MIDWAY : Cycling wardrobe

I love the way you always look a bit windswept,” said a car-driving friend.

For a moment I was taken aback - was this an expression of affection, or a kind way of saying that I look a mess? I like to think I can pass muster as a composed professional woman, but the truth is that my bicycle often comes between

me and the realisation of this fantasy.

So what should a girl wear on her twice-daily haul through the mucky city streets? Let’s start from the top and the contentious question of headwear. I am firmly in the pro-helmet camp, but I know there are people passionately against them. My evidence is largely anecdotal. So I go to cyclehelmets.org, which carries international statistics that would seem to reveal that the US, with the highest ratio of helmet-wearing to kilometres cycled, has the highest number of fatalities, while Holland, where hardly anyone wears a helmet, has the lowest.

This probably proves nothing more than that Holland is more cycle-friendly than anywhere else in the world, but the more you research, the more contradictory the evidence becomes. Perhaps the clinching argument for the purposes of this column is that the prospect of wearing helmets puts people off cycling, and the general health benefits of cycling far outweigh the risk of serious head injury.

I sympathise with this argument but came to the opposite conclusion: it was only when the aesthetics of cycle gear were no longer an issue that I embraced my inner cyclist.So now I go nowhere without a fluorescent yellow jacket, sensible shoes and hi-spec headgear. My biggest problem is skirts. The result is that I now own a lot of skirts with black wheel-jam decorations around the hems.

I cycle in a beautiful crinkle-silk skirt that I can wear to the glitziest events. Perhaps the most important part of my cycling wardrobe, though, isn’t clothes at all, but the receptacles. I cannot recommend more highly the virtues of a good pair of waterproof panniers big enough to keep scrunchables.

The next time I see my car-driving friend, as I unbuckle my helmet and plump up my hair, I will remind her that I am statistically far healthier than she is and that I’ll settle for being beautiful on the inside.