Want to ride your bike to work this summer but don't want to change outfits once you hit the office? And don't want to rock the full-body Spandex look at the morning meeting (thereby burning unnecessary information into your colleagues' cortexes forever)? Here are some two-wheeler tips for pedalling with panache.
You should be charging for that
Ladies, it's a mode of transport, not a free show. First order of business? Keep the business under wraps. "I always wear shorts under my little dresses," says Toronto fashion writer Sarah Nicole Prickett, "and don't wear a really loose shirt because you're leaning over. I never really notice the reaction, but my boyfriend always says: 'That guy owes me a beer.' " If you find biking shorts too bulky, go for black short-style Spanx, which are sleeker and have the added bonus of their inherent spanxiness. If you want to wear a blousy top, layer it over a thin tank.
It's in the bag
Cyclists of both genders have to pack the right bag for trouble-free biking. A sack with a strap long enough to go across your body is a must or else your top-secret files will be spilled all over the street when your bag inevitably slips off your shoulder. Alternately, "it's a knapsack or nothing," says avid biker and Holt Renfrew creative director John Gerhardt. Backpacks aren't just for the school set any more. Mr. Gerhardt sports a high-fashion version from Comme des Garçons, but you can also pick up grownup options at such places as Roots and Danier. The final frontier? You can attach a basket to your bike and dump your bag in there. With back-mounted baskets, however, be wary of sticky fingers when you're stopped at a red.
Put your foot down
Can you ride in heels? Yes. The secret is to hook the heel over the pedal. But if you have to make a sudden stop, you can say goodbye to your pristine spikes. A better bet is a wedge. Even better? A wedge that has a rubberized bottom for extra grip – smooth soles can slip.
Keep it slim
Unsecured trouser legs, billowy skirts and bike gears just don't get along. "You have to have a skinny pant, or roll it up," says Mr. Gerhardt. "I have a Velcro fluorescent thing I put on." Extra long skirts are also a hazard. "You always see Copenhagen street-style shots with their maxi dresses blowing in the wind," says Ms. Prickett. "In my mind it's just this cartoon disaster – you're doing somersaults and your skirt comes off and you're just in an American Apparel bodysuit. When I do wear long things, they tend to be more like jersey as opposed to a loose, billowy fabric so I can just tie it up."
Do it with attitude
It's your supreme confidence that makes stylish cycling work (even when it shouldn't.) "I'm in a suit most of the time," says Mr. Gerhardt. "I like the contradiction. I fell in love with those images of people biking in Europe dressed up when I was young, there's such a romance to it. When I first got my bike, I said to my partner, either I look completely weird or I look like I'm ready for a shout-out from the Sartorialist. Don't overthink it. Just unbutton your top button, loosen your tie, open your jacket and go."
On sweltering summer days, you may find yourself rather fragrant and wilted upon arrival. Keep a stick of deodorant and a washcloth for brow-patting in your desk, as well as an emergency shirt – just in case. And be sure to address your helmet head – fluff, tousle and reapply hair product as required.
* And don't do this: Wear a pencil skirt. It's a war between you and your skirt, and the skirt will win.