A Bike Clothing Agnostic

Shorts Weather

I don’t often ride in purpose-made cycling clothes anymore. This isn’t a political statement as much as it’s a statement of personal preference; I simply no longer have a desire or need to wear specialized “cycling wear”. And although I think there may be some merit to the idea that people riding bikes in normal clothes present a positive image of bicycling to the general public, I certainly don’t look down on those who choose to wear cycling-specific clothing. I suppose when it comes down to it, I’m pretty much an agnostic on the Cycle Chic versus Lycra question.

I don’t often ride in purpose-made cycling clothes anymore. This isn’t a political statement as much as it’s a statement of personal preference; I simply no longer have a desire or need to wear specialized “cycling wear”.

My routine in the winter and spring is to wear my work clothes and simply layer up over the top with various fleece vests and coats. It’s usually cold enough when I leave for work in the morning, and I ride slow enough on my inbound commute, that I’m not concerned about perspiration. As the year progresses and the weather warms, I shed layers until I’m down to just a shirt and slacks in the spring.

When the temps approach triple digits like they did yesterday, I switch over to a garment swapping routine that puts me in progressively lighter and cooler clothing as the day warms: on the morning commute while it’s still relatively cool, I wear slacks and a long-sleeved shirt (this could be a tech-T or a lightweight wool shirt ); then, when I arrive at the office I clean up and change into a short-sleeved, lightweight, work appropriate shirt; and for the ride home, I swap the slacks for a pair of lightweight, breathable shorts. On the few days of the year when we’re actually in triple digits, the work clothes are packed from the start and it’s shorts and a breathable shirt on both the inbound and outgoing legs of the commute.

We’re lucky to have such mild weather here in Northern California; by mixing-and-matching the “normal” clothes in our closet (for us that’s a mix of cotton street clothes and all-purpose, REI-style “outdoor” clothing), we’re able to stay comfortable on the bike throughout the year. I’m guessing that in other regions where the weather is more extreme, clothing choices are more difficult and specialized bike clothing is more of a requirement.

What about you? Do you wear specialized, bike-specific clothing on your commute, or do you just wear the street clothes that are already hanging in your closet?

What type of clothes do you wear while bike commuting?

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53 Responses to “A Bike Clothing Agnostic”

  • urb anwriter says:

    My ‘commute’ response skews the numbers – work is less than 3 minutes away by bike – but I ride in ‘street clothes’ year-round, regardless of the activity. Whether I’m JRA, doing a century, or hill-climbs on Mt Seymour I’m in some variation of sneakers/cargo shorts/t-shirt (or a $5 merino sweater from the thrift) with my only concession to ‘cycling specific’ clothing being a rain-jacket or cape.

    Oh, one really important exception: rain booties.

    I have never wanted to advertise the maker of the equipment that I ride, wear, row. Or shoot. I’ve paid for the product, once, that’s enough. See ‘Arrow’ bikes in Japan. Nor do I now, nor have I ever, wanted to advertise for ‘Team Bozo’ and their star rider, ‘Bill Board.’

    And now it’s time to go for a ride,

  • Kevin says:

    I work from a home office so I don’t commute. Most of my riding is for running errands or to personal appointments so I don’t have to present a business image and I opt for comfortable street clothes. I have been trying in vain to find a nice stylish gore-tex jacket (not a cycling specific one) that I could wear while cycling around town.


  • David says:

    I live in the southeast and am able to wear casual clothes to work, which is a big bonus since i commute on a bike. Since the extreme summer heat and humidity has arrived (it was 85 degrees and 70% humidity this morning on my way in!), i have found a savior in the form of a Patagonia A/C shirt. A little pricey as is most of their stuff, but this one is worth it. It is made of 100% cotton, which usually isnt’ ideal for cycling clothes, but it is so airy that it doesn’t even get wet with sweat on the ride in. Just wanted to pass along my findings to the rest of the hot weather commuters.

    ps. thanks for the great website.
    ~David, Atlanta, Ga.

  • Robin Henningsen says:

    In South Central Florida it’s just easier to wear cycling clothes. With the extreme heat and humidity and temps feeling like 110 at times with the heat index, not to mention full blown monsoon season, cycling clothes are just more breathable and functional than street clothing. In the Winter, which for us is anything pretty much below 60, long cycling pants work as opposed to regular pants because we are not acclimated for those few days out of the year of “cold” weather. I’ll admit, anything below 60 makes me throw on a ski jacket. ;-) Plus, cycling pants are really convenient in not getting your pants caught in your chain. However, this is pretty much on par clothing for going on the road bike. With the hybrid I can be more inclined to simply put on a bathing suit top and boardshorts as they dry quickly if caught in a torrential downpour. In the winter on the hybrid I will sport warm up pants or a pair of jeans if cold enough.

  • brad says:

    On my city bike when I’m running errands and shopping, street clothes work fine — the only “cycling clothes” I wear are my bike gloves, which I always wear because I want to protect my hands in case of a fall.

    On my touring bike, though, I wear cycling shorts, short socks, and cycling jacket if it’s chilly or raining. Cycling jackets have longer arms and an extended back, both of which are important for the road bike position where your’re leaning over the handlebars instead of upright. And padded shorts are great for long hours in the saddle.

  • Derek says:

    My commute is far enough that I really need to be moving at a reasonable clip. So I undoubtedly will be sweating some – sometimes a lot. It is honestly hard for me to conceive of riding at a pace at which I would not perspire at least a little. I always keep several shirts and pants at my office to change into, so I never have the need to wear on the bike what I am wearing a work.

    I usually wear a wicking, synthetic shirt of some kind. NOT a jersey. Synthetic is good for when you are sweating, but also for when you get caught in a downpour. I also usually wear cargo shorts. When it gets hot and humid, I start wearing lycra cycling shorts due to their comfort in those conditions. When wearing lycra, I sometimes get sideways glances from people at the train station when everyone else is either in business attire or perhaps the occasional goth wear.

  • Chris J. from DE says:

    My method is to keep several changes of clothes in my office. I find it more comfortable to wear biking shorts with a bright colored bike shirt (for visibility!) on my ride to work. I then get things started in the office while I stop sweating, use Rocket Shower to clean up, and change into my work clothes. I then shuttle dirty/clean clothes on the days when I need to take my car to work.

    Chris J. From DE.

  • Buck-50 says:

    I wear cycling clothes- jersey, bike shorts, etc. I wear them mainly because they’re really good at dealing with sweat. I’ve tried riding in street clothes and I end up feeling clammy and gross. Plus, in khaki shorts, I’ll end up looking like I wet myself.

    But then, I like to ride fast on my commute.

    That’s the great thing about cycling- there’s no one right way to do it.

  • Don says:

    Between perspiration in unmentionable regions and the threat of rain, regular clothes and leather shoes are impractical for me, even in the winter months and even when I ride at a leisurely pace. Bike clothes, on the other hand, can be overkill, particularly shorts with pads. I use quick-drying activewear and Keen waterproof sandals (with socks when it’s cold) for my commute, then shower at an adjacent gym. On temperate days, I can ride home in my work clothes, which are pretty casual anyway.

    Apart from work, I have a pair of quick drying knickers made for rockclimbing that I love for biking around town and feeling fully dressed in stores and during errands. I will also put in a plug for travel underwear, a godsend for bike commuters who sit at their computers a lot. I have tried to do it all with one set of clothes, with unfortunate results I will not get into.

  • MnG says:

    I wear what’s appropriate for the ride and weather.

  • Moopheus says:

    My commute is short (three miles each way) and I work in a fairly casual academic environment, so I don’t bother with the lycra. I can wear clothes I choose based on how comfortable they are to ride in. When it’s hot I just ride a little slower. On my weekend rides, when I might be riding for a few hours at a time, I’ll put on my cycling clothes.

  • Ed L. says:

    My job requires me to wear a suit and tie on all but the rarest of days. And while the mystique of Dutch-style bicycling in a suit an tie is perhaps a romantic ideal, my observed reality of same with a 6+ mile one-way commute in Chicago weather is that it is not practical (although Dottie from LGRAB appears to pull off Chicago riding in courtroom-appropriate attire with aplomb).

    I am lucky to have shower and locker facilities at my work where I can stow a pair of shoes and a belt, am able to leave my suit jackets hanging up in my office and carry my slacks, shirt, tie and the rest back and forth daily. In the summer/warmer weather I bike in cargo shorts and a t-shirt with a pair of padded bicycle underwear (which makes taking the long way home a much more pleasant choice) and Keen sandals with SPD clips. In winter/colder weather I bike in wool knickers and non-padded tights, layered wool or synthetic tops, SPD shoes with wool socks and a non-cycle specific waterproof jacket and gloves (adding glove liners, shoe covers and a balaclava for the coldest days).

    For weekend touring/training I tend to get more cycle-specific with my clothing, though, as it really does make spending 5-10 hours in the saddle a lot more pleasant.

  • bongobike says:

    For many years I had my own office, so I could change there. For the last eight years I’ve been in a cubicle farm, so I have to walk down the hallway to the men’s room to change in a stall. That gets old quick, even when the stalls are clean, which is not always the case. That is one of the main reasons I don’t commute by bike as often as I used to. Having to change is already a hassle, but having to do it under those conditions is doubly so. :(

  • Lovely Bicycle! says:

    Street clothes when commuting. But I also go on sportier rides, during which I wear more athletic clothes. Though my idea of “more athletic” still does not involve lycra.

  • Jon Grinder says:

    I think MnG pretty much said it: appropriate clothing for riding conditions.

    I can’t even fathom doing a century ride without bike shorts, especially the rides I do which tend to be 40% or more off-pavement.

    But, I rarely (if ever) ride in “just” bike shorts. I usually have cargo shorts or knickers on over the top of the lycra, even in 24-hour mtb races. I’m not particularly “chic”, I’m just more comfortable with some real pants on…

  • Mike says:

    I think there’s an important middle category, namely “technical” street clothing. Alan pointed to this in his post, but it’s pretty much any general purpose clothing that is made of either synthetic or wool fabric to wick sweat. It doesn’t have to look outdoorsy or technical either.

    We should all make clothing decisions based on what we feel comfortable in. Having said that, I feel happy when I see another cyclist in normal looking clothes, but embarrassed when I see someone decked out in full lycra. That’s not a dig at all, just my gut reaction. I suppose I’m more of a “cycling wear” atheist, especially when it comes to commuting and around town riding.

  • cycler says:

    I admired a woman’s shirt today at a stop sign, and she said, thanks, It’s one of the few things I have that I can ride a bike in and wear to work. I responded. ” I don’t own anything that I can’t ride a bike in. That’s a tiny exaggeration- my wedding dress, some cocktail dresses, a couple of pencil skirts, but not much of one…

  • Herzog says:

    I have never owned a single piece of “bike clothing” and I don’t intend to.

    I can’t help but feel bad for cyclists that I see wearing lycra.

    I understand that some people enjoy wearing it (some I’m sure even have a fetish for it or for exhibitionism), but I can’t help but think that most people wearing lycra don’t really want to. Many have been told that they have to wear it, others do because they ride uncomfortable bikes, or they ride too quickly, and still others wear it because they want to differentiate themselves from those who ride out of necessity.

  • Dolan Halbrook says:

    I guess it depends on your definition of “bike clothes”. When possible I ride in street clothes, except my shirts which are always wool, and I wear the same one every day for quite a while. This way my work shirt stays a bit less smelly.

    I also wear a waterproof cycling jacket, pants, and booties when it’s raining. Technically that’s cycling clothing, so I voted “mix”.

  • Jack Bulkley says:

    I do wear clothes specifically for riding but that is because I have about an hour ride each way and I wait to take a shower until I get to work, well the gym at work. I ride the last 1/2 mile to my building in my work clothes.

    I tend to wear a bright colored technical t-shirt, bike underwear and hiking shorts. Except for the coldest weather I wear a cheap pair of sneakers with velcro straps. In the cold weather I wear my hiking boots. Obviously my commuter does not have clip-in pedals. In fact it has flat platform pedals with no toe clips.

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    @Ed L.: Dottie cycles in courtroom attire and that’s wonderful. Perhaps women’s formal attire is better for cycling because they don’t need to wear collars and ties.

    I agree with Mike about technical street clothing. If it’s warm or cold, I like to wear a wool undershirt instead of a cotton t-shirt. If it’s “just right” or about room temperature, I wear a cotton shirt with buttons (is that called a “dress shirt”?).

  • doug in seattle. says:

    I have a few key pieces of bike specific gear: Expensive Showers Pass rain jacket, cycling gloves, a couple of jerseys, and a few pairs of padded shorts.

    Most of those are only used when I am on a long ride — anything under forty miles and I’ll ride wearing whatever I put on that morning.

    My main issue with Cycling Clothes is the cost. This is especially evident when I can obtain reasonable facsimiles at thrift shops for orders of magnitude less. I have two merino wool sweaters (one is Neiman Marcus brand!) that I purchased for a combined total of $10. These sweaters are functionally identical to cycle specific gear, though of course not perfect. Good enough for 1/20th the cost, certainly.

    I am also obsessed with Pendletons. I have about two dozen of every design — some very thick, others “summerweight.” They are appropriate for every season and in winter I often wear two or three at once. I even have a few XXL sizes specifically for cold weather layering! It’s good they can be easily had for $5 each, if you’re not shopping at vintage stores, which is amazing because they consistently are the highest quality clothing I own.

    For my legs I wear some wool slacks that I also got at Value Village. They’re perfect cycling wear — thin, durable wool with a perfect, comfortable fit. A bit loose, but not baggy by any means. They’ve kept me warm for thousands of wet Northwest Miles. In the summer I wear some “outdoor shorts” because I am not comfortable wearing just the padded shorts in public.

    That said, I don’t blame or feel sorry for people wearing lycra. They wear it because it’s comfortable! Getting worked up about it is reminiscent of high school cliquishness.

  • Bee says:

    i’m amazed that so few commenters seem to wear chamois… i spend about 10-12 hours in the saddle each week training for races, and my nether region can barely handle the absence of chamois during the 6 hours/week that I commute. are those rock-hard brooks saddles the secret, or do you guys all have callouses where the sun don’t shine?

  • Bee says:

    correction: “i’m amazed that so many commenters DON’T seem to wear chamois”

  • Bill Obermeyer says:

    I said “street clothing” — SmartWool, Icebreaker and SwannDri zip-T’s are street clothing, though I probably would not have discovered them had I not been looking for something to wear both on a commute and at work (Pendleton board shirts are great too, when you can wear something that casual). I realize though, that, when the weather calls for it, I wear a cycling-optimized outer layer: Showers Pass Touring jacket and Rainlegs.

  • Stephen D. says:

    I blend cycling with non-cycling clothes on my commute to blend comfort with modesty.

    Today I wore Pearl Isumi cycling shorts covered with cotton khaki shorts. Traded the cycling shorts for boxers at the office. Khaki shorts don’t show any damage or sweat and last the day. Knit cotton golf-style shirt on top, covered with a cycling vest (in the 50’s in the morning, and I hit a 30 mph downhill soon out the door). Mountain bike shoes with SPD clips are traded for office shoes which are kept at the office. Shoes are too heavy to haul around on the bike.

    Cycling fingerless gloves, helmet, and wrap around glasses to protect from the bees (which seem to go after eyes and ears) complete the kit.

    When I ride to the bank at noon, I’ll just take my helmet and SPD shoes.

  • Buck-50 says:

    @herzog- What’s good for you isn’t always good for everyone else. Some of the reasons someone might actually choose to wear cycling gear include comfort, weather and, in my case, because I will start sweating the second I start pedaling, especially in the summer. Pull a 20 pound trailer loaded up with 35 pounds of toddler up a hill and try not to sweat.

    There’s no reason to be all judgmental about what people choose to wear or how they choose to ride. The important thing is that they’re riding, not that they’re conforming to your idea of a proper ride.

    I’ve ridden slow, I prefer fast. I’ve ridden in street clothes, I prefer bike clothes. I’m not going to tell you what you need to wear, and I’m not going to toss out silly assumptions about why you wear what you do. Just ride yer bike.

  • Androo says:

    I own a couple pairs of baggy riding shorts with chamois that are perfectly presentable as streetwear, and a few plain-jane solid colour jerseys with back pockets so that I could stay hydrated on my old road bike that has no bottle cage mounts. Other than that, I have bike gloves that I wear sometimes, and a jersey that was provided when I was a ride-along mechanic on a 220 km charity ride this weekend…I’m a bit iffy about that one since it’s plastered with logos, but it’s a good quality shirt, so I’d feel silly not taking advantage of it.

    Really, I wear whatever I feel like, and I don’t really care what other people wear, either. If I’m commuting or running errands, I’ll wear whatever I put on that morning, but if I’m going “out for a ride” where I want to go fast or far, I’ll usually toss on at least the bike shorts and a wicking shirt of some kind, purely for comfort.

  • townmouse says:

    @Bee – a Brooks does help with the comfort (once you’ve broken it in). It’s also supposed to be less tough on the seat of your trousers than ordinary saddles (this is the true downside to cycling in your ‘street’ clothes – walking down the street & suddenly realising there’s a breeze blowing where there shouldn’t be…)

  • Mark says:

    When the temps are above 40F I generally wear baggy bike shorts combined with a T-shirt, fleece and/or a nylon shell depending on the weather. I’ve never really gotten into the “I’m a RACER” look (even though I do race and did have a small sponsor many years ago) since I don’t care for the advertising overload that seems to be everywhere in our culture. Once the temperature gets into the 30s or below I resort to lycra shorts and leggings and more layers on top. My commute is about 11 miles and has about 800 ft. of climbing so wearing my work pants would be a bit much for me.

  • Nick says:

    @ Bee, I ride a Brooks and it fits real well. I think thats the reason that I don’t need/like chamois. Chamois seems to bunch up a little on the Brooks and ends up almost as uncomfortable as blue jeans. For my 6 mile ride to work, smooth fitting pants of any kind are most comfortable. If it was 16 maybe I’d want chamois and a different saddle.

    @ Kevin, check out the ‘Presentation Jackets’ at Duluth Traders. The sholders are very flexible, the fabric is pretty windproof, and they’re a nice compromise of presentable and comfortable. They’re marketed to old fat guys in a construction office, but mine is maybe the best ‘cycle’ jacket I have.

  • Helton says:

    I think the most advantageous synthesis of both worlds would be to make regular looking clothes (the same fit, the same cuts and molds as regular clothes), but made from tech fabrics.
    Regular clothes usually feel (and smell) uncomfortable on hot weather, and tech fabrics make very good feeling underclothes on winter.

  • Robin Henningsen says:

    @ Herzog-I wear cycling clothes because they actually are way more comfortable. I haven’t a clue why you would feel “bad” for us that find it more convenient and hardly think it has anything to do with being an exhibitionist. i could care less whether someone likes what I am wearing lycra or not. Come to think about it, I probably look pretty good in my little outfit. LOL and no one is “forcing” me to wear anything.

  • Runjikol says:

    Simple rule for me about what I wear cycling:
    –under half an hour, street clothes
    –over half an hour, cycling shorts, under street clothes
    However, I like SPD clips so all my bikes have SPD pedals, therefore I ride with SPD shoes.

    I find for longer rides that padded cycling shorts are more comfortable for me. Short rides it makes no difference.

    Cycling specific clothes: I own a few shorts, one pair of SPD shoes that look like street shoes, some over-booties, a jacket, a vest, thin gloves and winter gloves. It doesn’t bother me what people wear on their bikes because it’s personal: like underwear.

  • Herzog says:


    Geometry, geometry, geometry!

    The slacker the geometry of the bike, the more the pelvis is rotated back and the more weight is distributed towards the fat part of your butt. At the same time, the slacker the geometry, the wider the saddle can be without your inner thighs rubbing against the sides. So, on Dutch bike, or English roadster, it’s more like sitting in a chair than on a racing bike.

    That’s why road racers cannot imagine how people can cycle in jeans while, for example, the Dutch have no idea what the fuss with lycra is about.

  • MohjhoRyder says:

    Tevas, cargo shorts, seersucker shirt, jogging cap, and old leather fingerless motorcycle gloves. I ride for hours in the California heat, but I take frequent breaks along creeks, the Sac river or town. I like to keep things simple and comfortable. Oh ya, Brooks saddle.

  • Tamia Nelson says:

    I’d love to commute in street clothes, but here in northern NY, there are lots of hills which means pumping out lots of ergs. That means perspiration, at all seasons, and in winter, the slop from snow and salt/grit on the road slathers clothes with a grimy mix. I wear bike clothes for almost all of my riding, and change into street clothes when I reach destinations which require them. Mostly, though, folks are easy about my wearing bike clothes for shopping, medical appointments, and the like. Because I work at home, I have the luxury of not having to dress in workplace clothes at a job site.

  • MJS says:

    As popular as the whole ‘Cycle Chic’ phenomenon is, it’s really just the mirror image of the lycra-clad road warrior. The same people who say “you don’t need to dress up like a superhero to ride a bike” are at the same time cultivating an image of bicyclists as young, affluent, artsy types who can devote a lot of time and money to dressing nicely (expensively) and riding beautiful (and equally expensive) bikes. The message it sends is just as alienating as the one they are trying to replace: that you need to be *this* good looking (and wealthy) to ride and be accepted as a cyclist.

    If you want to play dress up — that’s fine. But Tweed and Seersucker themed rides will not make lower-middle class Joe Sixpack decide to give up his F150 and buy a Rivendell.

    Those who want the masses to get out of their little steel bubbles and onto bike saddles should make exuding normalcy a primary goal when it comes to bicycling. That means adjusting your dress and attitude towards your particular environment. When people stop seeing you as a “bicyclist” and starting seeing you as a “person who happens to ride a bicycle” they may be more inclined to make the switch once they realize that “normal” people ride bikes too.

    My 0.43 cents (adjusted for inflation).

  • jerry'sdaughter says:

    This post got a lot of comment! I live in the DC area where we get weather extremes. Upper 90s w/ plenty of humidity this time of year and Dec-Feb some pretty cold winter winds. I have a hilly 8 mile each way commute which I find a bit long to ride in pants and undies that have seams. I wear lightly padded liners and shorts, with either a cycling specific shirt or other lightweight athletic shirt and change to work clothes when I arrive. Winters call for layers. Jacket, silk long johns,a light sweater, tights and yoga pants. More comfortable than trying to layer up in work clothes.

  • rdhd says:

    The one cycle-specific thing I always wear is bike shorts–even just the lycra ones under a pair of “normal” shorts. I can’t ride without them. Oh, and spd shoes.

    But I also never ride in my suit or straight up work clothes. I simply sweat too much (and my suits are too expensive to risk ruining them on my salary). No matter how many times people say that you sweat no more when you ride than when you walk, it’s simply not true for me. And even if it were, I don’t walk to work, I bus and metro. So it’s beat-up shorts and t-shirts when I’m on my bike. But never lycra–no one wants to see that on me. Then I shower when I get to work. That is obviously a luxury, having showers at work, that not all have.


  • D'Arcy says:

    As long as you’re out there riding, wear whatever feels right. In cycling cities like Copenhagen, it’s very fashionable to be a bit sweaty from riding. You can see the same thing happening in New York City. Cycling clothes are becoming a normal attire.

    There is some fine cross-over clothing as well. I wear a Chrome windbreaker. It looks like a normal windbreaker but the cuffs fold over and the back has a flap that folds down to reveal reflectors.

  • peteathome says:

    I use street clothes for transportational riding, although in the hot/humid summers we have here in the midlantic sweating was a problem. I eventually learned SLOW cycling, where I keep my speed down below 12 mph. My work commute distance is less than 6 miles, so it doesn’t really matter if I go 16 mph or 11 mph, the time difference is small. Since my region is very flat, this does the trick. I’m actually less sweaty than from walking as the light breeze from bicycling helps a lot. Plus I wear very breathable fabrics and so on.

    When I was still doing recreational rides I would wear bicycling sporting wear because it was more comfortable on very long, hot rides.

    But I kept running into this elderly woman, “Eiko” Tsai, on our local MS 150 mile ride. She would always wear a nice skirt, jacket and pumps. Very impressive. Here she is in a news article showing how she dresses for these rides:

  • lyle says:

    The observations about the Netherlands and Denmark are only relative if you live in a similar environment. Both countries are relatively flat and have mild, somewhat damp maritime climates.

    Living in California’s central valley all that’s really needed for winter is a good pair of gloves, wool socks and a good rain jacket. Normal rain wear is generally too baggy for cycling, so cycling jackets are essential for me. Most summers are dry and hot and no special clothing is required.

    When I lived in the Seattle area, I had a full complement of cycling specific clothing for my commute to work.

  • Herzog says:


    I disagree *extremely* strongly. Cycle chic is about being yourself — on the bike. Most people try to look good and develop their own style (Okay, maybe not always in the U.S.) and the point of the CC movement is to convince people that they don’t have to give that up to ride a bike. Also, that they don’t have to worry about buying expensive cycling gear to fit in.

    Take for example my friend Maria (she’s middle aged and overweight). I had been trying to get Maria into cycling for some time. Problem is that she felt self-conscious and uncomfortable wearing pants (she only does skirts) on the bike but they seemed to be expected and necessary. Since we discovered cycle chic, we realized that we can buy a vintage step-through 3-speed with a basket for $50 and she can ride in all her favorite skirts and dresses with her purse right up front. Now she actually enjoys cycling and feels comfortable doing it.

  • Alan says:


    Great story, and a perfect example of why we bicyclists should be less quick to judge our fellow riders based upon how they dress. I think a little more tolerance going both ways (CC versus Kit) would be a wonderful thing.


  • MJS says:


    Your friend Maria’s case doesn’t sound like “Cycle Chic” — that sounds like normal utility cycling. Somehow I don’t think we have the same definitions here.

    This is what I mean by “Cycle Chic” — (http://tinyurl.com/264s7mf)

    Again — young, handsome/beautiful, affluent people showing off how young, handsome/beautiful, affluent they are by playing dress-up — but in the style of an effete snob instead of a stretchy-tight-pants wearing superhero. It may not be intentional, but it gives off a strong scent of elitism (it doesn’t help that their group is called the “DC Dandies and Quaintrelles” — most Americans would cringe at the prospect of being connected to anything with the word “dandy” in it and wouldn’t know what a quaintrelle is).

    Mikael Colville-Andersen had the right idea when he started the blog Copenhagen Cycle Chic — that people can bike in their normal clothes — but it seems that hipster types have co-opted it (like they have everything else) and morphed it into the silly latest-hip-thing to do. A mirror reflection of the lycra-clad elitists. It’s taken on a life of its own and strayed from from the original intent.

    The message that (post-hipster) “Cycle Chic” sends is not “wear whatever you want” (that I ascribe more to plain old “utility cycling”) but that bicycling is the sole domain of model-caliber twentysomething hipster types who have time and money to spend on luxuries like vintage bikes and clothing.

    This is less a bike issue and more a class issue, in my eyes. I want to see Joe Sixpack who loves his Ford F150 but is tired of paying for gas and insurance to get the idea that it’s okay to jump on his old mountain bike and commute to work without having to change his wardrobe — he doesn’t need lycra or to go out and buy a foulard in order to be accepted. One need not look like Lance or a European male model to ride.

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    MJS, it’s my experience that looking classy doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money on clothes. Outdoorsy clothes in special materials are quite expensive in themselves.

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  • Herzog says:


    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Indeed, we are working with different definitions.

    The kind of event in that link and “tweed rides” are not what I considered Cycle Chic and frankly, I don’t even like themed rides. (I have vaguely criticized tweed rides on this site before)

    I don’t really want to argue over a definition (although Cycle Chic is a catchy term that I would like on my side!). What I like to think of as CC is integrating bicycles into your life in a way that doesn’t cramp your personal style. Style over speed. The feeling that you don’t have to sacrifice dignity or fashion to ride a bike. That you don’t need any new clothing or an expensive bike to be fabulous. I think *that* is a very powerful and very positive and very inclusive idea.

  • astarok says:

    I voted cycling clothes but what I mean by that may not be what you mean. In the Southwest where I live and work it is seldom cold and insanely hot much of the year. Even when the mornings are cool, normal cold weather gear is usually way too hot by the time I ride home. So in the summer I wear (recumbent) cycling shorts because they are comfortable, cool and have pockets. I wear a cycling or running jersey because if I wear anything the least bit absorbent it is soaked in 5 minutes or less. In the winter I wear tights in the morning with a pair of regular cargo shorts over them (I like pockets) and a variety of layers depending on the weather. Usually by afternoon I can ditch the tights and most of the layers for the trip home. Needless to say I change at work and I keep some spare clothes there for the mornings I forget to pack something. I am the goofiest looking cyclist out there but I am comfortable (and I always have pockets).

  • Bob P. says:

    We are moving next week, and I will have an 8 mile bike commute. I plan on riding in my casual office wear, on an upright bike. The LBS is trying to sell me on a drop bar cross bike, so I can hammer home. I tell them if that’s best, I will just ride my Surly LHT and not bother with a commuter bike. I want to project the image of a commuter, not a recreational rider slowing traffic.

  • Mikael says:

    Cycle Chic is a phrase I coined back in early 2007. So if you want a definition of Cycle Chic, here it comes.

    Cycle Chic is a just a phrase that describes something that is as old as the Safety bicycle itself. The art of Citizen Cyclists riding bicyles in their regular clothes.

    That is Cycle Chic. Period. 125-ish years of Cycle Chic.

    Anything you can walk in, you can ride a bicycle in. Anyone who tells you otherwise just wants to sell you something you don’t need.

  • oboe says:

    That’s why road racers cannot imagine how people can cycle in jeans while, for example, the Dutch have no idea what the fuss with lycra is about.

    Reverse snobbery is every bit as bad as snobbery. And the idea that I would tell someone else that they’re riding “too fast” is embarrassing even to think about.

    When I’m riding to the store, I wear street clothes. When I’m riding for fitness or recreation, I wear lycra tights and a three-pocket jersey. That’s because most of the riding I do is 1.5-5 hours at a pretty vigorous pace. Should I be slowing down? Is that excessive?

    Meanwhile, yes the Dutch know what lycra is, and it’s benefits: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/16/21661245_721f43eca9.jpg

    As someone wrote upthread, “There is no *right* way to cycle.” But there sure as heck are some wrong ways to cycle. Riding anywhere for six hours (or mountain biking) in cotton shorts and shirt will suck unless it’s super balmy, and you’re riding at 10 mph. There’s nothing wrong with riding like that. Just as there’s nothing wrong with riding briskly and sweating a bit.

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