Welcome to Bicycle Culture 2.0, world. People all over the planet are starting to reacquaint themselves with the bicycles, not least stylish women.
Most of our mothers taught us rightly to sit up straight and the very first bicycles in the heady days surrounding the dawn of Bicycle Culture 1.0, back in the late 1800's, were designed with comfort and ease in mind. They were a far cry from the sports freaky toys like the Penny Farthing and they were, not surprisingly, quickly dubbed 'Safety' bicycles.
Your centre of gravity is more sensible and natural on an upright Safety. The step-through frame invites elegance and easy mounting and dismounting. The Safety is, in many ways, a design freak. In 130 years, few people have succeeded in improving on the design, so perfect is it. Simple and efficient.
The design of the Safety lives on 130-odd years later. It thrives like wildflowers in some countries in Europe and in Asia and is as rare as a tropical orchid in others. Nevertheless, it's out there, it's not going anywhere and it is now the ultimate transport option for those who choose style over speed. It is, quite simply, a modern urban status symbol.
We here at Cycle Chic figured we'd make a little Top 10 list of the proper upright bicycles that we find most aesthetic, stylish and just plain gorgeous. They may not be available near you, but you just tell your local bike shop to grow a brain. Now hitch up your skirts and onto the saddle... we're off. When we dismount, tell me which bike YOU prefer on the list. Just for fun.
#1 - The Velorbis Scrap Deluxe [Denmark]
While the design of the upright bicycle is largely unchanged in 130 years, there are small variations on the different brands. There is just something about the form of Velorbis Scrap Deluxe that appeals. It's swan-like the way the top bar sweeps gracefully up to the handlebars, which, in turn reach out towards the rider in an embrace. The steely finish is modern and simple and the creamy balloon tyres inviting. The Scrap Deluxe is the most upright of these upright bikes and is truly a machine that gently encourages you to choose style over speed. Velorbis also is one of the few brands in this globalised market that produce their bicycles in Europe - northern Germany to be precise. An added design plus in our books.
www.velorbis.com - Price: From 6500 kroner.
#2. The Umberto Dei Imperiale Donna [Italy]
Enter the Imperial Lady. I don't know what it is about the Imperiale Donna from Italian Umberto Dei. It makes me want to pedal about Milano or Firenze in a pencil skirt, killer heels and oversized sunglasses. Problem is, I'm a man, so I'll settle for sitting at a café in Milano or Firenze or any damn place and watching the woman I'm meeting roll up in a pencil skirt, killer heels and oversized sunglasses, elegantly dismount and clickclack over to our table, sitting down with a crooked, knowing smile in my direction.
www.umbertodei.it - Price: €1400
#3. Retrovelo's Klara [Germany]
Retrovelo is a cheeky brand. They come across as playful and passionate about their bicycles - which is what bicycles are all about. Their Klara model has retro all over it, and yet it appeals to our modern aesthetic sensibilities. The balloon tyres that are all the rage were fashionable back in the 1920's and they waltz harmoniously with the unusual frame colour, making the bike unique and just a tad cooler than most. The Klara is elegant, sure, but with just enough twinkle in her eye to make you blush.
www.retrovelo.de - Price: Circa €995
#4. Raleigh Glorie [Denmark]
Raleigh may be a recognisable brand name but they have long since pulled the plug on mainstream bicycles for everyday use and shifted focus to catering to the sub-cultural side of cycling. Not to worry. Help is at hand. A Danish company has long since saved the classic Raleigh from extinction and continues to make licenced versions based on the original 1920's designs. The Glorie is the lady in the Raleigh stable and, appropriately, 'glorie' means 'halo' in Danish. And angelic this bike is. Classic heritage, timeless design. A ride for urban angels. Minus: this bike is only available in Denmark. Plus: you get to come visit us.
www.raleighbikes.dk - Price: 4000 kroner.
#5. The Batavus Old Dutch [Netherlands]
The Old Dutch from Dutch classic brand Batavus is a popular bicycle. It's the most inexpensive bicycle on this list and that may be why you see so many Danish students pedalling about on them. The design is classic upright goodness and, with a variety of colours, you can choose whatever fine ride suits your personality. Or matches your shoes.
www.batavus.nl - Price: €399
#6 The Adriatica Weekend [Italy]
Back to boot country to visit this other Italian classic, the Weekend, from Cicli Adriatica. Where the Imperiale Donna, above, begs to be ridden by frightfully stylish career women with worldly experience, the Weekend offers up visions of lovely female philosophy students flitting about from café to cinema to café. And since weekends last all week for any student worth their salt, the name fits nicely.
www.cicliadriatica.it - Price: No idea.
#7 The Gazelle Toer Populair [Netherlands]
For the better part of a century, sensible upright bikes were mostly painted black. Within the past decade or so, bike brands have finally woken up and gotten creative and thank Odin for that. This, however, does nothing to detract from the Toer Populair out of the Netherlands. Black is always the new black and this bike is simple and stylish in that no-nonsense Dutch way. The Toer Populair is reasonably priced, which makes it easier to adhere to point 7 of The Cycle Chic Manifesto - "I will endeavour to ensure that the total value of my clothes always exceeds that of my bicycle."
www.gazelle.nl - Price: from €599
#8 The Pashley Poppy [UK]
For the British consumer a product that advertises the fact that it's "really old" and "British" is a big thumbs up. Most of us aren't British consumers. Fortunately, the Pashley Poppy is to British bicycles what Brit Pop was to a dull music scene in the late 1980's. Fresh, cheeky and easy on the eye/ear. It is simple and elegant and the blush pink colour adds a welcome splash to the urban landscape. With the classic lines and just a hint of nostalgia, the Poppy is aimed firmly at the bouncy 2010's.
www.pashley.co.uk - Price: £395
#9 The Skeppshult Nature [Sweden]
Skeppshult [prounounced Sheppshoolt] has, with a splash of venture capital, reinvented itself as an upmarket bicycle brand with focus on the proud design traditions of Scandinavia. They do it well and the Nature model is a mirror reflection of what I imagine sturdy country girls named Inga are like. I can see this mythical Inga rolling down country lanes to the shops or lifting it onto trains for trips to the big smoke where she has a secret fling with an architecture student, but her parents want her to marry the son of the lumber magnate on the farm down the lane.... oh dear... got carried away there.
www.skeppshult.com - Price: Haven't found it yet.
#10 The Arrow Barkley [Japan]
I'm chucking in a wild-card here at number 10. Japan is one of the great bicycle cultures of the industrialised world, third only to Denmark and the Netherlands and the array of bicycles you see on the streets [and sidewalks] is otherworldly. Arrow Bicycles are known for their no-nonsense design and loyalty to simple elegance and functionality. The Barkley is simply so clean, so perfectly non-plussed that whether you're zipping through Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo or rolling gently through Omotesando, you know your bicycle is making you look just a little more gorgeous.
www.arrow.jp - Price: €510
The Contender - The Electra Ticino [USA]
I like what Electra do. They are a beacon of stylish mainstream cycling hope in a nation of spandex. The Ticino is on the list as a contender because it won't be out until 2010. Modelling itself on the classic lines of European bicycles from the 1940's and 1950's, the Ticino is a retromodern peach. I see many of these frame styles around Copenhagen and they are so very classic. Nice move, Electra.
www.electrabike.com - Price: TBA
Other Cycle Chic Guides:
The Cycle Chic Manifesto // Choosing a Bicycle // 'Cycling' Clothes // Cycling in Skirts and Dresses // DIY Skirtguards // Gentleman's Guide to Bespoke Bicycles //
The Bicycles of Copenhagen - #1 // The Bicycles of Copenhagen #2 - Danish Delight // The Bikes of Copenhagen #3 - Dutch Treat // The Bicycles of Copenhagen - Sweetly Swedish //