A Return to The Office: Bike Commute Updates?

Hi all, I’m about to go through a life style change I’m sure a few of us have been through or will be. Working in an office for the first time in three years…so naturally I want to start commuting by bike again, so I think I need some kit updates.

What’s moved on in the world of bike commuting?

Whilst I can dress in racing Lycra as I always have, has commuter clothing moved on at all?

I prefer to leave all my clothes/towels/locks in the office, but I might need to carry a laptop - my acid sweat usually destroys these - is there a breathable/comfortable/smart small pack that doesn’t chafe out there?

Cheers all.

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How long is your commute? That will determine what you can get away with and what sort of kit is best.
I commute 26km each way from Bath to Bristol several days a week - just under an hour door to door. Because of the length of the commute, full on lycra is just so much more comfortable and enables me to ride in comfort much more quickly. I could ride in more casual clothes, but it would significantly increase the time that my commute takes.
I’ll use a backpack to carry my clothes for the week in once a week (luckily my office has good showers, changing rooms and lockers), then just use a small bar bag to carry essentials, lunch etc the other days. The backpack is just a cheap one - nothing special - but has a chest strap which is really useful as it stops the bag moving around which makes it much more comfortable while riding.
When I lived and worked in London, my office had no facilities for bike commuting, so I used a Brompton which I kept under my desk. Happily, that was only a short (8km from Angel to Marylebone) commute, so I could happily ride in the normal clothes that I could wear in the office, as long as I went slowly enough to not get sweaty.

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Not far by my standards. I used to commute 50km each way, relatively flat back A roads in 2015/2016 then about 2018/2019 I occasionally biked in 45km +666m that was beautiful countryside and pretty hard work. This is only about 26km and flat, into London so loads of traffic lights and no reason to push it. Might use my heavy steel tourer, but I don’t want it to take forever so maybe the roadie, we’ll see.

Merino Polos - pretty expensive, but worthwhile?

50km each way is a mammoth commute to be doing daily / regularly!
Good quality merino is definitely good for staying whiff free! If either bike can fit a pannier or decent size bag, then I’d go for that. Can then easily carry anything you want without having to worry about it making you sweaty.
With London I always found that it was the stop start nature of it that ended up getting me hot and sweaty - sprinting a bit too hard away from lights

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My commute is 50km total. I tend to use panniers and ride zone 2. Personally I don’t sweat much at that effort level, saves showering but it is 10-15 minutes slower each way Vs going hard on one of the nice bikes.

I’m trying to de-lycra and have started to use liner shorts with more regular clothing. Use a couple of merino tees for riding and wearing at work. You can get a LOT of days out of a decent merino tee. Use a mixture of Chrome, Ripton and swrve shorts and other casual clothing. icebreaker always good for merino and dhb seem to have a good range at lower cost.

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I don’t know if you still get them but I am using a Ortlieb Sports Roller + with mesh pocket and the Ortlieb back pack converter. Its ideal for my laptop over the 11 mile hilly commute.

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I sweat a lot, but i would be nice to reuse a polo for a couple of commutes a week if thats feasible. Certainly wouldn’t put on a plastic jersey twice without washing.

Having a look at Vulpine at the moment - £70 shorts, £80 polo is that about par for the course these days?

Standard work shirts have gone up 40% so I’m not expecting anything to be cheap I suppose.

Have a look at Decathlon and Wiggle’s dhb range, there’s definitely decent quality cheaper merino than that. Merino is great for not smelling, but even the lightest weight merino is still too warm (for me at least) if the temperature gets over about 20C. I just end up soaked with sweat which isn’t all that pleasant even if it doesn’t smell! I’m a heavy sweater anyway though, even in winter I can’t imagine riding 26km into the office and not needing a shower.

My commute is (or was, mainly WFH now) similar to yours, ~26km flattish into London. Steel single speed always worked great for me, nice having so few parts to service/replace on a bike that’s doing heavy duty riding.

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The only big thing I can think of that’s changed in the last 3 years for bike commuting is the number of ebikes and electric scooters.

Solid but risky drafting opportunities… As they hold a steady speed, but often will sail across dodgy junctions or slam the brakes on.

I’ve started running lights in the daytime too, especially if I’ve run out of bright cycling shirts to wear…

Oh and if you’re commuting an hour each way then that’s 2 extra TR outside workouts… hard in the morning and endurance on the way home.

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Without question I will be showering and changing at the office.

I have panniers, waxed cotton, for my tourer but frankly Id avoid needing to carry that much stuff if I can. They’re useful if I’m swimming as well, for example, as getting that bulk off the back is great in the heat.

The one thing i miss about working on premise is the bike commute.
I’m still working from home right now though so * shrug *

23km one way, no matter what the zone i ride in, i sweat. Especially once temps get above 20-25C.
So for a back pack, i have a 30L one that has the curved back with mesh so what touches my back if anything is mesh which allows my back to breathe better, the straps still get wet though. It works great for my SSS commuter (steel single speed) but not so well for my roadies because the bag is relatively “high”
But i can pack my clothes, repair stuff for the bike, and my laptop has its own “pocket”. If i leave my laptop at work, i can use a saddle bag that only has my clothes/repair stuff that sits on a rack

Mine is a slightly bigger version of this:

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I don’t really like panners, so for backpacks I have one of these : Timbuk2 Raider Backpack | Lifetime Warranty – Timbuk2 Europe

Very lightweight, sits comfortably on my back and when riding on road the absence of a waist strap is actually better. There’s an inner shirt folder, and enough room for spares, snacks and shoes OR a laptop. But… there’s no real waterproofing, so Joe’s acid alien sweat would probably go straight through.

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Looking at the Icebreaker and Rapha equivalents, they are indeed the going rates but take a look at sportpursuit, there is currently a load of Vulpine shorts/polos and other stuff on there in many sizes…

https://www.sportpursuit.com/products?bid=365&sp_src_search=vulpine

Many years ago I had some Hoy x Vulpine shorts, they faded quickly and were not very durable. They might be different now but I wouldn’t pay RRP for them, they are tempting at SportPursuit prices.

If you get on with the fit, the swrve transverse are very hard wearing.

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Sorry this post is about what still works and not what’s moved on. While I’d love to have a cycling specific pack, many years ago I bought a Camelback Fourteener for epic mountain hikes and it worked well for bike commuting with a 15" laptop and lunch. I’ve also used it for cross country skiing.

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So do I, its a compact thing with a backpack converter. So I wear it as a backpack I prefer the agility a backpack offers.

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Dynamo lighting is so much more accessible with Shutter Precision, Shimano, and Panasonic (plus a few others) now. It’s not just SON starting at 300USD for a hub anymore, and the lights are fantastic.

Backpack vs. rack, Lycra vs. merino, etc. hasn’t really changed much: personal tastes change but I don’t think any of the technology or options in those directions are materially different.

It seems like no question that disc brakes are expected if you’re buying a new bike for commuting.

And like another poster said, e-bikes are a big change, and a positive one IMO: it’s leading to renewed interest in commuting infrastructure.

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Agreed - doesn’t sound like I’ve missed anything really, but it is helping me to remember the usual challenges so thanks to all contributors.

I’m going to test out my tourer and partial kit at lunchtime, maybe do a trial commute tomorrow. I hate the stress of assuming and not knowing a route/time.

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Think if you want to be an “all the kit” kind of guy, there are lots of good bike packing bags now on the market that work on road bikes (without a rack). Also maybe the electronics side for safety has moved on - varia radar, cycliq cameras etc. (I know these existed before the pandemic, but they might be more widespread now?)

I also think there are more people now commuting on bikes and especially on escooters, and not all of them seem to have heard of the highway code.

A more pleasant change is that I find “commuting by bike” to be seen as a more normal choice now and less outlandish. It likely still very much depends on where you work.

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Have you found a way to fold/roll your clothing in one of them that doesn’t lead to looking like its been sitting at the bottom of the clothes basket for two weeks? Not judging, and not actually a concern for me b/c I can hang most of my clothes in a locker at work, but lots of people aren’t as fortunate and might need to look more presentable than I do…

I’m not sold on the radar. I don’t have one, but I’m not sure what practical application it would have for someone who is riding in dense traffic of a city. Thing would be beeping so constantly and providing no distinct warning.

I am 100% sold on the proliferation of cameras, though. The more dangerous driving gets publicized, the more likely some small portion of drivers are likely to drive a hair more safely.

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The Varia is one thing you don’t understand the benefits of until you have one. I’d rather have the instant knowledge of something there or more importantly for me something not there, than rely on the possible future adaptation of driver behaviour due perhaps cameras (too late if you’ve already been hit). I ditched my camera’s they didn’t magically stop things and only caused me to fester on events. Cameras may depending on the police force be used as evidence but I’d rather not have to that evidence submitted/ ignored. That said if traffic is too dense thats where the Varia falls down. On my commute I’m lucky enough though to have about 1mile of city bike path’s, 1/2 mile of fast busy road then circa 7 miles of rural road, then 2miles of near stationary traffic. The first mile could be a slight beeping pain but you get used to it, when it gets busier anyway you cant hear it. I like it for the rural bit where traffic is lighter where it’ll more often give you the knowledge nothing is there and I can chill. With it working on relative speeds the last two miles though does’t tell me much as I am the one doing the overtaking. lol, I’m 99% sold on the Varia and 0.1% sold on cameras :joy:

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