I’ve mentioned the whole ‘wear normal clothes when riding’ idea before and, let’s face it, it’s not a wholly revelatory idea (except amongst ‘serious cyclists’ who wouldn’t pop out for a loaf of bread without donning full team kit). However, it’d be easy to interpret this potentially liberating maxim as ‘you can wear anything you like when riding a bike.’ Like many things in this beautiful life, it ain’t that simple.
For instance, long, flowy garments don’t work too well on bikes, especially in the rain. Jeans work up to a point, but in temperate to hot weather, can quickly become uncomfortable. Tight non-stretch items don’t work either, restricting your movement. So those skinny jeans are definitely a no-no.
If you value your cycling time in the morning and evening but also want to wear normal clothes, here are some things that work really well on the bike and look normal off.
For warmer months, polo shirts – beloved of sporty types everywhere, polo shirts are light and airy, dry quickly (even with a high cotton content) and are as universally accepted and ubiquitous as a Ford Mondeo in an office carpark. Plus they’re available everywhere, from dirty cheap to chic.
For really hot days, seersucker cotton shirts are superb – their tight weave keeps the UVs at bay, plus the puckered texture of the fabric doesn’t lay flat on the skin, keeping you cool and aerated.
For cooler months, thin sweaters are ace, especially with a wicking base layer/T-shirt underneath. Acrylic, cotton, merino, cashmere, wherever you are on the sweater hierarchy, they work well on the bike and look normal off it.
Now for the bottom half. Cargo pants work really well, especially lightweight ones. They’re cut for movement, have loads of pockets for carrying your junk and lightweight ones won’t overheat you or hinder your movements. A top tip is to get them in black – they don’t show chain/brake block sludge and pass muster in many offices. If you want to splash out, Endura’s Humvee full-length trousers are tough, smart, quick drying and well cut for cycling.
Three-quarter pants are the king of cycling attire for summer cycling and workplaces with a relaxed dress code. Short enough to dodge the chain oil, long enough to keep the knees warm and avoid that boy-scout look. For ladies, Capri pants or pedal pushers (who knew?) do the same job.
OK, so how’s about footwear. The key thing is a good grip on your pedals, so pretty much anything flat with a rubber sole works a treat. Flat rubber soled trainers (e.g. Adidas Sambas, Gazelles, etc) are the kings of grip, and allow you to position your feet easily, unlike heavily cleated soles.
From Habits to High Heels
Go to any cycle-centric city and you’ll see people riding bikes in anything and everything. I’ve photographed a cycling nun in full habit in York, and Muslim women biking in Burqas in Manchester, while Michael Colville Anderson’s Copenhagen Cycle Chic is famed for its almost fetishistic study of the high-heeled, pencil skirted cyclist. I assume that all made it to their destination unscathed. However, if you want to enjoy your ride too, my point is that there’s everyday clothing, and then there’s smart everyday cycling gear.