The Secret Joy of Biking in a Kilt

Next time you go riding, try wearing something comfortable.

Like a kilt.

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Kilts and bikes go together like haggis and ale, if not peanut butter and chocolate.

Biking in a kilt is not as crazy as it sounds. And it’s actually darn comfy.

I spent last summer riding my bike up and down the twenty-four-kilometer long White Pass in Skagway, Alaska. And I was almost always wearing a kilt. On the rare occasions when I wasn’t wearing my kilt, such as when I was setting a descent record,  I wasn’t recognized.

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On the job for Sockeye Cycle Company at the summit of the White Pass in a mild snowstorm, and ready to descend on a mountain bike, in a leather Trinity kilt.

Wearing a kilt on a bike is as old as bicycling itself. But it does take a certain extra degree of bravery to try. I started wearing a kilt on my bike when I was working as a bicycle courier. I had gotten tired of ripping out the crotch on my pants as I stepped over the saddle. Back then I wore a kilt a few times a year on formal occasions. My biking buddies would give me a hard time whenever they heard another <<<RRRIIIPPP>>> as I got on my bike, and they sent me a picture of some crazy Canadians wearing kilts on mountain bikes in New Brunswick. Game on, I thought.

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Off Kilter Bike, on the Bay of Fundy, leads the contemporary kilted bike trend by marrying form and function in pleated plaid.

I had been eyeing a Utilikilt Mocker for a few years prior to that, toying with the idea of wearing a kilt to the corporate cubicle farm. I had also been looking at Sport Kilts.

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The Utilikilt Mocker: the kilt that started the dream for me.

And while I loved the cut of the Off Kilter kilts, I wasn’t ready to commit to a wool kilt in subtropical Norfolk, Virginia. So I ordered up my first Sport Kilt cut to an Off Kilter length- long enough to cover my bike shorts, but not so long that it would catch in my spokes. So gentlemen, unless you’re willing to install a skirt guard on your bike, you need to wear a kilt that hangs above the knee, not below it. Otherwise, it’s going to get caught in the wheels.

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Even with fenders, great kilts are not a great option on a bike.

I’ve ridden my bike in wool kilts, denim kilts, leather kilts and synthetic Sport Kilts. And I’ve got to say that by far, my Sport Kilts are the most comfortable. My cotton kilts tend to chafe my waist, and belts only make it worse. Whereas the elastic waistband and velcro closure of a Sport Kilt move with me.

Oddly, I feel more sexualized in my kilt than out of it. Wearing just skin-tight lycra bike shorts, or even wearing baggy mountain bike shorts, nobody would look twice at me. But when I was wearing a kilt over my bike shorts everybody was looking, wondering, “What’s under the kilt?”

“I can assure you,” one of my fellow tour guides would say to clients on the White Pass, “I’ve seen under his kilt, and he’s wearing bike shorts.”

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Delivering smoothies on my touring bike in a Sport Kilt in Norfolk, Virginia.

No, I do not ride “regimental” in my kilt. I prefer to have a little padding between my nether regions and my bike saddle (even if it is a well-oiled Brooks leather saddle).

I’ve found a kilt to be a great way to regulate my body temperature. In the summer, when it’s hot and muggy. my kilt keeps the the sun off my legs, and cools me down as the moisture evaporates from it. In the winter, when it’s cooler, my kilt keeps a warm pocket of air around my thighs, and protects me from bitter gusts of wind.

Those gusts of wind are a great reason to wear a kilt pin. Without a kilt pin, my kilt is liable to be blown aside. And although there isn’t anything to be seen, because of the big pleats in the front, it’s still annoying. A kilt pin keeps the pleats together and keeps them down, keeping you looking natty.

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When you’re pinning your kilt for biking, stay away from flimsy, ornamental kilt pins. Instead, choose a kilt-sized, simple safety pin.

Get in your kilt and ride!

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Don’t take just my word that kilts and bikes are better than peanut butter and chocolate. Take it from these guys, too.
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