Bike Riding and My Stuff: Clothing Edition

It’s great to be getting back on the bike after taking a week off. I’m still catching up on all of the utilitaire activities I missed during my absence, and hope to have a roundup tomorrow.

While on my little bike sabbatical, I had a chance to think about and appreciate how much my bike is part of my everyday life.

Trying to get some miles in on vacation.

The past couple of years, my randonneur and real-life spouse Felkerino and I have been shifting to a car-lite lifestyle, especially during the week. We ride to work every day. We use our bikes to get groceries and go to doctor appointments. We’ve embarked on bike tours that started and ended at our front door.

From all of our bicycling, I’ve been learning a lot about myself. In particular, I’ve realized that I do not need nearly as much of the clothing I have.

Bike commuting has taught me that I don’t need as many business suits, separates, or shoes as I thought to make it through the work week. If I only wear work clothes at the office, it preserves their life as opposed to riding or walking to work in them.

I stopped buying as many shoes, partly because shoes are heavy and no fun to traverse back and forth to the office. Also, since I’m only wearing them at the office, they don’t get the same wear and tear as if I wore them all over town.

I now purchase the occasional article of clothing via the Internet or use my bicycle to shop locally. Knowing that I will have to haul around whatever I purchase makes me think twice about what I buy. I also love the reactions I get when I tell people that I don’t need a bag for my sweater/pants/skirt since I’m taking it home on my bike.

I don’t need lots of cycling-specific clothing to get around by bike (except for my SPD shoes, I do “need” those!). Instead, my typical commute attire this time of year is either a pair hiking pants purchased from REI or a pair of “skinny” athletic pants from Title Nine (their close fit keeps my pants safe from the chain without having to roll up my pant legs), a couple of wool base layers, Smartwool socks, a wool cap, and a light wool jacket from Ibex. (I keep a rain jacket in reserve for inclement days.) It’s a pretty simple uniform of solid and serviceable quality that doesn’t require a lot of pieces. Wear, wash, repeat.

Commuting on the Surly LHT

Bike touring has been another fine teacher about the economization of stuff. During Felkerino’s and my first tour, we loaded up our bike with two or three “on-the-bike” outfits and two or three “off-the-bike” outfits. Given that we weren’t on a fashion tour, but rather, a bike tour, we found all of that extra clothing to be a waste of space and weight.

We learned to make our “on-the-bike” clothing double for “off-the-bike” clothing and minimize what we took on tour. If I have the right gear to be comfortable (base layer, jersey, rain jacket, etc.), I do not need much in the way of clothing while on the road.

It’s really thanks to my bike that I finally took a step back to observe my consumption habits and saw that I was falling for brilliant marketing developed by clothing and outdoor companies. Yes, presenting myself well and looking good is important to me, but it does not take the inventory I lied myself into believing, especially if I scout out high-quality items.

Little by little, I’m figuring out that I don’t need or even want as much as I thought, and I’m starting to act accordingly. I am a bit sorry it took me so many years to get here, but for a variety of reasons, it did.

I have a long way to go. I still have too many clothes living in my closet (though some of that excess I attribute to weight loss and changing sizes over the past three years). Nevertheless, I’m grateful that bike riding put me on this path and I am determined to stay on it as best I can.


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