My Concessions to the Bicycle

In the past, I've expressed my view that an effective transportation bicycle is one that "allows us to be ourselves" - meaning that we should not have to change the way we dress or lead our lives in order to ride it. Recently a reader called me on this, asking the following (edited) question over email:
You write that you do not believe in compromising personal style when it comes to cycling for transportation and I am wondering just how far you take this idea. Have you really never made any compromises in your wardrobe in order to commute by bike? 
That is a good point, and I did not mean to imply that I never compromise on my clothing choices in order to cycle for transportation.

For one thing, I have stopped wearing high heels since I began cycling. While I know that many women find it perfectly natural to cycle in heels and I admire this ability, I myself cannot do it in a way that makes me feel safe and comfortable. I was willing to give up heels, because my relationship with them was already waning - the bike was simply the last straw. Throughout my late teens and all of my twenties, I pretty much wore 3-3.5" heels all the time. In fact, my body got so trained to the resulting posture, that my lower back would hurt when I would attempt to wear flat shoes! The wisdom of having done that for so many years is a separate topic, but either way - I somehow grew out of it, or maybe just became more messy/natural over time, and gradually lost the addiction to towering footwear. My point being, that by the time I gave them up altogether in order to feel safe on my bicycle, it no longer felt like a sacrifice. 10 or even 5 years ago it would have been a problem, but not now.

Another wardrobe adjustment since I began cycling, has been my choice of skirts. I wear almost exclusively skirts and dresses, and they vary in design. I have always favoured "a-line" styles, which flare out at the bottom, over "pencil" styles, which fit tightly around the knees. I do own a couple of pencil skirts and skirt-suits that I am fond of, but I cannot wear them on a bicycle at all, as they constrain both my pedaling and my ability to mount the bike. Hiking the skirt up does help, but it wrinkles the fabric, shows my underpants to the world, and is just generally too much hassle for me. So I have mostly stopped wearing pencil skirts, favouring a-line, pleated, flared, fluted and full styles instead. I also cannot wear super-mini skirts on a bike, because somehow the hem tends to catch on the back of the saddle when I dismount. Again, not really a huge sacrifice, as I've mostly stopped wearing mini skirts anyway.

And finally, on the hottest days of summer, I seldom wear solid pastel colours since I started cycling - especially blouses - because they show sweat stains. Instead, I opt for florals, paisleys, stripes, or some other pattern that disguises sweating. It's a useful trick for cycling in extreme heat and humidity while still wearing work clothing.

While I do make some compromises in the way I dress in order to ride a bicycle comfortably, I feel that they are relatively minor and don't sacrifice my sense of individuality. It's one thing for someone like me to stick to a-line skirts and to stop wearing high heels when I was already in the process of abandoning them. But it would be another thing to suddenly start wearing pants, sneakers and neon windbreakers in order to commute on a diamond frame roadbike. It's basically a difference between making compromises "within your stylistic comfort zone" vs. changing your style entirely. So the next question is: What if wearing high heels is super-important to someone and they view it as a crucial part of their identity, yet they cannot cycle in heels? Well, if they are absolutely unwilling to give up the heels, they have two options really: to make an extra effort to get comfortable cycling in them, or to choose other transportation options. Riding a bike is not for everyone and it can't be forced if other priorities overshadow the desire to cycle.

But on a separate note, it is worth considering that style evolves. Our choice of clothing is a function of how we live our lives, and the way we dress can change over time - influenced by a myriad of factors. Who is to say that cycling cannot be one of them? I am curious to see how something like that would play out in the wardrobe of, say, a corporate lawyer or a diplomat. Could be interesting! 


  1. Very well said & written. I agree; it's the difference between adapting your style to cycling, or changing your style entirely to fit a pre-concieved notion of "cycling wear."

  2. I think that that it is worth noting that our sense of identity evolves. You are not simply the clothes on your back. But in regards to outward manifestations of who we believe ourselves to be, clothing is only one way to present that identity. The bags we carry, the places we live and patronize, the cars or bikes we ride all can be just as (un)important to projecting who we wish/want to be. As for your slight adaptations, I don't think anyone would argue that your choice of bicycles doesn't reflect your personal choice of dress. Its not as if you've got some sort of carbon fiber contraption or hot pink b43's and risers.

  3. I'm a fairly open minded guy but I don't have to worry about high heels! :^) Those who just Have to wear heels can always change into them once they get to work. That's what saddlebags are all about. On the other hand I do sometimes wear a Neon windbraker and a helmet. I just take the neon and helmet off when I get to where I am headed. No problem. I think there are minimal changes needed when riding something like a Dutch City bike to work and I would classify the changes you mentioned for yourself as minimal indeed! Minimal and worth it I would say.

  4. matt - Very true. Most (if not all) of the questions I get from readers are about clothing and footwear, rather than deeper issues of identity, so I stuck to that. Some female readers in particular will have trouble riding a bike in a specific kind of skirt/shoes/jacket, because it will catch or slip on parts of the bike, and they want to know how to deal with it without having to totally change their look.

    JimP - The thing is that for many, it's not just being able to change or remove a jacket at their destination; they want to be "themselves" while cycling. Just like being in a car does not require special jackets, etc. And I agree that Dutch-style bikes and similar are the best for that. Basically, these bikes. For those who work in professions where a certain style of dress is required, this can be especially important.

  5. Oh, OK I see your point. Jim looking like Jim while on the bike not like a runaway neon sign making an escape via bicycle. I am not concerned about that but I am sure many are and I can see their point. I still say the changes you mentioned are minimal and I don't think those small changes do anything to change you at all.

  6. I think the promotion of helmets has really impacted the number of women who would consider bicycle transportation.

    I'm not trying to open a helmet debate here and PLEASE noone else start one( I'm relatively neutral on the whole subject and am perfectly willing to agree there are safety issues). But one area that MANY of the women I know are unwilling to compromise on is their hair. Helmets simply don't work with many hair styles unless the woman is willing to restyle her hair everytime she pulls her helmet off.

    A relatively trivial thing that has had a big impact on a lot of women.

    That's why I'm very glad to see ypu promoting the fact that you CAN maintain your personal fashion style AND ride a bike.

    I've been evolving in a similar direction - I use to always bicycle in sportswear and then change when I got to my destination. But when running many serial errands - you know, stop at the grocery store, then the library, the the bank - you can't do that and I disliked wearing bicycling sport wear in those venues. So over the years I've gone to a more upright bicycle and wearing street clothes pretty mush everywhere except on sport rides.

    Sadly, none of my bikes look as good as yours nor does my streetwear.


  7. Comments instigating h-met debates fall under the "inflamatory" category and will be moderated mercilessly : )

    As for the other stuff: I think that "fashion" is all too often used as a derogatory term by those who see themselves as being "not into fashion" and perceiving fashion as something that is silly and frivolous. However, there is no such thing as being "not into fashion" - any choice of attire is by default a fashion statement, even if the aim is to show how super practical and non-nonsese one is.

  8. I used to wear true knee-length pencil skirts on many days and now I make sure to wear them on the days I know I won't be on a bike. I love them dearly and they are a great silhouette for my body type but I really can't ride in them. It feels too deliberately sexy for me and I feel like my mobility is compromised even on my loop frame bike. Other than that my wardrobe hasn't changed. If anything, I wear very high heels more often than I used to because it's much easier to bike in them than walk in them.

    It's hard for me to understand why anyone would need to change wardrobes to ride a utility bike. If one likes to feel "sporty" and that feels good then that's another thing entirely. Sporty attire feels like Halloween to me unless I'm really engaging in a sport.

  9. Well, I have to say I agree with neighbortease that it is much easier to ride in heels than to walk in them, and I would add to this that to me it's also much easier than driving in heels, which I have always found impossible. For years, my mother always had minnetonka driving shoes waiting in the car for her long drive home.

    My point is that many women are already in the habit of changing out of their high heels either to walk long distances or even to drive, so I think that these high heel dedicates would rather in enjoy having a bike with a basket or pannier to throw their heels in while they ride, especially if they were usually carrying around their extra pair before.

    At any rate, though I have no problem cycling in regular high heels, I find it impossible to do with platforms of more than .5" whether the shoe is particularly up-sloping or not, so I use my basket as a handy dandy shoe conveyance system when I want to wear platforms.

    As for pencil skirts, I wear them when I ride, but I will say that I always wear ones with some stretch in them anyway, so perhaps that's why I haven't been inhibited by them. I did put a hole in one very cheaply made form fitting skirt with the nose of my saddle though... oh, well. Cycling has encouraged an interest in pants for me that was non-existent before, however, and I find that I am able to wear some of my new pant acquisitions with boots and a jacket on my road bike, which I was inspired to do by a young lady I spotted while visiting your neck of the woods.

  10. Ha. People's sense of "normal" in fashion is totally distorted by the automobile. Hats? Forget it. Long, warm coats? Certain shoes? Suits? Wool pants? Forget it.

    I don't think it's a coincidence that Americans drive so much and have the worst sense of style in the world.

    The little changes the bicycle requires are in fact minor in comparison to those the car requires.

  11. I went through this when I started riding for transportation. I thought that I would have to give up skirts or carry a wrap skirt with me and change when I reached my destination. I still have not tried riding in heels, but I will on the 15th (Tweed Ride!). Like you, I seldom wear them anyway. These days, a-line wool dresses and skirts are my uniform. Who knew?

  12. Nice post. I know exactly how you feel - although I opted to give up skirts almost altogether, and I feel kind of sad about it. What I would like to find, and haven't yet, is a reversible bike jacket. Because for me (like you) the neon windbreaker is something I feel totally comfortable wearing. I *might* wear on my bike, but I certainly don't want to wear it the rest of the day.

  13. the thing i like about bicycling is the notion that when one chooses to use bicycles as a main mode of transportation one is making a lifestyle choice and the very nature of it all encourages one to 'distill' things into their simplest form--for me that's the beauty and that's where i find expression. the fact that i've had to alter my clothing choices to express my new lifestyle has been, for the most part, fluid and rather seamless. as an artist, i used to feel attached to my contrarian attitudes about everything but as my bike commute lengthened i found i needed both a more practical bike and more practical clothing and, wow, i couldn't believe how much more enjoyable and easy the ride became. again, as an artist, at some point the 'form' spoke to me rather than me trying to force 'myself' onto the form -- which is to say i gave up things i thought important and found a new 'distilled' version of riding which makes life even more engaging and produced a more 'connected' person. my clothing choices still allow for me to run errands, move about from bike to work and back and now view myself in new light. . .how often does one get to do that in life?

  14. I've found that my own personal style has been evolving in a direction which happens to also be convenient for cycling. Starting to wear more natural materials, particularly wool. Leather shoes and boots, which are much more waterproof than the cloth sneakers and tennis shoes I was accustomed to. Hats, which help warm you in the winter, and cool you in the summer, and keep your head dry and non-sunburned. Layers, which help you be warm when you need to, and remove bits and pieces if necessary to cool off. All of these things started coming into play before I started riding a bike, so when I started riding a bike, there was really no major transition, except that I've continued in that direction more and more because it works well.

    I do make some concessions as well - but mostly it is to prepare for weather - like I will wear boots instead of shoes if it's going to be rainy, or a heavier coat and scarf if it will be cold (whereas I wouldn't have to do those things necessarily if I were driving).

  15. Nice post. I agree with everything especially the part about one's personal style evolving and integrating new interests and activities such as cycling. Cycling has definitely influenced my wardrobe choices, but that's part of the fun of a new hobby. And luckily, skinny jeans and leggings under skirts are "in style" and both are great for cycling.

    Like it or not, people will try and define (judge) you by your personal style and it's only natural that cycling should be part of the equation for me because I love it and it's an important part of who I am.

    And side note, that last piccy is a beauty. Reminds me of your post on bicycles and the human figure.

  16. So for those of you who wear high heels: How do you deal with the sloping part of the sole, the part where the arch is? On 3"+ heels, the slope is pretty steep, and to me it feels slippery. I find that my shoes slip forward off the pedal all the time, due to that sloped arch. That's the part that makes me feel unstable and unsafe.

  17. Re heels: I push the pedals with the balls of my feet so the arch doesn't really come into play for me. Today I wore these guys

    without problems and they have no flexibility whatsoever but are very warm and comfy.

    I don't find that I slip. I guess because my bike has pretty grippy pedals? I did have one super smooth-soled pair of handmade boots and when I wore those I just put a rubber band around my pedals to prevent sliding. I think I learned that from Dottie and Trisha?

  18. I think that wearing your normal clothing is much "safer" than a neon ensemble (assuming that you have adequate lighting of course). If you look like "Jim riding a bike" with whatever sense of style you have anyway, drivers see you as a human instead of an "other" and behave accordingly.
    The plural of anecdote is famously not data, but I feel that I have fewer incidents with drivers when I'm wearing a skirt than when I'm wearing jeans or pants. Fortunately I prefer skirts and dresses to pants (have a hard time finding pants that fit my hip/ waist ratio), and it's only when I'm going to a job site where I might need to climb a ladder or crawl into an attic, or when I might be standing around in the cold a lot that I feel the "need" to wear pants.

    Somehow I just don't have much problem keeping the balls of my feet over my pedals, maybe it's just habit? I actually find cycling in many flat shoes tough because I do find myself "driving the heel home" with the arch over the pedal which is inefficient and not particularly comfortable. I wouldn't ride in extremely expensive heels where I would worry about damaging the heel if I accidentally slipped and hit the pedal against it. I think most of my normal work shoes/heels have some kind of rubber on the ball or the entire sole, although I have a couple of smooth pairs. I think that the bottom line, is that I feel pretty confident on the bike despite my shoes maybe slipping, or despite changes in my posture because of different sole thickness.

    I tell you what's really uncomfortable? Riding to work in spandex shorts only to find that you forgot your underwear! And I'd rather accidentally flash a stranger than walk through an office of colleagues in skin tight spandex.

  19. (Gosh, those shearling lace-ups are nice...) Reading your description, I think the problem is that I tend to pedal with the part of my foot that is closer to the arch. My pedals are very grippy, but I tend to touch them with the edge between where the ball of the foot ends and the arch starts, which is what causes the slippage into the abyss between the toe and the heel.

  20. V. I agree wholeheartedly that there is no such thing as being out of fashion. Even our choices of bicycles is a fashion statement. Thoreau for all his ranting about fashion, was demanding his tailor sew him a suit of a vintage style. As one who loves second-hand stores, I identify with his dowdy chic look. And I don't know anyone riding on my route who doesn't have enough to look out for to look another cyclist up and down and declare them "silly and frivolous."

    Peter, In Massachusetts where I live, the only people mandated to wear helmets are those under 12 yrs. That is, if someone is using their worry about hat-head as an excuse for not riding, she is simply looking for an excuse. And the only place I have seen the "helmet wars" fought is in online forums. Most folks live and let live and certainly don't have the time to be street evangelists. Not me, at least, and I grew up with a neurosurgeon.

  21. I also use the ball of my foot to pedal. I had to learn to do this but quickly found it more comfortable than my previous tendency to 'hook' the heels of my shoes against the pedals. Now my shoes stay in good condition and I can pedal in complete comfort. Generally I wear the same clothes now as I did before cycling. I am that corporate lawyer and I tend to wear formal suits, usually A-line for the reasons you mention. Being a naturally shy person I did initially need to overcome the unexpected attention caused by the simple act of cycling in a suit and high heels on a Dutch bike, an unusual sight in my city. My desire to wear the clothes I want to wear, and cycle regularly, easily won out however.

  22. agree w/ you on these slight gradual changes that sometimes happen b/c of riding a bike. for me though, it has been in the opposite direction! I wear shorter skirts now than I did before. though I do wear tights more often, but even before I started biking, I was coming out of my anti-tights phase.

    But I think even w/out cycling as an influence, people's clothing choices just naturally change w/ time. Whether they become more conservative w/ age, or change just because of trends. Before the whole eighties trend, no one really wore leggings or tights for the look, but now they get worn with pretty much everything, even if ppl don't need them for the weather. I think cycling can be incorporated naturally as one of those influences (barring safety jackets and spandex tho =) -

  23. I read a story about a early group of riders going to Alaska, and the men chose to wear leather "oxford" shoes. I remember looking down at my shoes and thinking "that is what I wear to work every day". Liberating.

  24. I am definitely a flats on the bike kinda gal. If I do wear heels, they tend to be the wedge style.

    I find that bicycling has definitely affected how I shop. I find myself in a dressing room and looking at myself in the mirror and saying "But can I bike in this?" At that point I usually kick up my knees, mimicking pedaling, to test it out. I am sure people monitoring the fitting rooms think I am a nutter.

  25. I find clothing concessions to different bikes are no more drastic than dressing for walking around a town instead of driving/being driven (though they are often different concessions). In fall/spring/summer I do often wear leggings and short skirts/dresses for riding my mixte, which I don't for walking, but in daytime I never wear anything that I absolutely wouldn't feel comfortable in off a bike. The only difference is that at night on a bike round here I'm unembarrassed by wearing a reflective vest with a red led light strip (to add to good bike lights). When walking I can't quite bring myself to take quite such active visibility measures, although at times it feels quite dangerous crossing roads in this poorly lit small midwestern city/town, where most people drive (I especially worry that a driver will suddenly see me at the last moment and endanger him/herself - there are a lot of places here where people don't expect to see either bikes or walkers at night).

  26. I agree in all your clothing adaptations for the bike. I too wear mostly skirts and dresses, and the best part is, is that my legging and tight wardrobe has doubled. Plus, leg warmers are key to any layer situation since they are easily removable when you get too warm, say after an uphill climb. Fast and easy: cut off old sweater arms high at the armpit, turn around and presto! a new set of leg warmers!

  27. Clothing is an obsession of mine. Truly. AND I ride a bicycle everywhere.

    I've made compromises in either direction in the past, but my goal is to, on a day-to-day basis, have clothing etc. that is both stuff I really enjoy wearing, and not uncomfortable/impractical on the bike. For instance, last year I bought a wool coat from Forever 21 that I truly love and get compliments on all the time. It's comfy on the bike around town, it even covers me down to almost my knees, which is a blessing when it's raining, as it frequently does here. Yeah, I have a brightly-colored Showers Pass jacket, but I hardly ever wear only comes out on rides of over 6 miles when I know it will rain the whole time, and on tour when my other coat is just too bulky. I hate it! It's practical, but ugh, it's so ugly.

    I wear skirts. I wear full skirts with petticoats. And I wear them while riding a diamond-frame bicycle!

  28. I just started biking last fall, and it has dramatically changed how I dress, though not in the way you might expect.

    I have a Danish cargo trike, and because I have the only one in my area almost every time I'm out and about people waved me over to ask me questions about it. I feel like I'm sort of a cargo trike ambassador, spreading the good news about how fabulous it is to be car free and still able to haul 220 pounds of cargo, and enjoy the trip.

    As a result of being a highly noticeable person, I've switched from wearing my former default loose cargo pants and black T-shirt uniform to doing the majority of my biking in boots and skirts and sweaters. I feel like people are going to have an easier time believing me when I say how easy it is to peddle a cargo trike while looking like I'm ready for a nice dinner out rather than a bit grungy, looking like I'm frazzled from being out in the elements.

    I'm enjoying the wardrobe change, as I'm an artist, and on most days don't have a reason to dress like a 'grown-up.'

  29. Velouria said...
    "Throughout my late teens and all of my twenties, I pretty much wore 3-3.5" heels all the time. In fact, my body got so trained to the resulting posture, that my lower back would hurt when I would attempt to wear flat shoes! The wisdom of having done that for so many years is a separate topic, but either way - I somehow grew out of it, or maybe just became more messy/natural in my personal style over time, and gradually lost the addiction to towering footwear. My point being, that by the time I gave them up altogether in order to feel safe on my bicycle, it no longer felt like a sacrifice. 10 or even 5 years ago it would have been a problem, but not now."

    Your choice not to wear high heels (any shoe with a 3" or higher heel) is a very good one. There is a body of evidence building that high high heels is damaging the body of all who wear them in their youth or aggravates those who wear them later in life.

    Dear wife stopped wearing them a long time ago and has avoided all of the pain and health problems high heels caused compared to her peers that are her age.

    It would do well for those ladies (especially the younger more fashionistas to watch the Dr.Oz video link to consider what they are doing to their bodies in the name of "fashion")

    One point that I agree with you on is that everyone should dress as comfortable as the can while riding as they can fashion be damned!

  30. I think, while she didn't dwell on the point, that Velouria now pays closer attention to the temperature appropriateness of the outfit for cycle travel and the details of that than if she were traveling in heated/cooled transport. No gloves is not a problem if one is riding a bus or driving. No gloves hurts when riding in the cold. I imagine she neglected the point because it has become second nature to dress carefully for the temperature, regardless of particular style choices within that envelope.

    I find I pay MUCH more attention to the morning weather forecast than I once did.

  31. pencil skirts are a must for me. I usually wear opaque tights or leggings under so I can hike my skirt up to micro mini length and just pull it down when I get there. sometimes I feel it might be too immodest, but the alternative is to take the skirt off and just wear the leggings so it's not really any worse.

    Regarding biking in heels- I've done it a handful of times with great success. My pedals have mini toe clips, basically a shortened toe clip without straps. It doesn't do anything to lock you in or improve pedaling efficiency but it does keep your feet in position using the balls of your feet. I love them.

  32. This post was particularly interesting. I, too, wear mostly A-line or other flared styles of skirts. They're more comfortable than pencil skirts (of which I have a couple that I only wear off the bike) and they are more flattering to my figure, to the extent that anything can be flattering to my figure!

    About high heels: I wore them when I first started wearing skirts and dresses when riding to work. Every once in a while, I'll wear them for fun. But now I usually ride in flat shoes or boots and sometimes carry a pair of heels in my bag.

    I've given up the day-glo spandex, even on my "fun" rides, mainly because at my age (and the extra avoirdupois that has accompanied it) I started to feel silly in it. Plus, I stopped riding with wannabe racers. But most important of all, I find I'm treated with more courtesy and respect from motorists, and people generally, when I am more "ladylike" and less like a stereotypical biker.

    I've finally come to the conclusion that people should just ride in and with whatever makes them happy. That will keep them riding. And, of course, if they continue riding, what they like is always subject to change.

  33. I think my move to Flagstaff 4 years ago has changed my style much more than cycling. It is an town focused on the outdoor lifestyle so Pategonia and NorthFace are more and more a part of my daily life. Nonetheless, I really continue to prefer simple, classic, slightly preppy styles and look for breathable fabric that only minimally wrinke. Veloria's suggestion that pattern hides perspiration marks rings true for me. As the the helmet hair issue, I've modified my haircut over the last few years to have fewer layers and no bangs so that if I feel that I need a helmet I can wear one without too much worry about having to do a major hair re-do.

  34. My concessions? More cotton and wool; and more skirts except in the cold when I tend to wear pants. Knit dresses are great; they have enough "give" to be comfortable. Heels are not a problem, though I don't really go above 2.5" anyway (I replaced my original pedals with the wonderfully grippy MKS 3000 Rubber Block Pedals from Velo Orange).

    Oh, and one last "concession": the purchase of a really great cape. It's a fantastic extra layer for warmth that still allows ventilation; it generates endless compliments; and is reversible (grey on one side and camel on the other). I may have to try to make one in a heavier coat weight....

  35. Walt,

    It's certainly safer and easier to ride in high heels than to walk in them.

    "One point that I agree with you on is that everyone should dress as comfortable as the can while riding as they can fashion be damned!"

    Can you explain this one to me? What about driving? Walking? Exercising? Sleeping? Bathing? Is there any reason why cycling is special in that fashion should be disregarded?

  36. In junior high, my gym teacher would greet us as we entered PE class by shouting either: "Street clothes, outside!", "Gym clothes, outside", or "Gym clothes, inside" . "Street clothes, outside" was the call we were all hoping to hear. No suiting up, just go have fun immediately. For me, one of the biggest attractions of cycling is that it's "Street clothes, outside!" every time I get on the bike. I don't want to have to change into special clothes to commute to work, run an errand, or hop on a bike to get some exercise. So I generally ride in everyday clothes, and can transition on and off the bike in seconds. My biggest accommodations to the bike have involved feet and dark colors. I am prone to develop plantar fasciitis unless I wear comfortable shaped sandals for regular walking. I found I could wear the same sandals for riding, as long as I use carefully chosen platform pedals and toe clips. This requires also wearing socks with appropriate thickness. However the socks and sandals are extremely comfortable for both walking and riding, and it is a true pleasure to not have to change into and out of special footwear to go somewhere a bike. I have also found that dark pants and shirts help minimize mars from saddle dye and perspiration on longer and hotter rides. Other than that, it's "street clothes, outside" for me, and great to feel 14 years old again every time I pedal off on a bike.

  37. Jeanette, your cape is beautiful. I hope I will see you riding by at some point!

    Lyen, I echo your question to Walt.

    I think there is another variable in all of this and that is emotional comfort, which is just as important as physical comfort. When I look at a woman in micro-shorts I am able to think she looks good (or, not, alas) even though I would feel completely pornographic in them. I think tiny shorts might be super comfy physically but for me they just wouldn't feel comfortable emotionally. OTOH, I am completely comfortable in ultra body-conscious hourglass dresses and many other women aren't. I just really think there are so many variables in what "comfort" is and, also, by the way, in how people become, or don't become, arthritic. It's kind of hard to dictate these things for others.

    Re fashion be damned. Antifashion=still fashion. We all still decided how we engage with a style system everyday, at whatever level of consciousness. For me, style is much more interesting than fashion, though I like fashion, too.

  38. Kara - I do that in the dressingroom as well : ) Not only mimicking pedaling motions with skirts, but mimicking reaching the handlebars with jackets and blazers.

    no nick - I agree for the most part. For example, like to walk fast in the city, with long strides, and that's one reason I tend to avoid pencil skirts.

    april - Where do you get the petticoats? : )

  39. Steve - Before I began cycling, I used to mostly get around by walking, not driving. So in that sense a lot of the weather/temperature stuff has remained similar. But I have been gradually replacing cotton clothing with silk and wool, and that's been due mostly to cycling. I can't regulate my body temperature otherwise, and end up arriving with my cotton blouse soaking wet under my coat.

    Justine - I have been thinking about why spandexy cyclists get less courtesy than street-clothing cyclists, and now that it's winter and space on the road is limited, one reason occurred to me: I think the idea is at play that transportation trumps recreation. The spandexy cyclists look recreational, and that gives them fewer rights to the road than the drivers who actually "need to be somewhere". Of course, this is not the only reason, but it probably plays a role.

    She Rides a Bike - I can relate to what you are saying about moving to Flagstaff. When I moved to NH for work 6 years ago, I initially started wearing the sporty/fleecy/down-vest things everyone else did, just because it was always either freezing or muddy, and it seemed like any day could involve spontaneous hiking. Then I rebelled and went back to my old clothes, because all that stuff just wasn't me.

    Jeanette - Good to hear that you like the MKS Rubber Block Pedals, I've been considering them. I look terrible in capes, but I like them on others.

    Walt - I don't think my point was that "everyone should dress as comfortable while riding as they can fashion be damned!". It's more like, I think there is a way to be comfortable on a bicycle without giving up your idea of style. I have heard countless stories from women, where being told that they need to drastically change the way they dress is what has kept them from cycling, and that's really unnecessary. There is a bike out there to accommodate almost any style of dress, including skirts, dresses, flowing robes, crisp corporate business suits, and nun's habits.

  40. I recently had a conversation with an older man whom I saw yell at a spandex clad cyclist (who had blown a light and nearly run him over). The guy, a pedestrian not a driver, then yelled something positive at me and so since the light was by then red I asked him about how he felt about bikes and he essentially said that people who were doing their work or getting on with their lives didn't bother him but people "just on expensive joyrides" pissed him off.

    Even though my bike (and clothes) were probably much more objectively expensive than the spandex guy's stuff, this elderly gentleman thought I was going to work or just doing something "normal," which was ok with him. Little did he know I was biking to get a manicure in the middle of the damn day. Sorry, dude, I was on a joyride.

    But I think this does speak to a point about people's inherent tolerance for transportation cycling and lack thereof with spandex. And I think that's why I agree with Cycler who said yesterday that she felt safer and humanized in nicer/nonsport clothing (forgive me if I misquote you!). I do, too. Of course, the fact that I was stopped at the light and the other guy was an asshole made a difference, but when I talk to people about this stuff there is definitely an envy/anger thing that comes into play about the perceived leisure of spandex clad cyclists, which is definitely made worse by their sometimes really bad behavior.

  41. Since I took up riding my bike to work I admit that there are some clothes that I don't wear anymore or can only wear on the days I opt not to ride. And my buying habits have definitely changed as well (ok, except in the case of nice shoes which I will buy regardless). I have ridden in heels - I find using the balls of the feet works for me - but my pedalling has destroyed a couple of them (the soles and heels that is) as well so I tend to wear the same flats, sandals or ankle boots more and change into heels when I get to work. (The ride home is also more of an uphill climb and heels are uncomfortable on climbs imo). I keep my prized Cole Haan Knee High Boots at work but I wouldn't wear them in the rain or slush either (they cost too much to have Canadian winters ruin them). I don't even bother applying mascara until I get to work.
    Hat and helmet helmet head is something I've just gotten used to but I'm pretty low maintenance where my hair is concerned though I do wear make up every day and colour my hair so perhaps that's not entirely true.
    The summer is more challenging due to the sweat factor in humidity. I have 30-40 min commute so sweat is going to happen. So for the most part I stick to skirts in the winter. I actually think I went from March to October without wearing pants this year!
    I don't mind changing at work if I feel like wearing something that isn't practical from a bike riding standpoint but it's usually one item and not my entire outfit.

  42. Oh and I live by the weather report!!!

  43. neighbourtease - I wish you had a blog. I love reading your comments.

  44. Jennifer said...
    "neighbourtease - I wish you had a blog. I love reading your comments."

    +1 !

  45. Thank you, ladies. I'm going to have one soon! I will make my name link to it when it is ready :)

  46. Iyen said...
    ""One point that I agree with you on is that everyone should dress as comfortable as the can while riding as they can fashion be damned!"

    Can you explain this one to me? What about driving? Walking? Exercising? Sleeping? Bathing? Is there any reason why cycling is special in that fashion should be disregarded?"

    I'm an engineer by trade so I see things in black & white, yes or no, so life for me has no shades of gray be it fashion or anything else.

    In my book I wear anything that makes me comfortable as long as it's clean. See??? "Black & white" with no one else's opinion to color the choice.

  47. Neighbourtease -- I completely agree about the idea that -- whether one dresses for or against fashion -- there are few people who get dressed in the morning without regard for what they want their clothes to say about them. The same is true of the possessions we choose -- including our bicycles! Choose a beater, and you are telling the world something about how you want to be perceived. Choose an expensive bicycle, of any style, and the same is true. We are always editing ourselves.

    I think the spandex thing is irritating because it is activity-specific, and so looks as though the wearer is trying to prove a point about him/herself with it. And because city cycling is not a touring or racing environment, it also looks a little out of place, which just amplifies that suspicion.

    PS hope you had a great manicure!

  48. Well said!

    If someone really loves wearing heels but doesn't want to ride in them, that person should simply put the heels in a front basket during the ride. :)

  49. Velouria: I want to eventually get a Malco Modes 582 (which can be bought online) but right now I have two vintage petticoats that I sewed together, the inside layer is cotton and the outside layers are polyester and netting. Very pretty, but kinda falling apart!

    ....I'm trying to copy a links to two photos, but I can't copy/paste into this comment window...

  50. Oh, boy! Two of my favorite subjects in one discussion.....I've enjoyed the subtle changes that daily cycling has brought to my wardrobe. In the beginning, I worried that I'd end up looking "sporty" and less fashionable than I prefer. Fortunately, I have found some great companies out there that make quality, stylish clothing that works very well for "fashionable" cycling.

    My low-heeled La Canadienne boots are the perfect winter, spring, and fall footwear and I wear them almost exclusively, especially in wet/snowy weather. They look great with pants or skirts, although I prefer cycling in skirts for ease and comfort. Also, I find that I have been removing synthetic fabrics from my wardrobe in favor of wool and silk; the synthetics get stinky pretty quick. All in all, this has lead me to have a much more elegant wardrobe, with "classic" pieces that emphasize quality over quantity.

    The one concession that I have had to make regards my summer footwear; I like to wear flats and sandals that are almost always slippery soled and completely unsuitable for cycling (two serious foot injuries have taught me that lesson). I found a slim pair of slip on sneakers by Merrell that tuck nicely into a saddlebag when I reach my destination and are unobtrusive enough that they do not detract from my outfit when riding. Ultimately, it doesn't feel like that much of a sacrifice.

  51. Jen, I found that I liked wearing slippery-soled shoes on my bikes (and had a fall when I tried standing on my pedals in them and a foot slid right off the pedal...and down I went...), so I got toe cages! Just the plastic ones, no straps. It's just enough to keep your feet from sliding off, and they won't damage your shoes.

  52. I appreciate your advice, April. One of my bicycles started out with toe cages on the pedals that I ended up removing after a year. I never could get the hang of pulling my foot out of them properly and constantly struggled with feeling tangled up in them. Perhaps what I had was different than what you're suggesting? Mine had straps and came 2.5-3 inches up my foot. I disliked them so much that I never looked into other options.

  53. April/Jen - I will butt in and point out that not everyone finds toe cages helpful; in fact many would say that it increases they chances of falling. Personally I prefer Powergrips, but that too is not for everyone.

  54. I still try to wear whatever I want, even a dress or skirt on diamond frame bike and no pencil skirts don't work even on lady frames....but I did convert to wool because it's warm or cool as needed, doesn't sweat and get wet like have changed what I wear on a daily basis. More silk and wool, more understated, more layers! And sleeveless galore in warm weather.
    I've never really worn heels although I did attempt to bike in heels when I was in my early 20's-so I know what can happen when biking with heels... However 'sexy' heels might look they do extensive long term damage to women's back, legs and feet and I see no reason why women should suffer because of footwear. Cycling is partially about health and taking care of one's body does not involve torture! It's one thing that bothers me about promoting cycling for women AND saying they can bike in heels. Talk about dangerous! I've lost control a few times because my foot slipped on the pedal and really dinged myself, so imagine having to stop suddenly or try break a fall and your shoes fail you?
    Like most women I am a shoe fiend but I go for campers, el naturalistas and practical but cool footwear. Oddly enough despite my fear of accidents in heels I wear flip flops all summer and have never had a problem biking with them.

  55. I have found that leather a-line skirts and dresses work well for biking to work (in an office) for me in the city. They don't wrinkle, keep me warm and last a long time.


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