I'm A Fashion Writer Who Bikes To Work — & This Is What I Wear

Emily Ruane

This post was originally published on July 17th, 2019, when commuting to an office on a daily basis was very much the norm. Even though our lifestyles have changed considerably in 2020, we know that a lot of people are getting around by bike these days. Since our Fashion Market Writer’s bike-style tips are still relevant, we’ve simply updated the products discussed below to ensure that everything is in stock. Enjoy!

Disclaimer! I am not an expert biker. I don’t know how to change a tire; I’ve never touched a “fixie”; I just learned about hand signals, and I am probably still doing them wrong. However, I should probably put my feelings of imposter syndrome aside (said every woman at some point in her life), because, despite these shortcomings, I do ride my bike every single day. Mostly because I am convinced it’s the best way to get around. You burn calories without burning fuel, and if you’re biking in a city, you’re probably getting to your destination faster than anyone stuck on the subway or sitting in traffic. As the fashion market editor here on the Shopping team, I’m here to dispel any notion that you have to sacrifice style (if fashion is something you’re passionate about too) if you want to live that cycling life. I wish I had a better reveal here, but the truth is that riding doesn’t affect the way I dress very much. There are things I don’t wear — billowing silk skirts, heels, polyester anything — but for the most part, I dress the way I want and have a few simple hacks and sworn-by pieces to optimize my outfits for safety and practicality.

Helmet!

This list focuses on fashion and is decidedly gear-free, but as a wise woman once told me: it’s not a bike without a helmet. Do not even question the necessity of this life-saving accessory. I actually feel so bad that I am not wearing one in this picture. My current noggin protector is from the brand Thousand, and it’s as good as any. Don’t complain about the cost, either — $89 is a small price to pay for your life. If you’re going to be biking in the city, the best type of helmet — and the one that I have — is a commuter style. They’re more stylish and have less aggressively performance-y bells and whistles, which you don’t really need if you’re not logging 50 miles daily and/or cruising through rocky terrain — and I suspect if you engage in these latter styles of biking, this piece might not be for you. (Although, thank you for reading.) If you need more detail on the different types of helmets, REI has a great primer.

Bike Shorts

Let’s not forget that fashion’s current favorite item has its roots in, um, actual bicycling. The upside of this skintight short’s status as of-the-moment must-have? There are more stylish options that I can count. Woohoo! No more cutting off old tights at the knee to wear underneath skirts as I cycle about. (True story. I am wearing my DIY pair in the photo.) Throw these babies on underneath any skirt or dress, and pro tip: if you’re wearing a fuller volume or a-line style, you can tie it in a knot, or, even more horrifying to bystanders, tuck the bottom of your skirt into your shorts. This might look a little weird, but who cares? No one will notice as you whiz by on your wheelie. (Also, one of the pairs below is more of a basketball short than a bike short. Sorry! I like them so much.)

A Tiny Bag

I was going to speculate that a biking habit helped to streamline my purse contents in order to tote fewer things, but I actually learned that from being older, wiser, and dealing with the frustration that came along with toting around too many things. Nowadays you can find me carrying only the essentials tucked into the smallest crossbody bag I can get away with. Now, you may wonder what happens on the days that larger items are necessary — say, a laptop, lunch, extra shoes, etc. That bring us to …

A Big Bag (That Can Live Inside The Tiny Bag Until You Need It)

Sometimes, when you’re taking the ol’ velo out for a spin, you acquire things: loaves of bread, button-downs from the $20 rack at your local vintage store, street books, etc. While I’m likely to start the day with only a phone, keys, and wallet credit cards secured with a hair tie stuffed into a teeny-weeny crossbody, I always leave a little room for a packable tote or backpack.

Loose Pants

You might think that tight pants are the way to go when biking, as they stay close to your body and won’t get caught in your vehicle’s gears (a serious danger). And for some, this may be preferable (spandex is the racer’s textile of choice for a reason). However, I find tight pants to be constricting while riding — especially this time of year — and I prefer a good, old fashioned pair of loose or wide-leg trousers, which I simply roll up to the knee when I’m riding. (And I mean way up to the knee — you do not want your loosey-goosey pants getting caught in your gears.) Again, I often look insane, but who cares?

A Waterproof Jacket That Covers Your Butt

It’s a dreaded scenario that every biker knows well: rain! Precipitation makes roads slippery and stirs up all of kind of street juice that will splatter your clothing like spin art. I know that carrying around a jacket during the summer feels like torture, but your white dress will thank you if you have this handy when it starts to drizzle.

Shoes That Stay Put

One might think that biking is only safe when you’re sporting a lace-up, closed-toe shoe that will hug your feet and protect them from the elements. And that’s certainly a great shoe to wear while out riding — you will find me in Vans almost every day. However, I’ve also cycled in sandals, loafers, platforms, and as you can see from this photo, clogs. My takeaway? First, you need to see what feels safe and comfortable for you; and second make sure your shoe has a tight upper or a firm buckle. (I.e., avoid slides at all costs.)

As you can see, I’m not reinventing the wheel (zing?) with any of these suggestions — these are just the pieces that I gravitate towards to ensure that my ride is comfortable, stylish, and safe. If you’re an expert biker or fellow helmeted freewheeler who sees some holes in this list, let me know in the comments — I’m always looking for suggestions.

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

More From

  • It’s Time To Take Cole Haan Out Of The Shoe Friend Zone

    It’s true — Cole Haan has been in the shoe friend zone for too long. We’ve associated the 100-year-old footwear company with support, comfort, and reliability instead of alluring sales, disarmingly chic styles, and an impassioned fanbase — that is, until now. After stumbling into its up-to-80%-off event, we unearthed not only a plethora of shockingly stylish shoes but also hundreds of reviews and near-unanimous 5-star ratings. So, we threw one of many attractive sale pairs (the block-heeled Josie Sandal) into a shopping roundup on-site and watched in awe as readers carted it up by the hundreds. On the heels of our realization that Cole Haan is, well, kind of a big deal, we polled fans for some IRL feedback on the brand. As it turns out, we were more than late to this shoe party. Aside from its devoted online following, we found a number of vocal Haan-Heads among our very own ranks here at R29. Experiential Design Director, Monica Herman, got hooked on the classic footwear company as a 23-year-old working at a SoHo gallery: “One of the textile dealers we worked with was very chic and practical…she wore Cole Haan oxfords and I thought that was very cool.” Deputy Beauty Director, Rachel Krause, was drawn to Haan through her mother: “She’s extolled the virtues of Cole Haan pretty much my entire life, which meant nothing to me when I was 16 and wanted to wear nothing but Docs. I wish I’d listened to her sooner.” Krause appreciates that “there’s no obvious branding, the quality is GREAT, especially for the price point, and the sales are even better.” And she’s right, Cole Haan is replete with serious markdowns throughout the seasons — like the current up-to-80%-off summer blowout that first drew us to it. Taking these hot tips from our fellow R29ers along with rave reviews from its online fanbase, we created a guide to the brand’s top ten bestselling styles. It’s clear that Cole Haan has been here all along, so it’s time we take our friendship to the next level. Scroll on to get acquainted with what may possibly be your new dream shoe and join us among the ranks of Haan-Heads for life. DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan GrandPrø Rally Court Sneaker, $130Looking for a street sneaker that costs a little less than the standard $400+ price tag of the minimal European brands? You’ve come to the right place. “I wanted a cute sneaker to wear with jeans and dresses. I don’t think I’m hip enough for the Golden Goose sneaks and also didn’t want to spend that much money,” wrote Erin H. “These are perfect! Super cute and very comfortable. I get a lot of compliments on them.”DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan ZERØGRAND Criss Cross Sandal, ~~$150~~ $29.97R29’s Video Editor, Rissa Papillion, relies on the ZEROGRAND Criss-Cross Sandals in a chic matte-black sheen — they’re a streamlined flatform with a grippy sole and just enough height to be sophisticated. Reader, let me tell you, we absolutely combed the internet for the aforementioned classic colorway and came up short — but a lovely late-summer metallic remains on deck for your buying pleasure. “Not the trendiest shoes,” Papillion admitted, “but they feel like Doc Martens for the workplace.”DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan Mckenna Penny Loafer, $170Papillion also keeps the brand’s Pinch loafers in heavy rotation. “My mom considers them to be a fashion staple, and always has a pair of black and brown Cole Haan loafers in her closet.”DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan GrandPrø Tennis Sneaker, $130“I was researching comfortable/cute sneakers for my honeymoon, knowing I would be walking a lot and landed on Cole Haan sneakers, which have crazy good reviews,” said our Beauty Director, Cat Quinn. “Now, my GrandPro sneakers have been through Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. I always travel in them.”DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan Josie Block Heel Sandal, ~~$150~~ $29.97102 reviewers gave this perfect block-heeled sandal 4.8 stars. “I am buying two other colors,” wrote customer Bamidele A. “This is my 7th shoe from Cole Haan.” June L. confessed that the heels “are so comfortable — I honestly wore them walking around San Francisco the whole day. ADORABLE TOO!!” she added. “I like this sandal, but nowhere to go yet,” admitted Sabine A. “I’ll be ready when everything reopens.”DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan Anica Thong Sandal, ~~$130~~ $39.97These searing pink sandals led customer Yvette T. to caution would-be purchases to “wear [their] sunglasses.” Don’t have to ask us twice! We’re jumping at the chance to wear high-wattage hues these days, and it sounds like we’re not alone. “All I can say is WOW,” said Robin M. “I ordered the hot pink and loved them.” She was one of 211 customers psyched on this style, helping it rack up a total of 4.7 stars.DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan Grand Crosscourt Sneaker, ~~$130~~ $69.95R29’s Beauty Director, Krause, claims that she “gets shin splints just thinking about putting on another pair of heeled boots, so I bought the Crosscourt sneakers and they quickly became a go-to. They’re comfortable enough to stroll around in for hours and go with everything from long dresses to ripped jeans.”“My Cole Haan Crosscourt sneakers are my everything,” Money Diaries Associate Editor, Hannah Rimm, told us. “I’ve had them for years. They’re like a fancy version of Keds and they are very important to me.” Even better, she told us, “they’re a literal godsend for the office. I also don’t really like ‘women’s’ shoes when it comes to formal wear, so I honestly also wear these to parties with a blazer and pants when I have to dress up. They’re comfy, but I also feel fancy when I wear them and they are ridiculously good quality.”DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan Grand Ambition Wedge, ~~$180~~ $39.97This is a supremely comfortable shoe,” reviewer Claudia W. says of the Grand Ambition wedge, which racked up a total of 4.8 stars across 68 reviews. “I prefer all-leather shoes; they’re getting harder to find, but these come close. These wedge pumps are sleek, with a wide enough heel base that makes them sturdy, as well. The 2-inch heel is a perfect height, allowing the heel to rest comfortably without the foot sliding forward into the shoe. The cushioning in the insole extends the entire length of the shoe and is divine.”DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan Avani City Sandal, ~~$150~~ $39.97“My 1 go-to style is the Avani City Sandal,” said Monica Herman, R29’s Design Director. “I love heels, but I don’t wear them because I can’t stand the discomfort. But I wear these. And I can wear them all day. Like, morning to night, taking the subway, the whole thing. I think I have four pairs.”DashDividers_1_500x100 Cole Haan ZERØGRAND Global Double Band Sandal, ~~$130~~ $29.97“I also get a pair of ZeroGrand sandals every two years and wear them as my day-to-day sandal until they fall apart,” devoted Haan-Head Herman added. “They’re absolute gold.”DashDividers_1_500x100At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

  • 12 Instagram Accounts To Follow For The Best Beauty Reels

    Just when we thought we might lose TikTok forever, Instagram rolled out a short-form video competitor that's already changing the way we use the app. With Reels, users can edit snappy, 15-second clips using filters and audio tracks, then share them with users that might not already be following them. With more creativity and discovery available than ever before, influencers are already jumping at the opportunity to share videos — and, according to Instagram, makeup transformations are leading the pack. But we won't leave you to find the breakout stars of the Reels beauty community. From pink hair makeovers to graphic eyes, we're sharing some of our favorite videos and accounts to follow for the best (and shortest) tips and tricks. You'd be surprised at what these beauty enthusiasts can fit into a few seconds. Check them all out, ahead. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

  • Found: The Comfiest Chairs To WFH In

    If your head, shoulders, lower back, and butt aren't currently killing you, then you're probably reading this from the comforts of a supportive seat — and following the uncrossed-legs, 90/90 rule like a posture pro. The transitional road to working remotely has had its bumps, and one that we're currently still navigating is physical body support. To help us win the battle against eventually throwing our backs out while WFH, we went on a virtual quest for the top-rated desk chairs stamped with reviewer-comfort seals of approval. Ahead, the bestselling ergonomic buys that are structured to rescue your tight hips and sore butt bones from their sad sunken-in couch cushions or questionably-old mattress fates. We found everything from the no-frills options that will make you feel like you're back in-office again (seems almost nice at this point, no?) to the fancier styles that will fit right in with your farmhouse decor — and even an insanely tricked out seating situation chosen by hardcore gamers. Welcome to Hype Machine, our hit-list of the top reviewed products across the web — according to a crowd of die-hard shoppers. Call this your 4-star & up only club, with entry granted by our devoted-to-the-goods shop editors. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. The product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?10 Ergonomic Goods That Will Support Your WFH BodyThe Best Eco-Friendly Bedding BrandsDo Posture Correctors Actually Work?

  • 14 Ultra-Comfy Bathrobes Every College Student Needs

    Usually, our back-to-school shopping list consists of statement dresses for that first-day 'fit, cute-but-functional flats for zipping around campus, and book bags big enough to actually fit our laptops. But now, with hundreds of colleges opting for online classes and students suddenly Working From Couch, comfort is king and cozy, everyday loungewear is our new M.O. — especially bathrobes. There's the simple cotton robe you can totally get away with wearing to your 8 a.m. Zoom seminar. There's the plush, pillow-soft option with Kindle-sized pockets for storing all your flash cards. And then there's the long, silky slip-on for the moment you change out of your daytime PJs into your nighttime PJs, of course. Whatever type of bathrobe you're looking to wrap yourself up in this semester, we've rounded up 13 of the best options out there to help you lounge like you mean it. Shop our favorites, ahead. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. The product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?