Shut up about biking in heels

Dear femme-friendly bike enthusiasts who want to see more women on bikes,PIC-0182


If we’re going to talk about women on bikes – women who ride, women who want to ride, what they like, what holds them back – can we stop talking about biking in heels and get real about practical, enjoyable biking? Any woman who enjoys biking in heels is a slave to fashion – WHICH IS FINE, OK – but that has almost nothing to do with riding bikes except that there is some weird obsession with asserting fashion over real enjoyment, not to mention practicality. No woman can tell you heels are comfortable. One might say that she enjoys wearing them, and that’s valid, but heels are not comfortable.

PIC-0181Enough about the heels, though, really. I’m filing my grievance with all these discussions, articles and workshops on biking in heels. Why don’t you talk about fixing a fucking flat if you want to enable and empower a person? What, women don’t care about fixing things? What, it’s OK, they’ll just get someone else to do it? What about when that woman isn’t with or near someone who can help them if one of her bike’s tires goes flat? What then? Will she be stuck high-heeling down the sidewalk with her unfixable flat? 

Of all the precious attention afforded women on bikes, how high on the priority scale is biking in heels to actually improving riding for women?? Stop it already and please talk about stuff like becoming self-sufficient, valuable resources for women like ladies nights at co-ops and women’s riding groups and helpful tips like carrying useful and portable layers, things that make rides easier or more enjoyable (saddle adjustments, anyone), developing environmental awareness, carrying things by bike, finding confidence in traffic, handling intimidation from drivers, experiencing sexual harassment on the street, pairing public transportation with biking, nutritional needs for women who ride. Even dressing for work and riding would be a relevant discussion, but you still won’t hear me saying I ride to the office in heels.

1795639_10152935906227281_2011289981_nThat said, I look forward to constructive conversations that help women bike more and enjoy biking more, and hopefully the #Womentalkbikes conversation on Bike Talk/KPFK next week will focus on more constructive issues.       Heels be damned.

Kristas Fixie

p.s. Riding in heels is actually easier than walking in them. So there. 


20 thoughts on “Shut up about biking in heels

    • Ugh, no kidding. As long as we’re not demanding that women ride in heels if they don’t want to (which I don’t think anyone is), what’s wrong with talking about it? There is nothing wrong with being feminine, just like there’s nothing wrong with not being feminine. And is it so impossible to imagine that a lot of women who ride in heels also know how to fix a flat, pick the right saddle, adjust a derailleur etc? I’m one of those and I know many others. Getting more women on bikes is all that matters, and if talking about heels does that, it’s a good thing.

      • I disagree and think it does hurt the discourse by a) accepting a false status quo that women must be dressed in heels to perform their job, and b) that there aren’t more important needs to be addressed, and c) reinforces false priorities about what should be important to women (fashion, presentation, sexuality). It’s simply the fact that this topic is given higher priority than more useful things…like I said before, if you can walk in them, you can ride in them. I don’t think heels are honestly the thing that is going to make the difference of whether a person bikes or not.

      • Agree! Not everyone has the same approach to or reason for biking.
        Krista, I think I understand what you’re trying to get at : don’t let the topic of heels overshadow important subjects regarding women and cycling. But talking about what people are wearing while riding is not necessarily taking away from other conversations about cycling – it might actually open those discussions. If the goal is to bring more awareness to women biking and get more women biking, you shouldn’t exclude some people’s interests just because you deem them unimportant or frivolous.

  1. Pingback: Bike Fashion Backlash and Why I Bike in Heels | Bike Pretty

  2. Since I’m ideologically opposed to the premise of this post, I found myself typing up the longest comment ever. Then I realized I should just post my response on my own blog:

    There are a lot of great suggestions here for future blog posts, but the “experiencing sexual harassment on the street” bit seems weird to me.

    I mean, I avoid so much more sexual harassment by biking instead of walking. That’s a nice side benefit. But it’s not my responsibility to avoid harassment.

  3. Surely the discussion surrounding biking in heels is about normalising riding a bike? Having gone #carfree some time ago, I do ride my bike to the office or whatever I’m doing that day. Sometimes I’m in heels, other times I’m not. I wear whatever I fancy for the day and don’t require cycling specific clothing.

  4. When I hear this topic talked about most, it’s for advocacy reasons. That is, it breaks through another excuse people may have for not biking to work: a notion that you can’t bike wearing work-appropriate clothes. Don’t forget, men wear heels too—sometimes on fancy work shoes but sometimes not. An ex-coworker of mine enjoys biking around Portland in her cowboy boots quite frequently, which are also heels. Portlanders don’t dress very fancily in general so we don’t talk that often about biking in heels. Perhaps there are more image fiends in LA so you hear about it ad nauseum?

  5. You abandoned friends and family to dedicate your entire LIFE to something as frivilous, elite and esoteric as BIKE POLO and you have the audacity to condemn women who want to talk about biking in heels for five minutes? Also, who are you to dictate women’s conversations? All you hipsters think you are so open minded, but here you go telling other women to shut the fuck up. Oh and I’m sure that nose ring is really comfortable and doesn’t make you a cliched slave to counterculture fashion at all.

    • Rather than fall into this person’s trollish trap, I would just like to observe that the above comment is super mean and negative. It told me more about the person writing it than they probably realize or intended, and arguably contributed nothing to the discussion.

  6. Really though: it’s akin to that whole thing when Hillary Clinton was running for president. The media was SO concerned about her appearance (pantsuit vs skirt?!) they often neglected to even discuss her politics. They were so concerned with her looks that her ability to deal with real issues was kind of lost in the fluff.

    I too am tired of hearing this topic be at the forefront of REAL social change for women cyclists. Wear whatever you want, duh. Let’s have real discussions about things that matter and build a community of empowered and autonomous women cyclists!

  7. I see what you are getting at, but if talking about biking in heels gets more women biking in the first place, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. A lot of women are turned off from biking because they think it’s this sweaty, unfeminine thing that’s going to mess up their hair and make them stink all day. Once we get them past that, then maybe we can move on to these things of bigger substance. Personally, I’m all for anything that gets more people out of cars and onto bikes.

    Myself, I would just like to figure out how to bike more with two kids. I wish I could bike to work, but so far the closest I can get is driving my kids to school / daycare with my bike on the bike rack, then parking and riding from there. Sigh.

      • I would really like a cargo bike, but it’s still not practical when it’s -11 degrees and I have to get my 18 month old to my daycare providers house 9 miles from my house. After I take my son to school at 7:35, that is. And I have to be to work (which is about 2 miles from my daycare provider’s house, which is 9 miles from my son’s school) at 8:15. The timing just doesn’t work out, I’m afraid.

  8. I appreciate everyone’s insight, really I do. I wasn’t about to say nice things about how I wish we could talk about other things however, because promoting biking in heels as a top priority seems to uphold an oppressive status quo (no, you really don’t have to work in heels, no matter how “professional” your job is) and belittle women by assuming that this is a top priority. Confession: I like fashion too. I’ve soaked up the pages of Harper’s Bazaar and Elle for half my lifetime, and Nylon and Refinery 29 are in my FB feed. On the subject of biking, however, I’d like to bestow my fellow female cyclists with a little more respect than that, and assume they can figure out how to bike in heels without anyone’s help. There’s certainly more important things to talk about. Certainly. I don’t feel bad about calling people out for this, and no, I’m really not that narrow-minded, I’m just not afraid to speak my mind.

    Gamer Gal Felicia Day recently came under heat from fans for cutting her hair off – – this is the same issue; I’m with Day, I’m over the status quo of objectification.

    • I don’t know, why not extend the same respect and assume that women can also google their own group rides, flat fixing instructions, local bike shops, saddle adjustment tips, etc.?

      If you’re tired of heels dominating a conversation, start pumping out content that shows another point of view. Then you can tip the balance.

      Here are some ideas: link to a post about female anatomy and the saddle. Promote a scheduled group ride on your blog. Write about your own experience with harassment and how you handled it.

      It’s pretty clear that complaining about heels + bikes imagery actually galvanized a community of people that don’t want to be told what to wear and how to ride. So…thanks?

  9. Coming in a bit late on this conversation….are there really actual *workshops* about cycling in heels, with attendant droves of women signing up in earnest? Where? Can we see a link? Ditto any super-serious articles on the subject? Yes, there are some great bike fashion blogs out there, particularly BikePretty, but do you really think that these blogs and the women who author them are coming from a place where they propone the wearing of heels and stylish apparel on a bike as *the utmost important thing, in life, ever* ? Obviously it’s about highlighting one aspect of an emerging bike culture, just like other blogs, articles, workshops, etc – many more than on bike fashion, one could easily argue- talk about frame geometry or essential maintenance. Somehow it would seem that a mountain is being made out of the proverbial mole hill here – replete with a flagrant use of expletives and some rather misplaced anger/energy towards fellow women.

    But why am I even bothering to comment? The majority above have already expressed a similar dissent, and with eloquence, too. I agree with @Zoe above: “Getting more women on bikes is all that matters, and if talking about heels does that, it’s a good thing.”

  10. Coming in wayyy late…..

    I love biking in heels! and I love wearing skirts and dresses while biking in heels because these are the types of clothes and shoes I would wear anyway. I don’t like cycling gear because I don’t think you need to change what you wear to get on a bike and wearing your normal clothes is even more empowering that putting on cycle gear, because you are saying I can do what you are doing while wearing what I want.

    Wearing heels is a joy not a “status quo” and talking about not talking about heels is pointless because so many women love to dress up in heels, this being obvious by the fact that so many women are talking about biking in heels.

    Telling us to “shut up about biking in heels” doesn’t advance women getting on bikes because by saying that you are isolating a portion of women like me who love biking in heels. Also talking about heels is not ” false priorities about what should be important to women ” because heels are important to women otherwise heels would not be in the conversation.

    What I’m saying is just because you many not like biking in heels or feel uncomfortable or scared to do it, it doesn’t mean that biking in heels is bad or evil. And like you said “Riding in heels is actually easier than walking in them.” I completely agree and biking allows me to wear my more daring heels 🙂

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