How to avoid being smelly when you get to your destination?

One of the biggest problems that people tend to look at is the idea of getting sweaty an stinky after a bike ride. I think this has to be one of the turn-offs that people have with bike commuting.

At most of my jobs, there were no showers available. I would usually bring wash cloths and soap as well as cologne with me when commuting. That way I was able to wash my self up on the sink and wipe down. That usually kept me feeling pretty fresh. But I am curious to know how you folks get cleaned up and fresh for work?

I’ve even solicited the help of our own Russ Roca to shed some light on how he stays smelling nice and clean after riding his bike 40+ miles to meet up with his clients. I’m hoping he’ll be able to share how he does this because I’d like to know!


  1. David Veatch March 11, 2008 12:41 pm 

    Mine is only a 9.5(ish) mile trip one way. I shower before I go, typically take it pretty easy on the way, and when I get there all I need to do is put on fresh deodorant, wash my face, and I’m good to go.

    On the way home, I stay on the hammer ring as much as possible trying to get my speed up and my times down. But then it doesn’t matter, b/c I happen to have a shower at home.

    Of course, we’ve not yet had a day here that it’s not been below freezing on departure. Once spring and summer kick in with 70+ °F days at 06:00, I may have to adjust my habits some. :)

    I reckon I’ll have washcloths and soap on hand here at work for warmer weather.

  2. John March 11, 2008 12:49 pm 

    Baby wipes. lots of them 😮

  3. RL Policar March 11, 2008 12:51 pm 

    I’ve tried baby wipes and I wasn’t a big fan of the smell they left. Is there brand or scent you prefere?

  4. Ben C March 11, 2008 1:32 pm 

    I shower at night. I use a clear liquid roll-on on my pits, genitals, and feet. I don’t smell when I arrive. My ride is 9 miles one-way. The liquid is like the crystal stuff. Fortunately I have my own office so I close the door and am able to cool down while I boot the computer. I do use a small towel to dry myself off.

    I am also fortunate that I sweat easily. It takes a while for me to sweat. I prespire.

    Keep riding!!

  5. Jamis_Bater March 11, 2008 1:35 pm 

    My commute used to be 17 miles each way, now it’s down to 7, but I still get soaked in sweat. I try to leave he house fresh, with a shower just before going or at least the night before. When I get to work I peel off the cold weather clothes and let myself cool down and stop sweating. Then I head to the bathroom and wipe down with wipes. I prefer Wet Ones to baby wipes, they aren’t quite so “Baby” smelling and are antibacterial. I sometimes wash my face in the sink if it’s particularly salty feeling. Then a shot of deodorant and a little body spray and I’m good to go.

  6. Ghost Rider March 11, 2008 2:11 pm 

    My commute is short, but in the Florida heat, I sweat the minute I go outside. I try to ride easy on the way to work, but that doesn’t help me from getting soaked by the time I get there.

    Hydration is good for not being stinky — if you’re well-hydrated, your sweat wont’ smell as bad (or so the rumor goes). Taking a shower and really loading up on deodorant right before I head to work helps.

    My wife buys me this patchouli and salt-based deodorant block from Lush (, and the stuff works like a charm. I keep an extra chunk at work just in case.

  7. Mike March 11, 2008 3:08 pm 

    My commute’s 15 miles each way. I used to shower when I arrived at work, but have found that if I shower before heading out, I’m usually not stinky when I arrive. I do keep a washcloth and extra deodorant on hand in a locker just in case.

    I think maybe everyone’s a little paranoid about the stink.

  8. Noah March 11, 2008 3:25 pm 

    Deodorant and Two wash cloths. One to wash with, one to dry with.

    I only do it if I get sweaty. Usually, I just take it easy. That works when it’s below 60 in the mornings.

    I find the one locking restroom on my floor, commandeer it, strip, wet and soap up a rag with the handsoap in the bathroom, scrub off, rinse the rag, scrub off again twice to get the soap off. Dry with the other rag, throw some deodorant on, wet my hair down if it needs it, then comb my hair.

    Usually, though, slowing it down a bit keeps me dry this time of year. As long as I’m clean before I ride, I’m clean when I show up.

  9. Lance March 11, 2008 3:32 pm 

    You know, I got in touch with RL and subsequently write for the site because of this issue. Back then this site advertised for Crystal deodorant. I had the WORST body odor and tried every deodorant and antiperspirant I could find.

    I’m still using the same Crystal stick, almost a year later. I can go 24 miles in 100 degree heat and still have no body odor. I hate to sound like an advertisement but that little stick, literally, changed my life, for the better. I never smell during “intimate” times with the wife and never smell at work now.

    I try to recommend this ingenious product to people I know but they always shrug me off. You still sweat, but apparently it kills the bacteria that mix with your sweat(which makes the odor).

    I still keep a wash rag at work and wipe the sweat off my body before I change but I never have to wipe away any stink. It is THE greatest bike commuting tool I have and the one I would never give up.

  10. Ben C March 11, 2008 4:12 pm 


    I don’t believe the Crystal rock ‘kills’ the bacteria. I belive it only blocks it from forming.

  11. Yant March 11, 2008 4:15 pm 

    I used to shower at work on arrival but found I’d just start sweeting again afterwards.

    Merino wool base layers are fantastic , warm and wicking and not smelly

  12. Mike March 11, 2008 7:50 pm 

    Baby wipes. Then a generous “Poof” of baby powder or Gold Bond. I also slow way down for the final half mile and let the breeze cool me off. I find that I do most of my sweating after I stop riding.

  13. Matth March 11, 2008 8:14 pm 

    I tend to sweat a lot, but it’s usually not very smelly… in the summer I change tops (and bottoms when it gets really hot and humid) and have body deo at hand… in the winter I don’t really bother as I don’t sweat as much. I’ve even asked around and the only thing I got was that “I smelled like men, in a good way” (deo + very slight musk – at least I think). I too think smelliness is overrated 1) you usually don’t stink as much to others as you’d think 2) people are aware of the effort and don’t seem to bother as much 3) darn it! their gas stinks too ;P

  14. mb March 11, 2008 11:15 pm 

    In Singapore heat and humidity, you sweat the minute you go outside. I can shower in the office, but these days, after my 7km ride to work, I find it easier to just dry up with a Fieldgear chamois towel or some strong tissues, wash up the face at the sink, put on some deodorant and change into a new top.

    Taking a bath before leaving the home helps a lot too, because sweat won’t stink that much if you’re clean to begin with. And riding with Dry-weave or Lycra helps keep the sweat from sticking to your body.

  15. Mikael March 12, 2008 3:59 am 

    Get sweaty? Ride slower. Hundreds of thousands of daily urban cyclists in Copenhagen, Amsterdam and the rest of Europe can’t be wrong.

    Although most workplaces in Denmark provide showers for their employees, few use them. Most people just maintain a casual pace in their regular clothes, even in 35 C heat in the summer.

    If you’re out to break your personal best record, then apply some of the above advice. If you just like riding to work at a casual pace, enjoying the ride, then take it easy.

  16. Ghost Rider March 12, 2008 4:20 am 

    Mikael, that just doesn’t work in tropical conditions like Singapore, Florida or other humid climates. A casual pace will make you as sweaty as hauling ass!

  17. SteveG March 12, 2008 4:29 am 

    Clearly a topic on a lot of minds! I use wet wipes and a dose of RightGuard deodorant. My wife picks up the WetWipes. They’re generic and smell a bit soapy. She got me baby wipes once, but the smell was so strong I couldn’t use them. The RightGuard has a strong odor, too, but it’s MANLY. I also keep a towel at work for those days when I’m especially sweaty. Usually the wet wipe does the trick, a minute or two checking email. I keep a couple of pairs of dress shirts and slacks at the office, and bring a fresh undershirt every day. Seems to do the trick.

  18. Jamis_Bater March 12, 2008 6:13 am 

    A little science helps in understanding B.O. It’s not sweat that smells, it’s the “poop” from bacteria that feeds on the gunk in sweat that smells (these are all scientific terms of course). If you are dry and smell-free before you leave, and your commute is less than the time it takes for the bacteria to do their nasty work (which is less than an hour), than you only need to cool down, get dry, and wipe clean the offending bacteria and sweat residue. A little deodorant or cologne is a good measure as well. This is coming from a guy who sweats like a Baptist preacher in tent meeting.

    Same goes for your riding clothes. Get them hung up and drying before bacteria gets busy and your clothes should be OK for the ride home.

  19. joel March 12, 2008 6:14 am 

    How to avoid being stinky? Live 1.5 miles from work. Even in the swampy summers (Baltimore) I don’t really have time to get stinky. Fresh clothes and some deodorant do the job.

  20. John March 12, 2008 8:12 am 

    I’m only 6.5 miles away from my job here in San Jose/Cupertino so not much sweaty going on at 6:30 am even though I go pretty much go all out during the commute. After arriving I just change into some jeans and maybe a different shirt and I’m ready to go!

  21. Quinn March 12, 2008 8:40 am 

    1. I live at a higher elevation than my job.
    2. I look for jobs that are not so criticle on smelling good
    3. I don’t ride a 35lb commuter, I ride a 23lb ‘cross bike.
    4. I carry Axe™ Every where I go.
    5. I wear jerseys, and when the wearther gets to hot for a backpack, supplies go in my wedge or in my cargo shorts.

  22. Wayne Myer March 12, 2008 11:11 am 

    For the sweaty, grimy commutes, I made my own cleanser/moisturizer/disinfectant/deodorizer. Inspired by Rocket Shower:
    50%rubbing alcohol, 1 part
    witch hazel, 1 part
    essential oil, your choice, although I like lime, teatree, or peppermint, 1-10 drops to”taste”
    couple drops of olive oil, optional for moisturizing skin

    Put all the ingredients in an oil mister and shake well. Spray on as needed, wipe off with soft, absorbant cloth. Enjoy your newly cleaned state sans shower. All without heavy perfumes.

    I find this also keeps the crotchitis away. Since I have started using this mixture, I have not had any crotch issues at all.

  23. Angie March 12, 2008 12:31 pm 

    Shower in the morning before heading out, cover most of upper body with deodorant. Bring a change of clothes to work everyday. After getting to work, I stay in my cycling gear for at least 10 min to cool down/stop sweating, or until I realize that I’m getting chilly in sweaty clothes. Most of the smell stays on my riding clothes, and I keep a deodorant stick for backup at work, just in case. I use Tom’s of Maine, which is comparably terrible to any aluminum based products — but with that routine above I rarely need my backup stick.

    Of course, right now New England is going through its annual Winter Part II. In the sticky summer times, that second stick comes in handy.

  24. Gibbsy March 13, 2008 12:34 am 

    I think its all a bit of modern era farce. Before we all became so car focused loads of people cycled to work – think of those photos of hundreds of bikes lined up outside factories – and did they feel the need to shower? Of course not. As long as you don’t hammer it you arrive no worse than if you walked or stood in a musky underground carriage I reckon.

  25. Jamis_Bater March 13, 2008 6:22 am 

    Some of us do hammer Gibbsy. For some, like myself, my commute is also a part of my fitness program. I got kids and a wife and have to fit a ride in where it works if I ever wish to see them. So I hammer on my commute and sweat like mad.

    Simple fact is our current American office culture doesn’t allow for much B.O. Before the auto is when folks got plenty of “exercise” in their daily lives without even thinking about it (if you walk everywhere and don’t have a T.V. you’re more likely to be active). Before the auto is also before modern deodorants and antiperspirants and thus before smelling good affordably. Like the auto, deodorant is now firmly ingrained into our culture (interestingly most European cultures don’t have the same hang-ups that we do with body odor). In my job I simply cannot go around smelling to high heaven and expect to land clients.

  26. Jon Karak March 13, 2008 8:53 am 

    I strip down, and “wash” with a washcloth using a small spot of standard bathroom soap, and “rinse” with the same cloth having thoroughly rinsed it of all soapy residue. I then change into my office clothing. Being bald helps because you can put your head under the spigot to cool off.

    I’ve found the handicap bathroom essential. For those of you who have never had the opportunity, it typically contains one toilet, a sink and plenty of room to change clothes. It also affords all the privacy you need.

    I’ve also tried showering too, but I find the only time I really needed it is during the high summer.

  27. TahoeDirtPrincess March 13, 2008 9:20 am 

    You guys are the best. I just moved to Mass for another 6 month contract stint and am chomping at the bit to ride to work (the 36 mile one way commute with 1200′ elevation change was uhm…not doable for me). Yes Angie…just when Winter appeared to be over, here comes part II…when I did commute for work, I did the two washcloth part but I didn’t find that I needed it that much. I also hit the pits with deoderant and washed my face. The challenge was dragging clothes to work every day.

  28. Velokitty May 19, 2008 4:59 am 

    Two words: Hand Sanitizer. I also tried baby wipes (I’m in hot humid Texas), but found they left me feeling sticky (not to mention all the waste I was producing). When I moved to a new job where there were no private bathrooms, washcloths & water ceased to be an option. But with hand sanitizer, I can rub myself down in a stall, and stand there as the stuff evaporates off, cooling me as it carries off the funk.

    And I always take a shower right before leaving he house and pull my hair back as tightly as I can. Then when I arrive, I can take it down and fluff it out…the wet hair also helps cool me off, and because it’s still wet, sweaty helmet head is less of a problem.

  29. Mike Myers June 6, 2008 3:05 pm 

    I shower before I leave and try to stay well hydrated. I live just north of Ghost Rider, so sweating is an inevitablity. I try to get to work 30 minutes early, and I stand around and stop sweating for a while. Then I wipe down with a towel, apply deodorant and body spray, and change into scrubs.

  30. Charles Stepp June 7, 2008 4:46 pm 

    Mr Wayne Myer!

    The mixture you described transcended the topic. I can’t wait to mix up a cocktail of my own design. I wonder what a few crushed Camphor tree leaves will do for it?

    I Live in Lutz, FL and commute to Tampa. Sweating is part of going outside. But we have showers at work, so what the heck.

  31. Ghost Rider June 7, 2008 5:02 pm 

    Charles, I imagine the camphor will add a nice “tingly” feeling to your cocktail. I’ve got two camphor trees right next door, and boy do those leaves smell nice when you crush ’em!

  32. Mike Myers June 8, 2008 5:03 am 

    This is going to be a bit too much for some of the guys here, but—-shave your pits. Seriously. I work for a dentist and spend a lot of time with my armpit close to people’s noses. Once I shaved my pits I noticed the smell was greatly reduced. It makes sense, because there’s much less surface area for bacteria poop to cling to. Just be confident if you wear sleeveless jerseys. :-)

  33. A.G. June 8, 2013 9:26 am 

    It’s about 6.8 miles and 45 mins on the bike. I love riding my 8 speed red papillionaire to work. There are showers at work so I usually just change into my work clothes when I get there. I strap on my Basil Kavan Panniers and keep all my gear in there.

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