The only accessorizing I’m interested in these days comes in the form of bike-adjacent gadgetry: a trusty bike lock, a basin-like bike basket, a sturdy handlebar mount for your phone, and a bike helmet that fits like a glove. No product page online speaks to me quite like the one for Hammacher Schlemmer’s Indoor Cycling Conversion Stand.
At the intersection of necessary cultural adaptation and late summer style lies bicyclecore. This is a kind of suffixed phenomenon that prompts more questions than it answers, which is what intrigues me. What’s the best mask to wear while biking in a densely populated area? How do you dress for work when your traditional commute to work has been supplanted by a bicycle? Is it really any sweatier an enterprise than riding a crowded subway across town? How do you cross pollinate your regular wardrobe with cycling-friendly clothes? At what point in a relationship are you ready to jump to the next level: the tandem bike?
For many, gearing up for a cycle isn’t a revelatory element of getting dressed: they’ve been biking from their points A to B, whether in Copenhagen or Montana or New York, well before the pandemic, though I’m hoping that a new influx of emerging bike-riders does spawn a tidal wave of bicyclecore.
In unabashed embrace of bicyclecore, I’m eyeing Rapha’s collaboration with Outdoor Voices (available here and here), along with COS’s performance sports bras and leggings, the cow-printed Team Dream gear that Blackbird Spyplane tipped me off to, Tracksmith’s Bislett pants for longer rides with leg coverage, this tangy bicycle basket by Baba Tree, and the Pushbutton bike shorts Telsha Anderson sourced for her concept store, t.a. For tips on how this all comes together, I spoke with experts both local and abroad on how to fuse bicyclecore seamlessly into their daily routine.
I’ve never been of the school that enjoys wearing bike shorts for anything other than a scrimmage or rally, but after months of traveling only by bicycle, the pairs in my drawer have found new purpose as the clandestine undergarment that allows me to wear a skirt or a dress anywhere. Outdoor Voices’s often-lauded Exercise Dress is tailor-made for a scenario where you’re biking but also want to approximate some semblance of dressiness. Here’s how to do it: Pack a sweater in a hands-free bag (this one is like the overnight version of a gym bag), or tie it in a “half-cape” way where one sweater arm loops under your armpit and ties onto the other arm draped over your shoulder. Then throw it on over the Exercise Dress once you’ve dismounted your ride, and presto, you feel more presentable!
The customizable commute…
Kendall with Black Girls Do Bike has some key intel when it comes to gearing up for a bike commute. For headgear, she recommends Louis Garneau’s HG Majestic Cycling Helmet: “I’m a Black woman with big, natural hair, so it was hard to find a helmet that accommodated all my hair. This one works perfectly for this purpose.” When it comes to commuting, Kendall relies on the REI Co-op Flash Pack 22—”It’s perfectly sized for bringing my work clothes on my back.” Kendall’s trick is to keep a toiletry bag, a pair of black flats and shower flip-flops at work so you don’t have to schlep them each way every day. “They weigh you down!”
As for a phone mount, she credits it as easily the best $10 she spent—the purchase tipped the scale towards opting for a bike over a car commute. The one she uses is out of stock, but says something similar to this would work. “It doubles as a pouch: I keep lip balm, Gu gels (for an energy boost), my keys, and a slim battery pack and charging cord in there in case my phone battery is low.”
In the spirit of preparing for anything, Carla of Team Dream recommends wearing this Tie Dye Desert Hat under-helmet to keep the sun out of your eyes and off your neck (and it doubles as a great way to hide helmet hair at work, if you can swing it). Team Dream also made these biking-appropriate masks in collaboration with swrve.
For tricks on how to “customize a very inappropriate cycling outfit and make it work,” I reached out to Hanna Marzouki Widlund, our Swedish correspondent on the matter. “My best trick is the knot, for sure,” she tells me. “I often wear a skirt or a dress, and of course I want to avoid getting my clothes stuck in the wheels, so I tie up the garment so that it becomes a short dress or skirt instead. Not so good for wrinkles on the fabric in question, but on the other hand very smooth for a ride.” For Hanna, bicycling doesn’t require carrying a change of shoes: “I actually often ride my bike in heels, the heel works as a stop on the pedal and I have to say that it works better than you may think.”
Hanna also has some tips when it comes to headwear and fending off the rain. She recommends the helmet alternative, Hövding, which works as an airbag for your head, which “feels like a nice, sporty accessory.” Hanna also keeps the same plastic bag with her, which she ties onto the saddle when she leaves the bike to deflect the rain. She covers all the bases: “I usually bring a rain poncho, too, like the ones you can buy at amusement parks!”
She insists on a good playlist to accompany you on your ride, but adds an important note: “Just have one headphone in so you can hear what happens around you!”
If you’re all in on bicyclecore…
The first person I turn to for any advice on urban biking is Tiffany Wilkinson, MR’s creative director and most experienced CitiBiker: she’s always commuted via CitiBike, she’s joined protests organized by Street Riders NYC, and she can advise on rides both brief and long.
For those embracing big league bicyclecore, Tiffany recommends the basic Giro helmet: “There’s something ‘90s about it and the sporty style honestly complements a lot of outfits.” She also recommends these cushioned bike shorts by Rapha: “I did a few really long distance rides and cushioned bike shorts are great if you’re out cycling all day. These ones from Rapha have a little chamois pad that adds a little buffer of comfort.”
Feature Image via Everett Collection.