Fred Mathes is 92. He also lives in America. These two facts don't stop him from riding his bicycle. A lot. Every day. This chap is Style Over Speed in a nutshell, and has been for decades before we starting calling it 'Style Over Speed' here at Copenhagen Cycle Chic. He still rides his 3-speed Schwinn, which is 56 years old and he doesn't feel he needs a newer bicycle.
“Did you hear about the centipede who fell in a ditch?” he asked. “He couldn’t get up. He was too exhausted trying to figure out what foot to put first. Same thing with a bike. Who needs 18 gears?”
He does not favour Lycra or cycling shoes. His riding clothes are whatever he happens to be wearing, usually a pair of trousers (he rolls up one pant leg), a long-sleeved western shirt and a stylish cotton hat from Italy.
It's interesting to remember that when Mr Mathes was born, bikes ruled the world, even in America. Bicycle Culture 1.0 was in full swing and millions rode around daily on simple 1 or 3 speeds, up and down hills, in all weather. Knowing that fact and seeing Mr Mathes doing his daily thing is fantastic inspiration.
Read the whole article on the Times Record News - Wichita Falls - website.
MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME TO SIT UP STRAIGHT
Mr Mathes, above, has it sussed, but then he has been riding long before the sports industry starting telling people they had to lean forward in awkward, uncomfortable and unnatural positions in order to 'cycle' - not to mention worrying about how much a bike 'weighs' or that you don't need chain guards or kickstands. And so on. My dear, darling mother had is sussed and I was always encouraged to sit up straight. Posture is an important part of body language.
If you like to ride fast and do so for training or racing, well... that's different, isn't it? You'll get a bike that suits that purpose, which is lovely. I used to race competively when young and enjoyed it thoroughly. But for the vast majority of people who ride daily or harbour secret thoughts about doing so, riding in comfort is the way to go. Style over speed. Elegance over exertion.
”In the late 19th century, large numbers of women were already using bicycles to get to work, women office workers and shop assistants wending their way each weekday morning from the suburbs to the town. They found the bicycle a convenient form of transport for distances up to, say, ten miles”.
Plucked from John Woodeforde's book ”The Story of the Bicycle”, 1970
And that was on machines that would seem monstrous to us now. Not to mention the fact that they were wearing frightfully heavy dresses and thick fabrics. If they could do it on those bikes, in those clothes, there are little excuses for not cycling chic today.
"One sits on it either straight-backed, as though you're at a festive dinner party, or hunched foward, as though you just failed an exam. All according to the situation, your inclination or your inborn characteristics."
Johannes Wulff's 'Paa cykle / On the Bike' 1930
One charming nickname for normal bikes is "sit up and beg" bikes. Indeed. Sit up and beg for fewer cars, bike lanes, a steady tailwind and lovely cyclists to ride with.