I fell in love with bike culture during a trip to Europe in 2008. As we entered Amsterdam, a city known for it’s proliferation of bicycles (among – ahem – other things), our tour guide began blasting Queen’s “Bicycle Race” over the bus’s sound system. I stared in awe as people of all shapes, sizes, and ages took to the streets with ease on mostly vintage-looking cruisers. Ladies with shoulder-strap purses and flowy dresses rolled alongside men in trousers, some even leisurely carrying open umbrellas over their heads in the drizzly morning. It appeared that nothing could stop these commuters from their chosen mode of transportation, and the bikes almost seemed like accessories to their already-European-chic outfits.
This image continues to be my inspiration for my daily commute, and I think of the happy Dutch urbanites every time I tuck a skirt under my wide cruiser bike seat and pedal away with my 3-inch heels, a bag of groceries filling my basket. Although I did take a brief, unplanned hiatus and turned in my cruiser for a mountain bike, an early birthday gift gave Greenie new life in the form of a shiny new wheel (thanks Mom and Dad!!), and we’re back out there again.
I know I stick out like a sore thumb, and have learned to smile and wave at those who stop in their tracks to stare at my quirky ensemble. What would pass as completely normal in a city like Amsterdam or Paris is not quite so average in Denver, home of the REI flagship store and countless numbers of “hardcore” athletes. Even Anthony, who often commutes at least part-way on his vintage road-bike, was taken aback by a lady locking up her bicycle at the grocery wearing high-heeled boots and a knee-length sweater dress. As he approached the bike stand, he laughed aloud to discover that this “crazy woman” was his wife.
During my short daily ride to work, I do pass one or two other basket-clad cruisers, and often we will smile at each other or ring our bells in comfort-ride solidarity. After all, our “kind” is vastly outnumbered by the bikers that whip past us in their logo-emblazoned skintight leotards, dark Oakley sunglasses, aerodynamic helmets and clip-in pedals. I have nothing against the Speed Racer breed of bicyclists, as we are all just trying to get where we want to go, but my style of biking is certainly a better fit for my lifestyle.
When I dress in the morning, I pick out what I am going to wear first, and then decide how I will make it work on my bike. Generally, no special accommodations need to be made, and I’ll mount up and roll down to the creek path. Sometimes, I have to tuck a skirt under my legs or roll up the right side of my wide-leg pants to keep from getting anything caught, but really, riding a bike is riding a bike, no matter your outfit. I will concede that there have been a few missteps, as can be expected with any daily commitment. For instance, I have learned that there is nothing notable about pedaling in heels (other than a slight change in foot position), but that flip-flops are a no-no — a slip off the pedals or a heavy lean will leave you with scraped toes and a surely ruined pedicure. Also a few times, I have learned that a certain skirt is simply too short or too tight to don appropriately while in pedaling position, and have since dedicated either leggings or bike shorts as a safety net for specific outfits. While I still don’t believe anyone in Denver has seen nearly as much of me as I might expose on the beach, I do prefer to leave a little bit to the imagination, even if my muses in Amsterdam would not have made such concessions.
While my outfit choices and commuting style may elicit bewildered stares from strangers and giggles from my friends and coworkers, I find that my mood is vastly improved with this way of life. It’s virtually impossible to be unhappy when you’re sitting up tall on a comfy bike seat, wearing a cute dress and bright stripey heels while breezing past blooming lilac bushes on a spring day. Those Dutch ladies know what they’re doing!