Do you really need a shower?

Interesting discussion on Bike Hugger yesterday about accommodations for bike commuters. I agree – facilities for all types of cyclists are needed in urban areas. It would be great if Seattle provided secure bike storage facilities similar to bikestation around the city. Wouldn’t have to be huge – the size of a couple of parking spaces would probably be enough. Heck – I’d sure ride downtown a lot more for entertainment, errands and shopping if I was sure I’d have a secure place to park my bike. Tim and I often rule out downtown as a date destination because we’re not comfortable locking our bikes on the street while we’re seeing a movie etc. (edit by tim – especially in light of horror stories about stolen bikes, racks and all)

However, I don’t really understand the need for showers in the workplace or in a bikestation type facilities. Do you really need one? I’d think if you could just take a shower at home, dress properly for the weather, slow down a bit so you don’t work up that much of a sweat, you wouldn’t need to shower once you got to work.

Do you think these people shower when they get to work?

Amsterdam commuters

When I lived in France as an exchange student, the one question French people always asked me is why are Americans so obsessed with cleanliness? Good question, some sort of Puritan thing I guess.

I’m not talking about folks who commute long distances – you probably get stinky and do need a shower. But for short distances, which a lot of people who live and work in urban areas could do on a bike if they wanted, a shower really isn’t necessary.

In Amsterdam and Copenhagen fashion, Tim commutes in the clothes he wears to work – business casual, no suits etc. He showers at home, gets dressed and goes. His commute is 5 miles – no need for another shower once he gets there. That’s just silly. Yesterday someone commented on the lack of showers in the office. His response was, “Do I stink”?

I’ve said this before. If we’re talking about incentives to get people out of their cars and on to bikes, I think more people should ride around in regular clothes to show that you really can use a bike as a mode of transport (errands, commuting, kid hauling etc). Then, a bike is just a way to get around, and you don’t need special clothes for that.

Maybe I’m wrong – I’d like to know. If your commute/ride is less than 10 miles, do you really need to shower upon arrival?

- Anne

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11 responses to “Do you really need a shower?

  1. We are in violent agreement. My office moved 6 months ago, and I lost my shower facility. I thought it would be a big issue, but it hasn’t. I shower in the morning, ride to work, refresh the deodorant, and I’m good to go. The only step I haven’t taken yet is wearing street clothes on the bike. I ride on a cycling team and have several hundred dollars worth of uniforms, etc. that I can’t let go to waste.

  2. Nope, showers not needed, but I’m in Berkeley, so what do I know? I don’t stink after riding to work and back home even on warm days, and I’ve gotten used to not showering nearly as much as in the past. Perhaps the reply should be, “Why in the hell do Americans feel like it is okay to waste so much water?”
    Like Trevor, I’ve got numerous team kits from days gone by, but I’m lazy and don’t like changing at work all that much so I wear street clothes to commute. Well, that plus I guess I don’t care for my coworkers to see my junk while strutting around in spandex…

  3. I think you nailed one key factor in not stinking: taking it easy! :-)

    In Baltimore, I ride when it’s 95 degrees in the summer without a shower (unless I’m getting home). I just take my time as much as I can afford to.

  4. In all my years of riding to work, school, etc., I have never had a shower at my destinations, and it has never been a problem. For many people, it makes a perfect excuse not to ride, but realistically, it just won’t wash (couldn’t resist, sorry). As far as downtown goes, it really helps to have a bike that no one wants to steal, and to leave it in the right spot. I went to the Showbox to see Patti Smith recently, and discovered when I arrived that I had forgotten my keys. Given the choice of just going home and risking downtown Saturday night to see Patti Smith, I chose to take the leap of faith. I parked my industrial looking cargo machine directly in front of the Showbox, in full view of the doormen, and had no worries all through the show. Sure enough, it was waiting for me when I emerged. So much beter than waiting for a bus or walking five blocks to a dingy parking garage. Caution is needed, but with the right equipment and strategy, it’s really not so bad.

  5. I always shower before I leave for work, then I don’t apply underarm deodorant. After I get here I sponge my armpits with warm water and then apply underarm deodorant. I try do give myself 10 minutes of cool down before I change into my work clothes. I do ride in spandex. My commute is West Seattle to the top of Queen Anne. As far as leaving your bike in downtown Seattle, I’ve gone to the movies, the downtown Y, restaurants, Seattle Art Museum, etc, and never had a problem, just used a normal lock. Although the underpaid valet at Pacfic Place gave us grief for locking up to a garbage can. Val is right, you just have to pick the right spot.

  6. thats a very good post and great write up, i ride 25km each way to work and go down the baby wipe and deodorant root, which i have to say seems to work for me

  7. I think it kinda depends on the person and the city. My route to work in SF was unavoidably hilly, and my body starts to warm up and sweat with any exertion. When I was in Seattle (specifically bike commuting from Bainbridge), there were hills to be climbed that would get me sweaty even in a granny gear. (Additionally, back then I was um… an acolyte of Bacchus and big on burgers and fries, so the odor was pahr’ful).

    But, in a larger sense, I don’t think the issue is whether or not I personally need a shower after riding to work. If the point is to get a much higher proportion of people to get on bikes and let go of driving to work, and it takes converting a half a floor of underground parking into a shower/changing facility, I say fine! Do it!

    The thing that subsequently ends up driving me crazy is the inevitable objection that those kinds of infrastructural improvements are much, much too difficult and expensive. As if it was even in the same ballpark or league with the cost of expanding a single mile of 3 lane highway to 4.

    Anyway, I like showers, like bein’ clean at work, like even better the idea of leaving the house scungy and riding like hell, then cleaning up at the destination. And I think that the locker-room nature of a public shower would keep most folks from abusing the facility, which might even show a net savings on water. (Would you be so tempted to get lost in a 15 minute hot-tub-temperature shower at a gym?)

  8. Hmmmm… There’s something critical missing in the picture you posted. None of the bike commuters is wearing a helmet! I have to agree with Chiggins, that it is what you do and where you live that makes the difference. My commute is 20 miles one way, and it has at least two big hills going either way that gets me all sweaty. Over half of my commute route is on regular city streets with no bike lanes, so riding without helmet is unthinkable. I keep my hair short to lessen the maintenance, but still, my hair is all damp, slightly sweaty smelling and messed up when I take my helmet off at my office. Added to that, I have to wear suits at work. So yeah, since I moved to the current building which has no shower facility, I quit commuting in, though I still ride my bike home.

  9. My office is about three miles from my apartment, and I’ve just begun to commute on bike rather than via train or car. However, I live in Houston, Texas and I’m not sure how much I’ll glow (sweat) after an 85 degree ride to work at close to 100% humidity. Fortunately, my office has very clean and private shower facilities should the need be there. Right now, I bike to work in my skirt (shorts underneath) and keep my heels in my bike basket. We’ll see how I fare once it gets hot outside, but hopefully, I can continue my shower at home routine with just a little bit of freshening up at the office.

  10. Way to go PattyCake! Thanks for making a difference in Houston.

    We can’t offer you any advice for coping with the heat — we do have some tips for 39 degree rain — but please keep us posted on how it goes this summer.

  11. Although I’m certainly not one of those who is into bashing the French; I must respond to those whose generalize about Americans being “obsessively clean”: it’s a matter of degree & personal perception. The few recent European immigrants that I’ve know were, for the most part, very smelly & unkempt from head to toe (dandruff, bad breath, BO,etc.). For example: a pretty (but stuck-up) young Parisian female with whom I worked appeared well groomed; but when you passed her office, it reeked like a newly sliced onion. That was from her unwashed, unshaven armpits which she thought did not need any deodorant. “Les aromes naturelle” (the natural smells) were commonly accepted in her home culture. So, I don’t think that using their perception is appropriate in our society. We shouldn’t be cowed into accepting bodily stench for economic purposes (no cars, no showers) under the threat of being labeled “obsessed”.
    Secondly, the question of “do we really need a shower?” I can tell you that living in So Fl, the heat & humidity require a shower even if one walks a only few blocks. I used to walk 7 blocks to the bus stop directly into the sunrise, and by the time I got to the stop, sweat was dripping off of all ten fingertips, even in Autumn! If I missed the bus & walked the 15 blocks to a different job years later; my co-workers (in a windowless office) thought that I had gotten caught in a thunderstorm because my clothing was completely soaked (and this was at 7:30 am walking mostly in the shade). This also caused terrible rashes in several areas where skin meets skin. So, you may not need a showere, but many of us do; and you would benefit from that, too!
    -Carlos

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