How to: bicycling in a long dress

Bicycling in a long dress is possible! In fact, with the right set-up, it’s downright simple. Some may ask, “Why even bother biking in a long dress?” My response is that my bike is transportation and I do not want it to dictate what I wear (except pencil skirts, those are crazy – unless you convert it!).

If you are interested in learning how, read on!

Three major factors determine how successfully you can bike in a long dress: the dress, the bike, and the technique.

The Dress

Must allow enough freedom to move your legs in a cycling motion. The skirt needs to be relatively full or made of stretchy material with a slit, such as the one pictured above. Test the dress’s bike-ability before leaving (or purchasing) by doing some knee-lifts.

The Bike

Must have several characteristics to work with a long dress, unless you tie your dress up by your knees. First, a step-through frame (has anyone done this with a diamond frame??). Second, a covered chain to keep the skirt from being eaten and/or greased up. Third, a skirt guard if the skirt is full, so it won’t get pulled in the rear wheel spokes. Note that this was not an issue with the dress and bike above. Fourth, fenders, otherwise your skirt will rub against the rear tire. Finally, a clean frame is a good idea, since your dress will rub against it a fair bit.

The Technique

For the most part, you can bike as normal. You may benefit from hitching the skirt up a bit, to provide more give around the thighs. Experiment to determine what works best for each dress. You may also want to dismount fully at stoplights, to reduce stress on the seams of the skirt.

Here is a quick video that covers the topic. I did this on the fly yesterday, since I happened to be wearing a long dress. I’m not a professional film-maker, so not the best quality video ever, but I hope simply seeing someone bike in a long dress is helpful.

Have any of you biked in a long dress or skirt? I’d love to hear stories and additional tips in the comments! Please feel free also to share photos, via either html or links.

{For more advice, come out to my The Lady and the Bike class in Chicago tomorrow!}

  • Drmiczak

    Wow, that made my day! I do ride my diamond framed bicycle with a shorter Skort but not a dress that long.
    All the same, I prefer to look feminine like this woman rather than dowdy while bicycling. It makes a difference in how you feel and how the public sees you. Well done!

  • StefanieA

    Great video, Dottie! I was inspired to see you ride up in a long dress at the bike brunch this week, and now I really want a second bike so that long-dress riding is a possibility! (I don’t think it would work so well with a diamond frame…)

  • Jessie B

    Thanks for the great tips. :) I just wonder in general how you manage to ride a bike in a skirt when there is so strong wind. You know,, Chicago is known as windy city. I love to be able to ride my bike in my normal outfits and I love to wear my skirts. There are a few times that I went out with my skirts, rode like a block and came back home to change my clothes to pants because it was too windy.. :( Do you have any tips? or you don’t wear skirts when the wind is strong? 

    • Dottie

      Is wind a problem for you because of your skirt blowing up? For a long skirt, that is not an issue.  For particularly short skirts or skirts known to blow up in the wind, I throw on a pair of spandex shorts underneath.  Otherwise, most skirts that come just above or below the knee are fine, especially on my bikes that have a more leaned over posture – the wind actually flattens the skirt more against my thighs.  I think part of the issue as a skirt-beginner is getting used to the fact that the skirt may creep up a bit from time to time, but usually will not creep all the way up and can easily be pulled down every now and then.  

  • Betty Scandretti

    Looks fabulous! It’s really helpful (and inspiring) to have some video. May I cast my vote for more video clips? I’m really new to cycling (I have an Azor Oma) and I’d love to hear your tips on how to use the hub gears, adjust the saddle, attach luggage, build confidence on roads, and so on. Thanks for all your hard work!

    • Dottie

      Thanks, Betty!  Good to hear that the videos are helpful.  I’ll definitely make some more basic ones (maybe with less wind background noise!).  I hadn’t thought about topics like that.  Maybe the saddle adjustment one next.  I have some special saddles tips for the Oma, like tilting the nose up a bit.

    • Dottie

      Thanks, Betty!  Good to hear that the videos are helpful.  I’ll definitely make some more basic ones (maybe with less wind background noise!).  I hadn’t thought about topics like that.  Maybe the saddle adjustment one next.  I have some special saddles tips for the Oma, like tilting the nose up a bit.

  • anni m

    Oh my goodness, you Roscoe Villagers have clean alleys!

  • Vicki

    I wore a long dress last summer one day when I couldnt be bothered getting changed and had to do an errand, it worked really well, and the dress was down to my ankles and loose, though not really full. I ride a loopframe with a skirtguard but I have never actually needed the guard as all my dresses and skirts are too short and/or not full enough to really require it. I think that to require a skirtguard you would have to be wearing a very full Victorian style gown

    • Dottie

      Ha, I agree!  I don’t think any of my skirts have been in danger, but I like knowing the extra protection is there.  The guard is good for protecting the wheel from any thingamabobbers that may be hanging off whatever junk I pile on my rack.  

  • aem2

    I have ridden, get this, a diamond-frame with no skirt guard with a really long skirt with no back slit several times. I wound up hiking the skirt up around my knees, but biking was easier than getting on and off the bike. I had to lay the bike nearly flat to mount and dismount. Fortunately, the skirt is made of material that doesn’t wrinkle.

    I also rode that bike with a long, full skirt; the skirt wound up getting caught in the back spokes. I had to tie a big knot in the skirt at the front to keep it safe. Lack of chain-guard wasn’t an issue; that’s more of a problem with pants, not just for getting gunk on your clothes but for chewing the bottom of of your pants when it gets caught in the chain. Ask me how I know!

    My current bike is a step-through with a chain-guard and skirt-guard and I have worn all these items successfully. I still need to hike the long skirt up a bit for mobility, but it’s much easier to get on and off the bike.

  • ladyfleur

    My experience wearing an ankle length dress on my Dutch bike mirrors yours. You did a great job describing what to look for and how to test the skirt. 

    In my case, the skirt didn’t have a rear slit, but it had an A-line so that it was full enough but not so full that it blew up in my face.  I think I rode about 12 miles in the dress that night so it was well tested. Here’s a photo:

  • galumph

    I bike in a jersey maxi dress, and after I’ve simply pulled the skirt up to just below my knees, gathering the material, use a clothespin to hold the cloth together at the waist, where the extra material has been gathered. The clothespin also comes in handy for circular-cut skirts that would otherwise get caught in the wheel. If I’ve forgotten the pin, I just tie the bottom of the skirt to itself, effectively making it narrower. That keeps it gathered enough so it doesn’t get caught.

    • Maven

      I’ve biked in a jersey maxi dress too–and on a diamond frame. I just binder-clip wayward fabric together or tie it up between my knees. Binder clips forever!

  • Lovely Bicycle!

    I have never had an issue wearing maxi dresses and skirts on a step-through bike with chaincase and dressguards – after all, that is what those kinds of bikes were designed for in the first place. I can also wear long skirts without a problem on my Brompton, because the wheels and chain are so far down. 

    • Dottie

      Good to know about the Brompton!  I’d never thought of that before.

  • Amy Gawthrop

    I actually wore a maxi dress today! Granted, I rode the Pashley, so no issues there except that I did notice on down hills the wind would still catch the hem and blow it all the way up over my knees! So lots of laughing and trying to pull my dress back down.  :)

  • Bike Lane Living

    I love riding in my skort  – the skirt part rides up a bit but the shorts cover everything so it’s a great compromise. My longer, flowy skirts often get blown around on windy days, so I avoid wearing them when the wind is kicking up. ;)

    • LGRAB

      I love riding in skorts, too! My favorite are Patagonias – I use them during the summer and then change when I get to work.

      Even with the wind blowing my long skirt up, it’s still around my knees, which covers everything that I want covered. :)

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  • Grace

    I ride my ‘boy’s’ bike all the time with a long skirt – and have for years. I am the same way: biking is my norm for transportation, so I don’t want the bike dictating what I wear. I have an old Peugeot bike and love it and don’t want to buy another. I wear bike shorts underneath, which I take off when I get to work. When I stop at lights and such, the skirt just bunches up on the top bar, but it is not a problem if it is full enough, has slits so it can ride up a little and b/c I have bike shorts on.

  • anni m

    Oh my goodness, you Roscoe Villagers have clean alleys!

  • Dottie

    Ha!  Well, my condo is small and we try to keep our little area debris-free. :)