I really do get it: the Cycling Chic movement is not about wearing fashionable street clothing while cycling around. It is more about making cycling accessible for anyone to jump onto their bike in ordinary street wear and not invest extra cash for bike clothing.
What is Cycling Chic?
The Cycling Chic movement was sparked by a Copenhagen cycling consultant, M. Colville-Andersen who has a blog dedicated to primarily photos of locals cycling in anything, but bike specific clothing.* It’s a great marketing tool to fan more cycling passion by promoting cycling as a daily activity or at the very least, as another way of dressing for lifestyle transportation. Cycling Chic movement has spawned a worldwide plethora of cycling chic blogs which feature urbanites in cities cycling in street wear — fashionistas as well as the plainly dressed folks.
What I mean by lifestyle transportation, rather than utility cycling, is that my choice of daily transportation mode means I choose a lifestyle that integrates my transportation choices. For me, it is primarily cycling combined at times with
transit and walking in inclement weather. My lifestyle transportation is cycling for commuting, shopping, daily fitness and vacation travel. I have been car-free for the last 30 years.
Dressing for Lifestyle Transportation
I still dress for lifestyle transportation when I bike in clothing designed for cycling, because it allows me the greatest flexibility to go spontaneously and comfortably on a short or long ride. Not much worry because I’m dressed for comfort and for any weather changes. Since I am in cycling clothing, I am not worried about a frustrating garment wash or an expensive dry cleaning bill.
I wear cycling shoes with hard soles for riding more comfortably and faster whenever I want and for protecting my dress shoes for the office. I have worn customized orthotics for many years which already limits me from wearing a range of women’s fashion shoes. Forget about cycling chic high heel style. I still have to walk around off the bike.
Hunt for Elusive Women’s Bike Commuting Shoes
What is noticeable now and an increasing problem for cycling commuter women in the past few years, is the lack of choice for walkable cycling shoes for
commuting purposes –without a cleat-like rock underneath my sole. I have gone for 2 years straight, in a grand hunt for such shoes whenever I passed a local bike shop or elsewhere on vacation. Maybe now, retailers think more women want to cycle in their high heel pumps, ballet slippers or tall leather boots. I don’t . I ride with toe clips to prevent my foot from slipping off the pedals accidentally.
Saving Business Wear from Cycling Activity
For me to even wear ordinary street clothing for cycling, actually means investing more money in more clothes. Much of my off-bike street wear and business work clothes, either doesn’t work for cycling movement or it’s expensive. In the women’s wacky world of vanity sizing these days, I range from size 0 to 2. Or extra small.
Only twice, I have worn a $200.00 lined black wool gabardine jacket for work while biking under 5 km. from one workplace to another. I’m afraid of ripping the lining as I stretch myself slightly over my bike. So this jacket is reserved for off-bike wear, which means it’s worn many times at the office.
Street and business clothes shopping for a petite, mid-life woman is a headache. The further I stray from big North American cities, the more difficult it gets because there’s just less choice. The caveat is: Unless I want to spend alot more money for properly fitted clothes without looking like a teenager.
I don’t wear long flowing skirts anymore. No, I don’t want to wear a tight skirt on a bike and rip it. Already I am left with only one business skirt above the knee, with a ripped inner lining. The hunt for a skirt petite proportioned for me, has been now 2 years long and it’s not over. I find it difficult to locate tailored shirts for the office without spending a lot of money. Cycling around in my lovely creamy white dress shirt and making it more slightly sweaty around the neckline, means more frequent washing and wearing out the garment sooner.
Priorites: Cycling Chic Or Paying a Mortgage
I continue to be amazed, bemused how some cycling chic women who cycle daily, have such a wide range of dresses, skirts, heeled dress shoes and lovely leather boots. Unless I want to spend a ton of time cruising the second-hand clothing stores, I know I will not be able to make my mortgage payments by having a revolving lovely chic wardrobe with a few new pieces every year.
Please don’t tell me to sew: I used to sew over 80% of my wardrobe for over a decade. It does require several hours per month. That creative fun time is now replaced by cycling time, blogging and when I get around to it, art work.
Also more time in stores, takes me away from cycling time after work and on weekends. Ever since cycling passion bit me 20 years ago, I have spent far less time window shopping and schlepping around in shopping malls. A two hour stint at the retail stores is replaced by a two hour long blissful ride. Most of my shopping haunts via bike are to grocery stores, pharmacy and household goods outlets.
So there’s little point of me abandoning my collection of cycling jerseys and chamois-less cycling shorts and tights that I’ve acquired over the years. I have spent the money over the decades, so I’ll wear my cycling shorts and tights. It is actually cheaper for me to wear a pair of cycling shorts and hence, have one pair of hard-to-find petite dress pants last several years longer.
I have been a regular cyclist for the past 20 years. So judge me not, for not wearing my street clothing nor business wear on bike: I’m trying to save money to make such clothing last longer.
It makes me and my street-business wear wardrobe happy for a long time.
While bundling up groceries onto my bike at the store, by chance, I met the partner to the owner of the local bike store, Bike Bike. She felt she would have not returned to cycling if she had to buy cycling-specific clothing. However for certain, I know for myself, I would have not stuck to cycling for so many years and would have not travelled so far by bike, by wearing only ordinary clothing.
*For unknown reasons, alot of the cyclists featured in his blog photos, are riding fairly clean looking bikes. Strange, it can’t be right. Or maybe some of us just live in dustier parts of the world.
Blue, Elly and Kristi Tieche. Bike vs. Bike: Cycle Chic Debate. In Momentum. Oct. 17, 2011.
Chong, J. Losing My Cycling Identity in the World’s Cycling Nirvana: Copenhagen. In Third Wave Cycling Blog. Sept. 29, 2010.