Riding a bike is for everyone, no matter what you’re wearing. The information below was written by Khadijah Zaidi and provided to Love to Ride by Cycle Sisters. Read on for her top bike tips!
It is possible!
As a cyclist who wears full Islamic dress I am often asked about how it’s possible. Every day for me is proof that it can be done - you just need to make some sensible choices and manage your clothing appropriately, which is something all bike riders do!
Whatever your style of dress (whether Islamic dress or not), you need to make sure your clothing is comfortable:
Wearing your hijab or jilbab
The hijab is really easy to manage: you just need to find a way to keep it down as it can flap in the wind. I find a rucksack/gym bag or a jacket does this really effectively. If you wear a helmet, you just need to tie your hair to ensure it fits. This may mean tying your hair higher or lower than normal depending on your helmet design.
Jilbabs (the full length dress) need a tiny bit more consideration. Choose one that is not too loose and not too tight. This may take a little experimentation:
It’s a good idea to adjust your jilbab before getting on the bike. Some people tuck their jilbab in a few inches at the waist or into their trousers underneath; others wear a belt on top of their jilbab and tuck it into this. Or you can just lift the jilbab slightly just before you mount the bike.
Top tip: When buying a bike, look for ones with a chain guard as these can help avoid fabric getting stuck.
Whilst riding, the jilbab can fly up, but if you’re riding at a leisurely pace and are competent with lifting one hand off the handlebar you can shift it back into place with your hand. In windy conditions or cycling at faster paces, cycling clips (the horseshoe-shaped kind) over your jilbab can help to keep it in place.
Also, think about what you’re wearing underneath your jilbab because if it flies up your trousers will be visible (avoid your comfy leopard print trousers unless you don’t mind sporting these in public!). I prefer to wear loose trousers underneath with clips at the ankles to avoid them getting in the way of the chain.
If the jilbab gets stuck
If the jilbab does get stuck, slow down or stop to limit the damage. A quick pedal backwards can often release the fabric or you may need to stop and dismount and sort it out and prevent it getting torn. It’s a good idea not to wear your favourite jilbab for cycling for this reason, not to mention the possibility of chain grease getting on it.
Have outfits ready just for bike riding
I now reserve a handful of jilbabs for riding and I have some very nice ones that I just won’t ride in.
I used to say that my jilbab never got stuck in my chain. Well, two years into riding almost every day, and I can’t really say that anymore…but this does not mean riding is not safe with a jilbab! It hardly happens, and this is just a natural consequence of biking so much more now. And it’s a small price to pay for the physical health benefits, improved mental wellbeing, access to the outdoors and better air quality…
I keep a handful of jilbabs that I will wear if I’m riding that day, and they might have a couple of small tears right at the bottom, but they are not really noticeable and it’s still safe to ride by following the steps I have outlined.
Riding with a niqab
It is also possible to ride with a niqab (full face covering), and we have several riders in niqab in our rides with Cycle Sisters. Most riders say that the wind generated when riding helps to keep the niqab in place and not fly around. If you are concerned though, you can tuck it into your hijab underneath or wear a shorter one to avoid excess fabric flying around. You can also pin it in place, in which case it’s a good idea to pin it to your top or jilbab underneath as that will hold it more securely.
I hope this shows people that bike riding in Islamic dress is most definitely possible, as more and more Muslim women are demonstrating while out on their bikes everyday!
This is an abridged version of a two-part post written by Khadijah Zaidi on her blog www.cycleandjam.com, and has been updated by Cycle Sisters and Love to Ride. Please visit her blog for the full articles and other interesting bike-related posts. She currently blogs on Instagram @cycleandjam
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