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The discerning cyclist ensures that each commute is enjoyable and worthwhile. Finding your own cadence and choosing an ideal route will help keep a smile about the place. All of this is geared towards reaching your work in a good frame of mind.
Getting there without stress for me always meant routine and planning. A former job required me to wear a suit, so I would keep one at the office. I then sacrificed a day of cycling to take in the ironed shirts I needed for the week.
However, if you prefer to carry a suit to work (or wear one) modern suit design and packaging solutions on the bicycle offer a range of options for cycling to work in your suit, or packing it with you on your commute.
Can You Cycle in a Suit?
Yes, if you choose the speed that you wish to cycle at, and carefully plan your route. If you ride at a leisurely pace and your clothing is not too tight this will help. There are plenty of office-friendly bike clothing options to choose from. Save any restrictive neckwear for the desk.
Cycling culture currently involves the positive action of improved urban networks competing with high-octane hedonists chasing fast times and jumping lights. Danger and selfish riding are common complaints.
Advocates of maintaining the flow of road users and planning infrastructure for the future look to the Netherlands as a source of what can be achieved. Peak time journeys in Utrecht or Amsterdam prove that you can cycle in a suit. Take a look at which suit you should consider, if this sounds like your thing.
Choosing the right clothing and the right bike will help. Not everyone has this luxury, but there are some practical steps and considerations.
Natural fibres are considered more breathable than man made materials. They tend to have a little bit more spring, and bounce back to shape more quickly.
It may not be the most practical or cost-effective solution, but you could consider buying two pairs of the lower half of the suit at the same time that you buy the jacket. Rotation of this item could help limit the wear on its seat from repeated use.
Choosing your route to avoid known areas of pooling water, muddy cycle lanes, and/or splashback from other road users is helpful. Clips are inexpensive, and can prevent your trousers making contact with lubricant, or mechanical parts of the bicycle.
A machine-washable suit might not have been high on James Bond’s tailor’s criteria, but most major high street clothing brands offer these as another practical solution.
Finally, consider your riding style. Don’t break records. There is a kind of joy to be found in turning off your computer or timing device. Give yourself more time at the start of each journey. Sitting up in a relaxed position will also keep your clothing looser, and permit more air flow around it.
How to Carry a Suit on a Bike
If the idea of riding in your suit is unappealing, but you still crave the freedom and health-giving properties of commuting by bicycle, there are ways to carry a suit with you safely. Modern garment-carrying designs take into account the need to avoid creases and crumples.
A backpack is likely to be found in the homes of most people who have invested in riding bicycles. We may take them with us on longer weekend trips, or perhaps we take in some hiking to boost our fitness for cycling. Many use a backpack for their grocery shopping.
Provided you make the most of the storage, and ensure you have enough room for your suit, this could be a great solution. You’ll need a packing strategy to ensure that the suit stays in the shape you need it to be in to avoid creases. Some would advise that keeping it on the top of the backpack is helpful.
It should also be packed to avoid bouncing around if your journey is bumpier than normal. Waterproof fabric on a backpack and good shoulder straps are very important. An additional fitting across the shoulders can help, without being too restrictive.
Bike Commuter Suit Bag
You can also try a specifically designed suit backpack or bag. This is a more refined version of the common or garden backpack, and has some neat features specifically for suit carrying. Some come with compartments to separate the storage.
You may prefer a suit backpack or bag if you don’t like racking on your bicycle, or you have more than one machine. They’re rugged and built with cycling in mind. Some suit backpacks or bags can easily be adapted for other pursuits too.
More refined still is a specific garment pannier. A bigger commitment is needed here, as you’ll need a rack to house the product on the bicycle. The better ones fold out to one straight through unit, like a suit carrier. This means no unnatural folds and bundles of room. The unit clips off easily, and some have carry handles and shoulder straps.
One final possibility would be to invest in a purpose made suit roller. You may need to travel without too many more accoutrements as you are likely to have, to use the shoulder strap to carry it around. A bit more planning might be needed, but it’s a useful carry tool nonetheless.
Best Suit Bags for Cycling to Work
There are many options to choose from and your decision may depend on size, practicality, purposefulness for other uses, flexibility of carrying, or ease of clipping on or off the bicycle.
Henty Wingman Backpack
First of all, it has a pretty cool name. This is a versatile garment bag and suit carrier which can cope with all-weather travel, including commuting. No rain covers are required. It comes with a separate dry bag.
- Coat hanger with pivoting hook
- Padded adjustable shoulder straps
- Webbing loop for bicycle light
- Fixed 15” laptop pouch
- Padded adjustable shoulder straps
- Large external pockets for keys, documents, folders and accessories
- Weatherproof, rubber YKK zips for suit compartment
- Hip belt for cycling
- Reflective piping for flare attention at night
Two Wheel Gear Garment Pannier – Classic 3.0
This is the Jean Passepartout of the bicycle garment carrying genre. It would not look out of place as a weekend bag. It even comes with some great accessories, and packing aids.
It has a briefcase mode as well as the traditional over the rack pannier. Some users bemoan the lack of a clip to keep things together in the briefcase mode however.
It is all-weather and wrinkle-free, and fits all standard and oversized racks from 6mm to 16mm. There’s a whopping 35 litre capacity, so plenty of room for shoes and shirts, as well as possibly carrying home shopping or bits and pieces from your workstation.
- Four exterior pockets for shoes and accessories
- Removable trunk bag / toiletry kit
- Separate 5 litre wet sack for shoes, dirty or wet items
- Internal mesh organisation with hidden pocket
- Padded 15-inch laptop packet
- Reflective design with loops for lights
- Converts from pannier bag to travel garment in seconds
- Includes padded shoulder strap and high-visibility rain cover
Vaude Aqua Back Plus
This is a standard set of rear panniers which have the added advantage of a roll close finish. You should be able to tailor the size of the bag and minimise any folds and rolls you need to make in your suit. The bags have a useful clip system allowing for easy adjustment. They come in a pair and can be directly locked onto a hook.
- Waterproof roll closure
- Top and side roll closure
- Spacious main compartment
- Lockable QMR
- Reflective logo
- Inside pocket
- Welded front pocket
- Removable shoulder strap
- Shoulder strap can be used as packing strap
- User-friendly QMR 2.0 attachment system
Best Suits for Cycling to Work
We’ve highlighted the principled and relaxed approach adopted by the Dutch in their mode of commuting by bicycle.
Cycling to work in a suit does not mean boil-in-the-bag, or spending the first 90 minutes of the working day wiping the condensation off the inside of your spectacles or monitor from slick perspiration.
Choosing the right garment for the job is important and there are reasonable options that can be considered if packing your suit is not your bag.
Cycling in a Suit:
Ministry of Supply Commuter Suits
The company has been experimenting to improve the comfort of clothing for nearly ten years. The founders met at one of the USA’s premier educational institutions.
One of the founders ran a half-marathon in their suit as part-PR, part product research.
The coating of their suits can be water-repellent. They have a warp-knit fabric which means the fibres within the material stretch without wearing out or breaking down. The clothing is machine washable too.
Suit jackets can be unlined to aid mobility and are designed to stretch in four ways. Suits are still designed in a tailored fit. You won’t need to size up and feel like a giant sail to stay cool.
Bluffworks Gramercy Travel Suit
This is another company about to rack up a decade in the design and pursuit of perfect attire for the cyclist’s wardrobe. The founders’ background in travel provides a grounding for ensuring comfortable clothes. After all, crease-reduction is a must if your life is spent in and out of a suitcase.
The design is intuitive and functional. A specific mobile phone pocket in the trousers makes you think, why doesn’t everyone else do this?!
The garments are machine washable, quick-drying, and have additional ventilation. The back is where perspiration inevitably builds when cycling, more so if you are carrying a pack.
The suit jacket has ten pockets in all which means that you may be able to leave the bag at home and stow your essentials securely in this suit.
The functionality is no compromise to performance – the materials mean that this suit is very resistant to creasing.