The Art of Riding a Bike in a Skirt
There is a sense of seasonal freedom in wearing a skirt as you bike down the street feeling a warm breeze on your bare legs. I especially love the fluffed-out skirts that I have in my wardrobe which are loose and flowy and swish softly as I walk. With that type of skirt I can easily clear the bar of my beater “downtown” bike (so-called, because I can park and lock it downtown and no one will steal it.) A couple years ago, that was exactly the bike and the outfit I had as I headed downtown for a meeting. With fenders and a rear rack and a carefully tucked skirt, I only worried about avoiding the dreaded “skirt grabbing” of the rear tire. But I forgot to account for the downhill where as I picked up speed, I had to use both hands for braking and was soon flashing my legs like Marilyn Monroe. Since then, I have learned a few things about riding a bike with a skirt or dress.
Avoiding the Marilyn-Monroe-Skirt-Effect
A tighter skirt does have its own advantages in that it doesn’t move with every little breeze and if it is stiff enough and reaches the knees, you shouldn’t have any trouble. The flowy skirts may need a little extra help staying in place. An old-fashioned method works quite well for skirts such as these: a garter to pin one side of the skirt to.
You can fashion a garter out of an inexpensive headband. Some basic sewing skills may be needed to make it fit around your thigh without slipping down. You can then discreetly pin your skirt to your garter. Awhile ago, my 13-year old daughter made a garter that had a bit of (non-stainless) steel sewn into it and then had a small but strong magnet (that my husband got from Edmund Scientific) that she placed on the outside of her skirt which held it in place without a pin.
Nothing to See Here, Folks
The easiest way to deal with a short or fly-away skirt is to wear shorts or leggings underneath. So what if it flips up now and then? You’ve got it covered! Make a fashion statement with leggings or tights. Or wear a pair of lightly padded bike shorts that you can remove in the restroom at your destination. No worries!
Cycling While Chic
Once upon a time, a bike with step-through frame was called a “girl’s bike” because it allowed clearance room for full-bodied skirts and dresses. A chain guard was another nice touch to stop the chain from nipping a long skirt or wide legged pant. Some of the bikes even featured a “skirt guard” which protected the skirt from being torn by the movement of the back wheel. Audrey Hepburn could ride her bike with a freshly-pressed dress and not worry about a thing.
In central European countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark, such bikes never went out of style and men dressed in business wear, rode bikes equipped with such amenities as coat guards, a.k.a. skirt guard. The popularity of the bikes “jumped the pond.” Americans are buying European-made bikes and a few American bike companies are making European-inspired bicycles for city commuters who want to be able to ride dressed as fashionably as they like. The “Chic Cyclist” movement popular in Copenhagen is being seen in Manhattan and other American cities.
In Europe it’s possible to buy accessories such as a skirt guard from local bike shops. Although guards aren’t easily found here, do-it-yourself cyclists are learning to make them for the bike they already own. (Check out the instructions here.) Score one for the ingenuity of American girls. Ride on!
Here’s another article about commuting by bike—wearing a skirt or not.