Cycling in Skirts

While cycling has recently experienced a resurgence of popularity in this eco-friendly age, the particular brand of cycling most actively promoted is a grim, sweat-producing, point A to point B type of experience. If you are one of those people who adhere to this philosophy you will not appreciate the refined joys of cycling in skirts. If your cycle has 18 speeds, has stunt pegs on the back, or shocks on the front - then this article is not for you.

To get the most out of cycling in skirts you must cycle with a sense of whimsy. Cycling is an activity in and of itself, regardless of where you end up, or whether you break a sweat. Is your bike red? Does it have fenders? A wicker basket? A wide, commodious saddle? Then read on.
The more extreme cyclists may go so far as to advocate for topless cycling, While topless cycling has much of the thrill of cycling in skirts, it has none of the creativity or art of skirted cycling and is also impractical for the more well-endowed among us. Cycling in skirts on the other hand, is for everyone. There is no rump too big, too soft, too pendulous to attempt this sport. With that in mind, it is important to remember the attire, deportment and etiquette of cycling in skirts and so I offer up this primer.

The shorter the better: If you intend to cycle in skirts, always remember this golden rule. There is the obvious practical reason of freedom of movement, but the added benefit of short skirts is greater thigh exposure. A flared skirt is even better.

Lycra is a girl's best friend: Not straight Lycra (a.k.a. "spandex"), mind you - preferably a Lycra-poly/cotton blend. Lycra was invented at DuPont by American scientist Joseph C. Shivers in 1959. Replacing rubber thread, Lycra is lighter and does not decompose when exposed to perspiration, body oils, skin lotions, perfumes, or detergents. Today it's pairing with the more traditional fibers allow for skirts which appear to be solid but move and stretch to accommodate your particular body's needs. Now you can wear denim or corduroy skirts (formerly unheard of in cycling circles) without fear of restricted movement or serious chafing. These Lycra blends are especially recommended for the "stand and shimmy" method described in the next section (see "Cycling uphill").

Wrap-around skirts, skirts with side slits: Daring! Not for the beginner. Skirts with side slits allow for full thigh exposure with each upward rotation. A dirty thrill with the element of surprise. A wrap-around skirt will have a similar effect, but with a more innocent appearance (Oh! Is my thigh showing? Who would have thought?) Word to the wise: skirts with back slits are inadvisable for cycling. They have none of the impact of a side slit and risk unnecessary chafing of the more delicate parts.

Skirts with knee socks: While it is important to always look fashionable while cycling, the reality of a colder climate will sometimes dictate modifications to your attire. Knee socks offer the perfect solution to cold-weather cycling. Coy yet covering. Knee socks enable skirted cyclists to extend the season well into the fall. Knee socks also invite creative accessory improvisations that would otherwise not be possible. I personally have developed a special little manoeuvre I like to call the "half-hitch" which entails extending one leg forward while coasting, reaching forward and casually tugging the knee sock up as if it was sagging. This really brings out the "knee" in knee socks. Note: Never wear knee socks that actually sag.

Undergarments: One of the most important, yet most often neglected, trappings of a serious skirted cyclist. If you are the type of woman who pays $15+ for a pair of undies, you will be thrilled to hear that cycling in skirts is a perfect way to maximize your investment. While I'm sure your lover(s), children, neighbors (assuming you line dry your skivvies), etc. appreciate them, cycling in skirts opens up a whole new audience for these pricey little gems, and makes their purchase seem that much more worthwhile. For those of you who buy your undergarments at Walmart, please reconsider. While undergarment exposure for a skilled skirted cyclist is minimal, it is imperative that these fleeting glimpses be pleasant for onlookers, and a source of pride for yourself.

Mounting the cycle: Practice this move at home. You must be perfectly at ease mounting your cycle before you even think about taking it out into the community. My favorite method is the "faux sidesaddle", also referred to as the "graceful whore".
If you are right-handed, mount the cycle from the left side, left-handers vice versa. With the leg closest the bike raised and bent and the knee, slip one cheek onto the bike seat (a.k.a. "saddle"). Pause for effect. Then, in one swift movement, swing the bent leg over the frame and onto the opposite pedal. Note: This is a perfect opportunity to show off your gitch (see "Undergarments", above) while appearing not to do so.

Pauses and semi-stops: There will be times while cycling that you are obliged to come to a stop without dismounting. When cycling in skirts it is important to note that the traditional semi-stop - with one foot on the ground, the other on an upraised pedal - is not appropriate. It results in full undergarment exposure with none of the mystery of the more subtle "skivvy flash" as described above (see "Mounting your cycle").
It is quite simply déclassé. Proper semi-stop procedure is to place both feet on the ground on either side of the cycle. If your seat is raised to the correct height, this should mean that just your toes are able to touch. The result will be to extend your legs to their full-length. It has all the advantages of high heels without the bother of actually having to wear high heels. Note: Never wear high-heels when cycling. Are you mad?

Cycling uphill: Cycling uphill gives a delicious opportunity to pull the "stand and shimmy" (one of my personal favorites - see "Lycra", above). I find every opportunity to cycle uphill and will even go out of my way to apply this technique. Traditionally, when cycling uphill it is acceptable to switch gears to make pedaling easier. A dedicated skirt-cyclist will not resort to this. Rather, switch to a harder gear, then stand on your pedals, leaning slightly forward. This will change the focus from legs to buttocks and is sure to make an impact. Practise letting your backside sway with each rotation. Then try to increase speed, resulting in the "shimmy" effect. Even better in Lycra. Size and structural integrity of the backside are irrelevant. This is one move that is sure to bring joy to cyclist and onlookers alike.

Leg-hair: Please, Ladies! Either shave and shave diligently, or don't shave at all. I cannot stress this point enough. A gentle breeze blowing through a full and silky mane of leg-hair is a sensuous treat, but wind through your stubble? Enough said!

Feedback: It is not uncommon, when cycling in skirts, to be the recipient of commentary by passers-by. While most of this commentary will be appreciative, I am sorry to report that there will, on occasion, be remarks of a more negative bent that must be handled with grace.
Remember - you are a representative of your sport, and as such, must always comport yourself with dignity lest the sport itself be denigrated. Sadly, most of these detractors will be other women. To whit: "Isn't that impractical?" (Remember: practical women buy underwear at Walmart). "How can you ride in a skirt? I'm sure I never could." (Read: I'm jealous because my husband likes to watch you cycle). Don't be deterred. Ever smiling, ever lovely, simply hitch your skirt slightly and tell them what every woman knows in her heart: "If you can't look good doing something, why do it at all?" And if this doesn't strike them to their impoverished, practical cores, you are permitted in this instance (and in this instance only) to give them a full frontal flash of your undergarments before you ride off into the sunset (and if you are lucky you will be riding off uphill, providing you with an opportunity to "stand and shimmy" as you ride off. See "Cycling uphill").

In closing I will say that by following these simple guidelines you will be sure to have an enjoyable experience while cycling in skirts. For those in the know, the benefits of cycling in skirts are obvious: an opportunity to show off your legs, your buttocks, your knees, your undies - As well, the skirt allows for greater air circulation to your sweaty private parts. And if that weren't enough, there are the more metaphysical advantages: Cycling in skirts raises cycling from a mere sport, to an art form; an art form with you as both subject and creator, and the world as your canvas.
People are surprised that woman cycle in skirts and dresses so often, but it’s not rocket science. Over the past year, we’ve learned that almost every type of outfit works fine on bikes. Skirts offer freedom of movement and are much cooler than pants or shorts, making them especially good for summer cycling.
There are some skirts and dresses that are not ideal for cycling, but those are few and far between, easy to work around or avoid. If you find yourself in a problematic skirt, be prepared to either hitch it up or hold it down with one hand. Three factors determine whether a skirt or dress is easy for cycling: structure, fabric and length.

Narrow skirts with a back pleat work well. Tights are a great for cycling with skirts - if it's cold enough.
A good dress: short but not too short, narrow but stretchy
A-line skirts are the best for cycling, but a narrow skirt with stretch material or a back slit or kick pleat can be ideal for riding because the wind will not blow it around.
A narrow skirt without any design to allow for extra mobility, however, will make for an uncomfortable bike ride. Half of your energy must be devoted to hiking the skirt up enough — but not too much — at each start and stop. I experienced this first-hand last week while riding from my work to the Active Trans mixer.
The skirt created more problems than I anticipated — I could not pedal without hiking it up quite a bit. Instead of simply putting a foot down at each stop, I had to dismount completely. With each start I had to hitch and hop all over again. At least the pleated ruffle on the bottom helpfully served as a curtain of sorts.

Narrow skirt with no stretch or slit - not so good
Heavy cottons/cotton blends and silks are perfect on bikes. Thick synthetic material works well too, but of course won’t breathe as well. Lighter material, on the other hand, is easily lifted by the wind. Think parachutes. Not even my binder clip trick (office binder clip attached to the underside of the skirt to weigh it down) made any difference with this super light silk dress pictured below.
A trick that may work is to wear a garter belt on your thigh with a safety pin and then safety pin your skirt to the garter belt from the inside. Luckily I anticipated this effect and wore black biker shorts under the dress, because most of the time it was flapping up completely. [T's note: I have had success taming a light cotton dress by putting my cell phone or keychain in the front pocket to act as a skirt weight!

Long dresses can get stuck in your chain, rear wheel, brakes and crank, so consider tying them up or buying a bike with skirt guard, chain guard, and internal brakes, like our Dutch bikes.
Short skirts can also be tricky, since pedaling can reveal a bit more than you might want to show. You could throw caution to the wind and wear a mini. If you’re more boring, like us, you should feel comfortable with any skirt more than midway down the thigh. A basket on the handlebars can serve as a fig leaf

Long skirt tied up
Now get out there and enjoy!


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Julia said...

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