Nurses Commuting by Bike

I got this comment on my Scrubs are My Uniform post and thought it needed a full post to reply:

Hi!

I found your blog when I was searching for nurses who commute to work via bicycle. I am considering giving this a try. I live 2.5 miles from the hospital that I work at, but I am concerned about riding in my scrubs. (I guess this post is somewhat on topic of your blog entry). I don’t think it would be very smart to ride in scrubs seeing as how they are my professional attire and I don’t want to damage them. What would be best to ride in? I don’t want to show up at the hospital in tight spandex… but I need something that will help me sweat less.

Thanks for your help!
Elizabeth

I’ve never felt qualified to give advice on my blog, it’s an aversion to taking a stand maybe.  But on this topic I have more than a little experience.  I’ve been commuting by bike for the last 4 years.  While it hasn’t been full time for the last year, it’s been rather frequent.  A caveat here though:  I do not bike the entire ride to work.  I’m not going to ride 13+ miles then work a 12-hour shift on the floor, just not that fit.  Yet.  I ride anywhere from 1-3 miles (depending on weather, how I feel etc.) to catch a light rail train then a mile or so on the other end.  But I’ve done it in every kind of weather.  Rain, snow, howling winds, >100 degrees <10 degrees, have suffered through it all, and loved it.  Enough of my cred though…

Yes, riding in scrubs is a bad idea.  They are not built for athletic excursions and depending on weather conditions, not very versatile either.  This doesn’t mean you have to go full on spandex kit either.

Full kit and Hardcore.

There is nothing wrong with plain old shorts and a t-shirt.  During the summer months it’s what I ride in.  I do wear bike shorts underneath the regular shorts to alleviate chafing and add a little extra padding which is especially nice when I decide to go for a ride on the way home.  I stay cool enough in that and don’t end up looking like a superhero.  Winter/Fall commuting is a whole other can of worms which deserves a full post as well.

There are complications though.  First, sweat.  Starting the shift sweaty isn’t the best, in fact it really sucks.  In the depth of the Summer when it is 80+ I sweat heavily.  Let’s face it:  I’m a big sweaty guy.  There are wipes out there that some folks use, but I use water and paper towels in the restroom at work.  And I carry deodorant in my bag.  Second issues is hauling your stuff.  I started using a backpack, graduated to a messenger bag, back to a back pack and now use panniers.  Besides a sweat issue where the bag meets the back, the bags did a number on my back that went away when I started using a pannier.  I abused the Banjo Brothers Waterproof Pannier into submission and ended up replacing it with ones from Ortlieb.  There is enough room to carry my scrubs, wallet, keys, cell phone, afore-mentioned deodorant, lunch with room to spare.  I use the restroom to change on arrival, so I have to build in extra time for the commute to allow for this.  With clean scrubs, a quick towel off and a swipe of deodorant you will smell better than 99% of your patients and maybe some of your co-workers.

The benefits of commuting by bike outweigh the complications.  I get exercise.  I get some alone time before and after my shift.  Sure you get that in a car, but you’re dealing with traffic, right?  I have had absolutely heinous shifts where I’m ready to quit nursing and by the end of my ride home, I’m decompressed and OK with the world and my job again.  I highly recommend it.

Here are some other links about bicycle commuting:

Commute by Bike.  Great site, has a Commuting 101 series which is a great read for those starting out.

Bike Commuters.com.  Another site dedicated to those giving up the car commute.

Both of these sites have extensive sets of links for even more information and community building.

Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery.  A funny webcomic to keep things light.

Lastly, just go for it.  Try it and see how it goes as that is the only surefire way to know.  Have fun!