How to Not Look Like a Sweaty Monster When You're Traveling By Bike

Looking a hot mess sort of defeats the purpose of riding a bike when the whole purpose of riding a bike is to look cool.
Publish date:
July 24, 2014
bikes, sweat, bicycles, summer clothes

Here’s a fun story: I don’t have a car and Jackson doesn’t really have public transit and I have to ride my bike everywhere and it’s a billion degrees and everything sucks and I hate it.

That’s where I’m at these days.

Oh well. Bike riding is fun, a great workout, and an even greater way to meet my daily quota of smug each time I hop off my 1979 Peugeot 103, shake my helmet hair out and smirk as I ask the dude at the party next to me, "Oh, did you drive here?"

Being forced to travel everywhere by bike can be a bummer though, because it makes about half my wardrobe totally impractical. I'd like to formally apologize to my collection of tight, sexy mini-dresses. I just keep reminding myself how much better I'll look in those babies after a summer of cycling and calorie burning. OH WAIT, I just ate half a pizza for breakfast. Again, I am sorry, dresses.

Whether you ride a lady's or man's bike, there is really no way to gracefully do so in a skirt or dress. Or at least, that's what I always assumed until these smart ladies came up with a trick involving a rubber band and a penny. GENIUS. Their secret works pretty well for a lot of skirts and dresses, but most of my maxi dresses, tight little numbers, and fancier dresses are still off the table.

I go to a lot of events (at least ONE event per month!) and I ride my bike everywhere, and I've figured out what works and what doesn't as far as style when you're a bike commuter. If you're also cycling your way through this sweat-soaked dystopian hellscape known as summer but you'd like to look nice for your next social event, then this article is for you. Here's some outfit ideas for staying fresh and fancy as a bike commuter.

The Fancy Romper

There's a lot of things wrong with my generation (the millenials, if you must). From our laziness, to our terrible sense of humor, to our sense of entitlement, to our rompers. Oh wait, we're not lazy, we are hilarious, the only thing I feel entitled to is at least a few more think-pieces about how entitled I feel, and rompers are GREAT.

Some folks disagree and think a romper always makes you look like a dressed up baby, but babies rule and they get tons of attention. I firmly believe that a well made romper that fits you well, will always look a thousand times better than a sh**y cheap dress. Those aren't always the only two options, but because rompers and jumpsuits have bottoms built in, they're much more ideal for bike riding. In the summer months, try and find something breathable and lightweight. I prefer billowy to tight when I'm on my bike, as far as fit. Just don't go for a pant leg that's too billowy, because that could get dangerous.

Here's a couple of fancy onesies, for your next party and/or slutty baby shower.

From left: Nasty Gal Lovecat Ruffle Sleeve Romper $68, Pixie Market Soho Slip Jumpsuit $48, ModCloth Read It and Steep Romper $50

Cute Bike Shorts

Growing up, my sister was always the "athletic one" and I was the "artistic one." These sorts of labels are ideal in multi-sibling households because it makes gift giving easy. At some point in high school, my sister started accumulating spandex shorts for some athletic reason or another but no one ever bought me spandex shorts. Rightfully, I ended up with several pairs of her shorts somehow (sorry, sissy!) and now they get plenty of wear as bike shorts either by themselves or under skirts and dresses.

For serious, long rides, you'll want those shorts with butt pads, but for everyday life a regular pair will do. Actually, maybe I should just quit it with the Pilates and buy some butt padding already. Kardasssshian, here I come!

A simple pair of black shorts are nice enough, but a cute pair with a lace trim or pattern will look especially flirty poking out from under your hem. Also, this will give you another reason to bring up your bike in conversation. Win win! Here's some cute shorts!

From left to right: American Apparel Nylon Tricot Floral Lace Cycle Short $10, Forever 21 Striped Bike Shorts $5, Forever 21 Floral Print Bike Shorts $8

Sturdy Flats

Despite what many a bike filled editorial spread will tell you, riding in high heels is never practical or a good idea. Even if you can manage to push your pedals in heels, if you have to come to a sudden stop and put your feet down on the ground quickly to stabilize yourself, you're not gonna want to be wearing those shoes. Plus, you look silly. If you're so desperate to look like someone who doesn't know anything about bikes, just get a cruiser and call it a day but save your ankles, please.

If you ride clipless, then your options are a bit more limited. I don't ride clipless (yet) but my pedals do have toe clips, so I can't wear anything open toed because it sort of hurts my toesies. I prefer a shoe with a sturdy toe that won't slide off easily when I'm pedaling or taking my feet on and off the pedals. Luckily, there's lots of great flat shoe options for this and I don't always have to resort to sneakers. Here's some bike worthy footwear.

From left to right: TopShop Henrietta Bow Slippers $35, ASOS Mojo Flat Shoes $67, Pixie Market Monochrome Lovins Flat $120

Simple Backpack

I feel like backpacks on adults are most closely associated with girls who are really into ecstasy and raves or dudes who were homeschooled and play a lot of video games, but a casual, simple backpack is a good look AND it's practical. I like a backpack that zips or fastens shut securely, so I don't have to worry about all my stuff flying out while I zoom down the street. A solid colored, grownup backpack can spruce up any basic outfit. Here's some picks.

From left to right: TopShop Smart Backpack $70, Herschel Supply Co. City Backpack $50, Sole Society Nellie Studded Faux Leather Backpack $50


So there you have it. Being unable to wear cute clothes is NO excuse to be scared of riding a bike. I ride a bike and I always look fly. (OK not always. If you see me in public, please no judgement.)

What do y'all wear when you're riding your bike? Wanna talk about how rad our bikes are? Wanna talk about how lame people in cars are?

Got any fashiony questions or concerns? Holler at me in the comments, on Twitter, or on Instagram, or come to Mississippi and hang out with me. I'm fun.