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Walking and Cycling Grants London blog

Aug,2018 Hornbeam Joyriders
Cycling in Islamic dress

This blog was written by Khadijah Zaidi from Hornbeam JoyRiders, please see Khadijah’s blog for the full

As a cyclist who wears full Islamic dress, I am often asked how it is possible to ride a bike with the clothing I wear.

But every day I show proof that it really can be done - you just need to make some sensible choices and manage your clothing appropriately, which is actually something all cyclists need to do!

The hijab is really easy to manage. You just tie your hair low underneath the hijab to ensure it doesn’t get in the way of a helmet, and then find a way to keep the hijab itself down. I find a rucksack/gym bag, or a jacket, depending on the weather, does this really effectively.

Jilbabs (the full length dress) need a little more consideration. You should choose one that is not too loose and not too tight. This may take a little experimentation, but basically you need to be able to avoid lots of extra fabric that could get caught, but you also want it to be loose enough that you can get your foot over the cross bar and be able to pedal.

It’s a good idea to adjust your jilbab before getting on the bike. Some people tuck their jilbab in a few inches at the waist and into their trousers underneath; others wear a belt on top of their jilbab and tuck it into this. Alternatively you can simply lift the jilbab slightly just before you mount the bike.

Whilst cycling you’ll find that the jilbab can fly up a bit. If you’re riding at a leisurely pace and are competent with lifting one hand off the handlebar, you can shift it back into place with your hand.

However in windy conditions, or when cycling at a faster pace, placing cycling clips (the horseshoe shaped kind) over your jilbab can help to keep it in place. Also, think about what you’re wearing underneath your jilbab, because if the jilbab flies up, your trousers underneath will obviously be visible (avoid your comfy leopard print trousers unless you don’t mind sporting these in public!). I personally prefer to wear loose trousers underneath combined with cycling clips at the ankles.

If the jilbab for some reason does get stuck, you should slow down or stop to limit the damage. A quick pedal backwards can sometimes release the fabric, or you may need to stop and dismount to sort out the problem as it may get torn. It’s a good idea not to wear your favourite jilbab when cycling for this reason, not to mention the possibility of chain grease getting on it.

It is also possible to cycle with a niqab (full face covering), and we have several riders who wear a niqab in our rides with Cycle Sisters and JoyRiders. With a niqab you can tuck it into your hijab underneath, or wear a shorter one to avoid excess fabric flying around. But mostly riders say the wind when cycling helps to keep the niqab in place, ensuring it doesn’t fly around.

I hope this shows people that cycling in Islamic dress is most definitely possible, and helps people to feel encouraged, as more and more Muslim women are getting out on their bikes every day!

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