I’m often asked by non-cyclists about how I clean up after my daily commute. After looking over the comments from my recent post about the contents of my commuter bag, this subject is of great interest to cyclists as well. Up until just a few months I had the best possible option, an actual shower. I’ve now tried a number of products and as you might expect, nothing lives up to the real thing. However, just because you don’t have an access to a shower doesn’t mean you have to give up riding to work.
The first option is the simplest, don’t pedal so hard. The fact is that under many circumstances it is possible to make decent length trips without the need for any substantial cleanup if you just make your ride as leisurely as possible. Any sweat that you do build up can be cleaned up with a quick trip to the restroom and some paper towels. However, this is Oklahoma and we all know what the heat can be like. I tried the leisurely approach before a meeting earlier this week and given the high heat and humidity, the results were pretty disastrous. Additionally, many people, including myself, enjoy getting a workout as part of our commute. Therefore, other alternatives are needed . . .
The usual alternative is the baby wipe. The most important thing to getting yourself cleaned up after a ride is to not only remove the sweat but to kill the bacteria that feed on that sweat which really produces the unpleasant odor. Baby wipes are an excellent way to fulfill both of these goals. However, they have a few draw backs that keeps me away from them. First of all, I’m not a big fan of the scent. So unless the smell is something you like, I highly recommend finding some scent free wipes. Secondly, the wipes, no matter what the scent, contain mostly alcohol which I find makes for dry skin. Thirdly, the fact that you generally go through more than one in a session and then throw them away makes them a bit wasteful in my view, though a box can certainly go along way.
Because of these reasons I sought out some alternatives to the baby wipe and I came across a couple of promising options. The first is something called Action Wipes. These are essentially an over sized and very thick baby wipe (about the size of a normal wash cloth, see picture above). These use a water based formula containing coconut oil, frankincense, eucalyptus and tea tree oil. The scent is pleasing but it does linger a bit longer than I would like. However, they do an excellent job of cleaning the skin of sweat and grime. Additionally, unlike a normal baby wipe, these are made of a sturdy material that can be put through the washing machine which can then be re-purposed as a shop rag or for washing dishes. Of course, this leaves you with probably more rags than you know what to do with, so the waste is still a bit too high for me since I would use one every day. While I don’t use these for my daily commute, I do keep these around though for my weekend rides and longer trips. They fit nicely into your seat bag and are perfect when you finish a ride and don’t have access to shower facilities. Additionally, they can be recharged with more of the Action Wipe compound but this seems a little cumbersome.
The product I ended up settling on is something called Rocket Shower (yeah, I don’t like the name either). This is a spray bottle product that uses witch hazel, alcohol, grapefruit peel oil, peppermint oil and vitamin E. You can buy a kit that comes with a microfiber wash cloth, a 8.5 oz spray bottle and a mesh carry bag. You just spray the product on your body, let it set a bit as it will cool you off as the product evaporates and then wipe off with the wash cloth. The cooling effect is great and the scent quickly dissipates after application. Additionally, while the product does contain alcohol, the vitamin E does a great job of keeping your skin from drying out. A single bottle lasts for 40-50 applications and you can buy refill bottles. I’ve used the Rocket Shower for the last three months throughout an extremely hot summer and it has worked great.
The important thing to note is that there are a variety of workable options (any of the ones above will work well) and while none of them are as good as a real shower, they all will serve you extremely well for daily use. Hope that this will allow some of you to get out there and find the joys of a bicycle commute . . .