed these criteria for myself as a means of simplifying my bike to work commute. I never have to change clothes or shoes upon arrival with this blueprint in mind. But, if you have options at your job (like a shower or lockers to store clothing/toiletries) then by all means utilize these resources if that is your preference! 

Remember, at The Smart Cyclist, I am all about providing you with information you need to safely and effortlessly bike to work in style – whatever that means for you! 

Now you have the tools for picking what to wear for biking to work! Check out the other posts in the Bike to Work Beginner’s Guide for information on accessories, routes and much more!

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