I have an internship that is close enough to my apartment that I could ride my bike to work. Obviously, that will cause me to sweat on the way to work, especially during summer, so even though I would do proper hygiene and shower before heading to work, I could smell bad by the time I arrive.

What is the etiquette for such a situation? And what things could I do to reduce the smell?

Or should I simply not ride my bike to work?

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    @gdhoward , you might be interested in bicycles.stackexchange.com
    – ANeves
    Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 0:27
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    Bring a bottle of alcohol or witch hazel or astringent and cotton squares. Soak the cotton and rub them under your arms, and between your legs. Possibly the inside of your elbows too. Smell is caused by bacteria, not salt water.
    – Chloe
    Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 2:11
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    Two words: sponge bath. And of course don't ride in your work clothes.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 5:38
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    Contrary to popular belief, sweat is not body odour. It takes a while for sweat to smell bad. Ride the last mile slowly to cool down (avoids thermal bloom when you stop) and change your shirt once cooled off. Drink cold water to help cool down. I've never used my work showers, because I don't want to, so I save the high speed rides for the trip home.
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 9:17
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    @gdhoward They have a question on a similar topic that may help you: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/15594/… Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 9:40

6 Answers 6


Ride slowly

I've worked with people getting away with this just fine. Works best if it's a job with a relaxed dress code (eg. can wear t-shirts). Probably not a good idea if you tend to sweat from light exercise (like me), or have a long or hilly ride to do. Cotton and merino wool t-shirts are ideal if you don't plan to change clothes - avoid synthetic clothes that tend to promote smells.

Change in the bathroom

I've done this for an entire summer. I took a shower before leaving to work, eased my stance in the morning, carried clean clothes in my pannier, briefly cleaned up my underarms with a small towel and always felt clean. In fact, I usually felt cleaner and more comfortable than walking or taking the bus in my work clothes under the crushing heat, without the nice head wind of riding a bike. Can be problematic if you don't have a bathroom with a bit of space.

Get a membership from a nearby gym

Gyms usually provide showers as part of the package. Some might give you a discount for shower access only.

Pick workplaces that offer showers

Best bang for the buck. I always ask if they have showers at the open questions part of interviews. To me it's part of the benefit package to be considered when accepting a job offer, and it's also a good discussion starter: I've had managers telling me they also bike to work, etc.

  • I agree with @Kilisi. I didn't know that synthetics did that. Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 23:04
  • I usually wear synthetics and have the impression that they keep me drier than cotton … Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 14:46
  • @MartinUeding Drier on the inside does not mean less smelly on the outside.
    – Mołot
    Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 19:07

I ride to work, and ride around clients all day so minimum 1 hour each way on the commute, anything up to another 4 hours going around although that's rare. The only way to remedy the sweating is showering, so I probably have 5 showers a day (I have a shower at my office and several of my clients have showers).

Take a change of clothes with you to work every day, arrive early, and have a wash. If you don't have a shower, find somewhere nearby that does have one and will allow you to use it. Be courteous, buy your own soap and bring your own towel (I used to leave a towel at work before we put in the shower.). Many places such as engineering workshop or even gyms have showers. I used to go to the mechanics next door to my office and use theirs.

Always try and make sure you are fresh after a bike ride, finish your shower with cold water, and take your time under it, this cools down your muscles, because if you just got off a bike and have a shower, your internal heat can easily start you sweating again if you don't do this.

I have never found it impossible to find a shower nearby. Admittedly I'm in the tropics and being third world no one would bat an eyelid if I jumped in a river with a bar of soap, (I have one client a two hour ride away with no shower, but there's a stream nearby) but even when I was in NZ I used to make sure to have a shower, just because you can't smell it doesn't mean everyone else can't.

The key thing is it's your decision to bike... don't make it someone else's problem.


It depends on the person. I can take a soap (kills bacteria) shower, ride 20 miles, and not smell for several hours. Put on dry clean clothes when you get to work. It takes the smelly bacteria a while to grow. You also have people at work that sweat going up a flight of stairs. You have people that don't bath before going to work.

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    You also have people that sweat just by breathing (like me!) That doesn't mean the OP shouldn't do as much as possible to avoid sweating. Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 9:31
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    @sevenseacat Why? Some people actually like to get some exercise and get to work quickly.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 10:43

I would like to add two more things:

  • Sports clothing. Most sport companies have products designed to keep you cool (or warm, or both). You don't need to buy an entire set, just a couple of basic t-shirts and maybe a jacket. Depending on the locale, they may seem expensive, but they are worth it.

  • Clinical deodorant. If the standard roll-on or spray deodorant doesn't work, you might consider trying long-duration (clinical) deodorants, which in most cases get rid of the smell. Again, they're not cheap, but if you use it only when riding your bike one bottle will last for months. Just check with a dermatologist in case you're allergic to one of its components.


I usually keep a change of clothes at work (not because I bike, in the summer 50C is a cold day) but simply because it may get uncomfortable in the summer if I have to step out for a meeting or to run an errand. The ac can only do so much.

So, consider keeping a change of clothes are work; you can come in, refresh yourself in the bathroom and then change into your work clothes.

Of course nothing beats a shower so see if you can find a gym or similar nearby that you can utilize.


First, why not 'phone them up and find out if they have a shower. Most companies do these days - promoting healthy life and carbon footprint. If this is not possible I would walk in for the first day and find this out.

If they do not have a shower then I would suggest what the other posters do.

If they do have a shower also find out if they have a locker - better that carting change of clothes around, towel etc. As for the shirt - to make it wrinkle free after being ironed and put into the rucksack, bung the shower on as hot as possible for a few minutes with the shirt hung up in the steam. This works a treat.

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