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.
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.
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!]
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.
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?