Photo by Blubel on Unsplash
I want to get real with you about how to dress for a bike commute. Street-style blogs abound with images of women wearing super-fashionable outfits while biking around the city.
The majority of these make me cringe and wonder if the photo was actually staged. For instance: spiky heels. Doable, but why? The length of your commute and climate is going to determine whether you'll need to change (and shower) once you arrive.
I've done everything from a one-mile to a six-mile bike commute throughout the year in both Los Angeles and New York City, so I've learned that the key to being comfortable on your bike and still looking cute is a mix of practicality, creativity and smart layering.
1: The Perfect Bicycling Pants
No matter the length of your commute, a great pair of black, moisture-wicking leggings is the perfect base. Also, the whole fashion sweatpants trend? Excellent bottoms for bike-to-work days. I love biking in the cropped, stretchy Jet Crop in Luon from Lululemon, and now I want these Serene Crop pants, which are perfectly on-trend for this season. Other great options: culottes, tapered black pants, cuffed boyfriend jeans and snazzy leggings.
2: The Perfect Bicycling Skirt
Through trial and error (and flashing some drivers along the way), I've discovered that the best shape is an A-line that's structured and flares a bit at the bottom. For length, you want it to hit from just above the knee or on the calf. You can do pencil, but make sure you have some room to breathe, like a jean skirt with a bit of stretch.
And if you're going to wear a midi-length or longer, a bike with a chain guard will be your best bet. For me, a midi length is great because it covers my bony knees. Also, here's a little tip I learned for making sure your skirt doesn't fly up: Wad the front of your hem around a quarter and use a rubber band to secure the pouch. The weight holds down the skirt -- just watch out for wrinkles.
3: An Outfit With Commute Flexibility and Workplace Sensibility
Putting together an outfit with this kind of flexibility takes some mastery. For a longer commute, whether the temperatures are high or low, I usually wear a pair of leggings, a sports bra and a T-shirt topped with whatever outerwear the weather calls for that day. The easiest thing to do is change just the top half of the outfit, replacing the sports bra and T-shirt with a tunic or dress that looks good with leggings.
Otherwise, I try to keep it casual and pair my outfit with one element that dresses it up, such as heeled boots or a leather jacket. Stretchy jeans and a button-up is a lovely way to be comfortable and business casual. And no one will guess you've ridden your bike to work when you show up in a pretty dress like Amber Heard.
4: The Perfect All-Weather Bicycling Gear
When it's chilly, take some inspiration from one of the world's most bike-friendly cities, Copenhagen, where many people commute on two wheels year-round. You could opt for windproof biking gloves that are thin enough to go under some mittens or try some leather gloves, also great wind stoppers. Capes and wide cuffs make biking easy and comfortable. And when the temperature dips, don't forget the all-important muffler or scarf.
5: The Perfect Bicycling Bag
If you've got a bike basket, so much the better -- but even then everything may not fit in it, so you've got to have a great bag that doesn't scream "bike messenger." LOLE's Lily Tote, for instance, comes in fun colors and transitions from a tote to a backpack. Plus, it has a yoga-mat strap and a clear cosmetic case for stashing your makeup to put on once you get to work.
Some other options include a sling bag (perfect for carrying your tiny dog in), a boxy cross-body bag (so that you can put your tiny dog in the basket) or a backpack with grown-up details. Don't want to carry your stuff? Invest in some cute panniers for the back of your bike.
6: A Helmet You’ll Actually Wear
Despite the majority of the photos on this blog, I strongly recommend wearing a helmet, so find one that you can tolerate and perhaps even be excited to wear. Even fashionable celebrities like Rachel Bilson rock them and look cute.
Here are a couple that are that much cooler than the typical racing helmet: the Yakkai Paris helmet from BikePretty.com and the ponytail-friendly helmet Radkappe helmet from AllThatIWant. You could even DIY your own R2-D2 helmet.
What Do YOU Think?
Do you bike to work? What are your tips for dressing for your commute? What’s your favorite look in the post? Leave a comment below and let us know.
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Valaer Murray is LIVESTRONG.COM's Editorial Director and has previously worked at AOL, Forbes.com and Whalerock Industries. She's a founding editor of TheDailyMeal.com, served as the head of programming for the Webby-honored YouTube Original Channel Tasted.com, and has written for numerous outlets.