At last we have some summer-like weather, and there is nothing better than biking in a tee-shirt, feeling the breeze on bare arms and the sun on bare knees. Actually, there is one thing better – summer biking in the perfect bike dress. And I might have found my perfect bike dress, at last!
I am pretty fussy about my clothes (I can see my mother rolling her eyes – okay, very fussy), so calling something the “perfect” anything is a challenge. But the REI Novara Whittier Bike Dress is pretty darn great. For starters, I dislike riding my bike in anything that looks “bikey,” unless I’m on my road bike. But when I’m biking to work, out running errands, on a bike date with my fiancé, or meeting friends, I want to show up dressed as I want to be for my destination. And in the summer, I wear dresses. But there are several criteria: breathable fabric; not too narrow; not too short; preferably something that covers my shoulders; a decent amount of reflective trim; and cute. Oh, and not too expensive.
The REI Novara Whittier Bike Dress is brand new to the Novara collection at REI. If you are not familiar with REI, let me tell you, they are trying really hard to cater to the “urban bicyclist.” They have been creating a range of city style bike clothing, but not always getting things quite right. So I was quite pleased to see this cute dress on the rack recently.
Breathable fabric, check – but not with weird mesh side panels, as I’ve seen in some of their shirts. Not only not to narrow or short, it has a drawstring in each side seam that allows you to pull up the sides, through the zip pockets, to shorten the dress. I like that it covers my shoulders just enough, but is still sleeveless. The back yoke is trimmed with reflective piping, so you get a nice bit of added visibility in the evenings.
I immediately tested it out. We biked to Home Depot to buy spray paint for a project, and I looked like a normal person in the store. Nothing “bikey” going on here! Then we biked to a friend’s party, and I not only looked normal, I looked a bit dressed up, because I was in a fun, casual dress. And biking home at night, the reflective stripe across my back added to the bike lights for extra visibility. I opted against cinching up the dress while riding on a Capital Bikeshare bike, but have considered it when I ride my own, which has a traditional top tube. I don’t find it necessary, however.It pulls on over the head, with an elastic waistband, and is surprisingly flattering. And for $69.50 (currently on sale for $47.93), not that expensive. It comes in two color options – solid black, and a bright blue and green print. The print isn’t 100% my style, but I prefer to not wear all black, especially on my bike (I don’t really consider that terribly safe), so the blue it was. And actually, the more I wear it, the more I like it.
I am quite pleased with this dress, and hope REI continues on this winning streak. In the meantime, I plan on taking this on my bike tour around Europe this summer. The knit fabric means it is also easy to pack.
Fit: 8/10 (fits me great, but it’s also not intended to be a fitted garment)
Function: 8/10 (probably not black tie or formal restaurant worthy, but we did drop into a nice restaurant after biking around all day, and I felt “dressed,” hence the high score for a casual piece)
Style: 7/10 (although definitely not “a la mode,” the cut is pretty on point this summer. It loses points for the print – a nice navy yoke and nautical stripe combo would have been very classy and timeless, and would look much less “sporty,” something I’m constantly aiming for)
Value: 9/10 (at $70, it was more than I would normally pay for a dress, but definitely less expensive than some of the coveted bike designers’ skirts and dresses)
Quality: 8/10 (pretty happy with that, no real complaints. But clearly mass produced, rather than hand sewn)
You can read more from Elizabeth on her tinlizzieridesagain blog, or follow her on Twitter: @ElizabethAFloyd.