Bicycle Network: Women's Cycling
Release your inner Amelie
Leigh Snelling encourages you to embrace the calm and cool of riding in heels and lipstick
I like to think I’m pretty stylish. I like good clothes and cute shoes and fun jewellery. I enjoy painting on a face on weekday mornings. I love a frock.
None of this stops me getting on my bike whenever I can. Riding my bike is my preferred transport choice to get to work, go shopping or just hang out at weekends. I am already dressed for these occupations and can’t be bothered with the fuss of dressing up in lycra or casuals just for riding. I wouldn’t do it to catch a tram or drive the car (although driving gloves and moccasins offer a certain je ne sais quoi). I also don’t want to queue for a bathroom or share a shower or store clothes at the office.
At ease en route
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve got lycra for when I’m seriously “cycling”, but most of the time I’m in my everyday dress when riding my bike. I ride to work each day – at a gentle pace in the morning so I arrive at work fresh. I ride home hard for the exercise benefit and to work out the frustrations of the day.
Lately I’ve noticed I’m not the only bike commuter wearing office clothes as they ride to work. Invariably the lycra-clad bike warriors flash by on their busy way to their busy day. I find a gentle ride sets me up for a better day.
Slower riding is a lifestyle for Copenhagen’s 500,000 commuting cyclists. They achieve an average speed of 15.3 km/h. Even at that speed I’d still get to work in half the time of the equivalent public transport commute.
Stylish in and out of the saddle
Here are a few of my favourite lessons from a decade of lipstick and heels on my bike:
•I’m not afraid to wear heels on a bike – I firmly believe that a 3cm heel places my foot in the same position as cleats. Any higher and I’d ruin the shoes – not to mention my back. If I wear platforms, I raise my seat.
• Get a skirt guard and bicycle clips or Velcro straps for your trousers. Stained and torn clothes are a punk statement but are not always appropriate.
• Get a basket. That’s a much better place to put your bag, shopping or computer than a backpack which will spoil the line of your clothes and leave you with a sweat patch.
• Be seen – light-coloured clothes or a fluoro vest or rain jacket over the frock. If you want to be out there, I know a gal who wears a pink feather boa for visibility.
• I always wear a helmet and make sure I can be seen by tossing on a fluoro vest. The older I get the more I want to stay alive.
• Leggings are a girl’s best friend. Although we all love the feel of wind on our face it can be a bit disconcerting further south. Leggings are fashionable and forgiving of skirts of any length or fullness.
It’s time to take cycling back and place it firmly in the “normal” category: “normal way to get to work, to the shops, to the cinema”. I’d add “normal way to dress”.
Slow down, ladies, and wear the roses.
This article first appeared in Ride On magazine, April-May 2009