Friday, 18 February 2011


This post is about the problems of dressing for cycling and also includes contributions from Kerry and Chris. The title comes from a friend who cycles everywhere but bitterly resents the expectation that she should dress ‘for battle’ in protective, fluorescent gear - just to make a trip to shops.

A lot of people only cycle in the summer and jump on their bike in a pair of shorts and a tee shirt, but anyone cycling year round in this country knows that choosing what to wear on a bike is an art! Once you get moving on a chilly day the wind chill will quickly freeze unprotected ears, fingers and feet – other parts will warm up and need ventilation. Trousers have to be roomy enough to allow your legs to move without cutting off circulation to vital parts. If it is raining then you either have to add waterproof layers or just accept getting wet and take a change of clothes for when you arrive – which is what I did every day when I cycled to work across central London (and managed the same door to door time as using the tube) . My cycle journeys are now often after dark and include sections on rural roads, where traffic can appear round corners at high speed - so I’m very keen on being visible and that means fluorescent and reflective jackets and ankle bands.

So my cycle clothing is dictated by what is practical and comfortable and other people will just have to avert their eyes from bright jackets and bare legs if that offends them! I always keep in my pannier a pair of disposable gloves for the inevitable day when the chain comes off – chain dirt is the hardest thing on the planet to remove from clothes! Kerry and Chris have their own views – and sense of style it seems :)

I used to get quite embarrassed about walking into places all dressed up in my cycling get up, but I think a summer more or less entirely in lycra and high viz has cured me of my squeamishness - note the photo! There are however still certain drawbacks. Quite a few of my trousers and skirts have oily marks on them where they have, at one time or other, been eaten by one of my bikes and eternal hat hair is something I still haven't fully come to terms with. Cycling in heels is actually less of a problem than people seem to think it is, in fact it is arguably easier than walking in them! However, no-one would argue that cycling in a skirt is a right pain. The best solution I have come up with so far is tying most of it up with an elastic band (tucking it into your tights isn't very ladylike!), but it does leave you with rather a crumpled look and borders on indecency if you are not wearing thick tights or leggings. It is also fairly difficult to cycle in mittens and any gloves you are wearing you must be willing to sacrifice when your chain falls off, either that or spend the next few hours with grease stained fingers.

I think my favourite item of cycle clothing that I have seen recently is the high viz helmet cover, that reminded me wonderfully of a fluorescent yellow shower cap! Kerry Lane

As a County Councillor, making my regular trips to county hall by bike, I always had to dress hybrid, as it were. Top and trousers suitable for the occasion, but cycling shoes (and overshoes in the winter), to change out of when I arrived. This was fine as long as I remembered to bring my 'proper' shoes to change you can imagine the looks when I arrived one day realising I had forgotten my propers, and had to sit in a carpeted meeting room wearing shirt, tie, smart trousers....combined with cycling shoes with bright yellow flashes down the sides. It was actually fine, with one person commenting that he was surprised the shoes weren't green, to match my tie.

Generally speaking it is not a good idea to arrive in cycling shorts and all the rest, perfect though they may be for the rider. That's an easy decision. For me, it is a more difficult balance pacing myself in non-cycling gear, so that I don't get too hot for when I arrive - which means not being tempted to catch up that car that just brushed my pedal at the last set of traffic lights. The joy of cycling in the city is that, even at a moderate pace like this, you can get to places on a bike quicker than you can by car or any other means, and you can time your journeys more accurately.

Is the bicycle a vehicle of revolution, or a natural cycle? I reckon it's both. Chris Hull

1 comment:

  1. Kerry- I solve the skirt problem with a handy pair of thin nylon modesty shorts, which stow easily in a pannier once you get there.