On a normal evening, several weeks after my roommate moved in, she looked at me and said, “Whoa, you’re wearing pants, I’ve never seen you wear pants before.” This same realization happened among coworkers after I’d been at my job for a few months. I’m not one to wear pants, okay? Pants can be constricting and uncomfortable. I’m much more of a leggings and dresses kind of gal. The reason I like leggings and dresses so much, besides style, is because it’s super comfortable for the main things I like to do: biking, stretching, and sitting in a very unladylike fashion with my legs perched up on a chair.
Lately, I’ve been curious about how other people think about biking and fashion. Over the last few years, I’ve encountered people who avoid biking on certain occasions because they don’t know what to wear or how to look put together when they reach their destination. I’ve talked to others who think you need to wear bike-specific clothing to bike. As my experience with biking has evolved, I’ve realized that you can bike in anything. I’ve biked to in all sorts of outfits: business casual, formal interview attire, Halloween costumes, dresses that were too short, and a shiny, sequined 80s prom dress.
I put together a short survey on biking and fashion, which I shared with the Grease Rag Facebook group. If you’re not already familiar, Grease Rag is a group that hosts rides and bike workshop nights for women/trans/femme (WTF) cyclists in Minneapolis. They’re fucking cool. The cycling frequency of respondents varied widely, some biking 10 to 20 miles per week, and others biking upwards of 100 miles per week.
While there were interesting responses to many of the questions I asked, I want to explore what people wear while biking and how being a biker affects their fashion choices, if at all. I was most interested that a number of responses discussed choosing skirts and leggings because they’re bike friendly, and I sensed an undercurrent of distaste toward jeans. It may be a little thing, but this preference made me feel a sense of unity. I love the image of a crew of babes biking around in skirts.
What I loved most about these responses is that I’m not the only one who spins my wheels about this sort of stuff. Looking put together and getting places are things that most of us have to do. I love the ways that different people manage these two together, undoubtedly with their own flavor of flair and panache.
Go ahead, explore some of the answers yourself:
What do you usually wear while biking?
“Whatever I’m already wearing, unless that’s jeans (except when it’s cool out). I want biking to integrate seamlessly into my life, and clothes are a big part of that. I get sweaty and smelly in the summer and I don’t really care. Sweat dries.”
“My favorite, most comfortable weekend outfit is leggings with a stretchy short skirt, tank, scarf, funky socks and boots. During the week it’s usually jeans and a tank or sleeveless tee. Dresses are always so great as well.”
“Whatever I am wearing that day.”
“Clothes. If I’m going under 5 miles I don’t put on anything fancy, a sundress and sandals or whatever I want to be wearing. In the winter I wear a little boy’s snowmobile suit to keep my clean and usually wear “business” clothes tucked inside it. I like goggles in the winter and a balaclava. I use a backpack year round.”
“Usually whatever I’d wear normally, but with an extra layer (winter) or bike shorts underneath (summer.) Plus helmet, bag, and lock.”
“i prefer pants, shorts or leggings. Skirts always have bike shorts or leggings underneath. I like to layer so that I can shed them as I warm up. I can’t wear long skirts because they get caught in my wheels.”
Does being a biker influence your fashion choices? How so?
“My style choices have absolutely evolved to fit my biking lifestyle. I wear comfortable clothes, a lot of wool and synthetic materials that don’t stink when I sweat. Especially since I work as a mechanic, I tend to wear dark clothing that hides grease marks! When I choose to dress up, I rely on spandex shorts under skirts, or close fitting jeans and boots that won’t get caught in the chain.”
“I stopped buying non-breathable clothes when I started biking a lot but that’s it. But most of my clothes are pretty functional to begin with.”
“Yes! There are definitely days that I want to rock a pencil skirt so I need to jump on the bus. I’m trying to be braver with heels on my bike.”
“I’ve always been a layering-type, but I’m especially conscious of it since I started bike commuting regularly. I don’t do backpacks in order to reduce the likelihood of a giant patch of sweat on the back of my shirt. I take careful note of where shorts sit at my thighs and whether it will ride up and rub as I ride. But I always wear spanks or leggings or bike shorts with my dresses and skirts so I don’t have to worry about their fluttering.”
“I like huge earring but don’t wear them much because they get all flappy. I have a stronger interest in wind-proofing than in warmth in my winter tights/leggings/cardigans etc.”
“Yes. I went on a mission last year to find pants that I could wear biking and to work. As I’ve incorporated biking into my life more and more, I find that I increasingly make clothing choices based on being able to be bike in them. I’m still figuring out biking in the winter. I find it easier to wear layers that I know will keep me warm and change when I get to my destination, which is fine for work but more challenging when trying to bike to other destinations.”
“Yes – I don’t wear things that show sweat, or don’t hold up to pedaling. I don’t wear heavy, stiff things that don’t breathe well. I love cute coats but find they don’t usually work on the bike because they’re typically too warm, so I only wear them when I’m not biking – otherwise I wear a light hoodie or a raincoat for almost all cool/cold biking.”