We need to talk about skirts


I really enjoy wearing skirts when I cycle, which is really no surprise to those that know me or have heard about Penny in Yo’ Pants. While skirts do present a challenge to cycling, I’ve come to learn that they offer a huge opportunity to be creative on the bike. I’m forever on a quest to find the right length, fabric, and style of skirt which makes me feel confident and stylish on two wheels.

However, they have come to mean a lot more which I hadn’t realised until recently.


Last week, I was coming out of the Innocent Railway tunnel, it was pouring rain, and pretty miserable out. A mountain-bike man went to pass me and the following happened:

He said – ‘Not exactly skirt weather’

I said  – ‘Any weather is skirt weather’

He said – ‘I seriously doubt that’

And he cycled on his way.

Now, this isn’t the first time someone has commented on my skirt-wearing bikeable style.  When I first started cycling, a man told me that no one will ever take me seriously if I wear that (a skirt) on the roads.

These experiences bring up more and more questions and I’m not sure what they mean.

Why is what I wear on my bike up for commentary?

Would it be appropriate to comment on my skirt if I was walking past? I don’t think so. So why does being on my bike make it different and more acceptable to comment?

I realise he might have just been trying to make awkward conversation, but why my skirt and not the weather (as we often talk about)?

We talk about how our streets and politicians need to be more like Copenhagen, but maybe we should take a look at our hearts. The way we embrace each other’s cycling decisions and styles is also part of the greater ‘infrastructure’. It’s not just about bike lanes, but the way we feel and talk to each other on and off the streets.

Let’s not admire each other for our gear, but for our decision.  I respect other cyclists for their strong legs, sense of adventure and for taking the streets back.  Even if your gear is more ‘serious’ than mine – we have both made a powerful decision. The same decision.

Women’s comments about Penny in Yo’ Pants revealed that it was actually inspiring them to get back on their bikes. It became the coffee table book which got the conversation going about how skirts can actually be an enabler for cycling but also, that they represent so much more.   

For me, my skirt shows that cycling isn’t a hobby. It is a lifestyle, well being, and way of life. I don’t need a change of clothes – this is who I am. 

Wear your skirts. Or animal print lycra (which to be fair, I should comment on and never will). Or even better, wear whatever you like and that is awesome  – as long as you feel confident, strong, and the wind in your hair.

photo 2

7 thoughts on “We need to talk about skirts

  1. I always felt self-conscious when I was wearing dresses/skirts and riding my bicycle to go to work. Am I showing too much leg? Will I flash anyone when I get on/off my bike? I have a short commute, so I really didn’t want to bring along another change of clothes for a 10 min ride. I hardly ever break a sweat. So as time passed by I learned to embrace my outfits and not worry about what other people might think. I continue commuting in whatever I feel like it. And it feels great! I even ride in heels! Short heels, but heels none the less.

  2. Not sure if this is skirt-related or generally cyclist-guy-related. I had similar experiences (without skirt) when I moved to Edinburgh from the continent long ago. At that time, few people cycled, but I always dreaded the few times when another cyclist caught up with me. Inevitably they lectured me about wearing the wrong shoes, the wrong gloves or no gloves, the wrong jumper, having the seat too high or too low, using the wrong gear, or just generally being a person that shouldn’t be on a bike because I’m not doing it right. I gave up cycling shortly afterwards and only started again a few years ago when I saw more and more people like you and me on bicycles.
    I thought this was because many “keen” cyclists still have this group mentality, the bike is not a means of transport but you are supposed to become “one of us”, a member of a community, and adhere to all the unwritten rules, dress codes and traditions. And with this perception that you’re member of their “group”, they don’t talk to you like a stranger but feel perfectly entitled to talk to you as if you were the black sheep in their family.

  3. To paraphrase Chuck Palahniuk: You are not the clothes you wear.
    As a species we have been force fed a 3 course meal of advertising. I have never seen an advert praising the virtue of owning less. We are crash test dummies, lab rats for the gluttonous businesses who are never full up. I am glad to see that you are your own singularity, there is deep beauty in a free mind.
    The liberty to speak to you about your skirt because of the mode of transport you ride is a different spectre. First we have to discount the notion that he may have recognised you as a PennyInYoPants lady and the skirt comment may have been a nod to this recognition. Having put this to one side, we have to examine the idea of cyclists being approachable people. We then have to wonder if cyclists in skirts are more approachable still or if another theory is befitting this phenomena.
    I think that maybe I am delving too far down into this; if I close off the analysis and open up to creativity and intuition another idea bubbles up. You are vibrant and this creates conversation. People are drawn to rainbows, they are moths pulled to light. You don’t invite commentary but it happens because your attire forms a joyful discourse.
    People in cars and buses are heads, you pass these metal boxes on your bike and you can only see heads and shoulders not the knees and toes. You are a fully flowing human being using your entire body and mind. You are truly alive. Those wrapped inside motor vehicles are fleshed out mannequins until they are back on the streets again.
    Continue to dress in your dreams.

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