Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Girl That's Up to Date: Cycling in Frills

The weather is warming up, and if you're anything like me that means one thing: it's time to start bicycling again!

However, it can be tough to get cycling when you also want to wear frills.I've seen a number of questions about this over the years, so I'm going to share a bit of my knowledge with you!

Get the Right Bike

If you're going to be biking in skirts, you're going to want to have the right equipment!And, believe it or not, there are bicycles and bicycle accessories that are designed specifically with skirts in mind.


I know some skirt-wearing girls, like my former college roommate, who swear by step-through bicycles. They're not my choice, but I do have to give them their due. They are practical choices for longer skirts. See how low the frame goes in front of the seat? You literally are meant to step through that space.

My preference is to use a bicycle fender and skirt guard to keep my frills from getting caught in the wheels. The fender is a piece of metal or plastic that encircles the wheel. You can usually find bicycles with built-in fenders, though it is possible to make them yourself. My old bicycle has a fender made from PVC.

A skirt guard is a piece of material which could be wood, metal, fabric, or even lace which provides a shield between the spokes of the wheel nearest your seat and your skirt. Some bicycles come with built-in skirt guards, but most do not. What's a girl to do with that? Well, you can buy a skirt guard to add to your bike (the above, from Frill Ride, is one example that is particularly Lolita-appropriate) or you can make them yourself using a number of online tutorials.

And why is the combination of fenders and skirt guards my preference?

Mount Up!

Sometimes, cycling in frills is as simple as being less ladylike for a moment. As ladies, the "correct" way to mount a bicycle is to slip our legs in front of the seat. However, I like to kick my leg back over the rear tire, tucking the front of my skirt beneath me on the seat and leaving the back of the skirt trailing behind. This is my preferred method of keeping my skirts tucked and my bloomers un-exposed.

If you prefer to get on your bicycle in a more ladylike fashion or if your bicycle features a rear basket, you can also employ skirt weights to keep everything tucked. You can use store-bought weights designed specifically for that purpose like these from Tandem NY, or you can go cheap and use a penny or a marble to get the same effect.

You can also safety pin the front and back of your skirt together once you've mounted the bike. This one's more of a challenge, though, if you're wearing a petticoat.

You Might Want to Skip the Skirts

I know it's hard, but skipping the skirts can sometimes be helpful. If your bicycle doesn't have a fender or skirt guard, you run the very real risk of tearing or staining your frills if they come into contact with the wheel. Nobody wants that.

There are a few solutions to this. The first is to wear ouji. Yes, it's not straight-up Lolita and it isn't quite as frilly, but you do have to admit that pants are harder to snag in the spokes.

The second is to go fully scandalous and wear your bloomers while biking and change into skirts when you get where you need to go. Yes, it's a scandal and it won't help if you're wearing a JSK, but it's practical as all get out, and you can always pack your skirt and petti away until you've arrived.

The third option, one that I've been working on for a while, is to create a biking skirt that is frilly and practical. This one takes it out of Lolita, but I love the Big Sky Riding Skirt from Folkwear Patterns or the 1901 Split Skirt by Truly Victorian for this. It's essentially a pair of gaucho pants with a button-front flap that can either join the legs to form a skort-like garment or be buttoned to its own leg to split for riding. I think that, in the right fabric and altered a bit, this could be a lovely otome piece - in fact, that's precisely my goal when I make my own this summer.

Carrying Your Life with Cuteness

 And, of course, if you're going out biking you will need some way to carry your stuff! Whether it's just sunscreen or a water bottle or you need to tote an oversized purse and half your life to go on errands.

My favorite way to carry all the things is with baskets or panniers. I don't personally use panniers because of the aforementioned way I get on a bicycle, but these rear-mounting pouches are a plus if you get on your bike in a more feminine way. I use a front basket, which comes with its own difficulties in the form of weight distribution. I have found that, if loaded with books, my front basket can pull me off course when the weight shifts. I still love it, but it's something to keep in mind.
My other favorite option is the big ol' backpack. If I've got to carry a big bag of stuff, whether it's books for the library or groceries from the store across town, I find that carrying a messenger bag only serves to put me off balance. The solution? Backpacks! I usually just carry a cheap bag purchased during fall sales on back to school stuff that didn't end up going back to school, but there are a wide variety of different backpacks you can find that will support your style while still letting you carry what you need.

Believe it or not, this hamster is actually a backpack. Yes, that is as awesome as it sounds.
 What about you? Do you cycle? If you do, do you have any tips for frilly girls looking to get their summer days started on two wheels?

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