30 June 2010

I cycle in a skirt

me with my bicycle

One thing Amsterdam is famous for is bicycles everywhere. And it's with good reason. The bicycles are comfortable, the bike paths are plentiful, it's safe and quick, and it's ever so flat. I'm sure I've been spoiled for cycling anywhere else for one thing.

The Dutch-style city bicycle is soooo comfortable. I don't think I've raved about them on my blog as much as I have elsewhere, but I can't resist. The basic shape hasn't changed since the 1920s, and the result is a bicycle that allows proper posture. You're not bent over with arms stretched out, like on a mountain bike. The handlebars come back to meet your hands, just shoulder-width apart and the frame is quite tall. This means, amongst other things, that it's easier to gracefully wear skirts while cycling. Even with my foot on the pedal at its highest point, the height of the frame and my seat still means that my leg slants downward.


My philosophy for biking in a skirt or dress is largely to just not worry about it; certainly no one else seems to here. I basically get dressed to my own whim, and then just get on my bicycle regardless of what I'm wearing. Two tips to those new to cycling in a skirt: 1) angle your knees inwards, and 2) (this is the biggie) just relax and don't worry about the slight chance that someone might fleetingly see a bit more thigh if the wind is particularly naughty. There seems to be lot of palaver on the internet of people advising wearing shorts underneath or complicated systems of pinning or tying dresses. Now, I can understand some of the discussion of tucking or pinning if you have a full skirt and your bike doesn't have a coat guard, but my impression was mostly that people seem overly worried about someone catching a glimpse of their underwear. To quote Dress A Day, "C'mon, people, are we all six years old? ... Most people wear underwear that is, at minimum, the same coverage as a relatively modest bathing suit."

It's a generalization, but it seemed to be mainly American sites that treated biking in a skirt as a big deal. Maybe it's partly cultural, and maybe it's also that biking as a normal, daily thing just to get somewhere (as opposed to a sporty activity) is not so common in North America. I do wish I could find it again, but there was a site where someone commented that biking in a skirt was maybe not the day to wear your cupcake panties. And my thought was, that's backwards! It's EXACTLY the day to wear your cupcake panties (even though the chances of someone seeing them due to you cycling is actually miniscule). The European attitude largely seems to be confused by the question "how do you bike in a skirt?". Uhhh, you put on a skirt, then you get on a bicycle. And this is the attitude I first adopted when Bixi was launched in Montreal last year. Afterall, if you might just randomly jump on a bike anywhere, you can't really plan what you're wearing.

For reference, I've worn at least 7 different skirts and dresses on my bicycle, of varying lengths and fullness, none with any particular problem. The knee-length, fuller skirted ones are probably the easiest in terms of freedom of movement. But if you're dithering about what to wear on a bicycle, just don't worry. Put on a cute outfit, hop on your bike, and go see the world.

Photographs by Allison Gryski. © All rights reserved.


Susan M, Fibre Arts said... Best Blogger Tips

I _love_ this philosophy in your post; especially, jump on your bike and go see the world.

Chantelle said... Best Blogger Tips

I wish we could get bicycles like that here! I'd love to explore the area around me while cycling with proper posture.