Presto-Chango Bike Outfits

Dressing for bike commuting is a spectrum. On one side, the commuter wears full race-ready apparel on the ride with a full change upon arrival at work. On the other, the dogmatically street-clothes-wearing cyclist wears full jewelry and any shoes that fit her sense of fashion. Every commute distance/weather/work dress-code is different, so go with whatever works for you. However, most of the people I know fall somewhere in between these poles, sometimes called a hybrid approach. I like to think of my bike style as Presto-Chango.

Case in point: an art opening at the gallery where I work, requiring snazzier-than-normal attire. Fall is definitely here in Minneapolis, with many days still fairly nice but chilly mornings and nights. As I headed to work mid-afternoon for an evening event, I knew that it was warm then and would be hot in the packed gallery, but would be cool when I biked home at night. I tucked my earrings in a bag, along with a few items for the ride home, and headed to work.

ImageAs an experiment, I decided to try biking in my high heels. I nearly sprained my ankle wearing them while carrying my bike down the stairs of my apartment, but luckily cycling in heels is easier than walking in them. Once on the bike, the heels were pretty OK, though they offered slightly reduced contact area (vs. flats) with my Ergon pedals. I noticed pretty quickly how true it is that stiff soles transfer power better. The only real problem was that by mile 3.5 of a 5 mile ride, my toes were going numb. I attribute this to the fact that this pair of shoes is a tiny bit too small for me.

Besides the shoes, I wore black cotton capris and a polyester blouse (doesn’t breathe great, but I’ve worn worse). My favorite turquoise earrings and make-up applied at work completed the party look.

By the time I finished working, the temps had dropped and I was pretty tired of the heels. I slipped them off and dug into my pannier for my presto-chango secrets: knee-high wool socks, tennis shoes, and a windproof jacket. Taking off my dangly earrings, I thought, “chic to bike geek in a minute flat.”

ImageBlack capris are one of my favorite clothing items that does double-duty well. Leather boots and sweat-wicking T-shirts that don’t look sporty are others. I consider my 10-mile round-trip commute to be mid-distance: not so long I need to wear full performance gear but not so short that I don’t have to think about it at all. I generally don’t feel comfortable biking in my full work attire or working in my favorite biking attire, but with a little imagination, I’ve been able to figure out ways to maximize the stuff that does double-duty and minimize the stuff that goes in the bag.


3 comments on “Presto-Chango Bike Outfits

  1. I love both outfits — super smart and they do sound pretty good for a 10 mile ride! I like the idea of knee high socks to go with capris. Especially they surely don’t take much space at all!

  2. Wonderful post! This is just the topic I’ve been obsessed with all evening. Thank you for the inspiration.

  3. Thanks for writing about this! I stumbled upon your blog while searching for just what it is girl bike commuters should wear as I always feel like I look stupid when I show up to work on my bike. I have a similar length commute as you though I fall into the bring a full change of clothes category since there is a shower at my building. However, there’s no way I’m walking into the building in full spandex (not really my bike style anyway). I’m still searching for the perfect way to look casual bikey, but not manly. Oh the things we spend our time caring about 😉

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