I ride my bicycle every day, year round. I commute, work, play, race, and run errands on my bicycle. I know that cycling doesn’t necessarily make me a better person, but I also know that I have thighs like Beyoncé, so yeah, it kind of makes me a better person.
And don’t even get me started on spring biking! I love the fresh air, the camaraderie, and the je ne sais quois (eau de body odor?) of cycling. Oh yes, mon frere, cycling is all sweet sunshine and lollipops until your coworker asks why you have wet hair when in fact your hair IS NOT WET; it's just dirty, tangled, and sweaty.
If you’ve ever biked in a helmet, you probably know what I’m talking about. Every time I talk hair with my girlfriends, it’s all OMG I KNOW RIGHT I USE PRODUCT X WHAT DO YOU Y AND CAN YOU SHOW Z. Y’all don’t know sweaty, greasy, tangled hair until you’ve hopped on a bike and cruised, like, five feet.
So here’s what I do to keep my hair looking good post-helmet, because I want people to actually look surprised when I tell them that I bike commute instead of giving me wide “we can tell” eyes.
Clean Your Hair
This January, I decided to give the no-shampoo trend a shake. I gave it three months of baking soda, apple cider vinegar and dry shampoo, and in the end I had the nastiest limp hair, clogged scalp pimples, and no one--not even my cat--wanted to smell my hair. I cried myself to sleep every night.
A lot of people swear by no-shampoo, but it just wasn't for me. So I am back on the shampoo wagon and it is so good. Shampooing your hair cleans it (duh), and wins you cat snuggles! Yes!
What I’m trying to say is to clean your hair with whatever methods you find necessary. This is especially important for bikers because dry shampoo can only handle so much sweat and grease, and you certainly don’t want helmet padding to sponge your own grody scalp sebum across your forehead. Trust me, helmet padding is not the OG beauty blender, and you want zero residue up in that shiz.
While we’re on the topic, you should wash your helmet padding regularly! Most are attached the helmets with velcro and can easily be removed and hand washed. I use face wash because I don’t want harsh laundry detergent chemicals rubbing on my forehead.
Prevent Wind Tangles
Immediately after washing my hair, I rub oil into the ends. Oil nourishes and smoothes and leaves my hair soft, shiny and, most importantly, fights hair tangles.
You can use argan, coconut, whatever your sparkly pony heart desires. I use OGX Ever Straight Brazilian Keratin Therapy Shimmering Keratin Oil because I can "borrow" it from my roommate (we have an unspoken understanding involving fresh waffles).
When I had short hair, I’d just finger-comb, don my helmet, and roll. Now that my hair is longer, I can’t just tuck it into my helmet (helmets need to fit snugly in order to actually protect your head).
I need to choose a hairstyle that keeps my ends from snarling with the wind and constant head-turning to check for cars. Braids are my go-to because they they look good polished or messy and play nice with helmets. (xoVain has braid tutorials aplenty: pick your poison.)
For truly windy days when you feel like the wind is whipping all the oxygen away from you and you all see are cloud condensation nuclei about to hurricane your ass, tuck your hair into your jacket or scarf and cuddle it to your bosom like a precious first-born. No one will judge you.
Deal With Sweat
Any proper bike girl will work up a sweat when riding a bike. It's just a thing that happens, like mist and sunrises.
Since I can't avoid it, I just scarf it. Silk scarves are the un-celebrated workhorse of the bike world; they are lightweight, durable, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying.
A plain silk scarf with a spritz of my favorite perfume leaves no residue, which I prefer to gunking up my hair with too much product. Because silk dries off quickly, I use mine to wipe sweat off my forehead and neck and sometimes run it over my roots before tying it into my hair.
Silk scarves can absorb sweat, hide greasy roots, add a pop of color, tie off a braid, hide frizzies, block sun (I’ve yet to find a hair SPF spray that I like), add volume, stop short hairs from poking out of helmet holes... you get the idea. I never regret wearing a silk scarf and rarely leave the house without one.
If silk scarves aren’t your thing, try a texturizing dry shampoo. Oribe makes a texturizing dry shampoo that actually sticks to my hair [most dry shampoos just shake out of my roots], and gives me texture to work with instead of flat helmet hair.
But, like, sometimes you gotta stay out after a show to crunk ride Divvy bikes around your neighborhood in search of late night tacos and have to hoof it to work the next day and you’ve got nothing resembling silk scarves or dry shampoo at your disposal. Girl, I gotchoo.
Get thee to a public bathroom, stat! Splash your face and the back of your neck with cold water at the sink. Drink more water until you’ve stopped sweating and feel relatively human again. Sit yourself underneath the hand dryer and push the button as many times as needed to dry your hair.
I like to call this the “Burger King Blowout” and I suggest that you never repeat at the same Burger King because they won’t give the bathroom key to repeat offenders.
Reverse Flat Helmet Hair
Rachel wrote a great article about how to beat helmet hair, but my hair texture is different, and adding hairspray makes me look like a sad, limp panda.
I've found that simply reversing the part in my hair works wonders. If you usually part on the left, flip your hair over to the right and don your helmet as per uge, then flip it back to the left when you remove your helmet. It's a little like harnessing the forces of nature (inertia, gravity, Murphy's law) and forcing them to work for you. No biggie.
I like to pretend that sweat is my natural DIY beach spray, so upon arrival, I reverse my part, fluff my hair a little, and throw it into a top knot until the sweat evaporates. Top knots are voluminous enough to dry your hair faster than, say, a ponytail, and are extremely easy to do with the right tools.
I’ve watched a bajillion top knot tutorials and still can’t figure them out because either my hair is the wrong texture or I'm a hairpin moron. I find that spiral hair pins like Goody Spin Pins are the best for top knots; they're gentler than a break-up text and grabbier than that creepy guy at the club, with the staying power of a clingy ex.
Seriously, these pins are amazing in all the ways that men aren't. They work best with longer, medium to thick hair, and even better if you have curls.
Some of y'all may already know this, but static-y hair is a thing of wonder and terror. When your hair rubs together, the friction creates a positive charge so powerful that your credit debt is suddenly paid and your hairs literally repel one another and go in all sorts of crazy directions. This happens mostly to dry hair, so the best thing to do is moisturize.
Failing that, rubbing something negatively charged against your hair will remove the static. I discovered that a crumpled ball of tin foil de-statics my hair beautifully, so now I keep it as a pet in my bike bag and feed it Club Crackers. You can also use dryer sheets, a natural bristle brush, or grind on a refrigerator, whatever floats your boat.
What's your biggest bike-hair issue? Let's come up with a solution together! We can do this!