In my recent post on a handkerchief capsule collection, there were quite a few questions about commuting to work by bike. They can be summarised as:

  1. What should I keep in the office, and at home?
  2. How do I rotate them to avoid things being boring?
  3. Is it OK to leave expensive things at the office?
  4. If I cycle in a suit, how can I avoid wearing it out?
  5. How can I transfer clothes to the office on a bike?

I have cycled to work for 12 years, and I should say up front that although there are ways to mitigate these issues, they certainly can’t be solved.

I sometimes fantasise about commuting by train, just so I can have the full selection of clothing to choose from every morning, and more need for coats, hats and scarves. Unfortunately, you can’t have both.

So, at the office I keep:

  • Five jackets and suits (total)
  • Two extra pairs of trousers (chinos and flannels)
  • Five ties
  • Four pairs of shoes
  • Three sweaters

Every day I cycle to work with a shirt, socks and underwear. The shirt sometimes gets a little crumpled, but I pack it carefully. I don’t use a box, though I have used a Shirt Shuttle in the past (current bag too small for it).

Ideally the shirts would be washed, pressed and kept at the office, but this (a) is expensive, (b) takes up too much room, and (c) usually involves dry cleaning, which would substantially shorten the life of the shirts.

I often bring in small things like ties or hanks too, but you are essentially composing an outfit in your head, based on what’s at the office. This is a bit of a pain and inevitably leads to safer, less interesting combinations.

To keep things fresh, I swap clothes around once a week. There will be usually be one day where I’m going out in the evening and therefore not cycling. On this day, I take in a couple of new items, like a jacket and shoes, and take two home.

The problem with that, of course, is I have to carry things around on a night out. But you can also (with a little more thought) wear those new clothes into the office in the morning, and wear the old ones home, having changed at the end of the day.

Tweed Run 2011 Huntsman 3
From and old Tweed Run. Not how I commute…

That answers questions (2) and (5) above. The answer to (4) is, don’t. Not in a suit anyway. If you really have to cycle in smart clothes, at least do it in a jacket and chinos or jeans. These trousers will wear a lot slower, and if they do wear out, at least you’re not left with a stranded suit jacket.

I often cycle to appointments on a Santander rental bike (what I still call a Boris bike). And I try to follow these recommendations for that. Normally chinos and a jacket; rarely flannel (it wears out very fast); usually a short coat, gloves and a beanie, not a fedora. Again, it’s a shame that clothing is limited by means of transport, but cycling is always nicer than the tube.

Expensive things are usually fine at the office. If you put them away, they will usually be covered by company insurance. Though worth checking.

And finally, what should you actually keep at the office?

This is the point of the capsule collection posts, so far on ties and handkerchiefs. As to tailoring, a lot depends on what others wear in the office, but I usually have:

In the reader questions, Rob mentioned twice that he ends up having boring things at the office. I’m afraid that’s inevitable with such a small wardrobe, but I do try to keep this last slot free for something I’m experimenting with or learning to wear.

(Worth a separate post on that some time – the process of getting something new and ‘learning’ how to wear it. Which colours. Which level of formality.)

If anyone has more specific questions, please let me know.