By Tara McKee
Women’s cycling has seen resurgence over the past two decades and as a result, bicycle companies began making women’s specific saddles and bicycle frames. The shift was also made from women’s bikes only being offered in aluminum frames with low grade components to women’s specific road and mountain bikes with full carbon fiber frames and premium component groups. Cycling clothing for women saw similar progress over the past few years with women’s clothing growing far beyond the designated half of a clothing rack in the back of the bike shop as more brands began to cater to women. As more women started cycling, they looked for clothing that was functional, yet flattering and feminine. Most didn’t want to look like “just one of the guys” and one way to really stand out was to ride wearing a skirt.
About a decade ago, Terry, a women’s cycling clothing company, offered their first women’s cycling-specific skorts, a skirt with built-in cycling shorts. Terry’s skorts quickly became popular. About that same time, triathlete Nicole de Boom made a sensation when she wore a skirt she’d made herself as she crossed the finish line in an Ironman. She soon started Skirt Sports, which made running skirts and later added cycling skirts, because as she said, “I was tired of wearing high performance products that weren’t cute or inspiring,” and many women agreed with her.
Skorts were especially popular with women who were new to the sport and felt self conscious in padded Lycra shorts or for those who just loved the look. Skirts look great on all sizes of women and several brands such as Terry or Canari offer a variety of hard-to-find plus sizes (up to 4XL and 5XL) so all women can get out and ride. Skirted riders aren’t just seen on the bike path, they are riding in century rides, and on mountain bike trails. Women are racing in them as well. The Dirt Divas out of North Carolina are one such team that race in cycling skorts. Mountain bike pro Timari Pruis even placed in a 24-Hour endurance ride while wearing skorts. Women wearing skirts are seen in many Cyclocross races as well.
Skorts and cycling skirts are evolving and options vary from high performance wear to cycling skirts and even dresses that appeal to urban cyclists. When shopping for skirts, look for the details. Skorts come with plenty of options such as pockets, reflective visibility touches, UV protecting fabric or fabric that offers enhanced cooling. The thickness and quality of the chamois padding will vary, so make sure it is appropriate for your type of riding. Often the shorts in skorts are fairly short, so make sure the elastic leg grippers fit well and will not ride up.
Skorts: These skirts are a 2 in 1 style. Usually, it’s padded cycling shorts with a skirt over the top. Many brands only offer skorts with entry-level chamois, making them more appropriate for short rides, recreational rides or spin class. High performance options in skorts are often found with premium brands. Skorts for the triathlete will offer minimal padding and quick drying fabric. The shorts under the skirt can vary in length, with variety of options from very short to capri-length and full tight length. Brands that offer Skorts: Terry, Skirt Sports, Novara, Louis Garneau, Castelli, ZOIC, Sugoi, Sheila Moon, Canari, and GORE, among others.
Après Ride Skirts: It is one thing to be wearing cycling shorts on a ride surrounded by ten other similarly clad cyclists. It’s quite another to be walking through the grocery store carrying a shopping basket to pick up “just a few things for dinner” wearing your padded bike shorts. So having something that you can literally pull out of your back jersey pocket to cover up a bit more is becoming more popular. Such light-weight skirts aren’t necessarily meant to be riding skirts, but are the cycling equivalent of a beach wrap. Such skirts may be the wrap style or an elasticized pull-on style that are worn over shorts. Some women like to wear these skirts over skimpy tri shorts during the run portion of a triathlon. Brands: Cycle Skirt, Terry, Skirt Sports, and Sweet Spot Skirts.
Bike Tunics: Tunics are extra long jerseys which neatly cover the hips and butt. It looks great paired with tights, knickers or shorts. Some tunics have gathered ruching on the side allowing the wearer to adjust its length. Tunics are especially popular with touring cyclists, as well as century riders. Brands that offer Bike Tunics: Terry makes a wide variety of tunics, including one that resembles an extra-long sweatshirt, but some beautifully unique tunics can be found on Etsy as well.
Cycling Dresses: Longer than a tunic, these definitely look like dresses. Castelli and Pearl Izumi offer cycling dresses with a sleek look that appeals to road cyclists. San Francisco-based Sheila Moon creates cycling dresses with unique patterned fabrics and pairs them with lace tipped white bicycle shorts that definitely stand out in a crowd. Seattle-based Telaio can hardly keep up with the orders for its new 365 cycling dress, beautifully made of merino wool with a slight amount of stretch. This sleeveless black dress has an Audrey Hepburn style that appeals to the fashionable urban cyclist.
Women are taking up cycling and deciding to be athletic in their own unique way. Some men may think that women are wearing skirts just to look pretty, but it’s so much more than that. Skirts are a fashionable option that entice even more women to the sport and help them feel more comfortable doing something that seems intimidating at first. Looking good while on the bike gives many women the confidence to take on new challenges: riding farther, learning new technical skills, climbing those big hills, and making new friends.