Cycling in Islamic Dress: Insider Tricks Part 2

This post follows on from the previous one about cycling gear which covered choosing a hijab and how to wear it, and choosing a jilbab.


How to adjust your jilbab while wearing

Choose your clothing under your jilbab carefully

To stop your jilbab from getting stuck in the chain you have a few choices. All involve you lifting your jilbab up a bit in some way, so you need to make sure that whatever you are wearing underneath your jilbab is something you are happy for people to see. You might normally be able to get away with leopard print pyjamas under your jilbab, but if you want them kept a hidden secret don’t wear them under your jilbab when you’re going to ride a bike! Similarly, if you wear something more fitted under your jilbab but don’t want people seeing that for modesty, then opt for something looser when cycling. I have two pairs of loose trousers for cycling, one is bootcut and one is straight cut. They are loose enough to cover my legs when my jilbab is raised slightly, and I attach slap round cycle bands at my ankles to stop the trouser legs at the bottom getting caught in the chain (see pic below).

Slap round cycle bands


Keeping the jilbab away from the chain

  • You could simply wear a jilbab that is a few inches shorter than you normally would, which naturally lifts it up a bit.
  • If you wear a normal length jilbab you will need to pull it up slightly away from the chain. Some sisters, before they get on their bike, lift the jilbab up a few inches and tuck it in at their waist, either into their trousers under the jilbab, or they use a belt over their jilbab and then tuck the jilbab slightly into this at their waist. It produces a ‘tucked in shirt’ look and keeps the jilbab up away from the chain.
  • Alternatively you can mount your bike frame and then just before you sit down you can lift up the jilbab slightly and tuck it in under your bottom as you sit down. This is my personal preferred method as I can then wear a normal jilbab and when I am commuting I simply get off my bike without having to rearrange my clothing too much. However for social rides, longer rides, or if you don’t plan to cycle a huge amount the other methods listed here work really well.

Keeping the jilbab from flying up

You will also want to stop the jilbab from flying up too much, which can happen in the wind.

  • If you are riding at a gentle pace and are comfortable lifting one hand off the handlebar then often this can be dealt with by just quickly grabbing the jilbab that has flown up and shoving it back down! However this can sometimes be difficult, and there are a few different options that keep the jilbab in place to stop it flying up.
  • You could use safety pins, attaching the jilbab to your trousers underneath somewhere between the knees and mid calf.
  • You could also use cycle clips (the horseshoe shaped kind, not the slap round bands), which are designed for trousers but work well for this purpose as well. Experiment with finding the right place that works for you, but it will be somewhere around the mid calf.


Cycle clips



How I use cycle clips

  • Another idea is to sew toggle buttons onto your jilbab and your trousers and then attach them together. I haven’t tried this out yet and it involves spending a bit of time (but not much!) with a needle and thread! I have actually ordered the toggle buttons and plan to test this out soon.
  • At the moment the cycle clips are my favourite option, and they have the added advantage of being easy to remove when you need to (eg to go to the toilet during a café stop!), and can then be reattached super quick! Just be aware that you may need to readjust them while riding as occasionally they do come loose.
  • If you opt for a method to attach your jilbab to your trousers underneath, you need to do so in a way which doesn’t restrict your movement so you can move your legs apart enough to pedal. I attach my bike clips by putting my legs astride, like as if I was trying to do the splits but failing very badly (!!) It looks very unlady like but only momentarily! This gives me the maximum width of fabric between my legs to allow me to pedal. Once you have attached trousers/jilbab, make sure you feel safe to ride- it is worth experimenting with what works for you and feels comfortable.

What to do if your jilbab does get stuck in the chain

Hopefully if you follow the suggestions here you will not get stuck! I have been cycling for many years and very, very, rarely do I get my jilbab stuck. But that is not to say it will never happen..

  • If you do get your jilbab stuck, a quick pedal backwards can often get the fabric which has got caught back out again.
  • If this doesn’t work you may need to stop and give a bigger tug at the fabric.
  • Try to stop as soon as you can to sort it out, as if you pedal forwards the fabric can get even more stuck.

In the process of trying to release the stuck fabric you may end up with bike oil on your jilbab which will stain, and there may be a few tears, in both senses of the word- another reason why I suggest you don’t cycle in your favourite or most expensive jilbab! You may want to reserve a jilbab or two just for cycling. You can always pack a smarter jilbab in your bag for when you get to your end destination- I learnt the hard way to do this!


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