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What Would a Nerd Wear [on a Bike]

July 27, 2010

{You’re probably already familiar with Tania of What Would a Nerd Wear. Tania, a fellow academic and cycle enthusiast, writes an awesome style blog merging campus ready wear with bike commuting with looking chic and on trend. Tania’s one of my favorite style bloggers because her looks are always so fresh and pretty while still retaining an aura of comfort and ease. So naturally, I asked her to share a few tips on staying true to one’s style self while commuting on two wheels. Here’s what Tania had to say…}

I love riding my bicycle. I also love pretty clothes, especially skirts and dresses. Happily, the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, I happen to think that there’s nothing more glamorous than riding a bicycle in a pretty dress.

Here are a few of my tried-and-tested techniques for wearing what I want while I ride my bicycle.

1: Fearlessness!

I love being one of the few bicyclists in a crowd of spandexed road-bicyclists who’s wearing a floral dress and carrying a stack of James Joyce in my front basket, but it takes a little chutzpah to get there. The most powerful piece of arsenal I have is being fearless about what I wear and where I bike, and not being ruffled when I occassionally flash someone or spend my ride holding down the front of my skirt. However, in lieu of fearlessness, I also rely on:


2: Bike shorts

Seriously, throw these babies on under any too-short dress or skirt and you’ll never be at risk of ending up here. Many times, I’ve worn these under a dress, hiked it up and hopped on my bicycle. Then again, it also helps to have a :

3. Step-through or mixte frame

Step-through frames make a huge difference for being able to bicycle in a skirt. When you get on and off a step-through, you don’t have to lift your leg way over the top tube of a bike frame, where you risk flashing anyone around you. Instead, you can demurely slip your legs from one side of the bike to another, making it much much easier to wear:

Summer Bicycle Rides

4. The right kinds of skirts and dresses

I’ve found that certain qualities make for much better bicycle-riding garments:

  • a. Longer hems, of course, keep you covered better

Summer Uniform

  • b. Fuller cuts let your legs move and don’t ride up when you sit down. Even shorter skirts will keep you covered if they are fuller or looser.
  • c. Tights and leggings are terrific for giving shorter garments more coverage

Kiss Me, I'm Irish?

  • d. High-waisted pieces keep your bum covered
  • e. Stiffer/heavier materials tend to stay put more easily when you’re riding, as opposed to very lightweight fabrics which might fly up in the wind


  • f. A little bit of spandex helps materials stretch over your legs and don’t migrate up your legs as you ride

5. A fabulous helmet (and a smile)

Because staying alive will always be in style.


{Thanks, Tania! For more awesome bike pictures and lovely outfits, check out Tania’s site }

17 Comments leave one →
  1. July 27, 2010 12:49

    These are super great tips! I’m planning to get a bike that I can ride around campus in and I had never considered a step-through or mixte frame. It’s definitely on my checklist now!

    Also, I adore Tania’s fall outfit. The tights with socks just peeking out of the boots is adorably stylish.

  2. July 27, 2010 13:16

    Great tips! Number five is cute :)

  3. July 27, 2010 14:36

    Wow. I don’t have a bike, so I don’t think about these issues alot, but I have to admit that the few recent times that I have ridden a bike, the effort not to flash people has supremely disturbed what should be a serene experience. Bike shorts. That is the answer. Do you have a recommended brand? I suppose it’s one of those items that once you’re looking for them you’ll see them everywhere? Do you just throw them in your purse or backpack when you get to where you’re going?

    • July 27, 2010 17:09

      Though they’re not really “bike shorts,” per se, I just bought a pair of “yoga shorts” from Old Navy on sale for $5! They’re just tight, lyrcra-esque short shorts. No padding, but definitely right for the price!

      • July 28, 2010 16:44

        Emily Kennedy – I’m with Eli here, just a pair of black tight fitting yoga shorts from Target would work great. My roommate throws those on under a dress a lot (when cycling) and I think I need to add one or two to my collection. Specialty bike shorts are pretty pricy and if you’re just looking for some extra coverage, I think a Target or Old Navy basic pair would work just as well. S.

  4. July 27, 2010 15:44

    I even love riding a step-through, just because it’s easier to get on and off of. My wife’s Raleigh Roadster is one of my favorite bikes ever to ride.

    Funnily enough, the high-waisted advice effects guys as well – I have several pairs of pants that are all cut differently, and one or two of them I definitely like to wear either a longer shirt or a shirt tucked in with them, due to the fear of this happening: I’ve also noticed this happening a bit more as my waist has gotten a bit smaller, and my pants a bit looser. It also depends on the type of bike you’re riding – if you’re bending over at all, you’re more likely to have the bum problem (but less likely to have the skirt flying up problem, conversely).

    Great advice, and great to see you making it around the web :) Happy riding!

    • July 28, 2010 16:46

      Dave – thanks for weighing in with a guy’s perspective. I think you’re right – so many of the same tips apply. Also, what do you do about your pants? Do you have chain guards on all of your bikes or do you use an elastic or band or something to keep the pant leg form getting caught in the chain?

      • July 28, 2010 17:27

        All the bikes we own currently have either a chain guard or full chain case and full front and rear fenders, which makes it really easy and simple. I never have to think about what I’m wearing in terms of getting it dirty while riding, in all seasons.

        The only real issue is during the fall/winter/spring, if it looks like it’s going to be really rainy, I’ll make sure to wear leather shoes so my feet don’t get wet.

  5. July 27, 2010 18:38

    Yes yes yes, I heartily agree with all of these tips. I got some amazing cycling shorts, they’ve got a pocket on the bum! I was so pleased by this that I went ahead and lifted my dress up in the street to show my friends the bum pocket, but hey, I was wearing shorts.

  6. July 27, 2010 20:47

    Wonderful tips! I also wear pettipants to prevent flashing students or other faculty while I’m riding my bike in a dress. They make me feel prettier than wearing the standard bike shorts.

  7. July 29, 2010 01:22

    Love the advice – I have a quick question though – I’d love to ride around on a vintage style bike in pretty dresses to do a Sunday coffee run/brunch or errands but my area is full of killer hills that I am not 100% sure I’d be able to make up without serious huffing and puffing and probably a good few flashing situations.

    I have a Giant Cypress Ladies hybrid bike (kind of in between a road bike and mountain bike – which is meant to be great for commuting and general riding, but the way that it is built (no step through here) and my local geography means that I am afraid I’ll never be a stylish, chic chick on a bike. :(

    Do you have any suggestions???

    • July 29, 2010 22:38

      Silvara – it’s all about attitude! I think ‘bike chic’ is more about your general outlook and attitude on a bike than the bike you have. If you enjoy riding your bike and you find ways to wear the things you love while doing so, you’ll have achieved ‘cycle chic’. Even if you’re wearing the jeans/skinnies/shorts you love but are opting out of some of your dresses and skirts (because of your bike frame). Or if you absolutely don’t want to forgo your dresses, just be ok with flashing someone once in a while. It’s fine! And if you don’t want to get too sweaty on some of those hills, it’s also totally ok to hop off your bike and walk it up some of those steeper hills. You’re still getting a lot more exercise than if you’d driven and your commute shouldn’t feel like a race. You don’t have to pedal as hard as possible to get to your destination. It’s ok to bike slowly, get off and push your bike, and then hop back on if you need to.

      I think your hybrid sounds great and I hope you and it (did you name your bike yet? ;) ) have some wonderful commutes together!

  8. July 29, 2010 19:01

    Great tips. As for shorts underneath your dress or skirt, I recently purchased under armour shorts at Marshal’s for about $15. And Target has champion boxer type shorts with the exercise clothes that also does the trick.

  9. July 30, 2010 01:21

    I love this post! I love to ride my bike, but I’ve always been nervous to wear a dress while riding. Maybe if I get a pair of bike shorts to wear underneath, I’ll feel a bit better.

  10. August 2, 2010 03:27

    What a great write up on Tania! Such useful and cute advice. Yay for fashion bloggers who ride bikes :)

  11. August 5, 2010 04:53

    she is simply adorableeeeee <3
    + blue bikes *rock* <3 xxo.m


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