Friday, August 13, 2010

No stupid questions

You know the truisim "there's no such thing as a stupid question?"
But a question, actually the SAME question, can be condescending, or really seeking answers.  My day yesterday was bracketed by the question "How do you bike in those heels"?

The first asker,  a mid 40's looking guy in spandex kit and clipless pedals, pulled up next to me at a light and said 
"How do you manage to bike in those heels- it looks really hard"  Kind of like the famous " a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

I turned, a bit flummoxed, and retorted, "well, I keep the balls of my feet over the pedals, which, last time I checked is how it should be done.  "Besides, it's easier than dealing with  clipless, pedals,  believe me, I've tried them both," and I rode off.

At the end of the day I was making a second visit to the farmer's market (forgot the egg share!) and a young lady asked "How do you manage to ride in a dress and heels?- I feel like I can only ride my bike to work when I'm wearing pants"  Same question,  vastly different attitude.  
So I gave her a better answer.  I told her that it helps to have a step through frame bike because the skirt can lay flatter, and it's easier to get on and off gracefully (I know it's not technically necessary- see Charlotte's great tutorial on ladylike dismounts from a diamond frame).  I shared that I don't ride in super fancy heels, because I don't want to care if damage them, but mostly if you're in the right foot position, the heels aren't really an issue. Sometimes I use them to "catch" the pedal and pull it into position at stops.  She said she'd considered using bike shorts under her skirt. I told her that that I find it helpful to test ride skirts, and if they seem too billowy, try a lightweight pair of cotton workout shorts.

Same words, completely different question being asked.  And completely different answer.


  1. I find it easier to understand how women can ride in heels than how you can walk in them. But then, I order my own shoes from uniform suppliers for postal workers because the shoes I find in the shoe stores are all garbage.

  2. Needless to say, walking in heels would be something I would be unable to do. Crawling maybe, but functionally it would seem to be much easier that walking(I won't tell you the story of how I know, something about Imelda).

  3. I wear my really killer heels much more now that I cycle and don't walk as much. They often have a more delicate sole than other shoes which actually makes them quite easy to cycle in.

    I was recently picking something up at a shop here that specializes entirely in city bikes -- they carry nothing but bicycles for transport. A nice woman in her late forties or early fifties, dressed in a knee length a-line skirt suit and kitten heels, was asking me about my bike etc. and the bikes in the shop while the salesperson finished up with someone else. She asked a ton of questions and then the store owner offered her the opportunity, of course, to test a lot of bicycles and she said she'd return in her exercise clothes. It was pretty interesting to me that this woman had found her way to a fairly niche shop specializing in just the kind of bikes that require no specialized athletic clothing and she STILL automatically wanted to return wearing that clothing. People are very slow to adjust to the fact that you can wear your normal clothes. I would consider what she had on easier to ride in than just about anything!

  4. NT Yes, I'm a dansko girl when I'm walking, and a 3" heel girl when biking. Your story is interesting, and it sounds like the owner missed a good teachable moment.. Although I will say that even I who rides in a skirt all the time, sometimes want to wear something more concealing when I try a bike I'm not familiar with- just one less thing to deal with.

  5. I think there is no one answer to these things, because everyone is different. Although I can technically do it, I generally don't like cycling in heels. Others tell me they feel safe, and I believe them (and admire them!). But somehow my feet slip because of the way the soles of high heeled shoes tend to slope, and so to me ultimately it feels unstable. Same with skirts and diamond frames: I can do it if I am very careful, but my skirt tends to snag on different parts of the bike as I bring my leg over and I feel that my stability is compromised. So personally, I much prefer a step through frame, and sturdy shoes... But again, this does not mean that I question other's ability to do it their own way.

  6. I get that question all the time too and give the same answer "Biking is heels is much easier than walking in them." And then I ride off, demonstrating the truth of my statement.