Thursday, October 23, 2014

Taking the Lane: Facing your fear

I am an avid cyclist with a secret. My secret is that I am quite terrified of the roads that I use for transportation and sport. I am telling you this, because I also want you, my reader to know, that I do not let this stop me from riding regularly. It is also my desire that if you are struggling with fearing the road that you know you are not alone. I am writing this to encourage you to keep riding or to start riding if these fears are what have been keeping you from the joy of traveling on two un-motorized wheels.

Bike Commuting (Photo by Piper Williams)
Having a little fear of the road is not unfounded and not a bad thing. Fear is a natural and healthy response for situations that require our care. One common bit of advice given to those with phobias is to rationalize the situation and assess the actual dangers. There is and always has been a measure of danger using any type of vehicle on the road. In cycling, assessing the actual dangers can be a little tricky. Individuals who are solely motorists often exaggerate dangers for cyclists and cycling advocates sometimes describe cycling as safer than it actually is to combat the false reports of the motorist. Being a scientist, I like to see facts. The statistics show that cycling is more dangerous than driving, but not by much. For cycling, the death rate is 0.37 - 1.26 deaths per 10 million miles (source). The death rate for cars is 0.11 deaths per 10 million miles traveled. These statistics include accidents from recklessness and the difference goes down when these types of cyclists are excluded. What we can learn from this is that we need to take care when cycling, but we have no reason to fear it anymore than we fear driving. Now, for the sake of full disclosure, minor injuries are more common on a bike than in a car, but studies have shown that these types of scrapes do not keep people from riding.

When I was getting my motorcycle permit, I was given an important piece of advice. “Fear the road enough that you give it the respect it deserves, but not so much that you put yourself in danger.” So we have covered that a little fear that generates safe practice, but excessive fear can keep people from riding. So how does one cope with that?

Another common piece of advice when dealing with fear is to have the person realize the control they have in the situation. I think this applies to cycling as well. As a cyclist you have a good deal of control in your personal safety. You can ensure that you are visible at night. You can educate yourself on traffic and bike laws and follow them. You can read Taking the Lane each week to learn new commuting tips. You can avoid situations where your safety is overly compromised. These would include passing large vehicles (busses, trucks etc.) on the passenger side, taking a corner at the same time as a large vehicle, and cycling too close to parked cars. One of the biggest actions you can take is to try and bike with confidence. This is something I have struggled with as I navigated narrow, shoulder-less roads with speeding cars. However I realized that cars give me more room if I am further into the lane and assert myself. This is a necessary in taking control of your bike safety.

Some tips for Defensive Cycling

When you are riding, another way to take control is be aware of those around you. This allows you to be proactive instead of reactive. Take note of what vehicles are ahead of you and beside you. Also learn to took behind you from time to time, especially if you need to move further into the lane. One great skill that will give you greater bike confidence is learning how to turn your head back while keeping your bike straight. The trick to this is practice and little bit of core strength. You are in control of your bike.

As a cyclist, you are also in control with the circumstance in which you cycle. You do not have to bike at all speeds and in all conditions if you are not comfortable doing so. It is better to cycle some of the time than none of the time. If cycling at a slower pace means you will cycle with more confidence, than do so. I often choose to go slower when commuting especially if I am balancing a heavy bag. It is also okay to make judgment calls about weather conditions that you feel are too risky. My personal no go scenarios are heavy fog and snow in parts of the world that are not used to snow. (I personally love biking the snow, but I do not trust drivers that are not used to the snow.) Doing this is not giving into your fear, it is yet another way of realizing your own control.

So far we have covered the actual danger of riding a bike and tips to be a confident cyclist who is in control, but what about the bad rides that leave us more scared than usual? What about the element of the unknown? All cyclists have had rides that have left them shaken. There are times when I feel like every driver on the road is out to get me and none of them are seeing me. In these circumstances I remind myself that my perceived danger is likely higher than my actual danger. Then I assess how I feel. If I am biking scared and am unable calm down, I have had to call it quits and take public transportation home. This does not make me a failure. If you have ever had to end a ride early because you were shaken, it is okay. What is important is that you ride again. As for the element of the unknown, I cannot promise you that you will be safe if you take every precaution. Some accidents cannot be prevented. What I can tell you is that cycling is a wonderful activity. It will improve your fitness, make your commute more enjoyable, and give you greater confidence. I can also tell you that facing a fear of the road gets better with practice. The first time I road my bike as an adult, I road on the sidewalk and could not keep my legs from shaking as I heard the cars passing. Now, I ride confidently on roads interlaced with roundabouts and shared with double decker busses. I still have fear, but I have also have recognized my own control.

Confident Cycling and Look at How Much Fun I am Having (photo by Piper Williams)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Taking the Lane! Deciphering the Lingo: Cycling Specific Clothing

The clothes we wear are a personal choice. Gender specific, different styles, and uses are just a sample of the factors that come into play when choosing what to wear. As a new commuter or even the seasoned veteran perfecting your commuter ready outfit can be trying. This post will touch on the lingo associated with cycling specific clothing and hopefully get you pointed in the right direction to refining your commuter get-up.

First and foremost you should run what you have. Your commuter outfit does not need to be cycling specific. Most everything I wear on my daily commute is not made for riding. I have made a valid effort to find clothing that is durable enough for daily riding. Some of my favorite pants are Carhartts and they finally made a ladies slim fit! As far as tops go I am slowly converting a majority of my clothing to wool and merino wool layers. Icebreaker and Ibex are becoming mainstays. Yes expensive, but I wash these items half as much, the wool keeps me warm if I get wet (i.e, sweat, rain), and it helps with odor.

Next up are places where I get a little more specific with my clothing choices. Rain gear is a great example. Rain pants and boots are simple and easy to invest in. I rock a cheap pair or garage sale boots and a pair of O2 original rain pants to get me to and from work in the chance of rain. Not the most flattering, but they work well and are cheap.
My rain get-up. Posted previously but just a reminder of how goofy I look.

Next up in the line of more specific clothes are jackets. This is where I also start to splurge a little more money wise. Some of the benefits of wearing a cycling specific jacket is first the cut. The jacket will have longer arms, a lower back, and possibly a hood large enough to accommodate a helmet. Some other features that are good to look for are wind-proofness and water resistance. During the winter months I can get away with using a wind proof shell, it will block the chill while allowing your body heat to keep you warm. This will also prevent you from overheating and sweating. A water resistant jacket will with-stand a quick ride home in the rain and will keep you dry. A water-proof jacket will resist water entirely. There are different level of water proof, along with added features like breath-ability these jackets become a quick go to. They are typically the most expensive though. Gore Bike Wear is a great place to start looking for these jackets. My go-to winter shell is the Element Gore-Tex Lady Jacket. Roomy enough to fit a layer underneath, but not so bulky it flaps in the wind.

Some other cycling specific lingo to look out for are things like a gusseted crotch, extra reflective bits, and places to hide bike locks, tools, or to route headphones. My personal favorite casual cycling specific clothes are Giro and Club Ride. They hide pockets and reflective material all over their clothes, while maintaining an awesome look.

In the end the most important thing is to be comfortable and stick with your own style, but you already knew that! Spluge where it counts, but use what you have! Cycling specific clothing can only go so far, personalizing, mixing, and matching really makes commuting that much more comfortable.
My biking dress and staple hoodie!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Taking the Lane: Where to Buy Cycling Clothes

Pedal Savvy bicycle fashion show 2010 during t...
Pedal Savvy bicycle fashion show 2010 during the San Francisco Bike Expo. [] (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Emily wrote a blog post a few weeks back about commuting in “kit”, or fitted cycling specific clothing.  I want to fill you in on how to find the best kit, specifically fitted Lycra cycling shorts.

I had a conversation with a lady at work about clothing choice and riding the bike.  She started commuting to work this year.  She lives out of town, and drives to the nearest trail located just on the outskirts of town.  She parks her car and rides her bike to work from there.  On this particular morning she commented about the clothes I choose to ride to work in.  We both bike over 10 miles to get to work.  She had been wearing shorts and was curious about the comfort of the cycling shorts that I wear.  I informed her that I prefer to wear cycling shorts because they were much more comfortable.  I also told her my preference is triathlon shorts with a minimal pad.  Zoot brand being my favorite, but they aren't found in stores locally, I have to find and order them online.

A week or two later I ran into her again in the locker room at work post morning ride.  She informed me she had purchased some bike shorts.  The kind with no pad.  She stated they were indeed more comfortable to ride in than shorts.  So if you think you might want to try cycling shorts for the first time here is my advice.

There are tons of great cycling wear outfitters across the web and in your town.  I own cycling shorts and shirts purchased from local bike stores.  I also own an equal amount that I have purchased online.  As I stated above, Zoot triathlon shorts are among my favorites and I have only found them online.

How do you know which brands and which styles of bike shorts to choose?  There are so many brands and styles out there.  My first recommendation is to try on various shorts available at your local stores. There is a very good chance you will find a pair you really like. Do you think you need more padding in your seat to be comfortable on the bike, then chose a style with padding. If you are comfortable on your seat and don’t feel the need for padding, then choose a thinner model, like a triathlon short. The more panels a pair of Lycra shorts have the more comfortable they will likely be on the bike. Check that they fit well, grip well, have the right amount of padding for your comfort level, have smooth seams, and have a comfortable waist.  Sit in them, move around in them, run with high knees.  Do they still fit and feel OK? I always do this in the dressing room. I’m sure people wonder what I’m doing in there, but I like to be sure they will work.

Each brand is sized different.  My closet has small, medium, and large cycling shorts.  Each manufacturer has their own unique sizing system.  For the most part you will likely choose a size similar to your current clothing size, but don’t be shocked if you need to size up or down.  Sizing down is always a moral booster.  If you end up buying online ALWAYS refer to the manufacturer's sizing chart, not the seller’s sizing chart.  Often the seller’s sizing chart is a general chart and not specific to any single brand they sell.  Also, measure your waist and your hips and your chest.  Don’t guess.

When you find a pair you like, buy them.  Try them out.  Ride in them multiple times (without underwear).  Decide if they are indeed exactly what you want in a short.  If there is something you don’t like, perhaps they gather in the crotch while riding and cause chafing issues, the waistband digs in, or you want more or less padding, then try a different style or a different brand.  And note, if you end up hating them some manufacturers like De Soto let you return them.  All other shorts you don’t like can always be sold on eBay.

Which brings me to my final point.  eBay is a great place to find cycling shorts at great discounts.  I have found some killer deals on eBay, and be aware there are many not so killer deals.  And it also lets me try different brands I can’t find locally at prices I don’t mind paying should I not like them. That’s how I came across Zoot shorts initially.

Other websites worth browsing:
Team Estrogen
The Climb

7 minute video demonstrating common cycling clothes from the last 100 years.

Happy riding!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Young riders need your support!

Like seeing young women (and men) taking the wheels? We've been so happy to see young people taking to cyclocross this fall. So much so, that the funds we raised to make youth racing free are out!

Via Star City CX, the series we're proud promoters of:

Last winter and spring, we were incredibly happy to partner with the No Coast Derby Girls to raise funds for junior cyclocross racing. And while we raised a healthy chunk of change from that endeavor, we’re now faced with one heckuva good problem. Turns out juniors took to the turf in awesome numbers -- exponentially more than ever before in Nebraska! -- and we’re out of dough to cover the cost of insurance and licenses for them to race for free!
So, because nothing beats seeing a 6-year-old valiantly lifting the mountain bike that weighs just as much as she does over the barriers, and nothing beats seeing a race number fill an entire child’s back, and nothing beats seeing a bunch of young men and women challenging themselves and each other, we’re asking for help. Any donation makes a difference.
$20 covers the cost of one youth or junior racer
If you donate $50, we’ll throw in a Star City CX shirt. $10 gets you a sticker. (See below for available sizes)
You can send money directly via PayPal to or click one of these links to speed that process up:
Day-of, corporate and anonymous donations are also gladly accepted! :)
Thanks for your help and support.
Josh & Elisabeth
Because, c'mon. We need more of the awesomeness that was on display at Seacrest Park...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Taking the Lane: Nothing is More Local than Commuting!

I know this blog is supposed to be about apparel and different choices of apparel....well, I hope you all will bear with me a bit on this blog...... it is my chance to talk local with out feeling like I am a commercial for my store!

 We all love commuting and as the title of this blogs states "Nothing is More Local than Commuting" - yep about as local as it gets, folks. That is a lot of why we are drawn to commuting, for the local part of this ...we get to ride by our favorite LOCAL parks, our favorite LOCAL coffee shops, our favorite LOCAL bike's where I get on my soap box :)

As far as I can tell commuters are not commuting naked in Lincoln....... yet our LOCAL bike shops are having a rough go with apparel sales. The hard cold truth is that apparel sales across the country are down 20-30% and unfortunately there doesn't seem to be an upswing in sight. But I like to think that Lincoln is not like the rest of the country.....I like to think that we respond to our LOCAL business's with support! I like to think that the Lincoln biking community supports LOCAL bike shops with regular visits to see what is new and different.

That's not what I hear when I talk to the LOCAL shops, I hear they try to bring in apparel for biking/commuting and it's a hard sell. This is from the shops that are at Gravel Worlds at 5 am to set up and help with any needs you have, this is from the shops that put air in your tires free and give you tons of free advice, this is from the shops that are at Seacrest Park in the middle of the afternoon setting up a cyclo-cross course for you (and are there long after you have hit the local burrito shack and are home with your feet up), this is from the shops that have weekly rides that leave from their front door, this is from the shops that the owners sleep in a trailer behind their truck for two weeks following bike tours across our state, this is from the shops that have "Ladies Nights".... offer you great deals..... bring in new clothing for you to order.... feed you and give you wine and beer.......but most of them don't see you come back in for the apparel you are wearing out there on your rides or your commutes. I have a hard time believing that, as social as we all are in this group, it is more fun to sit in front of a computer and order apparel online than it is to go into our LOCAL bike shops and talk to a real person that knows the apparel there inside and out. There is nothing better than feeling like you are well equipped because of the knowledge of a local salesperson. There is nothing better than walking in your LOCAL bike shop and having the salesperson call you by name and point out some new apparel they know you would love! Computers don't /can't/won't do that :)
Next time you commute by your LOCAL bike shop, stop in and see what great apparel they have for your daily commute. I mean we all know "Look good - bike good" and now we know "Bike local - shop local"!

Wool Socks designed by Lincoln local artist

Off my soap box, onto my bike and a quick commute home in some great apparel from my LOCAL bike shop!

Monday, September 22, 2014

London Ultra Duathlon - Because I am Your Kind of Crazy

After 8 and a half months of training my race day had finally come. If you are mostly here to find out about my final results, I will spoil the ending now, since this piece is more about the experience that the end result.

London Ultra Distance: 20km run (12.4 mi) / 77km cycle (47.8 mi) / 10km run (6.2 mi)

Total Time: 6:55:55

Overall Place (Female Finishers): 7th

Age Category Place (25-29): 1st

When I first heard of the London Duathlon, I knew I wanted to do it. Also, I knew I wanted to run it for charity. Then there the issue of the length. The London Duathlon ran 4 different lengths (run km/ cycle km / run km):
Super Sprint - 5k/11k/5k
Spring - 10k/22k/5k
Classic - 10k/44k/5k
Ultra - 20k/77k/10k
I knew I wanted a challenge. I remember thinking at the time that the bike length for the Ultra was the only bike ride that seemed a reasonable. (I prefer long rides.) For some reason all the extra running was  not exactly registering at the time I was signing up. I was a little disappointed that running for a charity meant that I could not wear my beloved Sheclismo tri top, but I would still ride with the Sheclismo spirit.

The race was pretty incredible. My event started at 8:45 in the morning and I needed to be at Richmond Park at 7:30am. I looked up the train times and I knew there was no way that I could get there on time using public transportation and I was not going to cycle 14 miles will all my gear the morning of such a long event. Thankfully I have a wonderful co-worker, Jochem, who lives near the park who offered to have myself and Piper stay at his place the night before.

Waiting for the race to begin and rocking my Eyeskull socks. (I always try to carry a little Nebraska with me when I race.)
After a breakfast of granola with almond milk, a banana and some Coke, I cycled over to the park Sunday morning with my husband and Jochem. As usual before any big sporting event, I was nervous. I had been quite ill the past weekend and I spent all week resting and drinking water in hopes of being ready for the race. I really hoped my training had been sufficient. I hoped that I would be able to finish before the cut off time. The race event village had few racers wandering around. These were mostly Ultra participants with a few Sprinters. (The race order is as following, 8:45am - Ultra, 9:00am - Sprint, 10:30-11:30 - Classic, and 1:30pm - Super Sprint). I put on my race numbers and then made way to the transition zone. I had never done a multi-sport race before so I was not entirely sure of how to set up transition. I racked my bike, put my helmet on the seat, and laid out some gels, Snikers, sports drink, and a camelpak filled with elite spiked water. I had already installed a water bottle on my bike filled with water and 3 Sis gels. I left the zone and began my usual pre race ritual. This involves deep breathing, nervous conversation, and visiting the port-a-potties multiple times. I was really glad to have Piper and another friend there for support. I watched on the big board as the time counted down to the Ultra.

30 minutes before the race
At a little less than 10 minutes before we were called over to the starting carrels. We would be starting in packs of about 20. I was in second carrel next to another woman who was also doing the Ultra. We chatted about the lack of women in the event compared to the number of men. (There were around 100 individuals doing the Ultra and less than 10 were women.) I told her that this meant we were guaranteed to place in our age category. All we had to do was finish. The feeling in the start zone was electric. Everyone was excited and in a good mood. I was around so many incredible athletes. There was more than one person around me who bore the emblem of being an Ironman. It was surreal to think I would be running a race with people like that. They counted down the first carrel and we watched them take off. Next, those of us in the second start group made our way over. We listed to the count down and then we were off.

I was in a really good mood at the beginning of the race. (Little did I know what the day would hold.)

Like all endurance events, the start is never really that fast. I remember that I could not stop smiling. I was so happy that my day to run was finally here. The 20k run consisted of doing two 10k loops. I am not a particularly fast runner, especially compared to people that normally take on this type of distance. I am happy if I can run between 10:30 and 10:50 mile on long runs. I was well on pace during this race, however it not long before I was trailing at the rear of the Ultra pack. This did not bother me much. I am happy to run my own pace and I was pleased with how well it was going. The only issue I was having was little stomach pain, which is not unusual for me when running. The first loop seemed to fly by. I did see one sad event. The woman I had started next to had collapsed about 8km into the race and had gone into shock. It is always a little heartbreaking to see someone have to pull out so soon into a race.

Getting Ready to high five Jochem (I was really in a good mood on this first lap)
I was still in a good mood when I started the second lap. I was surrounded by a crowd of Sprinters as I reached event village. I watched as they ran towards transition and I kept running and fueled with a Gu. I was running alone for most of this lap. I passed another guy running the Ultra and we ran together for a short while before I pulled ahead. About 7km into the second lap, my bad knees started to act up. I was in pretty fair amount of pain, but I was determined not quit. I feel tears coming to my eyes. I sipped a little water and little sports drink and kept on running.

Entering Transition

I enter the transition zone about 2 hours and 13 minutes into there race, (the fastest I have ever run a 20k in an event.) I was relieved to be done with running for a little while. My bike was one of the few remaining in the Ultra section so it was very easy to find. My transition is an example of everything not to do. I made a frantic grab for my helmet and gloves. I fussed with my camel pack and sunglasses. I pulled off my running shoes, (I love those elastic tri laces), and jammed my feet into my cycling shoes. I took another Gu and thought about eating something else, but my stomach revolted at the idea. I took my bike off the rack, and somehow made it out of there in 2 min 30 sec. I walked my bike to mount line and climbed on top.

My knees practically sang with the relief of being stretched out with pedaling motion. I growled as I took off. I am more of cyclist than a runner. The bike route is 7 laps around the Richmond park, an 11km circuit. This terrain is mostly undulating and there is one climb, a 1km hill with 40 meters of climb and a 12% gradient at the steepest point. (That's right, I am going to do that 7 times.) I reached the hill about 3km into the first loop. In my training, I practiced doing standing climbs to give my legs a break. I took the hill standing up. I felt so thirsty and light headed and worse, my stomach was in full revolt and I felt like I was going to be sick. I pulled over at the top of the hill to settle my tummy. I knew I would have difficulty recovering psychologically if I vomited during the race. I got back on my bike and did another couple of kilometers, the more issues. My calfs began to cramp. I could barely pedal. I pulled over at the Ultra water station and tried to stretch them out. One of the volunteers came over and had me lay down so I could be stretched out. I told it was only my first lap and I had never cramped like that in training. It turns out my electrolytes were low and I had not properly hydrated during the run to be prepared for the bike ride. I started off again furiously sipping the electrolyte water in my camelpak.

Going around the park (I really was not that tired when this was taken)
I took the rest of the first lap to find my groove again. I told myself I had too far to go to let a little hiccup pull me down. My spirits started to lift and by the time I rounded the corner, of the first lap, I was really having fun. The next 5 laps were an awesome blur. I rode my bike with nearly every participate in the race. I saw Ultras and Sprinters in the beginning and then the Classics arrived. I think every biking ability was represented. There is nothing quite like cycling next to someone on bike that costs more than what you pay in a year for rent. I was pretty happy with pacing, especially considering the slow start. Also, it worked really well for me to fuel from a water bottle.

Climbing that stupid hill (This was climb number 6)
That hill, got worse every time I climbed. I hate that bloody hill. By the time I was approaching the 6th time to climb, I was starting to feel tired. Then I made the mistake of thinking about the 10k run. The last lap was difficult. The last climb was brutal. I also wanted charge the person cheering at the top of the hill who kept telling me the worst was over. (I never want to hear that in a race, especially when I have literally miles to go.) The fleet of cyclists was pretty thin of my last lap. The overall mood had also changed as people had started to get tired. I did see Thyla who was finishing her first running loop on the Super Sprint. I finished my bike with a few Super Sprinters on my tail.

The last run really hurt
I approached the dismount line and I practical threw myself off the bike. My legs were aching and I had to walk the full distance of the transition field to get to the Ultra station. I racked my bike and looked around at the Ultras who had already finished and were packing up. Maybe one day that could be me, but certainly not today. I put on my running shoes and took another Gu. This tradition took me over 4 minutes. It was worse than the first. I stumbled out of the zone and willed my legs to work. I started on a slow jog, but my old friend, knee pain, had returned with a vengeance. I began something akin to a run/walk/limp. I was running on pure determination. I was going to do this last 10k if it killed me. I waved to Thyla as she passed me on the bike. At about 2km in, I was able to run more than walk. My pace was slow and painful, but determined. All I could think about was finishing. I was alone on the track. I needed another walk break between the the 5k and 6k mark. After I passed the 6k mark, I decided I was going to run the rest, no matter what. As the remain km passed I entered mind set of pure crazy. I do not think there is another way to describe it. Everything in my body told me to quit, but I kept putting one foot in front of another. I passed a Classic runner who was walking and encouraged her to run with me and finish faster. She ran 1 km with me before she had to drop back to running. I reached the 9km mark and then there was only 1000 meters before I would be an Ultra Duathlete. About 500 meters from the finish line, I could hear footsteps behind me. There were two Ultra runners behind me. I had been ahead of them the entire last lap, (who knew?), and I was not going to let these guys beat me now. Somewhere out of the depths of my soul I pulled out what felt like a sprint and ran the last bit as fast as I could. I could hear my name being called as I passed the finish line. I promptly broke into tears.

Finishing was very emotional. This is not a pain expression.
Finishing was very emotional for me. I had put months into training. I had taken myself further than I had ever imagined. I once saw a video of people finishing their first Ironman. I could relate to the expressions I saw on that video in that moment. I would say that this was my Ironman, but I hope to do an actual Ironman someday. I have completed my first ultra sporting event. I am no longer an ordinary athlete and I love it. Piper was there at the finish line to tell me how proud he was of me. It was an unforgettable moment.

Thyla and I - Medals in hand

The Ultra Duathlon is by far my favorite race I have done. I feel like I have finally found an event that is perfect for me. It is so sufficiently challenging. I am planning on doing it next year and I am hoping to take 20-30 minutes off my time. I have already planned my training schedule and have included a few other events to compete in over the next year to help me prepare, including a sprint triathlon. I will be able to save a lot of time, but not needing to pull over from a cramp and I know my running is only going to get better. I need to thank everyone who encouraged me along the way.

Post Race Beer Never Tasted so Good
All pictures in this post are by the one and only Piper Williams.

This post is an abbreviated version of a post originally published on by the same author.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Taking the lane: Wearing What Works

Commuting rules my wardrobe. There are several ways to deal with the “what to wear on the ride to work” dilemma. You may be one who likes to leave clothes at work to change into. Others take clothes with them. (you had best not forget your shoes or bra) In these cases you can commute in kit or whatever you're comfortable riding in. There are even special suit panniers for keeping your clothes looking fresh and wrinkle-free. Some of us, however, can't or don't want to change when we get to work. Telephone booths are no longer available (what would Clark Kent do?) and restrooms are not always an option. I don't like having to slink past receptionists looking for a place to change for maybe only a one hour job after which I have to change back, repeated several times a day. In the face of these options, commuting in my work clothes is the best choice. So what to do to arrive in a presentable state? This varies depending on the time of year, but there are some some things that are constant.
zip-open pleat
The first being sweat. Pack a tiny towel. Summer, winter, it doesn't matter. If you are putting on some speed or have hills, or any kind of distance, you're going to get a little, or a lot, sweaty. Wicking fabrics are a big help, especially in winter, as you don't want damp fabrics next to your body to chill you. It's actually a big deal in Summer too, with air conditioning turned down so low you always need a long sleeved shirt or even a light sweater or jacket to put on over your first layer, after you've cooled down. Also, prints show sweat less than solids. I wear light weight fabrics that dry quickly in summer, and try to avoid very light pant colors too. There's just too much bike grease and dirt out there to stay looking clean. Of course you want to wear something that gives you good freedom of movement. Avoid anything that constricts movement, or gets caught in your chain or spokes. If wearing wider pant legs, you'll want to roll up your right leg, or use a pedal strap. If very wide, use on both legs. I've never had much luck with skirts, as they always work their way up my thighs unless I clip a weight on, or get damaged in my spokes if very full. Some people do manage to do this well, but I haven't figured it out to my liking. 
reflective side seam
Be aware that if you commute a lot, you may wear out the seat of your pants. I've worn the fuzz off of the back side of at least one pair of corduroys that I live in in the winter. I wear them a lot as they are warmer and I don't like to wear long underwear (too hot indoors). If it's very cold I wear windpants over the top. As far as wear and tear, you may  have to launder those sweaty clothes more. Don't think that you won't be sweating in cooler weather. One of the the biggest mistakes people make in cool and cold weather commuting is over dressing. (Exception: hands) Remember the mantra- dress for 10-15 minutes into your ride. Wear breathable layers and a lighter weight jacket. Few things feel so awful on the bike as being overheated and sweaty in the winter. It's nothing like how you might dress to go on a walk. You might feel a little cool to start out, but it won't last long if you're working up a sweat. Finally, there is more bicycle specific clothing being developed all the time. Pants with reflective seams to seen be rolled up, skirts with zip open pleats, more stretch. I've even worn chamois liners under my pants when I've known I was going to have an especially long day on the bike.
                                                                                                 reflective plaid
So whether you take a change of clothes, keep them at work, or wear them, find a solution that works for you. Don't let clothes keep you from commuting in all weather. There's always a way to make them work for you if you work at it.