I’m too sexy for your bike – it’s all about style
“Among the growing population of bicyclists are those who eschew speed and spandex in favor of sitting upright and slowly making their way through town in whatever they happen to be wearing that day. It’s a trend that some are calling the Slow Bike Movement.”
“The rider-friendly features of uprights tend to encourage a different style of riding than the recreation-oriented North American norm. In countries where the bicycle is a broadly accepted means of travel, people frequently ride simply for transportation, wearing everyday clothes. Whether a rider’s destination requires pants or a skirt, flip-flops or heels, shalwar khameez or a suit, the clothes-saving components common on upright roadsters help make owning a separate cycling outfit unnecessary.”
(For the record, the second quote actually makes quite a lot of sense and I don’t actually have any problems with it at all…)
Why do you need to have a “sit up and beg” style bike in order to ride slowly? I can ride slowly just fine on a mountain bike, or, gasp, even a road bike. Is it possible that you can even ride slowly in Lycra? Why the exclusion of a certain style of bike, fashun, and maybe even a certain type of person, if you want to get everyone on a bike?
Normalizing the act of cycling is important, and it is understandable how dressing up like you are racing gives people an easy method of singling a group of people out for the purposes of scorn and whatnot, and I even agree with the backlash against helmet laws, but let’s not become all Colville-Anderson about it. Sure, be passionate about your personal sense of style, but let’s not go as far as to suggest that in order to be a normal, responsible, respectable, and reasonable cyclist, you need to be all Copenhagen Chic (most of those appearing there are, in fact, just normal people, to be fair). Yes, it looks great, yes, it is quite practical, and yes, it is encouraging to see people riding in a way that visually says, “no special preparation was required in order to ride my bike”, even if much special preparation was taken in order to appear in public at all…
But here’s my problem, and it’s the same problem that I have with the hard-line anti-helmet bunch: you’re a bit of a loser if you aren’t looking all Paul Smith on your steel and chrome steed, just as you are if you feel the need to wear a helmet. It’s that fine line between the argument behind being forced to wear a helmet and using that to distract from real cycling issues, and saying that helmets are causing the problem, or that sophisticated cycle-style is great but that anything less is keeping cycling chained up to the rack of MAMIL.
It may be a slight distinction, but it’s a real one, in my opinion.
There’s that subtle, underlying insinuation (“eschewing speed and spandex”) that makes chic-cycling exclusive just the same as speed and spandex.
Who doesn’t like to look good? Of course, everyone has their own idea of what looking good means, never mind feeling good, which is exactly why some people don’t care about how they look just as much as some people do. And who wants to feel put out by having to jump through hoops (even if they are big enough to comfortably walk through) by having to don special equipment?!?
I know, I know, sites like CycleChic, where you “dress for your destination, not your journey”, celebrate the freedom of cycling in whatever you want… as long as it’s not lycra and is “granola”-free (which get’s my vote, as it happens).
See? So much of our conception of “freedom” is pretty much just freedom from certain things while boxing yourself up in your own elevated sense of superiority.
Don’t worry too much about that, though, because we’re all the same. Well, most of us. Some people are somehow suspiciously free of prejudice, which I find completely awe-inspiring. For the rest of us, we’re all just a bunch of opinionated pricks – we only need to find the right context for it to reveal itself.
I don’t wear any special cycling equipment on my daily journey to work and back (except for the clicky-shoes), or to the shops, or to meet people, but honestly, if I could be bothered throwing on some lycra under my jeans, I’d be wayyyy more comfortable.
Here’s the facts. You can wear whatever you want on the bike, and ride whatever kind of bike that you want, and you can go as slow as you want on any of them.
Even if I don’t like what you are wearing or think the kind of bike you are riding should be confined to the same island that exists only in my imagination and keeps all of the… I was going to list a hilarious-but-true selection of people who do things that irk me, but here’s where I discover that I apparently don’t like anyone, my wife is telling me… so… it’s apparently me that needs island… And there you have it – I am (sadly) the perfect example of what I am talking about, having all kinds of judgements about everyone else who I think is trying way to hard to “be something” rather than just being. I’m just the same.
So celebrate the style you enjoy (unless it’s rolled-up pants, shoes with no socks, and the same unique, in-your-face [or nearly on it] tattoo that everyone else is getting that I’m not completely sure that you realize is permanent – like, forever, permanent). Celebrate the kind of cycling that you enjoy (unless it’s recumbents). Celebrate the bringing together of the two (hipsters on recumbents? That would be hilariously ironic, and I’m pretty sure no-one’s claimed that one yet, so, quick, it’s up for grabs kids!).
I kid. Kind of.
Where was I? Oh yeah – even if you don’t conform to my version of all that is Right and Good in the universe, I believe, way down in the deep recesses of my heart that aren’t scarred over with judgment and well-reasoned but self-serving opinions, that you should wear whatever you feel best in, and ride whatever you feel happiest on.
For utility cycling, that would usually be your normal clothing, as it happens, and, as it happens again, an upright bike is probably the most practical option if you are wearing a dress, freshly pressed trousers, and don’t want to go very fast or very far. It’s true.
But don’t tell me I can wear “whatever I want” on the bike by telling me that I can’t wear whatever I want, or that I’m a fool and a cycling saboteur for choosing to wear a helmet, or that I, in fact, need to ride a certain bike and wear certain clothes in order to ride slowly, chill out, and enjoy myself.
Now lets just all calm down, and go ride our bikes already. Nice and slow-like. Lance.
(If you need some practical British advice with no sign of/advice to procure an upright bike anywhere, here you go)
Header image: source