If you are looking to bike commute over a longer distance than a few miles then chances are that you will be looking to pack your work clothes and change once you get to work. However, this is a little bit tricky given the type of bag and that you will be doing it many times a week. The most common question on this is as follows:
How to pack work clothes for bike commuting? Use two separate bags and ideally put your clothes in a pannier bag. Use a folding board to avoid creases and use a garment bag that inserts into your chosen bike commuting bag to avoid your work clothes getting creased or dirty.
Doing all of the above will make it quicker and easier to pack them. Get a separate shoe cover for formal shoes to keep them from contact with your work clothes. However, there’s a little bit to this to get things just right, as will follow below.
Cycling bag for work clothes
Getting the right bag is key to being able to fit in your work clothes when bike commuting on a regular basis.
The three main types of bags are backpacks with good ventilation, pannier bags or a hybrid pannier-backpack. As a personal recommendation, I’d suggest having one pannier bag for your work clothes and another backpack (be it a normal backpack or convertible pannier-backpack) for your day-to-day items. The reason why I recommend this combination is for a couple of reasons.
Backpack for day-to-day Items
I like to carry my everyday items in my pannier backpack (which has the shape of a backpack) as I find this works well. Backpacks have more compartments and pockets for organising small items compared to pannier bags, which is really helpful for carrying things like bike lights, bike multi-tool and so on. They are also quite but upright in design so lend themselves well to things like lunchboxes and liquids as they shouldn’t spill given that they are usually packed in quite tightly.
However, when I try to cram clothes in here as well, I often end up either creasing them slightly from packing them in too tightly or having to wear some of my waterproof gear as they can’t all fit in the one bag. For this reason, as will be explained below, I like to keep my backpack for things that I don’t need to change (i.e. lunchbox, lights, waterproofs, etc.) and then have a pannier for anything else.
Pannier for Work Clothes & Flexibility
My added bag for bike commuting is a standard pannier bag. These are usually just one big pocket and so they don’t lend themselves well to smaller items which can easily get lost, leaving you rummaging around.
Pannier bags come into their own when you have them for a dedicated purpose or item, like your work clothes. Their shape is more convenient for packing clothes, more like a wide shopping bag. This is especially handy in winter when you will be packing thicker, more dense items of clothing for your ride to work.
The other point about keeping a pannier bag just for clothes is that they are usually to light enough not to be a problem when carrying your pannier bag. I say this because most pannier bags only have quite a cheap shoulder strap or handle, something which I’ve found is painful when carrying a lot of weight in a pannier bag during a day at work.
If you try to fit lots of thick and dense items of clothing into your backpack, it will also have the negative effect of pushing more against your back, making you sweat that much more. I have also broken a zip on my bike commuting backpack from pushing too many clothes in there. This was my own fault as the pocket was clearly not designed to carry items in this way
If you simply dedicate one pannier bag for clothing, you will not have the issue of food or liquid potentially spilling onto them and it will be easier to pack each morning since your other bag can remain a constant and your pannier bag can be packed according to your clothing needs, which will change regularly.
Keeping Clothes Clean & Crease-free
When carrying clothes to and from work by bike, you will also find that it is quite easy for them to get a little bit dirty if not taken care of properly. This might be from some crumbs at the bottom of your bag, or simply from packing them in too tightly with other items and pressing against them during your ride. However, there are a few items which can help you with this.
These garment bags are usually for travellers fitting clothes into their luggage, but they work equally well for bike commuters. They are generally very lightweight and also waterproof, making them a handy extra to carry with you while also keeping your clothes protected from any stains or dirt.
They come in a standard size which is usually the size of a folded shirt or blouse when bought from a shop, roughly around 16in x 12in x 2in (but thickness depends greatly on number of garments you carry!), which is a little smaller than a standard sized laptop.
If you need to pack formal work clothes into your bike commuting bag regularly, you can get a folding board to help you do this quickly and effortlessly. I must confess, I did not know such a thing existed until I started writing this post and have not used one, but they certainly look helpful and are made specifically for this purpose. This single-use item should therefore be good for this purpose and a worthy investment if you stress over having creased clothes after riding to the office.
If you are anything like me when it comes to folding clothes (i.e. not great), then this time-saving device will be a welcome addition to your commuting accessories and something that you can use for many other occasions beyond just your ride to work.
Garment Bag and Folding Board Set
This garment folder and carry case set (Amazon affiliate link) is lightweight and designed for luggage, so it should do the trick for bike commuters as well as being something useful for your holidays. The key thing is to look for a garment bag or case that comes with folding board as there is no need to buy them separately – buying the two-in-one means that you will be sure that the folding board is the right size for the garment bag!
But What About Pants?
Most garment bags include pants in their description, so the same should apply when packing pants for your ride to work.
The only catch here is that there aren’t many folding instructions for pants, although they are not as tricky to fold without creases as shirts or blouses. Folding them around the folding board from top to bottom would help them fit into your garment bag or backpack without you having to worry about them creasing as they will be stored neatly and tidily along with your other formal work clothes.
If you plan to take shoes to work regularly on your bike commute, then a shoe bag is another good option. This means that you can keep your shoes and your work clothes in the same compartment without worrying about any dirt getting onto your formal clothes.
I should note that I prefer to keep a pair of shoes at the office under my desk than carry them regularly, and have found this works well for me. I say this as you might think that you need to carry shoes every day for your commute but it really depends on your office situation and atmosphere. If you are worried about your shoes looking unsightly at the office, perhaps you have a drawer big enough to fit them or simply could leave them zipped up in a black (i.e. discreet) shoe bag so that nobody will really notice them.
Keep Some Clothes at Work
Obviously, the points above are the way to do it if you but, this might not be necessary if you can find a way to keep some of your clothing at work.
The easiest thing to keep at work is a spare pair of clean socks. I do this for days when my feet might get wet from a torrential downpour (although my latest shoecovers seems to stop this finally!). I keep a single pair of socks in a drawer at my desk, meaning there is one less thing for me to carry.
If you ride to work at a medium pace with a flat ride for less than 5 miles, the chances are that you won’t actually need to change socks for your work day as your socks will only get sweaty if going uphill or riding for longer in a more intense way.
Shoes are another thing that I almost never carry on my bike commute as I have work shoes that are comfortable for riding in, although I should admit that they are little bit less formal than some workplaces would allow. If you can find comfortable plan black shoes, you might well be able to get away with wearing them both on your ride and during the day, removing the need to carry such a large item with you on a regular basis.
I also keep a coat on the coat hooks at work that stays in my office permanently. This is not an expensive coat but one that I have no problem losing but also does the job for walking on my lunch break or visiting people on different sites.
This is particularly helpful if you have a hi-viz jacket for riding since people like to make lots of sarcastic remarks about the colors, something which soon gets tired! A coat is also quite bulky so bringing it once is probably all you will need, freeing up that crucial space in your bag for more pressing needs.
Shirt or Blouse
Another item that you could leave at the office is a shirt or blouse to save you folding them for your routine bike commute. There are two ways that this might work for your workplace:
- Use a spare folding board and garment bag to leave several shirts/blouses at work in a drawer to keep them clean and to be discreet
- Hang them up in a suit bag if you have space and don’t feel uncomfortable doing so
You might simply find it easier to pack 5 x shirts/blouses at the beginning of the week and leave them in your drawer, using one each day and then take all 5 home for washing on a Friday, cutting down your day of folding and packing to just one day from doing it every day.
Clearly, the ideas above will depend on your circumstances but hopefully you can see that you don’t always need to pack a whole set of clothes on a daily basis to be able to bike commute, regardless of your route or distance.
Other Related Questions
How do I keep my shirts from creasing in the bag?
As mentioned above, having a dedicated bag for clothes like shirts should help you to keep them from creasing in your backpack. Using a folding board to fold them quickly and without creases and then inserting this into a garment bag is the best way to avoid creased shirts on your ride to work.
How do you keep your clothes wrinkle free in a backpack?
Keep the backpack as free as possible as most of the wrinkles will come from trying to squeeze in too many items into one bag. Following the points above for folding properly with a board should help but keep a dedicated bag for clothes is the best option as it means you won’t have too much stuff in one bag.
Is there a bike commuter suit bag?
There are not currently any bike commuter suit bags that I can find online, although this travel duffle bag looks like it could work for some of you. It helps you to fold it and has many compartments meaning that it might work for more than just your suit. A word of caution, however: I would not wear a messenger/shoulder-strap bag while riding as if it gets caught or tangled on anything on your journey it could easily pull you off your bike awkwardly, which you really don’t want. As an alternative, you could use the bag above for folding your suit and then insert this into your (large) pannier bag sideways, although I know this might not be ideal.
Apart from the duffle bag above, all searches for this kind of item come back to the standard suit carry-case which folds up and can be carried with a coat hanger.
If you have to wear a suit for your job, I’d suggest looking into ways of storing it at work, by either hanging it discreetly by your workstation or using a garment bag and keeping it in a drawer, or by transporting your clothes for the week on one day. Neither of these are ideal but the current products do not really suit the needs of suit-wearing bike commuters at the moment.