Can you look stylish while cycling to work?


Photo: Getty Images

Every workplace has a MAMIL (Middle-Aged Man in Lycra) or two. They’re a curious bunch, what with their high-vis vests, wraparound sunglasses, skin-tight shorts and nonchalant disregard for everybody else’s seeing eyes as they make their way to their desk every morning. Here, practicality has clearly triumphed over style. Yet the two need not be mutually exclusive.

On days (and weeks!) like this, there’s nothing more pleasant than zipping through the city streets on your bike. And you don’t have to be decked out in head-to-toe spandex to enjoy the ride. You’ve got yourself some stylish spokes, and now to sort out your stylish ensemble. Here are our tips for making cycle chic look effortless while you’re busy pedalling your way to Beyoncé thighs.

(N.B. Cyclists generally fall into one of two categories. There’s the discerningly stylish, casual commuter and then there’s the more committed enthusiast, whose idea of a perfect holiday may very well entail cycling 300 kilometres over a few days, and paying for the privilege to do so. These recommendations are aimed at the former. We take no responsibility for chafing.)

Swedish TV presenter Filippa Lagerback looks enviably stylish atop her bicycle.

Swedish TV presenter Filippa Lagerback looks enviably stylish atop her bicycle. Photo: Getty Images

The shoes


Casting agent, blogger and adept Belgian biker Natalie Joos has become an expert in pedalling in sky-high heels. “Well, it’s harder to walk in them,” she says. We love to channel Joos and other ubiquitous street-style stars in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Milan when getting from A to B, but we also acknowledge the impracticalities of doing so. Rely on a pair of trusty Converse, Adidas Stan Smiths or classic Superga sneaks instead. Converses are supposed to be worn scuffed, so stress not if they get bashed against the pedals. And if work requires something dressier, avoid platforms – as they don’t allow you to feel the foot pedal – and opt for a pair of moderately high wedges or ankle boots, but only if cycling at a sedate pace.

The gear

When it comes to cycling gear, wear clothes that are close to the body so they don’t get caught on the chain.  LAAIN  specialises in activewear and their scungies are the best we’ve seen – you’re not competing in a velodrome or traversing a rocky terrain, so padded Lycia is a no-go zone. Slip the shorts on underneath a skirt or dress and take them off when you arrive. It saves you from lugging around a change of clothes and will give you the confidence to hike up your hem and stand up on the pedals with reckless abandon as you roll down them slopes. (Also, let us remind you of this nifty trick!) Once you’ve laid the foundations, add a stylish twist with skinny layers by brands such as Alexander Wang, Splendid and Rag & Bone.

The helmet

Doesn’t it make you angry when you see a cyclist riding past with a naked noggin? These printed helmets by Nutcase or this more understated black design will have you itching to buckle up. Just ensure it’s a snug fit. And to save yourself from breakouts, wash your helmet padding regularly with cleanser to prevent it smearing scalp sebum across your forehead.

The accessories

A roomy Herschel backpack or cross-body bag such as this one by Benah for Karen Walker is the way to go. Alternatively, have your bike fitted with a removable basket to keep your everyday handbag safe during your daily commute. Add a pair of stylish sunglasses , as you never know what’s going to fly into your eyes at top speed. (And best to avoid eye contact when flagrantly riding along the No Cycle pathways in the park.)

The outerwear

Stay warm against the brisk winds with a good quality waterproof jacket or rain cover. The eye-popping ones from Uniqlo are a trusty pick, while these capes from Cycle Style have reflective strips so you’re easily visible at night. There a more luxe options by Christopher Raeburn and Stella McCartney for Adidas and if you happen to be a relatively pint-sized grown-up, you can even hit up Stella McCartney Kids in the largest size category for stylish options such as this. Biking in the rain, not totally terrible after all …

The make-up

Want no-budge, no-smudge makeup? Always prime the skin first to ensure your foundation stays put and opt for a lip stain that you can also use as long-wear blush for a pedal-happy face. When donning a helmet, tie up your hair in a commuter-friendly style such as this side braid or messy low bun and save yourself from greasy, tangled, sweaty hair by wearing a moisture-wicking silk scarf underneath. If smooth hair isn’t your jam, keep a texturising dry shampoo at work to bolster volume. A crumpled ball of aluminium foil also de-statics hair like magic.