It all started with a girl's butt on instagram. Various folks had @ed me on the same photo, and my feed was blowin' up with a buoyant booty coyly covered in chevron-ed jailbreak stripes, bike in background and toned thighs amply on display. "Great, another shot of a female cyclist basically naked; Thank You Patriarchy," I thought. This was not just another garden variety "Naked Chicks on Bikes are Awesome" post however, but rather a call to Kickstarter. Involving panties. For cyclists. Hmmm.
Fast-forward a year or so and I had nearly forgotten about that padded posterior (the brand in question, Urbanist, met their kickstarter goal in 2014) when I discovered the UK-based Bike Nicks, a new micro-line of commuter-friendly cycle lingerie for women. Founder Lilli Milar is a yoga teacher and daily cyclist, which means she is both body-aware and hardier than most. This comes through in her products: two simple underwear styles (with a subtle yet impactful padding) in both a full-coverage panty and thong.
We met in December and she graciously gifted me the two versions to test-drive. So I took them both for a (separate) ride on the Wiggle, San Francisco's infamous hill-averting route from Duboce triangle up to Golden Gate Park.
But first. The Outfit.
I decided to pair my Bike Nicks with a more everyday look to see how they fit my default style for casual riding. This meant jeans and a leather jacket, spruced up with a primary color palette and print-on-print-on-print.
I highly recommend stripes, polka dots and leopard print all at once. Balance it with shared neutrals - in my case, white dots and white stripes - and you're good to go.
Echo colors in your accessories and beauty choices for a final touch of whimsy. Read: white frames with white wingtip oxfords, and red red red from your helmet to lips and fingernails. The yellow orchids in my boquet from local favorite Farmgirl Flowers completed the theme, matching my vintage 70s-era jacket perfectly.
Before I actually tried them, my initial reaction to this new(ish) subgenre of commuter cycling underwear was quizzical at best. Like commuter skirts and jeans before them, it seemed too niche of a market and, for underwear specifically, a bit price-y for something most of us wear every day. Do us ladies really need a full-on chamois for our daily rides?
Yet as we made our way up Sanchez street to start our zigzag ascent, I noticed a subtle yet elevated level of comfort.
As an experienced cyclist accustomed to both commuter and road riding, I am familiar with all kinds of underwear chafing, sweat buildup, crevice-riding fabric and more. It's this last bit - the crevice-riding - that I would argue is the biggest problem on daily rides.
Turning onto Waller Street, it dawned on me that Bike Nicks' minimal padding effectively negated this problem by serving as a barrier between me and my jeans. I don't know WTF Brooke Shields was talking about in those 80s ads. I *liked* having something between me & my Calvins.
Yep, that pesky nub of denim created from the intersection of four flat-felled seams could no longer get quite so close to my delicate area. Take that, slim-fit Levi's! As an enabler for wearing skinny jeans, it's a wonder no one saved us hipsters from this problem with a product like Bike Nicks earlier.
Sandwiched in-between the outer lycra panty and cotton crotch gusset is the secret to Lilli's success: a slim pad not much thicker than your average pantyliner. This memory foam pillow protects without hindering movement, or giving that dreaded "diaper" feeling familiar to those of us forced to wear thick padded shorts for road cycling. As Lilli herself has said, "Bike Nicks are for women who cycle everywhere, not just 100k at the weekend."
After our 30-ish minute ride up to the Park, we wound down to the beach and back up the other side, getting in close to an hour in the saddle. Despite the long ride, I felt more relaxed, comfortable, and dry than I usually would after such an effort. This last part is another benefit of Bike Nicks: that foam pad is absorbent too!
When all is said and done, Bike Nicks made a serious difference in my ride. I preferred the comfort of the full-coverage panty to the thong. The fashion-girl in me would like to see more fabric and color options than black or black with pink. But the fundamentals are there, and Bike Nicks are fundamentally good.
They also serve a purpose off the bike, eliminating camel toe, making those weird vintage shorts you bought with the tight crotch much more comfortable, keeping your pantyhose seam far far away, and more. As an accessory to an active and stylish life, Bike Nicks are my new essential.
Get the Look below.