I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like
November 9, 2017 11:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm a fat woman, and I want to bike to work. I also want to avoid looking too embarrassing during my commute. What should I wear while biking?

I can change into my working clothes once I make it to my office. I just don't know what sort of athletic wear would work best for a woman of my weight. What do you suggest?
posted by meese to Shopping (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Wear whatever's comfortable. Grey sweats? I think "athletic wear" is probably what you want to avoid.

What sort of weather are we talking about?
posted by humboldt32 at 12:03 PM on November 9, 2017

Junonia's website might give you some ideas.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 12:07 PM on November 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

What sort of weather are we talking about?

Oh, good point! Arizona. So, sweats aren't a good option -- it's too warm for that almost all year.
posted by meese at 12:10 PM on November 9, 2017

All over the Netherlands, and in many other parts of Europe, people commute on their bicycles wearing their normal working clothes. They avoid arriving all sweaty by cruising, not racing. Maybe that would work for you, too?
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:12 PM on November 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

I like the approach outlined in this great book. Basically dress for comfort. Depending on the distance of your ride to work you might do just fine in street clothes. On preview, exactly what Too-Ticky says.
posted by machinecraig at 12:13 PM on November 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Try Terry Cycling, they have good quality stuff that's available in plus sizes.

It's not cheap, but it's good and will last a long time with proper care. They sell "liner" shorts with padding that you can wear under skirts or other shorts ... this gives you some padding for the ride but then you can take them off and you're not trapped in diaper-style bike pants all day.
posted by mccxxiii at 12:18 PM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Not to take anything away from suggestions of specific brands, because feeling comfortable is important, but I did want to remind you: you're exercising. You wear exercise wear, regardless of weight. There's nothing "embarrassing" about that. You're allowed to have a body in public. You don't have to earn the right to be out there by hiding yourself.
posted by praemunire at 12:21 PM on November 9, 2017 [36 favorites]

Seconding normal clothes! I bike commute and I wear normal clothes 95% of the time. I see fat women bike commuting in normal clothes as well. Even if you do get sweaty you can just change into another set of clothes once you get to work.

Just don't wear pants that are baggy at the ankle (or if you do, use an ankle strap/bicycle clip or roll up your pant leg) because you don't want to snag them in your chain (if you have a full chain guard on your bike then you don't have to worry about this as much).
Also depending on what your posture is like on your bike you will want to make sure that your shirt is long in the back (or your pants are high), because shirts have a tendency to ride up when you're leaned over biking on most road/mountain/hybrid bikes. I see a lot of butt crack (of all shapes, sizes, and genders) on my commute.

But those are really the only rules for bike clothes: don't get your pants caught in the chain, and try to keep your lower back covered (the last being largely a fashion decision/personal preference unless it's cold weather).

You might want to try something like capri leggings with a short dress/long tunic over top. That would cover all your bases.
posted by mskyle at 12:25 PM on November 9, 2017 [8 favorites]

I've been most comfortable in dark leggings and a short dark skirt, with a hoodie and longsleeve top. It's vaguely athletic without feeling like full-on spandex, and the skirt helps remove any insecurities I might have about wearing leggings as pants. Merino wool blends are my friend (even when it's warm!), and Icebreaker makes both t-shirts and longsleeve shirts that I've enjoyed wearing; they've got scoopnecks and crew necks, which I appreciate. A few years back, I also picked up some affordable merino wool blend leggings at Costco that have been useful.
posted by redsparkler at 12:31 PM on November 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

Welcome to best commute!

I am a fat middle aged lady who bikes to work in lots of different weather. When it's not screaming hot I just wear my work clothes. But if it is, I wear either a clean tshirt or workout shirt for the ride (I go to places like TJ Maxx for cheaper performance fabric in larger sizes).

In the past I would often wear dresses, and I always had shorts on underneath anyway to prevent chafing, but they also helped with bike modest and comfort. If you choose pants just make sure any pants you choose won't get stuck in your chain (or you have cuff container of some kind).
posted by ldthomps at 12:36 PM on November 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

The search term you want is "bike liner shorts", which can go under your work clothes or whatever non-spandex workout wear you would otherwise be riding in.
posted by Flannery Culp at 12:38 PM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I’m a woman of average-to-mildly-overweight size and I bike to work. I wear stretchy pants (typically capris), a long workout shirt that covers part of my butt, and typically a long-sleeve something if it’s cooler.

One thing to consider - when I get dressed for work, I basically choose business-casual-conformity-uniform clothes - nothing too outlandish, because I want people to think of my work before my clothes/body. When I dress for my commute, I want EVERYONE to notice me. At night I literally put a neon-glowy color-changing light vest on for visibility. This is difficult and was tough for me to wrap my head around - it’s not what I normally would ever want, and normal me thinks that’s embarrassing!! But on my commute, I become Bike Commuter Me. Bike Commuter Me acts like she owns the road and wants EVERYONE to see her and NOT hit her with their car. Bike Commuter Me wears a flashing neon vest with pride. Bike Commuter Me gives no Fs what someone thinks of her legs in yoga pants as long as they keep their distance.

It’s great! Learning about Bike Commuter Me has been genuinely extremely empowering. I only started biking in April and wish I’d started it sooner.
posted by samthemander at 12:44 PM on November 9, 2017 [19 favorites]

Do not wear v-necks.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:45 PM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

as an aside, i assume you're already wearing daily sunblock on your face in AZ but if you're biking every day you might want to add extra to places that will get more daily exposure, like the back of your neck, etc.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:55 PM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Depending on the distance, I'd really recommend padded bike shorts. They make a world of difference in terms of comfort.
posted by lilies.lilies at 3:31 PM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just a note, because a lot of people seem not to know: you are not supposed to wear underwear under bike shorts. It defeats the purpose.
posted by klanawa at 4:02 PM on November 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm a fat woman (2X/18-20) who bikes. If I'm riding less than ~5 miles and the weather isn't ridiculously hot, I just wear my usual daily clothes. If the weather's hot, I'll switch to normal workout clothes. If the ride is long, I'll wear bike shorts, bike skorts, or bike capris, and a weather-appropriate bike or workout top.

Some excellent brands with great plus-sized bike and workout gear: Terry Bicycles (esp. for the bike bottoms), Columbia, Nike, Lucy. Between Zappos and REI, you can find them all online, and often at reasonable prices (especially with annual sales coming up). Don't try going to an REI store, though--most of them don't carry the plus sizes in-store.

Normal clothes are pretty easy to bike in as long as your bike isn't the aggressively road racy type, and you have a saddle that's intended for anything other than racing (I looooove my Brooks, but there are many other commuting/cruising/touring saddles out there).

As for bike clothes: I don't want to dismiss your feelings about how you look while riding, because I've been there and I know they're not easy to get past. But at a certain point I just decided that I cared more about being comfortable and enjoying myself on the bike than I cared about how I looked, and embraced the bikewear. I do still make some concessions to vanity: I tend to prefer bike skorts if I'm going to be making stops off the bike, because the skirt covers the bits the bike shorts cling far too closely to. I prefer bike jerseys in slightly thicker material (especially merino wool!) for similar reasons. And I do still experience a lot of frustration around how challenging it can be to find women's-cut bike clothes in my size, though it's better now than it ever has been. But overall I am so much happier on my bike, and so much more comfortable riding it every day, now that I'm willing to wear what makes me the most comfortable.
posted by rhiannonstone at 6:18 PM on November 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

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