Dress for cycling

I’ve made up my mind. I want to wear dresses this summer.

I’m fed up with trousers, shorts, T shirts.

There are dresses out there this summer with nipped-in waists and nice cap sleeves and loads of colour. Some of them are a bit narrow for sufficient leg movement but I think it’s time I ventured into more feminine garb on the Trek.

I mean, why not? I’m not wholly a lycra person. Lycra’s fine for cycle shorts and longs but I see those guys out wearing cycling team strip with little matching socks on a Sunday and think “Oh God. I’m far too crap a cyclist to be associated with those teams.”

So I tend to wear something sleeveless and comfortable and suitable with the shorts but the time has come, the Walrus said, for a change.

Katharine Ross looked very nice in her nightie on the handlebars of Paul Newman’s bicycle in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Back then I didn’t even have a bike. But I very much wanted to be Katharine Ross in a nightie with my arm around Paul Newman, the scamp.

No, I can’t seriously propose that kind of  for pedalling. That kind of nightie would look fine in Dowlais Top Asda. A big improvement, in fact, on the pyjamas which are often worn (it’s a Welsh thing). But on a bike, a dress like that would get hopelessly caught up and oily in the chainrings. And I’m not sure how to extract pieces of floral material from a chain without using the chainlinky tool thingy and I’m not to be trusted with stuff that dismantles things. I still can’t talk about the Spoke Key Incident.

I need to invent a practical kind of cycling dress which incorporates cycling shorts with maybe a little lace around the edge. I expect loads of women wear them around Holland and the European cycling cities.

Alternatively, I could just wear a normal dress and get a damn huge safety pin and pin the front of the dress to the back to prevent it flying up in my face and exposing my cold front.

Anyway, I think dressing in a feminine way as opposed to the usual cycling kit of shorts/longs, jersey/jacket would probably make me safer on the road, purely from the point of view of drivers actually noticing that I exist.

There’s a woman I often see pedalling along Christchurch Road in Cheltenham, which is the gentlest of uphills, making heavy weather of it, wearing a white dome-like crash helmet loosely on the back of her head (not much use in the event of actual falling off!) and wearing a cardigan over a long skirt. She never fails to catch my eye. Either she hasn’t got any gears or hasn’t a clue how to use them but its the laborious plodding and the skirt that always gets me in a “How does she imagine that’s suitable?” kind of way.

There were a couple of times, in that confusing “Is it Spring or Summer” kind of weather, that I wore a silk chemise under my usual V necked cycling top. The black silk vest has a little bit of lace in the centre, which was only just visible – and to be honest, I didn’t think it was visible at all when I put it on – in the V neck.

I got a measurable increase in friendly car horn toots and airbrakes compared to normal, and that little glimpse of lace was the only thing I could think of.  And yes, before you even think it, obviously I checked that the back seam of my Ron Hills was still intacto. You never can tell what makes people behave as they do. I was in longs and my usual red jacket when a car passed me the other day – gave me loads of room so thank you kind sir – with occupants in ebulliant mood and some bloke made an arm gesture out of the window that I couldn’t possible interpret here.

I’m not easily offended and quite frankly, as long as they keep their distance and refrain from running me over, I can put up with any amount of blatant sexism.

So maybe this is how to make female cyclists safer on the road. Don’t attempt to look practical or pro; wear a dress, preferably something lowish cut, wobble about a bit – on the bike I meant, not in an unsuitably insubstantial bra, although that is yet another option – and look as if you’re just nipping to the shops in your slippers.

Don’t for goodness sake look properly capable of riding the bike or drivers will slip by you at less than arm’s length away at 60mph, which is somewhat disconcerting and disrupts the joy element of cycling because you tend to start cursing under your breath..

To recap:

Wear a dress.

Wobble uncertainly.

Attach some flowers to your panniers.

Put your helmet on all wonky.

Drivers will avoid you like the plague, I’m convinced. Who knows? They might just be content to sit behind you and watch you cycle wearing The Dress.

Now, any ideas on how can I convert my Giro helmet into a nice wide-brimmed straw hat?

A nice dress.


About janh1

Part-time hedonist.
This entry was posted in Countryside, Current Affairs, Cycling and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Dress for cycling

  1. Pseu says:

    A dress on a bike – excellent idea. While a student nurse in Oxford I thought nothing of it and didn’t even have a skirt guard on the back wheel. The trick is getting enough fabric and not too much, to trail, and I’m sure I resorted to the peg trick once or twice.

    These days maybe cycling shorts under said skirt could ease the pressure problems of a hard saddle.

    • janh1 says:

      Morning Pseu. You were ahead of the game! Being a mountainbiker first – definitely *not* suitable for skirts – I’ve never ventured the feminine look on a bike. Should be interesting! 😉

      Avoid Brooks saddles like the plague!! My Trek ladies saddle is fantastically comfy. – sculpted in all the right places.

      • Pseu says:

        oh, yes, I have an anatomically correct saddle, cut away in all the right places… 🙂

  2. Pseu says:

    Here’s one solution to the skirt problem!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NIpGrgPa7s 🙂

  3. It sounds like you need a “skort”. I wasn’t sure if they still make them so I googled. There’s a very nice range for children at Lands End but the market for women is far more geared towards the golf and tennis players – and they are boring by comparison.

    • janh1 says:

      Greetings Sophie 🙂 Yes I looked at “skorts” but they are more like my old tennis or hockey skirts than a dress. I’m going for the dressy look 🙂

      I did love my hockey skirt though. Box pleated grey woollen flannel. Lovely shape, warmish in winter and just the length I wanted for my school skirt, which was at least six inches longer!! 😉

  4. isobel says:

    I shall see if I can find a photo of my grandmother in her cycling gear c 1914. Divided skirts. Somewhere online I have seen floppy hat versions of cycle helmets. Will see what I can do. But beware, also saw a woman on a Boris bike yesterday tugging at the front of her skirt as she rode in order to preserve some decency. Maybe cycle shorts underneath…

    • janh1 says:

      Yes do!! She might have dressed very much like that woman who cycled up the Thames on her bike 🙂

      Anyway don’t worry about the floppy hat version of the Giro helmet. It was but a flight of fancy. I would only be able to cycle wearing a dress in much warmer countries than here, so for now, I will stick to my winter gear! 🙂

  5. That IS a nice frock, Jan 🙂 I love your recipe for bike couture. I shall stick it on my fridge, I think. It’s all very inspiring, but I look outside at the pouring rain and feel the freezing air on my face and I have never felt less like wearing a dress in my whole entire life! (Moan, moan, moan) Roll on a barbecue summer and dressy cycling!!

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