Commuting Like a Lady: Dealing With Your Hair

4:20 AM

I am embarrassed to say that I avoided commuting by bike for several years because of one (admittedly very silly) reason: my hair.  
The Fates gave me fussy hair.  I am not a fussy person.  I have naturally curly hair that grandmothers ooh and aah over, friends claim to want, but no one ever asks for.  When it behaves (accomplished through a strict washing regimen, expensive products, and a little lot of luck) it looks glossy and healthy.  But look at it the wrong way and half of it will fall flat while the other half frizzes out.  Commuting by bike might be fun, but dealing with my hair and a helmet was not something I wanted to do.
Two years ago when my work schedule no longer coincided with the Spouse’s, I was forced to make a plan for bike commuting.  It turns out I should have embraced the bike years ago, as the commute has brought me a relaxing way to start/end my day along with some added fitness.  Dealing with fussy hair?  Totally do-able.  In the past two years I’ve learned many handy tricks to commute by bike and remain presentable at work.

Finding the Right Helmet
The helmet is key.  When I’m on a training ride or racing I use a Lazer Genesis helmet that is snug and sleek.  Too snug, as it turns out, for my commuting needs.  For commuting I go with an older model Bell Sweep.  It still meets all the safety standards, but doesn’t press down on my hair as much.  It also has a wider range of adjustment with the head and chin strap, so I can easily change it up to fit whether I am wearing a thin scarf or thick hat.
Finding the Right Cover
My hair has a mind of its own.  Put it under a helmet without a covering and you are guaranteed to create a wiry frizz that will not soften or smooth out.  Keeping the hair covered, even when it is hot, is essential to keeping it happy.  During the hot months I use a simple one-layer bandana (just a whole bandana I have cut into two triangles).  In the fall I will switch it up to a full bandana (two layers), and I’ve had great luck with my Craft wind-stopper hat.  The ideal cover will be loose enough to protect the curls while still providing enough wind coverage to stop the frizz.

Finding the Right Style
The easiest thing to do is to have a hairstyle that can stand up easily to the various conditions commuting brings: rain, heat, cold, snow, etc.  I have had to make some concessions in my hairstyle to meet my commuting needs.  For example, when it gets really cold (from 0 to 20 degrees) I switch my helmet to a full-coverage Bern model with a built-in hat and closable vents.  There is no way for me to keep my curly hairstyle with this helmet, so I have my stylist give me a cut that will work with straight hair and dig out the flatiron.  Thankfully, this usually doesn’t last long and I can switch back to my more accommodating Bell helmet.
Extra pro tip: I never dry my hair totally in the morning.  It is easier for my hair to resist the frizz if there is a bit of moisture left when I start off.
Accept That Nobody Notices
One of the best lessons I have learned about hair is this: nobody notices your hair as much as you do.  In my early commuting days I had some disastrous hair days, and no one batted an eye.  Sure, I keep a few barrettes and hair ties around at work just in case, but I’ve also accepted that a flyaway here or a flat curl there is not something to stress about.  A mildly bad hair day is worth it, if it means I can start my morning watching the sunrise over Saint Paul as I cruise along on my two wheels...

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