5 June 2009

The Good News and the Bad News About the Cycle Chic Movement

Anjo - Style Over Speed
So. They're starting to call it a 'movement' this Cycle Chic thang. Good news. What started with one simple photo here in Copenhagen developed into this blog and then, two years later, it's all over the planet. Nice one. Splendid.

It has come to my attention that there is some good news and some bad news regarding the Cycle Chic 'movement' and I thought it necessary to respond.

The good news is that the very simple concept of riding a bicycle in your regular [preferably fashionable in my opinion, but not a prerequisite] clothes is being picked up by the press all over the world. This is a good thing.

The funny thing is that it's nothing new. Since Day One in bicycle culture, when the bicycle as we know it today was invented 120-odd years ago, people rode around in their regular clothes. The bicycle was a tool, a transport option and not much else. In many places, like here in Copenhagen, it still is. Imagine your relatives living in the years between 1890 and 1940. The odds are that they rode bicycles in their regular clothes.
Red Shoes and Hat
It's great news that the bicycle is hot again. That we are on the cusp of what at Copenhagen Cycle Chic call Bicycle Culture 2.0. Good for the environment and C02 reduction yada yada, and great for creating liveable urban centres. Nicer places to live.

So the bicycle's return to the public consciousness after a half a century of car culture is good news for everyone, whether they're on a bicycle or not.

So what can be bad about that?

The Bad News
What I've been trying to say, between the lines, here at Cycle Chic for the past couple of years is that riding a bicycle is - and always has been - a rather simple thing. All you need is... a bicycle.

You have a closet filled with clothes, don't you? If you're walking about town, you'll wear them. You have clothes for hot weather and clothes for cold weather. Whatever clothes you wear as a pedestrian are suitable for riding a bicycle. You KNOW this. You were young once. You did it then.

So now that I've started a 'movement' [which is admittedly much better than a 'trend'] I've seen a sharp increase in the number of companies intent on selling 'cycling clothes' for urban, everyday cyclists. Whenever a trend or a movement appears, there will always be people keen to make some money off of it. Such is a market economy. Fair enough.

It seems ridiculous, however, when people attempt to overcomplicate a simple thing. If you fancy riding sports bicycles for long distances in your spare time, or you like racing bicycles, you will require 'gear'. I know this. I respect this.

If you want to ride a bicycle to work or the supermarket over short distances, you do not need 'gear'. Just open your closet.

I've touched on this issue a few times before.
- Cycle Chic Guide to Bike Commuting #2 - Cycle Clothing
- Cycle Chic Guide to Bike Commuting - #1 Choosing a Bike
- Terminology Folly.

A couple of episodes have come to my attention of late.
I've heard that a Shimano representative in the States walked into a bike shop with a new product. 'Cycling shoes' that were completely normal shoes, just with a Shimano logo. If you Google Shimano, like I did, you'll find out that they are a "International manufacturer and distributer of cycling and fishing equipment and accessories." I'm sure they make good cycling and fishing equipment, but hey... leave normal shoes to the normal shoes people.

Then there was an article in the New York Times yesterday, by a guy named Eric Wilson. Here's the opening paragraph:

There are many reasons why New York City commuters have been hesitant to bicycle to work in greater numbers: personal safety, the scarce availability of bike racks and the weather, among them. A perhaps more superficial, though still important, consideration is figuring out something to wear that will be both functional and professional looking. Or, at the least, something that will not show grease stains.

This is ridiculous. Pure bollocks.
Right Turn
Listen, according to the European Cyclists Federation there are 100 million daily cyclists in Europe. Alone in Copenhagen there are 500,000 cyclists each day. The vast majority wear their regular clothes because they're on their way to work or school. They have closets and they're not afraid to use them. They have happily not been subjected to this branding of cycling as a 'difficult' activity. It's quick, easy, convienent and enjoyable. A bit hot today? Slow down.

In this article from Reuters about how New Yorkers are getting on their bikes, we can read:

In keeping with the city's efforts to promote cycling, luxury apparel maker LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton asked students at the Fashion Institute of Technology to create chic yet affordable cycling gear.

"We want to do everything we can to raise the profile of biking in New York," Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, said at the news conference to announce the winning design.

"Having functioning, attractive gear so you can arrive at work looking stylish should be very encouraging," she said. "No one wants to show up at work looking like bike messengers."

Unbelievable. '...functioning, attractive gear'? Open your closets. Buy a chainguard. Fenders. Off you go.
Style n Ride *
Here's a Louis Vuitton 'cycling bag'. Or is it just a normal LV bag used by a girl in her normal clothes who just happens to ride a bicycle around?
Louboutin and Raleigh
Oh, and here's some 'cycling shoes' by Christian Louboutin. Not.

All hail the market economy, but not when it gets this silly and desperate. I'm quite sure that the established bike industry in non-bicycle cultures are worried. 'Big Bicycle' have carved out a niche for themselves over the past 40 years. Selling cycling as a difficult, expensive, sweaty sub-culture. Now they're faced with millions of regular people who just want to ride a bicycle. Um... let's slap a bike logo on some Chinese shoes... quick.

Okay, okay. The thought has occurred to me that it may be necessary with a transitional period in this new push towards Bicycle Culture 2.0. After decades of branding cycling as only a 'sport' or a 'recreational activity' and not much else, people in some countries may need a gentle shove in the right direction.

But then I remembered what I know about the marketing of bicycles at the turn of the last century. The bicycle came out of nowhere and yet people embraced it instantly and... rode around in regular clothes. Nowadays, when most people already know how to ride a bicycle, it's a bit stupid to sell 'cycling gear' to everyday cyclists.

Let's sell bicycles and bicycle culture. Let's make our cities nicer places to live.

But if someone wants to sell you 'cycling clothing' for riding to work or the supermarket, get the hell away from them in a hurry.

It's these people I refer to when I travel around giving lectures about 'Marketing the Bicycle to the Sub-Conscious Environmentalists'. Marketing good. Silly marketing bad.

In short: Men and Women of the Cycle Chic Movement! Reject the ridiculous marketing antics of would-be profiteers eager to sell you products you simply don't need! You already have established your style. Merely transfer it to the bicycle. Ride on.

Now back to the pretty photos.


BadBeard said...

Here here!

Anonymous said...


Jansen said...

My grandmother traveled though China in her teens on a bicycle before the Cultural Revolution. No special gear, just her bike and a sense of adventure.
I have never cycled before (I'm in my 30s now) because it's ridiculous at the bike store today.
Your blog has inspired me to pick up an old bike and learn to ride. I hope to be good enough one day to bike though China like my grandmother. ^_^
I shall stay away from lycra (only because I look bad in them) ^_^;

dr2chase said...

I think it is basically a matter of whether you equip the bike (fenders, sturdy tires, light, skirt guard, chain guard, bell, basket) or whether you equip the person (grease-proof clothing, special shoes, etc.).

What we have here in the US is a bicycle industry that is just plain crazy. The shop down the street (nice guys, all of them, and they know their stuff) mostly stocks high-end racing bikes, and crazy-ass mountain bikes. If you want a basic sturdy 3-speed, you'll need to rescue it out of the trash.

Adrienne Johnson said...

What if my riding 'gear' is Armani?
; )

Colville-Andersen said...

good point, dr2chase.

ade: armani make fine 'gear'. :-)

anna said...

I agree, spot on.

Kelvin said...

Where I've recently relocated to, Ottawa, there's probably a 2:3 mix of spandex and sane clothes in the rush hour cycle commute, which, given my limited personal experience, is pretty damn good for North America.

I enjoy reading your blog immensely, but seeing all those good-looking guys and ladies on bikes makes me think that I should dress up a bit before going out on my own ride.

Then I realize that I live too close to work to need to bike there, and I always dress down for the weekend, and I bought a bike for fun, not to join a freakin' movement.

So screw you guys and screw European fashion sense: I'm wearing my cargo shorts. ;-)

Colville-Andersen said...

:-) - cargo shorts rule, kelvin. you define your own cycle chic, not us. ride on, brother.

Brent said...

I do find interesting the idea that bicycles drove forward women's fashion for a time in the 19th century. The usual costume of the day was a substantial dress, which rendered women into a kind of "monopod," a one-footed creature all but unable to ride a bicycle or a horse (except side-saddle). The safety bicycle, however, required two legs. From this "bipodal" requirement came the bloomer fad, which lasted just long enough for the automobile to come along and render it unnecessary again. It's not clear that bicycles have since had as definitive an impact on style. Still, one might argue that the march towards bipodalism eventually gave us Brooke Shields in Calvin Klein and J.Lo in whatever she wears. And so, in that sense, I will say a little prayer of thanks to the bicycle...

Ms K said...

@dr2chase: I agree about the bike stores in the US with you. Especially if you try to equip your bike with fenders, rack etc. you'll spend an additional fortune.
BUT: there are enough places to get cheap bikes. Try Target or other places which traditionally don't specialize in bikes. Huffys are inexpensive and have 3 speeds or just one. I got a cheap Schwinn mountain bike at Target last year(it was around 100bucks)which I rode to work in NYC.

Lovely Bicycle! said...

I agree that the marketing of special "chic cycling" gear and merchandise goes against the whole point of the "movement". But at the same time, there are US-EU cultural differences that should be considered.

You say that the idea of riding in regular clothing isn't new, but keep in mind that in the US it is very new, an almost shocking idea, and difficult for most people to process.

Additionally, it is not as simple as "getting a bike and riding one" in the US. There are specific challenges in comparison to Europe, including the availability of comfortable bikes, a more challenging geography, longer commuting distances, and lack of safe infrastructure.

Finally, keep in mind that the US has more of a consumer culture than Europe. Americans don't necessarily want to "open their closet", they want a reason to go shopping.

I posted a more detailed version of this response on Lovely Bicycle.

Colville-Andersen said...

I really don't think that Americans shop more than Europeans.

While the idea may be 'shocking', the point is that there are better ways to market cycling, which we often post about over at Copenhagenize.com. Promoting cycling positively.

the whole 'geography' myth has been debunked ages ago. And what did americans do 70 years ago on their bicycles? Has the geography changed since then because of massive tectonic plate movement?

And 50% of Americans live within 8km of their workplace, so there goes that idea.

Knotty Melody said...

My beloved bike is my primary vehicle (San Diego). I'm still a bit of an anomaly, as people are constantly asking if I "need a ride?" Showing up places with my sweaty, red face (yes, even after slow riding....what? I get hot) has elicited more than one remark/concern. I just see it as an opportunity to let people know how awesome it feels to get my heart pumping and not have to worry about maintaining a car!

My favorite question ever though is "what?! You ride your bike in THOSE shoes?" Maybe I should slap that logo on all of my wedgie sandals.

Lars Daniel Terkelsen said...

Talking about shoes; I do suspect that it is considerably harder to *walk* on high heels than it is to ride a bike with them.

Hans said...

You are so right!

I am at the same time one of those wearing lycra and racing through the country side as recreation and excersise. For sports cycling equipment and special clothing is good and can often be pre-requisite. But, when I ride around Cph (to work, shopping etc) the only necessity is a bike, just a bike, and nothing but a bike. I love to use it as easy, quick and cheap transportation.

Recently, I have lived in Melbourne, Australia, and rode my bike 8 k's to school everyday. This could be a rather dangerous experience, because of all the other bike-commuters in their special cycling clothes and shoes.

There is just one thing to say: There is a time for racing, and there is a time for transportation (preferably in style).

Unknown said...

So, I was the old guy in the cargo shorts and sneakers on a mountain bike in the 50Km ride at Zin Spin. No spandex, no toe-clips. The sag-wagon folks seemed to think I needed help and kept checking on me. The guys at the rest stop weren't sure I should be stopping in because virtually everyone else was in faux-teamware. I had a ball and a nice ride

kdt said...

I was happy to see that a number of the comments to the NY Times article picked up this very point -- "bike clothes" are whatever you happen to be wearing when you get on the bike.

That said, there is nothing wrong with designing clothes that function well when worn while riding - I looked at the designs featured in the competition in the article, and all of them would be okay to wear off a bike as well as on. A far cry from the spandex and lycra that the weekend "Lance Armstrongs" wear while they ignore stop lights and clog up traffic lanes, helping to give biking in the US a bad name.

But I digress. Another problem here is lack of supply - trying to find a decent city bike in the US -- fenders, chain guard, etc. -- is very hard.

dr2chase said...

You didn't exactly debunk the distance issue -- the article you linked to, simply noted that it is possible to move, which is true, but not as easy as (say) changing jobs. I have two brothers, one can (and does) bike to work almost any day, the other has a fifty-mile commute (he worked from home for years, then that job went away). I have a 10-mile commute, which is more than most people in the US are willing to contemplate on a bicycle.

I think our sprawl is a result of a lot of money spent building highways back in the 50s and 60s. When I was a kid, the main road near our home was a 4-lane highway, 70mph speed limit, and not much traffic. My father had a 14 mile, 15-minute commute to work (by car). Cheap gas, live where you want to, it doesn't matter because you can get places fast on the highway. It's nothing like that now -- 6 or 8 lanes, dozens of stop lights, horrible, a poster child for how not to move people.

It just now occurred to me -- how is education organized in (your part of) Europe? Here in the US, it is typically run, and largely funded, town-by-town, and the quality (or not) of a local school system figures into where you choose to live. It is one more constraint added to the mix, that sometimes causes people to live far from work.

Colville-Andersen said...

50% of Americans live within 8 km of their workplace. That's according to the League of American Bicyclists or whatever their called.

That's a considerable number of people.

Cycling in Denmark is less widespread in the provinces because of the distances. But in the built-up areas - you have those in America too... :-) - there are millions of people who can benefit from bicycle infrastructure and promoting cycling postively and sensibly.

Colville-Andersen said...

Education is a city/county thing. The schools in my city are run by the city, for example.

SteveL said...

Yes, bike vendors who rely on technical obsolescence and accessories are threatened by everyday clothes and zero-maintenance bikes, as are bike shops that service suspension forks and bleed hydraulic disk brakes. Bike shops that do day to maintenance, less so. The more people who commute by bike, the more people who need more inner tubes and tyres.

The everyday shoes by shimano could be an attempt to transfer the technical brands to everyday wear. But then again, think of the people who wear surf-branded clothes who cant surf or windsurf, Vans skateboarding shoes or a pair of Converse basketball shoes? You can take a sporting style and make it mainstream. Are shimano trying to do that? I doubt they are thinking that far ahead.

Kelvin said...

Things like that are exactly the reason I've decided against joining the local bike club. I'm horribly out of shape and yet I can pedal 30k without much aforethought, but I'm terrified at the thought of spending a fortune for a roadie, spandex, gear, and then training for half a year just to be able to catch up and look normal next to those guys. I'm sure they're getting one heck of an endorphin rush, but I'm at the stage where all that exercise just cuts off blood from my brain. You're a braver man than I am, and I salute you for that.

Maybe the spandex thing is just a symptom of a bigger issue. I wonder how often Europeans send their kids to little league football or whatever team sports are popular there. In North America, things are so institutionalized: make the kids join a soccer team, or a hockey team, or a baseball team, or a (American) football team... ...and then spend a fortune on equipment. Definitely some of the spontaneity is lost: I mean, how much equipment can it possibly take to play soccer or football? One person brings a ball, everyone wears some light clothes, and just don't wear dress shoes. Overthinking outdoor fun is probably why nobody would do it here.

Suede Shoe said...

Good points that needs to be repeated again and again. Although I do love my bike courier bag which is my only concession to ‘special equipment’ because I like to and have to carry lots of stuff. But I use the courier bag when I am not on the bike as it is part of my wardrobe.

I am always inspired by your blog. Keep up the good work.


Unity Finesmith said...

I recently bought some 'cycle gear' - I felt a little invisable when I went out at night on my bicycle so I went shopping and bought a gorgeous designer silver coat from a secondhand shop. I am very visable now and it certainly turns some heads! So much nicer than those awful fluoro cycle jackets.

I think the lycra/fluoro cycle gear is more about people wanting to label themselves as 'cyclists'; they want to be seen as athletic urban warriors. We need to get across to people that you can be a 'non-cylist' and still ride a bicycle (if you know what I mean). I think of myself as someone who rides a bicycle but would deny being a cyclist.


Joe said...

Great post...love your blog.


Lovely Bicycle! said...


whether the geography issue has been debunked is a matter of debate. It is not a done deal as an argument, and even the statistics cited by various parties are by no means agreed upon by everyone. Same with American consumerism and same with perception of distances (New York City is the best example: it is a very dense city, yet New Yorkers and those from surrounding areas often commute 1hr+ to work each way).

But my point is not to debate this endlessly; there are different views on these topics. Rather, I am curious what you see as the cause of the (a) notable lack of bicycle culture in the US compared to Europe, and (b) the trend in advertising special gear for "chic cycling" that is happening now -- if you do not agree with any of the hypotheses I suggest.

Paul Tay said...

Good to go from my closet right now: Skirt, wig, and one Santa suit!

Chris said...

I agree about clothes, but you do realize that bike shoes for clipless pedals are highly functional, yes?

Colville-Andersen said...

for racing and recreation, sure.
for urban cycling? never in a million years. hundreds of millions of cyclists cannot be wrong.

Jon said...

Ah, but before you get overly critical of "clothes for biking", Mikael, I suggest that you visit Memphis, Tennessee or Jackson , Mississippi during July or August. High humidity and temperatures, even in the mornings and evenings, make cycling a sweaty effort at any speed.

Here in Denver, the mornings are usually cool, and the humidity low. But, daytime temps can reach the 100 F range (38 C) during the summer. Even with 15% humidity, that can cause a bit of a glow.

Personally, I have no problem with wearing my "home clothes" on the bike, and changing into "work clothes" once I get there. I do the same when riding a motorbike, so maybe 35 years of dressing for that two-wheel vehicle has influenced my outlook on the other two-wheeled vehicle in my life.

Colville-Andersen said...

Hot weather? If that was any hindrance then the city of Seville wouldn't have bothered investing in their bike share programme and building up a bike culture.

Let alone the province of Cadiz, also in Spain, where infrastructure is in place and being improved upon.

Hot places in the summer. 40 degrees in the shade. Not to mention Barcelona and numerous cities in Italy.

Weather is no hindrance.

Jon said...

I didn't say it was a hindrance to cycling, merely that it might be a hindrance to wearing business attire on a bicycle during the hot weather.

Sorry to not agree 100% with you, but keep in mind that I'm 90% there.


Colville-Andersen said...

No worries. I disagree with my friends all the time.

the point is that the people cycling in the hot regions of Europe are not ALL heading to the beach - even though they probably wish their were. Most are transporting themselves to work.

Modiste1000 said...

YAY I adore you for this! I avoided biking for YEARS because I wouldn't be caught dead in spandex. Of course I eventually figured out that I can ride in ruffles and skirts and cute stripey socks....

Thank you for encouraging the CHIC!

Brooke said...

Well I think Americans are quite different from Europeans and our cultural standards are quite different. Of course these standards need to change, but going out in weather above 70 or below 60 in work clothing is seen as taboo. As is riding a bike or walking anywhere in anything but perfect weather. Most of the time the weather is not perfect, so I think this discourages people from biking. Another huge issue is geography. Although 50% of people only live 8 miles from their workplace that doesn't mean it is an easy commute on a bike or even possible. I'm temporarily living in a suburban housing development and I cannot leave it without getting on a three lane road. Even if I were able to go on that road safely and lets just say they decided to add some bike lanes it would still be very hilly commute. Also that statistic completely ignores people who have to drop off their kids at daycare or school. Where I live was farmland only a decade ago so it cannot be argued that in the past people biked in my community. It did not exist. Older communities in my area are more bike friendly, however there still is the issue of safety. We simply don't have bike lanes and in older communities cars line the streets because of lack of planning for parking lots (another reason why people should ride bikes, but not exactly something I can fix right now) and people have died from drivers opening their doors or pulling out of the parking lot without looking for cyclist.

Unknown said...

I would disagree with your mention of a push toward "Bicycle Culture 2.0". It's either more like 3.0, or back to 1.0 (I personally prefer the more forward-looking 3.0, adding a bit of stylishness to the pure practicality of the first wave). ;-)

My "gear" is mainly a pair of pants clips that I leave on my bike (I tried getting a bike with a chainguard, sadly a rare beast around here), my courier bags (I have multiple sizes and colours to fit the occasions, and like Suede Shoe, I like those bags even when I'm off the bike, so not really bike gear, strictly speaking), and my sunglasses.

I do admit having a bit of difficulty with brake dust (again, non-rim brakes are difficult to find here, the exception being expensive fancy disc brakes) and grease, and not always from my own bike. The communal bike rack at my apartment building is very crowded with, uh, less fashionable and not-so-well maintained/cleaned bikes, and I sometimes can't escape without getting a bit dirty, to my dismay. And sometimes I do it to myself, such as on Montreal's "tour la nuit" last weekend, where my nice linen pants (making a statement for cycle chic!) found their way too close to my chain. :-(

But most of my pants are dark pants anyway, and such incidents aren't nearly the norm, so this won't stop me, oh no!

On the other hand, some, like Gary Fisher, could do much worse:


Anonymous said...

Biking 17 miles round trip to work on an English commuter bike with a helmet and $15 panniers I picked up at a swap meet.

Don't want to get to work sweaty in your clothes? Pack some deo & wipes in your bag with a quick change of clothes (wrap skirt or top for me.) Too hilly? No worries. Just keep pedaling.

Found the bike here in CA, USA.

*big-ass grin*

Anon of Florida said...

For the people who want a way of covering a chain without spending a fortune and a headache finding and fitting a chainguard:


It only works with singlespeed bicycles, but it keeps the nice pants clean.

anita said...


i've got a response for your post cycle chic! http://www.brooklynbybike.com/the-fuss-over-cycle-inspired-clothing/


Chris Fitzpatrick said...

Just have a quick question for all those posting comments. If a company that is at the fore front of the eco movement were to make a line of footwear that was more about sustainabilty, while at the same time providing a stylish, comfortable,durable product that just so happen to have aspects that were design to ride well do you believe they would be received well?

Anonymous said...

Great site! Bicycle Culture 2.0 is here to stay and I can't wait for the next upgrade. ;-_

I've been commuter-cycling for years in whatever clothes seem the most practical. I'm not a sport cyclist or a racer and I hate Spandex - even the thought of it. Cycling in the US is so geared to the *sport and recreation* market and most contemporary helmet designs are just ghastly - I wear old skool helmets from the Goodwill because they're *design-neutral* and match my old skool bikes.

A couple of observations from my part of the US - Pacific Northwest:

1. More people are commuting by bike in their street clothes although there's still some Spandex out there. It's more Gore-Tex over Spandex.
2. Single speeds and fixies are a very common site especially around campus.
3. Old Schwinn varsities are everywhere as are old 10 speed road bikes (my dialy ride is a beautiful old Motobecane).
4. Road bikes are almost essential for commutes over 4 miles, which are common in the US unless you live in SF, Seattle, or NYC.
5. I believe bicycling should be a choice... ideally because we enjoy the experience - I'm not into competitive cycling and I'm not into subtly pressuring other cyclists into always having to commute by bike (since my place of employment just moved to the neighboring city, I'm currently driving to work as I can drive there via the freeway in 10 mins and bike it in 55 mins... so I'm driving it for now).

I do try to dress somewhat stylishly when I ride. It's summer so cargo shorts are pretty much de rigeur. In the winter when it's raining, I wear powder blue ski pants and a rain slicker over, but always sport a cool hat and sporty scarf.

I prefer older bikes but wouldn't say no to a new Bianchi Pista or Raleigh One-Way (both beautifully designed, IMHO). I like to run my errands via bike. My city (Eugene) is very bike-friendly, but we still need to *Copenhagenize* things. I'm glad that daily cycling has expanded beyond the Freakz movement and the ghettoizing Critical Mass rides - cycling's for everyone and anyone - it's not just about being counter-culture... it's a great way to get around.

Anonymous said...

I have two bikes my transport bike. Which is black, mudguards, bell, a few gears, carrier, chainguard, two locks, dynamo lights and all the other things. Upright and proper.
I also have a mountain bike all bent over lots of gears. Great fun.
I love my safety bike to cycle anywere in this very pleasent city is great. No drama just jump on the bike in what ever you are wearing and enjoy the trip.
PS if you are male and you wear a nice everyday suit as you cycle in to work it is just amazing how many well dressed girls take a second look .

Sara C. said...

Re cycling in the heat:

In the dog days of summer here in New York, when it gets into the 90's, I bike 5+ miles to work in shorts and a tank top. I keep deodorant and baby wipes in my desk drawer, and try to arrive with plenty of time to cool off, change clothes, and have a proper wipe-down. That's really all it takes.

I only need to go the shorts and tank top route for a couple of weeks every summer, too - once it gets back down into the 80's I'm good to go.

I also manage to be outside in summer heat in work clothes when I am walking somewhere, and that's usually no problem, much less "taboo". It's certainly hotter down on the subway platforms than it ever is on street level at commute times.

Sure, I guess if you live in Death Valley, cycling as your main mode of transport is probably just not in the cards. But spandex and a polyester jersey are not going to change that. And in that sort of place the weather probably isn't EVER conducive to cycling, anyway. In that case, what are you doing lurking about on this blog, or any other cycling website?

milo said...

Three-quarters of what you said, I agree with. But think of the exceptions: in South Australia, the driest of Australia's states, the problems are distance, frequent strong winds (there is a mini-gale blowing outside as I write), fewer roads, brutal summers, an absence of numbers, too brief a tradition of cycling followed by the arrival of cars, which flattened all before them.
In South Australia, houses are bungalows - low houses spread out like aircraft hangars; everything is dispersed, spread out, faraway.

Few see the bicycle as anything other than a poor man's exercise machine. The mandating of helmets, the use of high vis clothing on mostly fast, expensive racing bikes suggest to the public that cycling is on a par with rock-climbing, sky-diving or Olympic tobogganing: a high-risk buzz strictly for specialists.
Here people use big, four-wheel drives, not to cross crocodile-teeming waters, but to drive to the gym. And afterwards the shopping mall.

In and between the two cities where most Australians live, something like cycling chic and the slow bicycle movement may catch on, in pockets and enclaves free from patrolling cops, to avoid a fine for riding helmetless.
Elsewhere? - Fat chance.

I wish Sue Abbott the best as she prepares for her trial, but I fear the worst.


Pierre said...

I think I must be a total anomaly. I'm only interested in road bikes, but I don't wear lycra anything when I'm riding mine. I also use ordinary athletic shoes. My current bike came with clipless pedals, but since I was able to ride fine without them for decades, I took them off. I have a clever gadget without any moving parts and virtually zero-maintenance other than just the bearings: a pair of old Campagnolo racing pedals with toe clips. I leave the straps off. Works fine... always has, always will... and I don't need a professional cycling coach to adjust my feet in them.

I think the whole lycra thing is just more gadget freakness people have. On the other side of that coin, the fashionable people are a bottomless mine for the marketing graduates. Both sides are, really.

Bicycling should be a simple activity: for short rides, get on the bike, pedal; for longer rides, wear something comfortable that you don't mind having to wash after, and pedal.

If you have a burning need to know that you could press every last drop out of the performance lemon if you wanted to and if you were in good enough physical shape to do so, then open your wallet and spend $10,000. With that carbon fibre bike, those high tech wheels, shoes with the stiffest soles in the history of civilization, you should easily be able to beat me by a few minutes in a long enough race.

Really people, forget the fashions, forget the high technology, and just ride the darned bike. We will have to see years from now if the fashionable people and the high tech freaks are still riding.

Jim Kennedy said...

Cycling's Martin Luther nails his theses to the church door. Good work. Nicely restrained rant!


Anonymous said...

more women might pay attention if you didn't use pictures of women in their underwear to illustrate your point.

Colville-Andersen said...

most of our readers are women on this blog. and the picture in question came out of a woman's magazine.

so i'm not too troubled.

Anonymous said...

Where have you traveled in America? I'm really curious. You say all these things that Americans are telling you are 'bollocks.' You also say that people out in 'the provinces' do not cycle as much. Most of America looks like or at least has people cycling comparable distances to your provinces, even the 'built-up' areas. Seville, Spain is not nearly as humid as most of the Southern, or even Eastern U.S.. It's not necessarily about the heat, its about the dripping sweat in one's work attire. Lastly, bicycles with step-through frames, upright seating, fenders and chain guards are still novelties in the U.S. Far more common (and cheaper!) are mountain and road bikes, which are likely to get you dirty on a commute.

These shouldn't be excuses for not biking, but they do necessitate different accessories in different areas.

Petra said...

My daily commute is about 20k and I tend to sweat like hell even in winter, so I really need to wear athletic shirts to get to work, plus pants that dont's chafe are a nice thing to have.

I just ordered pants and a jacket that look like everyday clothes, since I am not a lycra disciple, but are actually made of sweat wicking fabric... so what's the big deal about buying stuff that looks good and doesn't leave me soaking wet after the ride?

Colville-Andersen said...

i've lived the states and canada and i've travelled in most of the lower 48 over the past 20-odd years.

and last year i was on a lecture tour with my Four Goals for Promoting Urban Cycling, first on the east coast and then on the west coast.

Ty said...

I have a 7 mile ride to work here in the suburbs of Seattle, with the last two miles a significant bit of hill work. Today, as I rolled into the office in my khakis, dress shoes, and buttoned shirt, a co-worker exlaimed "Oh! You rode your bike today...and you're not even sweaty!"

I was a little bit sweaty, but not visibly so. It was a cycle chic moment.

bedugulcoffee said...

Yeah, you're right, one needs only a bicycle to ride a bike. No other trash or gears or gadgets. Fashion ? The one you are wearing when you are not on a bike ! That's it ! I've lived in Copenhagen (Lyngby) for 4 years, in the late 70ies and early 80ies, and rode thru wind, rain, sun, and snow on a "stolen" bike given by my sweet beautiful Danish girlfriend, she simply took it from a railways station, the bike was there for months, she said: "it must have been abandoned, and it was not locked". I am almost 53 today living in a greedy city of Jakarta, polluted with cars and motorcycles and hectic traffic jam. It's been almost 6 months since I rode daily to work on my refurbished second hand bike, an hour to reach the office. People here are beginning to ride bicycles starting as a "fashion" or hype, and thus, wearing all "rich" biking clothes / gears. The "third world" attitude in this country is: riding a bike means poor, can't afford a motorcycle or car, and one have to "convince" the others and ride an expensive bike with all the expensive gears and gadgets just to prove that one is actually rich. Stupid eh ? Well, not me, who cares, I learned a lot from the Danes ! One of my ambition is to ride on bicycle from Jakarta to Bandung (another city about 180km), and later from Jakarta to Bali. I want to thank you for a very inspiring blog min ven ! I will post it on my tweeps and FB, so others in Indonesia could follow. Keep rockin' bro !

Tristram said...


Firstly many thanks for your analysis and commentaries so far on the bicycle and the ideological wars that flow around it. You have put into words many of the problems I have come up against myself. I will if I may give you an account of my own experience.

When I decided to get a new bike on the cycle to work scheme I was turned away by all my local retailers in Galway in Ireland. No one wanted to sell me a European-made steel-frame 3-speed bike. Eventually I had to go through the whole process with a shop 150miles away. The reason I was given was that steel bicycles were 'old', 'stupid', 'heavy', & 'boring'. So, many businesses turned business away in a recession!! 'Heavy'? I don't plan on carrying the thing around, it will carry me.

In the end I got a 3-speed Gazelle. For our North American friends, I live in Galway on the west coast of Ireland where it rains and blows pretty much as hard as you're going to get it. For those who live in hotter areas of the U.S., I've lived in Barcelona as well and in the months of summer cycling is the only way to get around, in that heat the metro or train is unbearable.

On my first outing when I got it, I cycled 10km in 40mins despite having put on a fair bit of weight and not cycling in a number of years. This is in very hilly countryside in the west of Ireland.

Some of the looks I get are a bit confused and I've had a few people ask me where I got the 'old' bicycle! Another advantage is that even in big cities here such bicycles are rarely stolen because they're not 'cool' whatever that is.

Keep on truckin'

Unknown said...

I laugh at the guys in spandex that have to 'gear up' for a 30K ride.
For two years I lived in Beverly MA and rode a bike to work in Gloucester MA, about 25K or 15 miles....that's about 160 miles a WEEK, not including pleasure rides, grocery shopping, going to the local movie house....
I had to be at work at 7 AM, where I humped 70 pound boxes of frozen seafood being unloaded from freezer ships...we would sort them onto pallets, and they would be moved into the warehouse for distribution.
Do this for 10 hours a day, with a 10 minute morning and afternoon break, and a 30 minute lunch break.
THEN ride home and do it again for sometimes 7 days a week...if the ships are in, you work.

Oh, and wear work jeans (or old military fatigues) and steel-toed boots due to job requirements.
And do this regardless of weather.

Screw the spandex crowd.
I'm modding some nice wool slacks for cycling with kilt hose and a tweed jacket, and a flat cap.
I ENJOYED my rides to-and-from work. I would pick tiger lilies for the table. I would pick up a loaf of fresh bread for dinner, and tomorrow's lunch.