When I rode my bike as a child I did not give much thought to the clothing I would wear while riding it. Have bike. Wearing clothes. Shoelaces tied. Will travel. Remember those days?
Fast forward a few decades and what to wear while biking has become much more wrought. Currently, there are a couple of strange ideas afoot about cycling and clothing selection.
The first is that we need special bike clothes made by specialty manufacturers to ride our bikes around town. If you don’t believe me, please refer to the Terry catalog.
I think companies take perverse pleasure in making us feel as though we are wearing the “wrong” clothes so that we will give them our money to remedy something that was never wrong in the first place.
Now that I’m older, I definitely have preferences about what I like to wear while riding. I prefer clothing that does not chafe, does not reveal anything I don’t want others to see, and that allows my legs to move easily. I wear shirts that don’t gape or expose my chest if I’m bent over my bicycle. But most of what I wear around town is not cycling-specific.
If I’m going for rides of 50 miles or longer, I confess that I prefer cycling-specific clothing, such as shorts with a chamois and a cycling jersey that has rear pockets. I like the extra cushion from the shorts and I enjoy having a spot to stash my keys and lip balm that I can easily reach when pedaling.
Some would say bikey clothing is never necessary and that’s true enough, but as I note I think it has its benefits on longer rides. However, if I am tooling around town or commuting, I wear t-shirts and hiking shorts. When it gets cold, I wear hiking pants and long-sleeve shirts and layers.
I wear regular clothing when I ride. My commute wardrobe is not made by some bikey retailer and sold under the label of “bicycling clothing” (or worse, “urban bicycling clothing”). And is it just me or does making something cycling-specific also tend to make it more expensive?
The second myth I’ve come upon of late is that, if we decide to do something crazy like ride in regular clothes, we need some kind of special instructions. These articles generally are written for a female audience and frankly, I find them insulting.
Take this short piece about “How to Bike In a Skirt.” I need an article to teach me how to ride in a skirt? Really?
I ride around town in a dress or a skirt sometimes– not a “bicycling” dress, but a regular dress. Can you believe it? It’s true!
And guess what? It is not a big deal. It doesn’t feel weird. I don’t inappropriately flash people. AND guess what else? I didn’t have to read an article about how to ride in a dress to figure it out. Go me!
It’s as though the bike industry, which spent the past twenty years largely ignoring women as well as transportation cycling in general, thinks we became as lost as they did.
No, we don’t need to be sold special cycling clothes to ride around town. Yes, people ride bikes in regular clothes. No, I don’t need advice to figure out how it’s done.
Nobody expects kids to have special outfits for riding their bikes. They just wear what they’ve got and pedal. Why should adults be any different?
Want to know what to wear while cycling? Watch the little kids and learn from them.