This post is for those who would like to wear their everyday clothes on their bikes…because using a bicycle should be an everyday thing: going out to lunch, getting a few groceries, visiting friends, going to work.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against Lycra, tights or joggers! But not everyone wants to look sporty, and the stereotype that we have to look fit and athletic on a bike can put people off riding. I have heard Lycra is comfortable, but wearing tight figure-hugging clothing would not be comfortable for me. My bicycle reflects my personality, and so should my clothes.
Whilst overseas, I was amazed at how normal people looked on their bikes. This post is to encourage you to ride not for the sake of riding, but to be able to get from here to there and look great both on and off your bike. If I can do it (and I’ll admit I am very delicate and girly), then so can all of you!
Dresses and skirts
I love my dresses/skirts, but the thought of wearing one on a bicycle scared me. Last year we spent almost three months in Europe. I marveled at the European women, so effortlessly stylish on a bicycle. I had to give it a go. And you know what? After a bit of experimentation, I haven’t looked back.
The best dresses/skirts to wear are those that come to the knee or below (midi-length)—which by the way are very trendy right now—and for the vintage lovers out there, rest assured they will never go out of style.
By opting for a longer length, you can drape the fabric in front of you as you sit on your bike. If it is a windy day or I am wearing a light-weight fabric, I like to weigh the fabric down using hair pins along the hem. These are not on display because most dresses have a lining layer…just pin them to these. (If only Kate Middleton used this tip on those windy days.) Alternatively, tie a knot in your dress in front of you, again this will weigh the dress down. You can see I have done this in the video above.
Another tip: A bicycle with a front basket will not only look nice and add to your ensemble, but it will also cover anything that is not hidden by the strategic placement of fabric. If you are wearing a shorter length, I recommend bike shorts underneath as the outfit will creep higher and higher as you ride.
For those days you want to wear pants, make sure they are high enough that you are not trying to pull them up as you ride. I also prefer pants with a bit of stretch…you are moving your legs a lot after all.
Time for shoes! I find you can ride in pretty much any shoes, so put away those joggers! I aim for shoes that grip, otherwise your feet could slip off the pedal. Try and wear shoes with a very slight heel (even a few milimetres high will do) that way, as you put your foot on the pedal, slide your foot down and lock the heel on the pedal and you will not slip. You can even ride in heels doing the same thing…although I’d advise on practicing first. And if you still can’t get the hang of it, get some nice sneakers, and change them at your destination. You can hide your ballet flats/heels in your basket or a nice bag.
As a Pharmacist, I have seen too many incidences of skin cancer under Australia’s strong sun and high UV penetration. So I always wear sunscreen when I’m outside. I don’t want my skin to turn to leather and I don’t like the idea of getting skin cancers chopped out. My advice: WEAR SUNSCREEN!
Having said that, wearing sunscreen all day can feel very greasy. So my tip is to bring make up wipes with you if riding to work and not showering. When I get to work, I wipe off the sunscreen (and those armpits if need be) and put on a fresh face/deodorant/do my hair there.
For those without showers at their workplaces (like me), make up wipes are the key! If you want to arrive ready to go, use less greasy sunscreens. The greasy ones tend to be more water-proof and stay on longer. They are also cheaper. But if I want to arrive ready to go, I have some favourites that are not greasy at all. I’ve even put make-up on top of these. Dermalogica make an oil-free matte moisturiser in SPF 30+ and an SPF 50+ moisturizer. The downside: they cost about $60. On the cheaper side is the Clinique Super City Block Oil-Free Face Protector which is SPF 30+. This is around the $36 mark. It has a very very slight tint to it, so slight that someone as pale as me can wear it. It also acts as a primer for those wanting to wear foundation on top.
One thing I used to loathe about bicycling was that my helmet ruined my outfit. It might sound silly, but it actually puts a lot of people off bicycling. Put simply, a lot of people feel confident when they are feeling happy about how they look. For those into looking super sporty and wearing tights and joggers, a helmet is less a fashion accessory and more obviously practical. But as I said before, I like my vintage style dresses and skirts and I cycle to get places, not for recreation as such.
Put simply, a lot of people feel confident when they are feeling happy about how they look.
I resented having to wear a helmet, and did it reluctantly. My partner was also in the market for a new, alternative looking helmet. So we took a little shopping expedition to Chappelli bicycles in Botany Bay one day when on the way to see a friend in Sydney. Now I wear my helmet happily! I chose an equestrian style helmet, which also provides some sun protection.
Looking online, I also found helmet covers which can look like tweed hats, wide brimmed hats, etc. There are also helmets that are more rounded (they are missing the aerodynamic dome – which is fine, but I’m not going in any races!) I have attached some photos below for your perusal 🙂 Keep in mind some of these helmets that I found online may not meet the Australian Standard. Mine however, does meet standards.
Getting the right bicycle is just as personal as your choice of clothes. If you intend to ride for ‘everyday’ purposes, make sure your bike has the features that will enable you to do so. For example, my bike has fenders (also known as mudguards). This way, when I ride through a puddle, it doesn’t splash on me and ruin my outfit.
Another useful feature: a skirt guard on the back wheel. I don’t have one on my own bike, but am considering it for my second bike. These stop your skirt getting caught in the wheel. Personally I haven’t found this to be an issue, but if you like to wear dresses with a lot of fabric, this may become an issue.
Another essential for your bicycle is a chain guard, especially for longer dresses or pants. My partner Tom has been the victim of a chain attack: his work trousers became caught in the chain and ripped. Chain guards also look vintage and chic.
Finally, the style of bike itself. In Amsterdam, almost everyone rides an upright bicycle. It just made sense – comfort, not speed, was the order of the day. These differ to mountain bikes and road bikes where you tend to arch your back and lean forward on the bicycle. An upright allows you to drape your dress down. If you were sitting too low, your dress would drag. Having said that, men look just as sharp on an upright bicycle too.
I hope you find some of this advice helpful. Now there are no excuses! Any questions, just post them below.