Okay, I admit to being shallow. I know there’s more to life than what you wear, but anything I do invariably revolves around clothes. I’m going to use an excuse here and say that working from home affords me no opportunities to dress nicely, so any time I actually venture out the door for any kind of occasion, bar a trip to the supermarket, I get excited.
But when it comes to riding a bike, especially if you have no experience of it, what the heck do you wear?
The cyclist's uniform
This is about all I knew about cycling clothes about a month ago. Tight-fitting lycra. But you know, there are a few simple rules that I learned simply by being on a bike for one afternoon.
1.) You don’t need special clothing to ride a bike.
2.) If you want to wear a skirt, wear one – just give a bit of thought to your underwear, maybe wear some shorts underneath, and think about whether your bike has a drop-bar or not.
3.) Capri trousers are great for cycling, because they keep you cool and there’s no chance of your cuffs being caught in the moving parts of the cycle.
4.) Jeans aren’t a great idea, unless they have a forgiving fit. They’ll probably want to shimmy down your bum, and restrict your leg movement, especially skinny ones. Also, they will make you sweat.
5.) What you wear on your top half is really down to you. A good idea is to look for a top with extended length, particularly down your back, as you’ll be leaning forward and a short top will ride up a little. Floppy long sleeves could get in your way.
6.) Layers are good, in case you get hot or cold, but think about what you’re going to do with any items you take off. If you tie a jumper around your middle you not only create a sweat swamp as the material makes you hot, but you run the risk of having the dragging parts fall into the chain or wheel. If your bike doesn’t have a basket or panniers, you could take a bag – but again, you could end up with a sweat patch on your back if you’re carrying a backpack in the heat.
7.) A light, waterproof jacket may well save the day if it starts to drizzle. I am no expert on this, because I’ve been wearing one for years that my mother-in-law rescued from the lost and found at her secondary school. But it doesn’t have to be a special cycling jacket – just think about length all the time. Is it long enough to protect my back if I’ll be leaning foward? Is it so long I’ll run the risk of it being caught somewhere?
8.) Footwear – a real quandry here. I know some ladies that bike in heels and look awesome doing it. In fact, heels are great because they naturally allow your feet to slot onto the pedals and make it harder to slip off, plus they give you a platform to stand on when you stop in traffic. However, if you’re a beginner, it might be an extra difficulty you don’t need right off the bat! Ballerina shoes and similar flats are totally fine, but if they have floppy soles you may find it harder to pedal, and if they have a loose fit, they may slip off. For my first ride, I wore a pair of trainers, which worked out very well as they have a hardish sole to make pedalling easier, and they have a built-in grip on the treads that works well with the bumpy grip of the pedals.
Needless to say, unlike some other sports, you don’t need a special sports bra to cycle, unless you’re going to be pedalling in a very vigorous manner!
That’s me in the middle – and this is what I wore for my first ride. Trainers, long shorts and a long top with adjustable sleeves. Simple, not very exciting, but certainly not lycra! I rode a hired bike for this trip, and hilariously I was completely colour co-ordinated – my trainers were blue and white, my shorts were blue, my top was blue and white, and the bike was blue and white. Have to make an effort, after all!