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Girls on tour - What to wear when cycling in countries with different cultures...

Whilst you may be happy in your cycling shorts and t-shirts in the west, if you are planning to cycle in the middle east, parts of asia and countries where women are expected to dress modestly at all times, then you may need to cover up, even whilst cycling. However, it's easy enough to pick up clothes at local markets once you arrive, that way you'll blend easily with the local people and the fabrics will most likely lend themselves to the climate. You may also need to consider how you behave and understand that as a western women assumptions may be made about you!


"In many countries outside the developed world, I did not feel comfortable cycling in lycra shorts. This applied not only in the Middle East but also Central Asia and parts of Southeast Asia. It's better to try and fit in with what the locals are wearing. Unfortunately some men do make assumptions about what a Western woman is like, based mostly on Hollywood movies, I think, and those assumptions are easier to make if you're dressed in a way that is overtly revealing compared to local women." Freidel

I also found in the Middle East in particular, that I had to let Andrew take the lead in conversations. Even something as simple as smiling when you meet someone, can be taking as a sign of flirting in parts of the Middle East." Freidel

Mirjam covered up"I almost always cover up or dress modestly... You don't want to attract unwanted attention. Since leaving Europe till reaching Australia I always wear loose fitting long pants and long sleeved shirt. In Iran I had to cover up my hair, neck and shoulders too. It get a bit uncomfortable in 45+degrees, but not as uncomfortable ending up in an Iranian jail would be I'm sure.

MirjamI also use local clothes in different countries. Like in India I often wore a salwar kameez (dress with pants and scarf) Or Thai fisherman-pants in Thailand. Now in Australia I'm happy just wearing my bike shorts and a shirt. And of course a hat against the sun." Mirjam

"We went through the middle east. I was probably dressed a little too immodestly for some of it if I am honest (always a T-shirt with trousers but often a short sleeved one and with the legs rolled up just below my knee (put down when we stopped). It was boiling hot though so I just couldn't bring myself to wear any more. The only place I had to was Iran." Susie

"[In Iran] you legally have to wear a scarf to cover your hair (I wore mine under my cycling helmet) and a long smock which covers your bum and upper thighs. I found these items enroute to avoid carrying them all the way to Iran. The only times this posed real difficulties though was when we did a wash. To save on weight/cost I only got two smocks which meant that if I washed them both at once I could not go out in public!" Susie

"Some places in Tunisia I had to cover up completely in order to avoid unwanted staring and chatting. I did most of the talking since I speak French, which didn’t help the situation. I learned that I could not be what I considered ‘friendly’ or it would be taken as a come-on. I had to be as blank as possible and tone it down a lot, or be subject to constant flirting. Cycling was okay, though. It was winter, so I was wearing long sleeved shirts, long socks, and capris. If had been summer, I might have something different to report!" Tara

"When I cycled in Pakistan I had some of the traditional pants made when I first got there – they were very big and baggy. I found I needed to pull them up to my knees, which probably wasn’t real kosher but I did it anyway. I was generally OK on the bike with my baggy pants and a t-shirt, but changed into other clothing as soon as we stopped. I’ve found, for the most part, people are very open and welcoming of foreigners and seem to respect that we don’t necessarily do things the way they do." Nancy


"We cycled through the strict (for Malaysia) Muslim state of Kelantan where I quickly realised I should cover up my knees and head when going into restaurants and other public places. People were still nice but one woman growled at me for not being covered up. A man commented I was doing the right thing by covering my head. I had a pair of trousers in the top of my panniers to hand but still cycled in shorts .A buff doubles up as a good head scarf and for extreme Islam countries like Iran, it can be worn to cover the full neck and head. Still haven't figured out what i'll wear in Iran where I'll have to be completely covered. I realise that in these countries life will be much harder for me that Ben. It will be an eye-opener to say the least. At least I can be part of this for while and then go back to my own life of freedom when I leave these countries." Margo

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