The Best Skirts for Cycling

People are surprised that we cycle in skirts and dresses so often, but it’s not rocket science. Over the past year, we’ve learned that almost every type of outfit works fine on bikes. Skirts offer freedom of movement and are much cooler than pants or shorts, making them especially good for summer cycling. There are some skirts and dresses that are not ideal for cycling, but those are few and far between, easy to work around or avoid. If you find yourself in a problematic skirt, be prepared to either hitch it up or hold it down with one hand.

That said, three factors determine whether a skirt or dress is easy for cycling: structure, fabric and length.

A good dress: short but not too short, narrow but stretchy and not skin tight

A good dress: short but not too short, narrow but stretchy

Narrow skirt with back pleat works well.  Tights are a great for cycling with skirts - if it's cold enough.

Narrow skirts with a back pleat work well. Tights are a great for cycling with skirts – if it's cold enough.

Structure: A-line skirts are the best for cycling, but a narrow skirt with stretch material or a back slit or kick pleat can be ideal for riding because the wind will not blow it around. A narrow skirt without any design to allow for extra mobility, however, will make for an uncomfortable bike ride. Half of your energy must be devoted to hiking the skirt up enough — but not too much — at each start and stop. I experienced this first-hand last week while riding from my work to the Active Trans mixer.  The skirt created more problems than I anticipated — I could not pedal without hiking it up quite a bit. Instead of simply putting a foot down at each stop, I had to dismount completely. With each start I had to hitch and hop all over again. At least the pleated ruffle on the bottom helpfully served as a curtain of sorts.

Narrow skirt with no stretch or slit - not so good

Narrow skirt with no stretch or slit – not so good

Narrow Skirts with stretchy material are perfect

Narrow Skirts with stretchy material are perfect

Fabric: Heavy cottons/cotton blends and silks are perfect on bikes. Thick synthetic material works well too, but of course won’t breathe as well. Lighter material, on the other hand, is easily lifted by the wind. Think parachutes. Not even my binder clip trick (office binder clip attached to the underside of the skirt to weigh it down) made any difference with this super light silk dress pictured below. A trick that may work is to wear a garter belt on your thigh with a safety pin and then safety pin your skirt to the garter belt from the inside. Luckily I anticipated this effect and wore black biker shorts under the dress, because most of the time it was flapping up completely. [T's note: I have had success taming a light cotton dress by putting my cell phone or keychain in the front pocket to act as a skirt weight!]

Silk will be gone with the wind

Silk will be gone with the wind

Length: Long dresses can get stuck in your chain, rear wheel, brakes and crank, so consider tying them up or buying a bike with skirt guard, chain guard, and internal brakes, like our Dutch bikes. Short skirts can also be tricky, since pedaling can reveal a bit more than you might want to show. You could throw caution to the wind and wear a mini. If you’re more boring, like us, you should feel comfortable with any skirt more than midway down the thigh. A basket on the handlebars can serve as a fig leaf, as Sigrid from My Hyggelig has noted.

Long skirt tied up

Long skirt tied up

That’s about it–pretty simple. Wear dresses and skirts with enthusiasm on bikes, as eloquently discussed on Copenhagen Cycle Chic, but keep in mind that some skirts simply don’t work as well as others. A little planning can save you the hassle of fussing too much with your clothes.

Do you feel comfortable cycling in skirts and dresses? And if so, what’s your preferred style?

  • http://www.workcycles.com henryinamsterdam

    Reading a post and comments in which women discuss cycling in skirts gives me hope for mankind. Thank you.

    • Veronica

      Back in the 19th century all women wore long skirts when they rode on the newly invented bicycle. I love skirts and bikes.

  • Canadian

    My skirt cycling philosophy is somewhat different. I prefer long, loose skirts. My skirts usually go to mid-calf which means if they do flutter in the wind they don’t usually go higher than just above the knees. When I bike to work I wear bike shorts under my skirt and then remove them at the office. I have never had any mishaps with my long skirts but I am planning to invest in a chainguard and skirtguard just in case.

  • Jessica

    Ooh, you didn’t mention what I ran into problems with – wrap skirts! Although length would play a part either way, when riding with a more lightweight wrap skirt on a windy day a while back, I was really glad that I could take my left hand off the handlebar every so often and fold the front of the skirt back to where it belonged. Maybe next time I can try and fix it with a heavy clip – should probably work.

    • http://letsgorideabike.wordpress.com Trisha

      I wore a short wrap skirt once…and ended up shifting it so the wrap hit on the side instead of the front. It helped a little bit, but a clip would have been a better solution.

      • Anne

        I had ridden with a wrap dress with tights under before and I was totally fine, but then I rode again with the same dress, but sans tights, and it was a disaster! The friction between the tights and the dress seemed to somehow hold it in place, but without it it was blowing all over and exposing my nether parts…

        I have been weary about riding in narrower skirts, but I will try to see how it goes with this one that has a split in the back. Hope it will work!

    • Rvriend

      I love biking in skirts or dresses because I wear them more often then pants. My favorite skirt to bike in is a basics red skirt made of jersey knit, like a t shirt. It comes to my knees so it’s long enough that people aren’t getting a brittney spears show!
      It also helps to have a cruiser bike because the seat is higher, bigger and not tilted so you don’t lift your legs as high. Anyway, it’s always fun to bike dressed nice!
      Rachelle

  • http://www.myhyggelig.blogspot.com/ Sigrid

    Thanks for the reference Dottie! I ride in skirts a lot. I love skirts. Riding in a skirt in summer is the best. I find that if I am comfortable in my skirt, I will be comfortable riding my bike in it. Just get on and go. My only challenge at times is wind, and then the hand resting on the thigh technique and basket/fig leaf come in handy. I’m really not into showing my knickers – I’m from the Midwest for goodness sake! :p My easy breezy CA days are sadly behind me…

    • Man

      There are few sights in the urban environment as beautiful as a girl riding a bike in a skirt or dress!

      With all due respect, I love your blog and your cause, but for all the troubles that girls seem to go into deciding what panties to wear; with color and style choices galore, is it really that “embarrassing” if someone sees your panties?

      What about wearing black panties – isn’t that a bit of a camouflage look?

      I agree with Adrienne, go ahead and make someone’s day; it’ll make for less disgruntled commuters perhaps.

      • http://samburgess.blogspot..com Sam

        have never considered riding in a skirt – but then my commute is about nine miles (I really must keep going!) and I am fortunate enough to have showers at work, so shorts it is!!

      • AJ

        You can wear almost any skirt you want with one of these skirt garters! birdindustries.etsy.com

  • http://voonyx.ws vOONYX

    fantastic pics, thanks

  • mandor

    OMG, ew at all of ladeez show up your underwear comments. Gee, why *don’t* women bike more when they have to put up with shit like that?

  • Bertus

    nice skirts

  • Ellen

    At what age should a woman wear a skirt lower than her knee? I love tights.

    • http://letsgorideabike.wordpress.com dottie

      Never! ;)

    • http://www.bicyclingmonterey.com Mari Lynch

      I saw my first skirt guard here in Monterey County a few weeks ago. Haven’t found the need for one, although I do bike in skirts regularly. I love the concept of a skirt guard though, opening up more options for cycling attire.

  • Lisa

    I’m liking black leggings with short skirts – short and stretchy, or short and flippy. Can switch to professional, or funky, without having to change anything on my bottom half other than my shoes

    • http://letsgorideabike.wordpress.com dottie

      Good tip!

    • Jack R

      I’m not on Facebook or Twitter so I couldn’t ‘Like’ this article there, but I clicked Like here on the page.  I really enjoyed this post and the comments from your readers. I’ve subscribed to this blog for a long time.  I love seeing women riding in skirts and dresses, and it’s great to see your photos and read these tips.  Not many guys wear skirts, I know, but I love the way skirts look and feel, and especially enjoy riding home from work in one of my skirts, so I always check your posts.

  • Chris Holder

    My preferred bicycling skirt is a really short black swim skirt with attached panty underneath. I love for the wind to blow my skirt around while I’m riding.

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  • Rvriend

    I love biking in skirts or dresses because I wear them more often then pants. My favorite skirt to bike in is a basics red skirt made of jersey knit, like a t shirt. It comes to my knees so it’s long enough that people aren’t getting a brittney spears show!
    It also helps to have a cruiser bike because the seat is higher, bigger and not tilted so you don’t lift your legs as high. Anyway, it’s always fun to bike dressed nice!
    Rachelle

  • Jack R

    I’m not on Facebook or Twitter so I couldn’t ‘Like’ this article there, but I clicked Like here on the page.  I really enjoyed this post and the comments from your readers. I’ve subscribed to this blog for a long time.  I love seeing women riding in skirts and dresses, and it’s great to see your photos and read these tips.  Not many guys wear skirts, I know, but I love the way skirts look and feel, and especially enjoy riding home from work in one of my skirts, so I always check your posts.

  • http://sheridesabike.com Karen

    The skort is of course a no-brainer and they are looking more and more skirt-like.

    I am very excited about trying a favorite denim skirt with some new very high heels I found in Phoenix today, a pink pair and a kiwi pair. You post is very motivating.

  • http://www.craftygrrrl.ca Mel

    I’ve found most of my skirts work well but they all tend to be a midweight jersey so I have very little flyaway and good movement. If I’m ever uncertain of how a skirt will act I’ll wear bike shorts underneath.

    I have heard of ladies riding bikes with top tubes using a butterfly clip secure the skirt from flying up by sort of folding/wrapping it around the tube.

  • http://none grambev

    What about kilts? : )

  • Jeff Schneider

    This summer I saw for the first time someone doing what Mel described with the butterfly clip; it seemed to work.

  • http://wereonaroadtosomewhere.blogspot.com Adrienne Johnson

    Just wear nice knickers underneath. Give the world a treat!

  • http://letsgorideabike.wordpress.com Dottie

    LOL, I love it.

  • http://roseread.wordpress.com Cathy

    The only skirt I can’t bike in is my denim pencil skirt. Stiff fabric, too tight, too short. I tried it once, not fun. My favorite skirt for cycling is a knee-length A-line one.

  • http://lovelybike.blogspot.com Lovely Bicycle!

    Great article! My preferred “cycling skirts” are cotton or linen A-lines that reach just about to the knees. These leave your legs completely free to pedal, and the material stays away from the spokes and chain — so they are comfortable on any bicycle, including road bikes with no chain cover or dress-guard, and men’s frames.

    I agree completely about the basket serving as a fig leaf, especially large utility baskets like the ones on the Pashley and the Azor Oma! On other bicycles, I simply wear leggings underneath a short skirt.

  • BikeGuest

    Could you write what exactly is that butterfly clip? I would be very grateful :)

  • BikeGuest

    Could you write what exactly is that butterfly clip? I would be very grateful :)

  • Christian

    Yeah, the skort is for people with no brains, cuz it is just a short in disguise, therefore pointless to wear. :D You don’t need to pretend to wear a skirt when in fact you are not.