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Ditch the spandex for new commuter clothes

05/14/2013 9:17 AM

05/16/2013 2:02 PM

Johnny Woodside’s cycling clothes are almost as cool as his name. The 30-year-old Minneapolis hydrogeologist dons flannel shirts and Red Wing boots, and has a tapered mustache. Forget the blinding neon spandex get-up.

“The last thing I want to do is walk into the bar and hear, ‘Lance Armstrong’s here!’” said Woodside, who bikes to work, to happy hour and everywhere in between.

As more people trade four wheels for two, retailers are courting bike lovers by tapping into the cycling lifestyle.

Until recently, commuting to work often meant packing an extra set of clothes and announcing your arrival at the office in an outfit of unflattering spandex and clickety-clack cycling shoes.

“There hasn’t been a lot of gear out there that you can wear comfortably in the office,” said Greg Kurowski, who commutes 25 miles from Victoria, Minn., to downtown Minneapolis several days a week. The president and CEO of Periscope advertising agency said he’s had to wear his racing gear on hot days.

“Now, there are cycling-specific technical clothes that breathe better, wick moisture — they don’t look like normal cycling clothes,” Morrison said. “You can wear this stuff to the office and it’s making commuting by bike a lot more feasible.”

But commuter-friendly clothing isn’t cheap. The pants in the Levi’s commuter line ($78) are water- and odor-resistant, and feature reflective tape on the cuffs and a loop for a bike lock at the waistband. A Lands’ End bike blazer ($250) also has reflective tape, hidden pockets and a spot for earbuds. But mostly, it just looks like a stylish sport coat.

When Lisa Austin started biking frequently in the early ’90s, she recalls having zero options for women’s bike clothes. Not even a Lycra jersey. Now the options are wide open.

“It’s refreshing to see people biking and wearing anything they want,” she said.

For her that means skirts — and even heels.

“They’re totally easy to ride in,” Austin said.

Blogs such as San Francisco-based Bike Pretty inspire people to, well, ride a bike and look pretty. Blog entries include: “How to ride in a maxi skirt” and “How to dominate hills in a dress.”

Zachariah Schaap ascribes to a larger movement called “cycle chic,” which refers to cycling in everyday fashionable clothes. Schaap says cycling in streetwear requires no more effort than any other commute in temperamental weather — and provides much more of a payoff.

“Being stuck in a car during rush hour is the bane of my existence,” he said. “I’d much rather look fancy on my bike.”

Tips for biking in style

Wear a skirt: You can do it without flashing people. A-line or wider styles work best. Equip your bike with a skirt guard or fashion a garter out of a headband and safety pin. Skirt weights keep hems in check.

Wear heels: Pedaling in heels is easier than walking in them. Just make sure they fit properly.

Suit up: Invest in a pannier bag made to carry a suit without wrinkling it.

Stay dry: Invest in fenders if you commute year-round.

Safety first: Always wear a helmet, plus reflective tape and lights.

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