It's turning up at work all puffed out and sweaty! The office is a place for crisply ironed shirts and sharp suits. The walk to the photocopier should be a head-turning exercise demonstrating style and elegance...not a walk of shame accessorised with helmet hair, streaky foundation face and a skunk-like trail of eau-de-armpit!
All flippancy aside, looking good on your bike and arriving at your destination still fresh and relatively unruffled is a serious issue, especially for women. Sustainable transport charity Sustrans says that although 44 per cent of women have access to a bike, three quarters never use one. The reasons, they say, are a combination of concerns about safety and what to wear.
Do you need to revolutionise your commute?
Sustrans is attempting to tackle the issue with a nationwide campaign and new website: www.bikebelles.org.uk. Luckily there is a way to ride to work while staying smart and sweat-free at the same time: the no-sweat cycling method. That’s right, with this approach you don’t have to sweat at all!
For men and women who want to get back on a bike no-sweat cycling means you can wear regular clothes, pedal to work and arrive at the office looking smart and fresh. You don't even have to be fit, although you will get fitter. Anyone capable of a leisurely walk can use the no-sweat cycling method...
No-sweat cyclists scorn speed and aim to keep body heat production to a minimum. A speedy approach may save journey time but add to recovery and image- repair time at the other end, defeating the object entirely. Find a speed you can maintain without unduly raising your pulse rate and avoid all temptations to race other cyclists (or buses!) which overtake you. Choose a route which allows you to keep your momentum, and resist the temptation to burn rubber when restarting from a stop. Slow down as you near journey's end to slow your pulse rate, otherwise, without the benefit of a cooling wind, you'll heat up on arrival. Another tactic is to dismount a few minutes walk from the office to give yourself a bit more time to cool down and get yourself in the mindset for 'lookin' good'.
Hill climbing is the quickest way to get sweaty on a bike but with some clever gear-switching you can hit hills at a snail's pace and reach the top without any need for unsightly wheezing. Here's the technique: Approach at normal cruising speed, coast to the start of the gradient, select a low gear, and don't start pedalling until the bike has slowed to a comfortable climbing speed you can sustain. If your heart starts racing and beads of sweat start to form, slow down and recover. Treat each pedal stroke like a step on a flight of stairs and aim for the long-game. Your legs should neither be straining nor spinning too fast. When you get to the top, the only way is down. Sit back and enjoy the free ride (no-sweat cyclists take every opportunity to coast). The cooling breeze will correct any misjudgements you may have made on the way up and now you have time to recover.
Normal everyday clothing is the uniform of the no-sweat cyclist, with a few subtle changes. Men may wish to undo collars to allow heat to escape - so leave your tie in a pocket, and if you have to wear a jacket at work, leave it in the office. Avoid synthetic fibres unless specially designed to wick away perspiration and wear several thin layers so you can stop and strip off en route if you feel like you're getting a bit hot. Remember, heat production continues after you've stopped riding so remove a further layer (unless it's your last one) on arrival. Have a cool drink and fling open the window.
The most direct route may not be the best for no-sweat cycling. Leaving early and pedalling through parks and shady tree-lined avenues may be better than simply following the route you used to take by car.
Luggage You may need to carry things to and from work, a backpack will do the job but the best no - sweat option is a set of panniers that prevents the common cycling complaint known as 'sweaty back'. Never hang luggage from the handlebars, even if it's just a carrier bag of shopping on the way home.
Although the no-sweat way is not intended to get you fit, you will inevitably find that fitness levels do slowly increase. It is possible that once you start, you will want to do some more strenuous training rides at the weekends when you can get as hot and sweaty as you like. Good luck!
Lessons are a shortcut to becoming a capable, confident cycle commuter, however rusty your cycling skills.
Planning a route that best suits you and your bike will pay dividends every day. Here's how to go about it.
You get a bike and equipment. They save money and get a happier, healthier, more punctual workforce. Everybody wins. Nudge your employer now!