Cycle Chic: What to wear when the weather turns nasty

Harriet Walker

Having been won over by the bike evangelists at the beginning of the summer, I’ve been cycling (and surviving) for over three months now, and with only one fall. I’m don’t claim to have scaled the heights that this blog has previously reached (no crazy mountain rides for me, thanks), but I’ve stayed upright for the most part, and that’s no mean feat for someone with no motor skills.

charge lazy susan 10 300x200 Cycle Chic: What to wear when the weather turns nasty The next challenge to rear its head is how to maintain it all during the grim winter months – I’m determined not to be one of those summertime cyclists who ducks onto the tube at the first drop of rain. First of all, I’m upgrading my bike from a perfectly serviceable pootling machine with no gears to something that will make my life a bit easier and rather more elegant. The enviably spindly Charge Lazy Susan comes in a tawny, burnt orange and I’m excited about learning how to use the three speeds. (That’s three more than I have at the moment.)

The other issue weighing on my mind is my winter cycling wardrobe. Personally, I don’t ride in super-tight, spray-on lycra or moisture zapping, centrally heated techno fabrics – I wear unfussy and uncomfortable pieces from my existing wardrobe. In summer that’s a T-shirt and leggings, but bad weather brings waterproofing and warmth issues to the fore. It’s definitely less easy to look cool.

There are plenty of brilliant and only-slightly-fetishistic blogs that archive pictures of beautiful women riding bicycles – try Copenhagencyclechic as well as The Sartorialist’s dedicated section for inspiration. You’ll see that working the two-wheeled look often relies on a vintage teadress and a cardigan. Which is great if that’s what you’re into, but there are plenty of us who favour a more, well, grown-up look. Cycle chic doesn’t have to be twee; there are plenty of sleek styles and statement pieces that will work on a bike this season.

So I’ve tried here to round up some of the more practical elements of an on-trend autumn capsule that will look great whether you’re peddling or partying.

057  THE OUTSIDERS £95 212x300 Cycle Chic: What to wear when the weather turns nasty

Cape £95, Topshop

Perfect for keeping you warm and dry as you whizz around, the cape is also one of this season’s must-haves.

AW10AW01 lowres£35 187x300 Cycle Chic: What to wear when the weather turns nastyHooded scarf £35, COS

Keep your ears and neck wrapped up, and protect your hair from the elements with this hybrid scarf.

8390 L 17 300x300 Cycle Chic: What to wear when the weather turns nasty Bag £19.99, H&M

Whether you shove in your basket or sling it over one shoulder, this bag is durable, versatile and big enough to hold a change of clothes.

GOO55 A5106 Cycle Chic: What to wear when the weather turns nastyWristwarmers £32, Brora

A bit of glamour for the amateur cyclist: super-soft cashmere gloves that will your fingers free for ringing your bell.

Olive wedge 300x254 Cycle Chic: What to wear when the weather turns nastyWedge boots £89.50, Gap

They might not look like traditional cycling footwear but if you’re a heel addict, wedges are easier to ride in and sturdier than stilettos, and these have a modern-meets-penny-farthing feel to them.

image original 629 masha jeans with inserts at sides photo  lennart weibull1 200x300 Cycle Chic: What to wear when the weather turns nastyJeans £135, Dagmar, available from Diverse, 020 7359 8877

Jeans can be counter-intuitive on a bike because of bulky and uncomfortable seams, but this stretchy cotton pair are made from soft fibres and the zip-sides mean there’s no need for ugly bicycle clips.

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  • traineeangel

    I find, when cycling in the rain, that what works for me is ignoring fashion on the outside and buying a really good waterproof hat, coat and trousers, and teaming them with wellies or waterproof walking boots. Not pretty, but you can take it all off in the office, slip on either the spare pair of shoes you keep in the office or the pair you’ve put in the pannier and be perfectly dry in your everyday clothes.

  • gracoo2

    Dear Harriet,

    My tip: google Corinne Dennis – cycling clothes for women.

  • manchestercommuter

    Harriet, I wish you good luck but I am very dubious that this will get you through the winter. In my first year of cycling I thought I would get through the winter without any specialist cycling gear. If I got cold I just cycled faster. The thing is, this works until the temperature gets to near freezing, at which point cycling faster just makes you colder because the wind goes through you more quickly. And when you’re cycling into driving rain or hail or snow at those temperatures you’re going to seriously regret even thinking about wearing jeans. Finally … there is a reason that cycling gear is windproof and breathable but not necessarily waterproof. This is for managing sweat. If you’re wearing normal clothes that are anything like warm enough to keep the wind out when it’s near freezing you will sweat a lot. You will find that your work clothes are dripping wet, not from rain but from sweat. The first problem is that this is slightly unpleasant. The more important problem is that as soon as you stop at lights or go down hill the sweat cools down and makes you very cold. I think what you have is late autumn / early spring gear, not mid winter gear. But I will follow your blog and hope that you prove me wrong !

  • Frenchpedalling

    My wife “did” a charity cycle ride to Copenhagen in December last year. The temperature got down to -1C. She commented on how well dressed the Danish women cyclists looked together with the absence of lycra..

  • Carina O’Reilly

    You’re an idiot. That cape is going to blow off in the first strong wind.

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