Ride Slowly, Don’t Sweat

After the group ride on Wednesday – cycling no faster than 12 mph – I realized that I was not sweaty at all. That was a pretty big deal, especially for a 10 mile ride in 70 degrees, since I tend to sweat while riding. I’m no rocket scientist, but I managed to put together that if you ride slooowly, you won’t sweat. This is not exactly breaking news, but it’s a good reminder of the different riding options out there. I’m not a “fast” rider, but I usually push myself just enough to break a sweat.

During my morning commute, I decided to test this on my own. Without the constraints of a group ride, I had to remind myself continually to slow down. Usually in the morning when riding Betty, I enjoy riding fast and really working my legs and lungs. The slower pace was enjoyable, though. I was able to take in the scenery of Lake Michigan and turn my face up to the sun. And, like magic (a really obvious card trick, perhaps), I arrived at work after my 6 mile ride sweat-free.

I wouldn’t want to be so relaxed in my riding every day, but slow riding is handy if the weather is warm and you really need to look presentable immediately upon arrival. How about you – do you take it super relaxed or push yourself and deal with the consequences later? Or maybe you either sweat or don’t sweat no matter what?

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46 thoughts on “Ride Slowly, Don’t Sweat

  1. Mark Simpson says:

    I try to remind myself this as well. It seems that my tendancy is toward speed though – and more so in traffic.

    Maybe if i could get all the other drivers around me to only go about 12-15mph instead of 20-30 i would slow down myself :)

  2. Amy says:

    I try and remind myself not to go fast and get sweaty, but it’s kind of silly since I’m just going to get sweaty (and filthy) at work anyway! That, and if it’s over 65 degrees I’m going to get sweaty on the hills. :)

  3. Bike Jax says:

    Here in Florida where the humidity hovers in the high 90% and you break a sweat just getting out of the shower, it is still possible for me to make it around town without breaking a sweat. It is without a doubt the number one reason I hear from non-commuting cyclist as to why they don’t ride to work. And when you reply with slow down and you won’t sweat I get that response you generally give a non english speaking tourist. You know the one, where you just smile and nod having no idea what was just said to you.

  4. Most people I talk with about my bicycle commuting seem to assume that I change into lycra, put my head down, and pedal as fast as possible from A to B. When I tell them I wear normal clothes and take my time, it blows their minds. Then I tell them it’s so I don’t get too sweaty, and that makes sense to them, which keeps the conversation going, but ignores the 31 other reasons for doing it. But at least it keeps the conversation going.

    • sara says:

      I ride slow and I sweat. Yeah, I’m on a cargo bike lugging two seven-year-olds, all their stuff, & mine so…. Just chopped my hair off completely so no worries about my hair, my helmet, & work.

      Love this cartoon embracing the slow ride:

  5. Annalisa says:

    It also helps if you don’t have a bunch of hills to climb. Commute in: Sweat-free & fast. Commute home: not so much. ;)

  6. eva says:

    I am a fan of taking it easy for the last 5-10 minutes – at least on the way to the office. The ride home is usually slow and leisurely – with lots of stops to smell the roses

  7. Ed L. says:

    My commute ride is also my daily workout, so try and push myself and work up a sweat. I was too lazy over the winter and did not ride much so working up a sweat hasn’t been that hard of late.

    • Diana says:

      I wonder if riding slower would work for me. In Florida, it seems like just standing outside will make you sweat.

  8. If it’s hot out, I sweat no matter what. I sweat just standing still in the heat. If anything, riding a bike and having the air rush against my body dries some of it off!

    When cycling, I confess that I like to go as fast as feels safe. The bicycle’s geometry and traffic/road conditions are usually what determines my speed. Interestingly, I don’t get out of breath on any of my bicycles other than the Pashley no matter how fast I go. When I push hard it feels more like an anaerobic activity, like pilates, and I feel it in my leg muscles rather than in my lungs. On the Pashley though I do get winded if I try to go too fast, so that acts as a natural speed-limit enforcer.

    In terms of arriving to work, I deal with sweat by wearing clothing with patterns that disguise it – florals, stripes, etc. Black also works, but of course it’s not the best option in the heat.

    • Kazz says:

      I’m Kazz from your flickr lovelybike page.
      You are spending good time with bikes.
      May I link your blog from my blog?

  9. Dave says:

    I generally tend to ride pretty calmly, especially in the afternoon when it’s warmer. It’s nice in Portland, as I can find routes going almost anywhere in the inner part of the city that mainly follow streets with almost no automobile traffic (literally on my ride home, other than a couple short stretches of bridge with separated paths or arterial street with bike lane, I might be on the same road with about 5 cars over 5 miles between work and home).

    That way I don’t feel any pressure to be a speed demon, and I choose those routes largely for that reason – I could take routes that follow main arterial streets more, but I would definitely feel much more pressure to ride quickly.

    Like you, I do sometimes enjoy pushing myself a little bit more, especially on nice, cool mornings when it feels good to warm up a bit and have the cool wind on my face (or when it’s dumping rain and I just want to get where I’m going as fast as possible), but I’d say 95% of the time, I ride at an exertion level similar to walking.

    I tend to be fairly sweaty in general, so especially on warm afternoons, this is necessary if I want to stay dry :) In the summer, it’s hopeless, I just get sweaty stepping out the door during the middle part of the day, much less doing any physical activity.

  10. azizan fixie says:

    Very true indeed. For a hot weather country i.e Malaysia, it’s still possible. I tried that before for a ride of about 9km in the morning and when I arrived I am just about to sweat. But for a longer distance which I normally cover about 25km per trip, I can’t help it but to sweat. i do sometimes need to speed when moving from left to right in the traffic.

    • LC says:

      I like slow, mostly because I like to take in everything around me, something that when in a car or on a bus is not possible to do. This of course helps with reducing the sweat problem… but really even a little sweat isn’t a problem, I usually quickly retreat to the rest room to freshen up before ‘meeting others’ ; ) plus sweat means your heart is pumping and your muscles are pushing, so it’s all good! L x

  11. jerry says:

    Sorry, you were sweating. You were just traveling at a pace that matched the evaporation from the wind you were creating by riding or that was already out there.

    I think the test for commuting is not whether you sweat but whether you smell! I did a 20 mile, slow paced round trip to a medical appointment Thursday and didn’t stink too badly, at least I didn’t think so. :)

  12. Anne Hawley says:

    [GRRR darn HTML tags]

    I was just reading another diatribe in the comments at BikePortland in which advocates of bike infrastructure were duking it out with advocates of Taking The Lane!™, and my thought was, well, yes, it IS safer to take the lane UNLESS you ride slowly, on a slow bike.

    When I’m on my Dutch bike I don’t hurry, at least in part because I can’t, but I feel like a bit of a traffic hazard in the portions of my commute where I must merge into the car lane. Happily for me, like Dave at Portlandize above, a whole lot of my commute is on quiet back streets and a multi-use path.

  13. Scott says:

    Sweating is for the birds. I put in about 10-15% more effort than walking when riding to work, and arrive feeling fresh.


    Slow down, you move too fast
    You got to make the morning last
    Just rolling down the cobblestones
    Looking for fun and feeling groovy
    Ba da da da da da da, feeling groovy

  14. David says:

    Supposed to be near 90 Sunday/Monday, in Madison.

    I sweat like a pig no matter what. And I’m a slow biker.

    I find when it’s cooler, I was have to wear just the right combination of clothing. I even change mid-ride.

    Now that the weather is warmer, I’ll sweating and smelling. I take a shower at work. Sometimes at home if the wife complains.

  15. Maria says:

    Nuttin’ like a slow ride. Not only do you sweat less, or not at all, but you take more time to look around and connect with the world around you.

  16. Deb says:

    I sweat the most when I’m going 4mph and the least when I’m going 40. Hills. I think even if you were walking up them you’d be sweating.

  17. Cosmo says:

    I don’t work outside of home but when I ride for errands I go slow. I don’t generally to participate in any activity that will make me sweat so much that I need a shower afterward. The only time I break a sweat is when It is “winter” and I have layers on while pedaling up Silverlake’s hills.

  18. Cherilyn says:

    Slow can be very therapeutic. I had a busy day this week, and going for a slow ride really helped me get centered again.

    Since I’m with my dudes all day, I do need to get out and go fast for a while, just so I can release any frustration and go at my own speed for a bit, whatever that speed happens to be.

  19. Vee says:

    I sweat no matter what on the sorte if there is an incline. I embrace it though. Sadly uphill I’m going about 4 mph and sweating like a dog and panting too at times.

    then when I ride a two wheeler I zoom and don’t sweat at all and often need sweaters.

  20. Su Yin says:

    Group rides (not the racing kind): slow because there are so many people to talk to while riding!

    Normal commute: averaging slightly above 12mph (there are some hills!) because there isn’t much to look at along the way. One thing I like about winter is that you won’t sweat even when you pedal hard.

    • Dottie says:

      Update – riding today in 90 degrees? Freakin’ sweaty!

      • E A says:

        I definitely took the slow(er) approach in the morning… luckily some of the humidity and heat had subsided by the time I headed home. Much nicer. Can it just stay below 80 all summer? :-)

  21. Doohickie says:

    I would love to ride slowly enough to avoid breaking a sweat, but:

    1. My commute is mostly uphill for the second half (in both directions, no less).

    2. If you ride slowly enough to not break a sweat, a 17 mile commute will take something like…. 3 hours.

    3. Texas. Heat. ’nuff said.

  22. Judy says:

    I definitely take it easy on my Pashley during the morning commute. Most mornings in Edmonton are wonderfully cool, even in August, which helps me to stay sweat-free. I usually carry a face-towel in my Mirte bag, just to refresh at the office. On the commute home I ride up a few challenging hills, so definitely work up a sweat since it’s hotter and there are more cars on the road. I do try to ride on tress-lined streets to get the occasional breeze :)

  23. Joe says:

    Sorry about the late comment, but I just discovered your blog.

    I used the “ride slowly” technique last week while wearing decent clothing and riding to a family cookout. If my speed did not exceed 12.5 mph, I had no problem with sweating. Consciously limiting my speed was challenging at first, but I did enjoy the surroundings more.

    Maybe a “slow bike” movement could be connected to the “slow food” revolution?

  24. […] Ride Slowly, Don’t Sweat: Title pretty much sums up the advice from Let’s Go Ride a Bike. […]

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  26. […] Ride slowly! It’s surprising how much of a difference this can make. Dottie talks about that here. […]

  27. […] you are not an enthusiastic sports person, you can love riding to work when the days are pleasant. Ride slowly, so you don't break a sweat and you can ride in your casual clothes (are the norm in virtually […]

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