Car Free OKC: Shower Alternatives

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 . . .


Car Free OKC: Rain? Don't Sweat It!


Though many of us believed that it would never happen again, over the last couple of weeks we’ve seen some decent rain storms make their way through the city. Not nearly enough to make up for the drought, but it is a start. Normally, I must admit, I am a complete wimp when it comes to riding in the rain. I will usually avoid it at all costs. Which is funny because I don’t have any particularly bad experiences, but it just doesn’t strike me as the thing to do. When you decide to go car free, you don’t really have a choice and last week I had to make a couple of trips in the rain.

In doing so I learned a couple of really important things: first that riding in the rain can not only be refreshing, it is a lot of fun and secondly that there is nothing to it. I own a decently expensive rain suit made of some not-to-be-named breathable fabric that I purchased when I lived in Chicago. In Chicago during the spring and fall you can get these really chilly rains that can make a damp ride down right miserable. For those kind of rains a nice rain suit or poncho is critical to save you from just hating every second of your ride.

For some reason, probably because of the price tag, I feel the need to don my full set of rain clothing to face a summer Oklahoma rain storm. However, as much as modern breathable waterproof fabrics are a great improvement from the rain gear of the past, the fact is that they still suck if it is warm out. The amount you end up sweating when all geared up is just as bad as the moisture you would have gotten from being exposed to the rain (and it smells worse). If your ride is reasonably short and you plan on changing clothes at your destination, just get rid of the gear and let the rain fall. A warm summer rain just feels fantastic especially after the heat we have just been through.

For longer rides, I know that rain can lead to some chaffing issues that should be avoided and in those cases I would recommend getting a riding poncho versus a full rain suit. At least with the poncho you can get some air flow and they make some really nice special built ones like this. However, on Freewheel I have frequently used the large garbage bag to great effect and you can’t beat that price.

The only other tip to keep in mind is that even with an aluminum or carbon fiber bike, you will still have steel components on your bicycle. It is important dry out the crevices and nooks and crannies when you finish your ride if possible. At the very least, give it a nice rub down when you get home. Additionally, you will need to add some fresh oil to your chain and generally you should schedule your chain and gearing for a nice cleaning after some riding in the rain.

But I think the important lesson to take away is that you should just really enjoy the ride and not be afraid of a little damp. The world looks really neat on a bike in the rain . . .


Tips for Happy Riding

Just came across this great list of tips for a happy cyclist. Here are a few of my favorites, but there are some great gems in there:

Don’t ride in shoes you can’t walk through an antique shop in.

. . .

Never blame your bike or your health or anything else if you’re the last one up the hill or in to the rest stop.

. . .

If you pass another rider going up a hill, say more than “Hi,” but if it’s a woman and you aren’t, don’t assume she wants to chit-chat. Treat her as you’d have a generic guy-rider treat your wife/daughter/girlfriend.

If you’re a woman and it’s a guy, you can chit-chat all you like, they won’t mind.

. . .

Have at least one bike you feel comfortable riding in a downpour.

Ride in weather that keeps other cyclers indoors.

. . .

Learn to ride no-hands and to hop over obstacles, but not simultaneously.

Via: Rivendell Bicycle Works: Tips for Happy Riding