Even the ubiquitous fluorescent jacket has been made obsolete by understated tops featuring new generation reflective piping – subtle by day, glaringly bright at night. And forget that grotty, overstuffed rucksack – the polished pedaller now has a choice of designer panniers as pricey as a posh handbag.
Though it’s tedious to keep up with trends – as well as the slightly fitter guy in front – it’s worth remembering bikes have long created forward motion in fashion, liberating women along the way. We have cycling to thank for one of the most fundamental style developments of the past 100 years – our freedom to don trousers.
It all began in the 1800s, when the first women’s bikes – not unlike the Pashley, currently the hottest model in town – hit the streets. Their arrival was accompanied by a raft of scare-stories highlighting ladies’ unsuitability to take part in physical exercise – not least because their billowing skirts could catch in wheels and cause unthinkable accidents.
The early ladies “bicycle costume”, all the rage in 1894, was the practical response to such hysteria. More of a split skirt whose hems were held in place with clips, resulting in an Ali Baba pantaloon, this bifurated dress soon morphed into full-blown bloomers – so much more suitable for vigorous pedalling and a forerunner of the modern trouser. Victorian society was scandalised – always a good sign – but the girls kept up the pedal power and changed the face of fashion in the process.
What would those feisty Victorians make of this latest crop of accessories? Bright silk cycling caps, reflective studded cuffs like ethnic bangles, flower-embossed helmets and silver satchels are just some of the items now available to buy.
As a dedicated two-wheeled Londoner, it’s a style revolution that hasn’t come a moment too soon. Now, where’s my sweaty T-shirt?
Where to buy cycling gear for girls
Cyclodelic for Topshop
Selling reflective cuffs, capes, headscarves and bra-bags — handmade in London.
Where: Topshop, Oxford Circus, W1, 08448 487 487, http://www.cyclodelic.co.uk/ cyclodelic.wordpress.com
CycleChic hunts out the trendiest new designs and sells them online.
Where: 020 7613 7316, http://www.cyclechic.co.uk and coming soon to Paper Dress, 114-116 Curtain Road, EC2.
A women’s-specific cycling shop, selling bikes, accessories and sporty clothing.
Where: 19 Abingdon Road, W8, 020 7376 2225.
Dutch bikes, clothing and accessories. Check the Miss Bobbin reflective sash (£20).
Where: 19 Arlington Way, EC1, 020 7837 3370, http://www.bobbinbicycles.co.uk
The answer for helmet-phobic women. Pretty floral designs and pastel colours.
Where: http://www.cyclefashion.co.uk, and at CycleChic and Bobbin Bicycles (as above)