Fashion: Exposed to the elements

With half the year spent in the deep freeze, you can still look cool on a bike

  • Cycling in the winter isn’t as zany as you think, provided you wear the right clothing. – Jordan Janisse

It seems that cycling is no longer restricted to just the hyper-athletic or low-income factions of society. It has, in recent years, been appropriated as the transportation of choice by the young, hip intelligentsia - much to the chagrin of those who “got there first.”

But, look on the bright side: there are worse trends than that easy-on-the-wallet, park-it-anywhere, eco-friendly, heart-happy workout.

And with the trend rose a now ubiquitous cycle fashion, complete with bells and whistles and front baskets to boot. Though, as to be expected, not everyone has so wholeheartedly embraced it - dissonance exists between various cycling schools of philosophy on the merit of cycle couture.

So, as the battle of fashion versus function rages on, enjoy a sampling of each for the bitter months to come:

The Grip

Necessity: As temperatures drop, heat escapes at lightening speed from vulnerable phalanges; invest in a pair of gloves.

Fashion: Options here are endless. When in doubt, go for leather. It looks great and keeps warm. Thrift yourself a pair of vintage leather motorcycle gloves. If that’s not your speed, channel Cruella with long gloves. Looking for a DIY project? Knit yourself a pair of mittens.

Function: Common sense would dictate that any sturdy pair of cold weather gloves would work, though ones that are finger-separated, insulated and equipped with good grip are ideal.

The Legs

Necessity: Jokes abound on the Internet poking fun at cycling hipsters in skinny jeans, but to anyone who has ever had their pant leg caught in a chain - the threat is very real.

Fashion: Pretty obvious here - stick to pants with a tighter fit or roll up a leg. Girls are afforded more options in the forms of leggings, skirts or dresses with close-fitting tights beneath.

Function: “Instead of rolling up a pant leg (when riding without cold weather tights), I use ski straps to prevent catching my pant legs,” says Joshua Boulding of the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association Ice Riders.

The Heat

Necessity: Both fashion and function necessitate layers as the last dregs of summer fall from the trees.

Fashion: True personal style comes out in the creative ways we keep warm. “All wool all the time,” says Ice Rider Brandon Bertram. Knitwear is a popular choice come fall, as are scarves, leg warmers, thigh high socks, and doubling up on the good stuff: sweaters, pants, socks and tights.

Function: Practical winter cyclists avoid cotton scarves and neckwarmers, which get wet with condensation and freeze. Instead, they bulk on thermal neckwear, wind resistant coats, and sometimes ski pants and jumpers.


Necessity: When commuting, storage is always an issue - much to the dismay of your back and shoulders.

Fashion:  Shoulder bags reduce the amount of visible back sweat, desirable to pretty much anyone who experiences social discomfort. Like their backpack counterparts, they are available in a variety of cuts and styles. However, any stylish decision made now will invariably resurface in shoulder/back pain over time.

Function: For even weight distribution, you really can’t beat panniers. You just can’t.  They’re functional, waterproof and they save on chiropractic bills some 40 years down the road.

Published in Volume 66, Number 9 of The Uniter (October 26, 2011)

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