How To: Fresh Summer Cycling

Cycling with style is easy and fun. However, I don’t want it to seem like I simply hop off my bike fresh as a spring flower and go along my merry way. If that’s what people think is supposed to happen after they read about how easy it is to ride in regular clothes, then they will be annoyed when it does not work for them and give up. So I want to be clear that I sweat. A lot. More than the average person. I have been known to sweat in the dead of winter on my bike if I wear one layer too many. My hair gets sweaty and a bit frizzy. Sometimes I get grease on my leg and curse at Betty Foy. Over time I have learned how to deal and always have a plan of action for hot rides.

For example, yesterday I rode 7 miles downtown to have lunch with a friend. The sun was at its peak and the temperature was around 80 F. I wore a breezy lined silk skirt and a cami, stowing my cardigan rolled up in my purse. I strapped my purse in my front basket with a bungie cord and put on my helmet. I then cycled at a steady but easy pace to avoid getting too hot. Twice I stopped to turn my skirt around to prevent sweat spots from building up.

On Bike

On Bike

When I arrived at my destination, I removed my helmet, combed and re-braided my hair, put on a fancy headband, blotted my face with a tissue, and put on my cardigan. I wanted to wear my hair down, but it was too sweaty from the helmet and I gave up the idea. I arrived a bit early so I could sit in the air conditioning and cool down. After my face cooled, I reapplied lip gloss and powder.  I had a mint because fresh breath makes me feel overall fresher.

After Bike

After Bike

Voila. No one could have guessed that I cycled there.

If the weather was extremely hot, I would have ducked into a restroom to reapply deodorant and freshen up further with water and a paper towel or an Action Wipe.  When commuting to work, I wear shorts and a tank for the ride, then clean up and change to a suit when I arrive at the office.  For summer cycling the most important thing is expecting and preparing for these small challenges. Then you can simply enjoy the ride.

Questions? Tips on how you stay fresh in the summer? Let us know in the comments.

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38 thoughts on “How To: Fresh Summer Cycling

  1. Johnny says:

    Baking soda! Best deodorant ever! Just mix 1/8 tsp with water under each arm (or for both). Make sure to dissolve it thoroughly, or you’ll get a friction rash. :)

    I keep cuke/green tea Huggies wipes are work. That might be weird. They don’t smell like baby butt though.

  2. Erich says:

    One tip that took me a while to figure out: You’re always going to be much hotter when you stop cycling. It usually takes me 5-10 minutes after a ride, even an easy one, to cool down. I try to arrive early enough to take a breather before doing what I have to do.

    • Greg says:

      I always plan to arrive at work 15 minutes early, so I can cool down before attempting to freshen up. I sit in a shady spot, sip coffee from my caged bottle, and enjoy a granola bar that I brought for the ride. This also gives me some time to chat with the daily bike crowd.

  3. cupcakerator says:

    These are all fantastic tips!

    I guess for me biking isn’t as hot as it could be since I don’t have air conditioning in my apartment to begin with. If anything, I love the good breeze I get from biking down the steep hills by my place.

    Luckily, the hottest part of any ride around here is coming up the hills on the way home so I don’t sweat about sweating since I don’t need to impress anyone there.

  4. Katie says:

    Fantastic tips indeed! Especially about rotating the skirt. I hadn’t thought of that one!

    I agree with Erich. In my experience, the sweat really comes once the ride stops. And because I’m in San Diego, there aren’t a lot of air conditioned havens to speed up the cool down process.

    I find that time is key. Even if you have 2-5 minutes to you can cool down before having to be somewhere or meet someone, it makes a load of difference. I usually try to duck into a bathroom and get rid of the sweat on my face then find a cool spot. It seems to work!

  5. Trisha says:

    You look fresh as a daisy! Like everyone else, I never really feel hot until I stop moving, which makes stoplights a huge pain. The fan on my desk has been my best friend this summer. A quick restroom stop to dab off the worst of the sweat + turning the fan on for 5 minutes or so and no one can tell(or smell!) I’ve been riding. I hope!

  6. Mamavee says:

    I like this.

    I def sweat. I find though that I don’t think I am a smelly sweater. Some people are though. I might be smelly but I honestly don’t think I am. So my approach to sweat is based on this whole factor…

    My approach is to just let the sweat dry! It is no fun feeling wet. I hate it. But luckily i do tend to frequent places with A/c and while that is a bit of an energy drain- I like those modern comforts. I recently bought perfume for the first time as well. I find that I don’t mind the sweat smell mixed with the perfume. I personally thinks it’s a bit sexy and the sweat and exercise seems to make the perfume die down faster than if I didn’t sweat if that makes sense. ( my usual dislike of perfume is that it is too strong.)

    I would like to get some fresh wipes- but am wary b/c of Trisha’s post saying they have an oder. I don’t think I want to add a third order to the perfume-sweat smell. But since I have a kid in diapers- I do have butt wipes on hand often and those work well too. But often time- I just get off my bike, fluff my hair ( And I remind myself of a Biker Chick when I stop pull off my helmet and shake my hair which adds a bit of fun to the movement for me). If my hair is too smushed, I wear a little hat. If not I throw on sunglasses and let myself dry off.

    The only time I was too sweaty for fun was on the cape this week. It was hot. There is no a/c were I was going so I had a harder time cooling down. The same goes for riding to the farmers market on a hot day. I find riding in heat to sit in heat outside just makes me hot and bothered and not fresh. But still- in those cases I try to not move very much and drink water to cool down.

  7. Melissa Hope S says:

    I keep a hair dryer at my desk and use it in the b-room. Sometimes my hair is really wet from riding so the dryer helps. Otherwise, I just plan ahead and go a little slower. I save my Tour de France practice for the ride home! ;-)

  8. Since most posts here are written in the first person I appreciated seeing the posters name at the top. That way I know who “I” is. Apparently this author (Dottie?) lives in the cooler north.

    • dottie says:

      The name of the author is listed on the main page (before the jump) at the bottom. The pictures are also an indicator of which of us is writing.

      Also, summers in Chicago get very hot and humid, although of course not as hot as Florida, etc.

  9. Anne says:

    I am sort of lucky in that 90% of my sweat is in my face. Annoying if I am wearing makeup, great for not getting my clothes sweaty. I don’t put on makeup until I get to work and have taken to wearing a kerchief or headband to combat hair and forehead sweat.

    • dottie says:

      I’ve been considering wearing a headband or kerchief under my helmet to help swap up the sweat, but I’m worried it would make my head sweat more. It works for you?

  10. Frits B says:

    Can’t you drop the helmet, or is it obligatory in Chicago? It doesn’t add much to your safety but must be very hot on your head. And before anybody says no helmet = unsafe, I have a 81 years old neighbor with a Batavus e-bike, motor in the rear wheel. The man has some heart trouble and is no longer that agile but still just returned from a three weeks camping trip to Norway, on his own. Anyway, he told me he had locked up his front brake on the Batavus, the motor hadn’t cut out immediately and the bike had become unstable. As it is rather heavy (some 60 pounds) he had keeled over. A few scratches to the bike, one small scratch to his right underarm. And no helmet, of course. Helmets, he said, are for speedsters on racing bikes. I have another neighbor who is 93 and also rides an e-bike, bare headed.

    • sara says:

      I know debates over helmet vs. non-helmets is a hot topic on blogs, and I normally don’t engage in and just go with the “whatever decision one makes, I will respect.” Here’s my decision though: I choose to wear a helmet even if it makes me a bit hotter, my hair a bit smushed– so be it. I respect other’s decisions regarding the helmet but gotta say that I have a bro-in-law who is alive thanks to a bike helmet and that is no exaggeration. He still spent an extended period of time in the hospital and has some residual affects from some of his injuries from being hit by a car while on a bike. So I will take the hot, sweaty hair and require my children to do the same.

    • dukiebiddle says:

      Frits B, ??? I rarely, if ever, wear a helmet myself, but I think that is a decision for every individual. The writers of the blog, it seems to me, are informed enough about helmet statistics to come to a conclusion for themselves.

      If I saw someone walking down the street wearing a helmet, I wouldn’t presume to coerce them into taking it off. It isn’t any of my business, and if it makes them feel safer, so be it.

    • dottie says:

      The helmet is hot, but I want to wear it. I believe it does make me safer.

    • Johnny says:

      Certainly it’s a personal choice. Anecdotes from folks who don’t wear helmets don’t convince me as much as when I smashed my head and face into the bikepath with no cars around this spring and lived to walk around with two bum hands for a couple months. But I don’t expect anecdotes about my own experience to convince other people on the other hand.

      I forgot my point.

      But yeah, helmets are hot as hell. I have a Nutcase like Dottie, and that thing has me dripping by the time I get home from work. I don’t mind it though. My gloves make my hands sweat, but I need the padding after my crash this spring. Cycling involves a lot of “sucking it up,” for everyone in different ways. I guess helmets are that for some folks (like me), while fenders or brakes might be for others.

  11. I do two thirds of the ride at speed and then relax for the last third so I don’t arrive sweaty and bothered. I see there is some debate on helmets. From the age of 15-28 I never wore a helmet but now I do, I have a Trex sport one with loads of airflow so I don’t find it makes any diff to how hot I am :)

    • dottie says:

      That’s a good idea, going extra slow at the end of the ride. I found a Trek helmet that I really like this weekend, the Sonic, and am thinking of buying it. The first sporty helmet that I’ve like the look of and I sure could use some more air vents!

    • Trisha says:

      Sounds like the helmet I need! My Bern is so hot in summer I’m leaving it off a lot, and don’t always feel good about that.

  12. dukiebiddle says:

    I think you all should buzz all your hair off, like me. I mean, sure, I do that mainly because of male pattern baldness, but it sure is a time saver when I’m making myself pretty. :)

  13. Cosmo says:

    A lot of great tips! It is nice to see the effort that goes into appearing effortlessly chic.

  14. cloudsofviolet says:

    great tips! Unfortunately, I didn’t really do that that (except not exerting myself too much) when I lived in NYC. I just told myself that everyone else is sweaty too (even if they are taking the subway). But bathroom freshening is great!

  15. My tried and true method is gauzy clothing that allows maximum airflow (wide skirt and sleeve openings). I also have some awesome shorts made of thin terrycloth that seem to magically suck the sweat off me like a towel. Other than that, liberal applications of “Secret” deodorant and teatree oil face wipes pretty much keep me okay even in 90-plus degree weather. I don’t wear a helmet, so the breeze does its job on the hair and face.

  16. Venus says:

    How do you like to carry your suit to the office when you bike commute?

    • Dottie says:

      Hi Venus. At first I rolled my suits gently and put them in a pannier on my rear rack. Some suits would be a bit wrinkled when I arrived, but the wrinkles soon fell out. Tweed suits are my favorite because they don’t wrinkle. After a while, I simply brought in all my suits and shoes and left them in an empty office across from the ladies’ restroom. I took them to a dry-cleaner’s in my office building for cleaning.

    • Maggie says:

      Check out this video of an executive who bikes to work. He shows you how to transport a suit on his panniers.

  17. bewell88 says:

    I have thought about biking to work, and had the same concern. Don’t want to show up too sweaty and gross before the day even starts! Thanks for all the good advice from everyone, I may still reconsider (though it would be a LONG trip).

    I’m Hua, the Director of Wellsphere’s HealthBlogger Network. I’ve been searching the web for quality health blogs and am thrilled that I found yours. There is so much information here for people who enjoy biking. Wellsphere visitors find relevant content and answers to their questions in one place, without having to wade through hundreds of search engine results to find what they want. We provide the platform that allows over 6 million users a month to connect, network, and find quality information.

    I think your blog would be a really great addition to the Biking Community. I invite you to join and find more information about us at

    Thanks for all the hard work you put into this! Feel free to email me if you have any questions.

    Director of Blogger Networks
    hua [at] Wellsphere [dot] com

  18. Lorenza says:

    Dottie what a refreshing post (pardon my pun!!!). It’s not often so many people are open about topics such as sweating… well not here anyway ;) lol! I tend to sweat too but by my own fault because I tend to catch colds like there’s no tomorrow!! So I get paranoid and end up wearing too many layers worried that I will catch a cold (!) but I have now learnt that my weak spot is my neck, so I wear clothes that are comfy and airy and made of natural materials (cotton and linen are my best friends) and just wear a light neckscarf ;) it works! Plus I cycle at very slow pace (I am a big fan of the The Slow Bicycle Movement!!), I like to coast and I really am not bothered if other cyclists over take me ;) In this way I reduce sweat problem, and I get to gaze better at the lovely gardens I ride pass!

    cycle love xxx

  19. girlcanbike says:

    Is that the Betty Foy you are riding? I really love that bike and thank you for visiting my blog:)


  20. miss sarah says:

    I carry a fan in my purse at all times! One of those Chinese grandma ones. I have amassed a great collection over the years and have all different colours and sizes. There was this one summer in Barcelona, Spain, where it was SO incredibly hot. Standing in line to try things on at an H&M I saw this spanish grandma break out her black lace fan and start ventilating herself… I was so jealous. So now I always have one. At red lights, at the night club last Friday… always comes in handy!

    And the funny part is people always think I have one to look ‘fashionable’ when in fact, it’s because I hate being sweaty and hot.

    Great post!


    • Mamavee says:

      Miss Sarah- O’m a huge fan or fans!! I carried one that I got at a global import store ( I had those tiny ones with the metal clasps and a larger one as well. I kept them for riding the subway to work in the summer. I’d get a seat being the second stop of the line but then get crowded in by people standing over me and pull out my fan and sit there fanning. I haven’t commuted to work in 6 years but have kept my favorite fan in my drawer through two homes just in case. Now I’m moving it to my bike bag and bringing back the fan! Horray! I personally go for the Southern Black church lady fanning look myself. :-)

  21. Pearl says:

    Riding in Dallas means sweating, of course. I bike to work in a skirt, wear a Tshirt (and bring shirt/a second tshirt to change into), carry wipes and blotting papers (for my face), and arrive 5-10 minutes before class, at least. I use the bathroom to rinse my wrists and the back of my neck, fluff my hair, change shirt, reapply gloss/lipstick, and go. Carry cardigan/sweater/tunic to put over my first layer, if necessary.

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  23. Dave says:

    I think the most important things about riding in hot weather are being willing to slow down, and being able to carry a few things on your bike.

    Not having bags hanging on your person makes a big difference in how much you sweat, and being able to carry a few small things to freshen up with makes a big difference (I’m thinking face wipes are going to be a need-to-have item this summer).

    In the mornings in the summer, I can usually ride at such a pace that I don’t get any more sweaty than I would walking (which is pretty minimal and doesn’t require any freshening up), and I usually only arrive a few minutes later than normal (people forget that the average speed of travel through a city, even in a car, is usually not that fast, due to stop signs/lights, traffic, etc).

    In the afternoons, I try to just travel as little as possible, but coming home from work I try to take a route which takes me past a grocery store or somewhere I can stop and get a drink and cool off partway home. Then I can also do a little shopping for the evening if I need, so I don’t have to go out again.

    I don’t wear a helmet, but I do wear a hat to keep my head and face from getting sunburned, and my head does sometimes get pretty sweaty, but usually only in the afternoons on my way home from work. I haven’t had to deal with sweaty head in a professional environment really – if I did, I’d probably just opt not to wear the hat for that one trip.

    Just dress appropriately, wear clothes you would be more-or-less comfortable walking a reasonable distance in, and you should be ok riding in them, as long as you don’t push yourself. Drink lots of water.

    That said, I’m sure in some places, on some days, you will just want to either plan to stay in, or take a bus or something. I wouldn’t relish trying to ride a bike for any distance (or really being outside at all) on a day when it’s 120 degrees out.

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