This is the second installment in my Bike Talk series: posts that take up a question or topic that other cyclists or would-be cyclists have brought up to me. Today’s post is all about biking to work for those who have to wear suits to the office.
For some folks, a short bike commute to the office even in office attire, is a doable thing. We bike slowly, we change out our shoes, maybe change our shirts or add a sweater or jacket after we’ve wiped down and bit, and are cooled off and at the office. For others though, there is no way we’re going to wear a suit on a bike to the office. And then if not wearing it, how do you keep your suit from being completely wrinkled and destroyed on the bike ride in? The answer, I’ve learned, is garment bag-style panniers!
I was talking about clothing and bikes to a group of women at a Women Bike Chicago event this spring, when someone asked about wearing suits to work. An member in the audience replied that she managed it with garment bag-style panniers. Sue C., who wears suits to work on some days, relies on the Nashbar Commuter Garment Pannier pictured at the top of this post.
I never ride in my suits. I’m too worried I’ll get them all gunked up or I’ll get too sweaty and gross. For days when I have to wear a suit, I put the suit and all related items in the bag, and bike in wearing whatever’s comfortable. (Again, usually jeans or capris or whatever feels weather-appropriate; it’s only about a 5-mile ride, so nothing high-tech needed.) When I get into work, I find a place to change and stash the pannier in my workspace.
As for the bag itself, I’ll quote Sue again, though she basically mirrors the description found on the site about this bag.
It fits over a standard rack, so it takes up the entire back rack space. Along with the standard rack attachment, it’s got some additional clips to attach one side of the bag to the other to keep it even more secure. I tend to put put shoes/other accessories (like socks/belt) in the side pockets. The side and top pockets are fairly roomy, and I have no trouble fitting whatever else I’m wearing in those. Internally, it fits full-size hangers with no problems, and has a couple straps across to keep the clothing in place.
The key to these bags is that they hold your suit on full-size hangers so that they’re not just rolled up and stuffed in a bag.
Nashbar’s pannier isn’t the only one out there, but it does appear to be the lowest-priced. Here are a couple of other options.
1). Hyalite Company makes this “Swingline Bike Pannier” which says it’s made to fit your suits, but narrows at the top of the bag (when unfolded) and didn’t offer any photos with hangers.
2). Two-Wheel Gear makes this, “The Classic Bike Suit Bag” which also holds full-size hangers.
There are a lot of bike bags and panniers out there, but finding ones that work like a hanging garment bag and still fit nicely on your bike has been the challenge for some commuters that I know, but Sue seems to have found something that can work. Let me know if you wear suits to work and bike commute a few days a week – what’s your secret?
If you’re interested in other tips on commuting to work by bike, check out this series of posts I wrote for the Campmor blog on Bike Commuting 101.