Rookie Commuter: Clothing, or lack thereof…

Biking, like most other activities, requires clothing. And when biking, like going out to a nice dinner, the challenge is to look nice, but not over or under dressed. In Boulder, where I closely observe the biking population, the most common outfit is the combination of a tight shirt and tighter shorts with a built in diaper. Or at least what appears to be a diaper. Others don t-shirts and cargo shorts, exuding a vibe of nonchalance. For me, like when going out to a nice dinner, I gravely miss the boat on what is appropriate to wear.

I realized this while biking and feeling a breeze where I shouldn’t have– a breeze I enjoyed while jaunting down a nude beach outside San Francisco, gardening naked in the backyard of my childhood home, and sprawling on my bed in the buff, a ceiling fan blasting me to combat the humid, East Coast summer nights. But now I was having a similar sensation on my bike–in public.

I have referenced, perhaps more often than is necessary, the receding inseam of my shorts. The first column I wrote for BikeLife mentioned my boss’s displeasure at the percentage of my leg she could see. Since then, subtle comments have been made about the amount of thigh I expose to the world. Well, my dear readers, or more realistically, mom, it is time to tackle this topic head on.


Look at that pectoral development, even at such an early age! No wonder I was all about taking my shirt off.

I’ve always had an adverse reaction to clothing. As a kid, I spent the majority of my time sporting nothing but a crisp pair of briefs.  Briefs that changed throughout the day as I left pairs lying around the house and, coming across a different set, would say “Oh, underpants,” drop the ones I was wearing, and strut away in the fresh undies.

Not only would I march around my house in underwear, but would quickly discard my pants at friends’ houses as well.  When told about this phenomenon, my mom made a rule that I had to ask before dropping trou.  So the first thing I said upon entering a new house was “Hi there, my name is Tim.  Can I take off my pants?”

This is a fine habit for a little kid, or even a preteen. But as preteen turns into teen, and the aging process continues, social norms dictate a certain level of clothing is necessary for public engagement. I, however, ignored these norms.

It started by taking my shirt off when it was hot outside, and then when it was a little warm, and then whenever I could, all year round. Next were my shoes, only wearing them to walk into stores and pulling them off again when back outside. And finally shorts that started below my knees, and are now running up my thighs.


Could it be borderline indecent? Probably. But holy cow, do I enjoy that thigh breeze.

I thought, despite hanging out naked in private, it wouldn’t affect how I acted publicly. But once you spend significant time in your birthday suit, nudity doesn’t seem like a big deal. Not only that, but it’s preferable– the breeze and the sunshine hitting areas not normally accessible.  “Hold on, how do you not have tan lines?” A friend asked after seeing me change last year. “Seriously, why don’t you have any tan lines?”

By now, you’re asking, “What in the world does this affinity for nudity have to do with biking? And why am I still reading this?”

Remember the paragraph with the strange breeze my shorts were allowing? What I hadn’t mentioned yet was after feeling that breeze, I looked down, and saw my buttcheek peeking out into a world it’s supposed to be invisible to.

There are two reactions to seeing your buttocks exposed to the world while biking. One is to never put yourself in that situation again. In this case, that meant throwing away the shorts causing the butt-peek. But there’s a second option. And because I worded it like that, I’m sure you figured out, this is the one I chose.

After making sure it isn’t illegal to show such an extreme amount of leg, I embraced it. After all, women’s bathing suits are flirting with nudity, so why can’t I? And also, with global warming making things, well, warmer, I might as well get ahead of the curve since we’ll all be removing layers over the coming decades.

When commuting, every cyclist has to decide what to wear on their journey from work, to the store, to the gym, then back to the store, because your wife told you to get organic strawberries and you accidentally got watermelon. There are many options for outfits, and they often depend on the weather. For me, in summer, I won’t be sporting a spandex combo. I’ll be embracing my inner nudist, or getting as close as I legally can.

Becca Heaton

Becca Heaton is the program coordinator and editor for BikeLife Cities' city magazines and website. An avid cyclist, Becca is "embarrassed" to share that she has 5 different bikes... and she rides them all!

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