With the subways faltering and Citi Bikes expanding, biking is now an established part of New York City’s commuting culture.
But there’s a conundrum: How do you bike to an office job without looking like a messenger all day?
Most offices still expect a modicum of sartorial decorum, even if they’re run by millennials with a laid-back Silicon Valley ethos. That leaves stylish men searching for ways to arrive looking fresh, despite having already logged a few miles on their morning ride.
For the architect Alex Lightman, 30, who bikes nine miles each day from his home in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn to his office in Midtown Manhattan, a full change of clothes is helpful.
“I don’t commute in what I’m going to be wearing to work,” Mr. Lightman said. “I wear a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, and I’ll change at the office. I have shoes and a couple blazers at work so I can just pack a pair of pants and a shirt in my bag.”
Additionally Mr. Lightman wears a cycling cap under his helmet, to help with the dreaded helmet hair. He places his backpack in his bike’s front basket, as opposed to wearing it on his back, to avoid unseemly sweat.
There are downsides. “It takes some forethought to stash some stuff at work,” he said. “I just wear one or two pairs of shoes at work, so if you want to wear something different every single day, it’d be kind of difficult.”
And he once forgot to bring his work clothes, which meant he had to buy an outfit before starting his day.
Cesar Villalba, 31, a designer at Coach who bikes six miles to his office in Hudson Yards from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, finds versatility in an unexpectedly quotidian piece of clothing: a button-down shirt. “I wear it around my waist in case I have to go to the theater, or if it gets colder,” he said. “Or if I get sweaty, I can hide it.”
Mr. Villalba also advises against a backpack (he has been using a cross-body bag lately) and to think about fabrics. He prefers linen in the summer and breathable merino wool for the rest of the year.
He also notes that having a reputation as the resident bike fanatic helps.
“Many times things have happened like I’ve gotten a flat before an important meeting and arrived with my hands covered in oil and grease,” he said. “Most of the people in the company know that I’m a cyclist. I’m that sweaty person with his hair always wet.”
While some office workers might not want such a reputation, Nick Rosser, 30, an account manager at the creative agency King and Partners, isn’t bothered by it. He bikes two and a half miles from the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn to NoHo, and often arrives drenched.
“I’m really sweaty,” he said, laughing, “and then I’ll stand in front of the air-conditioner for like five minutes. Everyone in my office just understands that I have to do that because I ride my bike to work.”
Sometimes he’ll even throw his T-shirt over the air-conditioner, whether or not his co-workers mind. “Everyone’s staring at me, but that’s the only way to cool down,” he said. “You either do that or splash cold water on your face.”
On the occasions when appearance matters more, Mr. Rosser has a stick of deodorant and pomade in his bag, so he can step into the bathroom and quickly freshen up before starting the day.
The best advice may be Mr. Lightman’s. “You don’t have to ride fast,” he said. “I do the nine miles, but I’m cruising, I’m not going for a personal best.”
After all, part of the pleasure of the morning bike commute is the scenery and the fresh air. “I’m cruising,” he said. “I’m enjoying it.”