Arguably, after clothes, body image and physical appearance is the most important part of a man’s sartorial success. Fitness is quickly becoming an obsession for men of all ages; from jogging to football, the majority of individuals are hitting the gym regularly or even just hopping on a bike in an attempt to stay healthy and look their very best. And the way we get our exercise is having a dramatic effect on the way we dress.
Cycling is big business nowadays and it’s easy to see why: great for commuting, perfect for getting that all important exercise, fantastic for cruising around town and, for all of you interested in fixed-gear (fixies) or old school bikes, the ultimate fashion accessory.
Having recently rediscovered my passion for cycling, I’ve been peddling my trusty hipster chariot (fixie) around like there is no tomorrow. However, whilst two of my accessories have already been decided upon – my bike AND helmet – the issue of what to wear is still a bit of a sticking point. How can you maintain your ability to cycle safely, look good and stay cool all at the same time?
Hopefully this article will give you some ideas. But first, let’s start with a bit of health and safety…
First: Protect Your Head
Honestly, why anyone would even consider riding on open roads without a bike helmet is completely beyond me. For less than the price of a take-away pizza you can protect your head in case of a fall and potentially save your life. Anyone that rides on the road without a helmet is an idiot.
I know a lot of people don’t wear helmets because they think it makes them look silly. Firstly, it doesn’t matter if you look a bit silly, you’re just being sensible, and secondly, you don’t have to look silly because there are a wealth of helmets available that don’t make you look like you’re gearing up for the Tour de France.
Search for helmets in darker or matte colours with minimal detailing and good head coverage and you’re off to a great start. The egg style bmx helmets are particularly good for the casual biker because they are a relaxed style and don’t suggest that you’ve borrowed your mum’s bike whilst your own has a flat tyre. Keep your eyes peeled for brands promoting helmets specifically at commuters as well.
- Bern Watts Eps Helmet – Matte Grey
- Giro Flak Helmet
- Bell Piston Bike Helmet
- Prowell F59r Vipor Cycle Helmet Rrp £69.99 – 4 Colours Available
- Yakkay Cycle Helmet With Cambridge White Denim Cover: Large 57-59cm
- Bell Faction Bike Helmet
Fashion & Cycling
Cyclewear is a rapidly growing market and fashion brands are beginning to realise the potential of functional, stylish clothing that performs. With the London Olympic Games helping raise the profile of the sport, the industry has looked to capitalise on the rising popularity of cycling as a hobby, releasing dedicated cyclewear lines and collaborative capsule collections with cycling specialists.
For example, over the past twelve months we have seen high street giants H&M team up with Brick Lane Bikes to release an eleven piece capsule collection of functional cyclewear; Levi’s have launched their dedicated ‘Commuter Series’ line; Le Coq Sportif, a brand with a strong cycling heritage, have released both a vintage ‘L’Eroica’ cycling range and a cycling-inspired SS13 collection; whilst Fred Perry have continued their collaboration with Sir Bradley Wiggins by releasing a new SS13 collection, which features an actual cycling shirt:
H&M x Brick Lane Bikes SS13 Collection
Levi’s Commuter Series Line
Le Coq Sportif Has A Strong Cycling Heritage And It Shows In their SS13 Collections
Sir Bradley Wiggins Continuing His Collaboration With Fred Perry For SS13
The Daily Commute
I personally believe that there are certain times when fashion and what you are doing don’t mix – like when undertaking most forms of exercise, for example. What you look like doesn’t really matter whilst exercising, because firstly you’re going to be hideously sweaty and secondly because looking good doesn’t always equate to comfort, especially when there is a risk of chaffing.
The cycle commute to work should be considered another one of these situations. Particularly when it’s raining, protecting your suit or formal work clothes is going to be very difficult.
As far as I see it, you have two options: change into your work clothes when you get there or invest in some waterproof gear. However, your best bet would be option one, as there is little sense in putting unnecessary stress on your expensive work clothes through cycling, or running the risk of getting very hot and bothered and smelling unpleasant for the rest of the working day.
Rather than trying to make your work clothes look good on the commute, just pick a hard wearing, practical outfit that will stop you ruining your clothes and protect you from the worst of the elements.
Suits & Bikes Don’t Often Mix
The Everyday Cyclist
What you wear whilst cruising around on your bike for pleasure depends a lot on the kind of bike you are riding and whether you are using it purely for the physical benefits or because it represents part of your look.
My hipster chariot, for example, is a primary mode of transport; a way for me to get exercise and a key part of my image. I purposely chose it because of the way it looks and the representations it offers, so it has become part of my overall style – the way I dress (most of the time) now takes into consideration my bike.
To make it clearer, I will wear clothes that suit the place I’m going, who I’m with and how I fancy dressing that particular day, but I will ALSO take into consideration how easy they are to ride in and whether the outfit as a whole fits the image my bike portrays.
This works for all manner of bikes, from old school Dutch high-steppers, to vintage racers and more stylised modern bikes. All you have to do is match your style to a particular bike – for example, if your personal style typically revolves around country/heritage clothing, your style would better suit a vintage bike rather than a carbon fibre racer. However, if you consider your bike purely a mode of transport, you should understand that trying to connect both it and fashion is pointless.
With that said, there are a few general guidelines which can aid in sensible outfit selection, should you want your bike to become part of your look…
Multiple lightweight layers will be a much better choice than one big layer because they will provide you with greater freedom of movement and the ability to remove layers one by one as you get hotter.
Coming from experience, softer, stretch jeans are far more comfortable to ride in than heavier weight denim. Slim and straight leg jeans will give you plenty of space but the weight of denim will become telling on the legs on all but the shortest of rides. Due to denim being such a heavy weight fabric, it also means jeans are inevitably going to be the hotter choice, particularly during the summer, so it would certainly be worth investigating cotton chinos, or perhaps even a pair of on trend combat trousers.
Unexpected showers and rain are an integral part of the British summer so it’s worth taking precautions. To cover your top, you could do much worse than a lightweight/unlined parka, which will give you a solid, breathable top layer that can fend off the wind and rain and protect your clothes from annoying mud splatters from the back wheel.
Leather soled shoes are going to be tricky to ride in, particularly when it’s wet. However, as long as you aren’t riding around like you’re on a time trial then you should be fine. Rubber soles are a better option, or stick with trainers for a casual, comfortable yet versatile choice.
For a little inspiration, here a few sample outfits that you might find useful next time you want to sit astride your stallion and take it for a spin.
Bike Outfit Inspiration
Look One: The Hipster Fixie
For those interested in fixie bikes (that includes me), it is hard to ignore the obvious hipster connotations they come packaged with.
Fixie bikes are a plain and simple fashion statement and should be utilised accordingly. Thankfully, sportswear is also a huge part of hipster style and that makes it perfect for cycling. Lightweight technical jackets keep out the wind and the rain; sweaters make for excellent, comfortable and free-moving second layers; and trainers give you all the grip you will ever need:
- Topman Art Disco Grey Sweatshirt
- K Way Claude Jacket
- Topman Light Wash Stretch Skinny Jeans
- New Balance 577 Suede
Look Two: Casual Riding
This is an easy to wear casual outfit that will work for the majority of cyclists. A denim jacket keeps out the worst of a summer chill and a simple tee will stop you getting too hot up top.
Casual tailored trousers in lighter weight cotton will ensure you stay cooler as you move along and a solid pair of trainers will make pedalling much easier and more stable whilst ensuring you don’t ruin your nice leather or suede shoes:
- He By Mango V-neck T-shirt
- Topman Mid Wash Denim Western Jacket
- Reiss Roadster Cotton Tailored Fit Trouser Grey
- Reebok Gl6000 Trainers
Look Three: Smart-Casual Cycling
For those looking to retain a smart-casual edge to their outfit, a lightweight, half-lined blazer is the way to go. An unstructured version will give you more freedom of movement, help you stay cooler and, when worn over a crisp white shirt, will look just as good.
A pair of soft stretch jeans will remain comfortable on long journeys and opting for a classic dark wash helps keep things refined.
Finish off with some rubber soled boots for proper support and increased grip:
- Topman White Long Sleeve Smart Shirt
- Reiss Scott B Relaxed Patch Pocket Blazer Dark Sage
- Reiss Robertson Vintage Wash Stretch Denim Denim
- Grenson Fred Textured-leather Brogue Boots
Look Four: Tailored To Your Bike
Here we have a look inspired by a chap I’ve often seen riding around Brighton on an old Dutch high-stepper. To my mind he has managed to perfectly capture the link between his style and his bike, because it all looks like it fits together. The bike is an integral part of his overall image and everything has been considered with that in mind.
Multiple lightweight layers mean you can remove or replace layers as you need to whilst ensuring you don’t get too hot or too cold:
- Oliver Spencer Grandad-collar Striped Cotton Shirt
- He By Mango Two-tone Cashmere Cotton-blend Sweater
- Ben Sherman Harrington Bomber Jacket
- Reiss Freeport Raw Selvedge Denim Indigo
- Asos Waffle Socks
- H By Hudson Tyskatu Tassel Loafers
Other Key Pieces
- He By Mango Mao Collar Slim-fit Striped Shirt
- Esprit Long Sleeve Henley Top
- Acne College Loopback-cotton Sweatshirt
- Topman Blue Marl Contrast Trims Sweatshirt
- Neighborhood Cotton Cargo Trousers
- Reiss Oakland Short Suede Zip Through Jacket Navy
- Topman Green Hooded Trek Jacket
- He By Mango Striped Knit Jumper
- New Balance 574 Suede
If you want to look good on your bike then you have to realise that you are using your bike as a fashion accessory. The bike must fit your image or the practice of trying to look good on your bike becomes irrelevant. If this is the case then you are just using your bike as a mode of transport and the way you dress isn’t connected to it at all – therefore focus entirely on your outfit and forget the bike altogether.
A bike is a fantastic fashion accessory; it can add a whole new layer to an outfit AND it can often transport you around town much quicker than a car or bus. However, as a cyclist, you must make the distinction between form and function. If the bike is part of your image then the style of bike you ride is just as important a consideration as the shoes you wear or the jacket you carry with you.
Now I want to hear what you think: are there any other avid cyclists out there? If so, how do you look good on your bike?
Let me know in the comments section below…