17 responses to “Lunchtime theater: Seattle fashion on two wheels featured on King 5”
Big Yellow Ball
As one of those fashion disasters who wears spandex and bright colors I give them an A for effort. I think people like myself are giving bike commuting a bad name in terms of fashion and may even discourage many casual riders from making the jump to bike-commuting. However, if you have access to a shower and changing room at work why bother buying “commuter clothes” when you can wear bike gear that will last longer and allow you to go faster?
Therefore I would like to suggest that there are two distinct sub-markets that need to be served:
“roadie-commuters” who want better looking spandex and jacket options – keeping in mind we still want the padding and tight fit and we don’t work in our bike clothes.
“casual-commuters” who want fashionable clothes that protect them from the elements when they are biking and can also be worn in a business casual workplace environment.
It seems like the second group is being served by some of these new entrepreneurs but we in the first group still desperately need some help.
Good to hear from your perspective. It is true that a lot of what you call “roadie commuter” attire is pretty awful to look at while there is an increasing amount of gear out there that looks like normal clothing but performs better on the bike than actual normal clothing. I’m a fan of the Levi’s commuter line; reasonably priced, looks good on and off the bike, and wears well over many miles. Living and working in Seattle city limits I don’t find that the distance I cover (~30 miles over the course of the day) necessitates tight-bright performance gear but that likely changes for suburban commuters as mileage increases.
I say: Wear whatever you want.
I would never want this blog to be some kind of fashion police that makes people feel self-conscious. I will push back against anyone who says you HAVE to wear any particular clothing item to bike.
If people are turned off to cycling because they think they have to wear Lycra, then that’s an idea we should work to change. But if someone likes to wear Lycra because they find it comfortable, durable, or whatever other reason, then that’s great.
This. (But not after [not] stopping myself from writing a long comment about how I ride 20/miles roundtrip on my NYC commute with no special clothing.)
Big Yellow – I really appreciate your generous response. It is so easy to offend when talking about attire! Our point-of-view is a reflection of your statement that traditional sport-cycling attire “may even discourage many casual riders from making the jump to bike-commuting”.
In our experience, that’s true.
The potential rider sees that cycling is an activity not to be taken lightly, requiring investment beyond just the bike (and helmet), and likely skills that only the dedicated athlete can take on. It is that perception that we are seeking to overcome by ‘normalizing’ one’s appearance on the bike, as we all act like wheeling ambassadors.
In our experience, anyone traveling 7 or 8 miles, or less (one way), can do this comfortably in clothing cut for movement using the right materials for the effort. Shower not required.
Clothing should not be a barrier. Ideally it might even act to attract new entrants to cycle commuting :)
I’m a little disappointed by the eye-rolling about lycra. Anyone who snarks about lycra hasn’t been paying attention to yoga and workout clothing going mainstream. Been to Lululemon? Or Lucy? Leggings were around in the 80’s and look, they’re back again. And for good reason. They’re comfortable. Who cares what you wear? Maybe it’s the chamois that has them irritated? Whatever. I wear lycra sometimes, street clothes other times. My “MAMIL” husband looks pretty darn hot, thanks to biking! (ok, ok, I’m biased. :)) I’m no fan of jerseys, but what’s it to me if other people like them? If you’re riding a bike, being polite and happy, you’re ok by me no matter what you wear.
I’m glad Iva Jean exists and is making some interesting garb. At its price point though, her stuff is outside my price range for “regular” clothes. (*love* the vest though!) And I like Hub and Bespoke, too. But IMO, there’s no need to further divide the community into “what not to wear” categories. Can’t we be more inclusive than that?
My household is also part of a running community, and no one ever talks about what you wear beyond maybe “How do you like those shoes?” If you’re a competitive marathoner, an aspiring ultra runner, a weekend trail warrior, a running commuter, or a seasonal 5k runner, everyone is just happy we’re out running. Maybe the bike community could take note. It’s all good.
MAWIL – I agree! Spandex is an amazing material and looks great when woven into the right material.
When I used to work in an office environment I would not have felt comfortable (‘professional’) in a Lululemon or Lucy outfit. I saved those togs for the weekend and the gym.
The point here with all this fashion stuff (with spandex woven in): biking is not just a sporting activity. It’s an excellent mode of transportation.
Truly there is no judgement here!! It’s just so easy to find apparel in Seattle to meet the sporting or long-distance riding needs. Fashion/office appropriate cycling clothes presented here are just an option not commonly shown. And, just maybe help people re-think the bicycle in an urban setting.
You said you did both types of riding. So I am sure you get it, and I agree, it’s all good.
Thanks for the follow-up. I’m glad there is no judgement. If more clothing options invites more people to ride, then we’re all going in the same direction.
I still think that when I wear my wool/spandex bike padded pants that I look like I’m wearing a full diaper!
Kirk from Ballard
I’m constantly struck by the dark muted colors worn by “fashionable” cyclists. The two samples above are both grey, and blend in perfectly with the background. When I’m riding, I want to be as visible as possible. Time and again, a driver that has hit a biker says “I just didn’t see the biker”. A bright top end during the daytime is key to standing out from the background and being seen.
“I just didn’t see the biker” is a bullshit excuse for not paying adequate attention, not having anything to do with actual vision. “Muted” colors do not create some sort of magical cloak of invisibility. I can attest to this, wearing normal clothing and turning heads of peds and drivers alike every time I go for a ride, day or night. Nobody ever fails to see me unless they’re looking at their phone/stereo/meal/etc.
Sorry but as a car driver & bicyclists that’s not true. I see bicyclists with the lime green and or a reflective vest way before I see those ninja dressed bicyclists.
Wrong. If you honestly can’t see people based on their attire you should not be behind the wheel. Ever.
It’s a not a matter of “seeing them” It’s a matter of how far away I see them. Driving toward a bicyclist I’m closing at 15+mph, assuming I’m driving 30, and the cyclist is doing 15, that’s 22 ft per second, assuming I see the rider 100 yards away that’s 300ft, or 13 seconds, lots of time to do evasive action, ie slow down, move left etc. If I see them 100 ft away, that’s 4 seconds, not nearly as much time. I won’t hit them, but if I have to do evasive maneuvers to adjust to oncoming traffic to swing wide, I don’t have nearly the time and I may drive a lot closer to the cyclist that I or they would wish.
An unlit, dark clothing cyclist, gets maybe 50ft of visibility and in rain, 20 ft. Or one second reaction time.
And if they are riding slow, and I close at 25 mph, they get even less time to be seen.
You can tell for yourself how this works, just get a mirror and use it, both with reflective clothing and without. I can see cars approaching make evasive maneuvers way behind me. I hear the thump thump thump as they hit the median bumpers as they go around me.
Then if you happen to own a car, watch when you see cyclists, and highway workers ’cause that’s the vest I wear. I see them almost a mile away.
Also great lights, like the 400 lumen tail lights and the 600+ lumen head lights and now you have the visibility of a car. Add Flash and then you are instantly recognizably as a bicyclist.
For some very practical and fun bike fashion, check out Bikie Girl Bloomers. It’s new and very cool! bikiegirlbloomers.com
I’ve gone back and forth between wearing “bike gear” vs. regular clothes on my commute to work. I have access to a change room and a shower, so I can make either option work – IF I am only traveling between home and work. However, some days I go out for lunch with my co-workers. Other days I have outings or errands to do after work. If I felt I needed to wear spandex to ride my bike, I’d have to chose between those activities and riding my bike – as it is, I can use my bike for most occasions and trips without it being a big deal. No one is suggesting that people wear bike-friendly fashion for a 30 mile weekend ride. Rather, it means I can still take my bike for trips where I want to be dressed better. Plus, anything that makes women’s clothing more comfortable and more functional is a good thing.
If you bring a change of clothes lunch errands are not a problem. Hitting the bars on the way home is more of an issue.
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