Eileen Kadesh's morning metamorphosis rivals Clark Kent's transformation into Superman.
Each weekday, Washington's bicycle coordinator enters the District Building's ladies' room wearing a safety helmet, cycling shoes, sunglasses and gloves over a blouse and slacks.
"The guards always give me a funny look," said Kadesh, who combats gas shortages by cycling 20 miles round trip from Alexandria to her job with the District Department of Transportation. "I remove the helmet, sunglasses and gloves, fluff out my hair, wash my face, put on lipstick, take the clips off my slacks, change into high heels and walk out looking like a different person."
Kadesh is one of an estimated 30,000 area bicycle commuters who have devised ways to be comfortable while cycling and yet presentable for work.
With the District's continuing implementation of a 75-mile bike route network and several bills pending in Congress to require adequate bike parking and authorize locker and shower facilities at all government buildings, it's possible more motorists may trade in their gas guzzlers for a bicycle.
About 35 percent of area bicycle commuters wear casual clothing, and change in office restrooms, according to a poll - which shows how serious they are - taken by the Washington Area Bicycling Association (WABA). About 25 percent changes in a shower room or office, and the remaining 40 percent wears work clothes while cycling.
"Unless you're racing or the weather is extremely hot, bike riding is relatively cool because you create your own breeze," said 65-year-old Rep. Bob Eckhardt (D-Tex.), who wears a three-piece suit to commute from his Capitol Hill home on a $40 10-speed bought at a police auction.
"By wearing a beeper I can have lunch at home with my wife, jump on my bike in time to vote on the floor, and get back before my soup gets cold," said Eckhardt, who also pedals back and forth between his Longworth Building office and Rayburn Building committee meetings.
Eckhardt uses a chain guard to keep grease off his trousers, a spring clip to hold his briefcase on his bike and a "Forth Worth lawyer's hat" to keep rain or snow off his head.
Economist Randy Swart, 36, keeps about four suits and a dozen shirts and neckties on an office-door hook. He takes laundry to a nearby valet and switches his standby wardrobe with the seasons.
"I wear biking clothes into the office, close the door, strip entirely, towel off in front of a fan and then change," said Swart, who bikes 12 miles round trip from Arlington.
Attorney John English, 35, who pedals from Falls Church to Dupont Circle (11 miles each way), advises keeping a full set of underwear, socks, shoes and deodorant at the office. "Wait about 10 minutes after you get to work to cool off before you change, and always wear a helmet, a rear-view mirror and brightly colored clothes for safety."
Management analyst Jim Fulton changes clothes in the Department of Agriculture's maintenance staff locker room. "I keep a sport jacket, shoes and belt at work and pack underwear, slacks, dress shirt and tie in a bike bag," said the 35-year-old regional vice-president for the League of American Wheelme. "I sponge off with paper towels, put on clean clothes and end up looking as fresh as anyone else."
"The current styles are more conducive to biking than the miniskirts popular several years ago," said attorney Kathy Cudlipp, 35, who pedals five miles downtown each day from her home in Glover Park. "On really hot days, I wear shorts and a T-shirt and change in the ladies' room, but 90 percent of the time, I bike wearing whatever I wear to work."
Cudlipp rides a "man's bike" and recommends cycling in an A-line skirt that is full enough to drape over the center bar and long enough to keep the vice squad away. She wears shorts under fuller skirts that could be blown to indecent lengths and makes sure all her clothes are machine-washable. High heels are no problem, said Cudlipp, who pedals with the balls of her feet.
To mount a man's bicycle while maintaining modesty, she advises standing on a curb with the bike at street level.
A checklist helps 30-year-old Nina Rowe remember the essentials for changing in the locker room at the Environmental Protection Agency, where she is bicycle coordinator. Rowe assembles her clothes at night in a knapsack, which she puts in a baby seat on her bike and fastens with elastic cord.
Smithsonian editor Nancy Wyeth, 35, said a slip worn under wrap skirts discourages motorists' leers. She carriers her papers, lunch and work shoes in a saddlebag.
"I think people who bike are really the envy of people who don't," boasted Wyeth, who praised the exercise, exhilaration and gaslessness of the bicycle.
Prospective pedal pushers who want advice on routes, clothing or equipment are invited to join WABA's Pedal Pool. Call 265-4317 to get matched with a cyclist in your area to help you plot the best route, answer any cycling questions and then ride along until you get your "bike legs." CAPTION: Pictures 1 and 2, Rep. Bob Eckhardt and attorney Kathy Cudlippp by Larry Morris and Gerald Martineau - The Washington Post