Tuesday, July 20, 2010

No more Cycle Chic

Evidently there's been a big kerfuffle in the cyloblogosphere after the WSJ article I posted about last week.
I've kind of been too busy decontaminating my basement to pay attention, but when I unexpectedly had an evening free (don't ask), I noticed that quite a few pixels have been spilled discussing the concept of cycle chic.

I don't read the Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog very often anymore- there's more interesting (to me) stuff closer to home,  although I continue to admire his ability to capture such wonderful street shots- especially as I try to capture more of them myself, and find it emotionally and technically challenging.

I did dip into it recently though, and a phrase leapt out at me- "citizen cyclist"  I don't know if  Mikael Colville-Andersen is consciously looking for an alternative to the Chic thing, or if it was just what I happened to read, but it really struck me as appropriate.

Despite the title of this blog, and some of the posts,  I hope that it is obvious that I am not exactly a glamazon.   Yes, I sometimes pay to get my toenails painted, and I have a weakness for shoes,  but I don't wear makeup except under duress,  don't dress in designer clothes (unless you consider H&M a designer)  and am not the kind of woman who shrinks from a job that requires power tools and safety glasses.   More importantly I don't really see any conflict between pedicures and power tool (as long as you wear appropriate footwear when operating power tools).  Feminist? Post-Feminist?  I'll let more academic heads than mine debate it.

Although I've posted about my own outfits, I've intended it to show that anyone can ride in anything, not that I'm particularly attractive or stylish.  I'm pushing 40, and I could stand to get a haircut and lose a few pounds before I start making the rounds of modeling agencies.  And although I reserve the right to mock  (or try to re-educate)  people who don spandex to ride 3 miles on the bike path,  I "get" bike specific clothing.  I used to date a racer, and  I used to be a roadie myself, back when I lived 10 miles from town in a very hilly area.  I've ridden a century and to the top of Millcreek canyon (supposedly one of David Zabriskie's training rides) I own bike shorts and even clipless pedals and I  know how to use them,  I just don't see the need most days.

So I'm going to try to stop talking about cycle chic-  too much noise- too many distractions and connotations and misunderstandings.

But I'm a citizen,  just like anyone else.  Same small "d" democratic rights to the road my taxes help fund.  And if I can ride a bike, any other citizen of this fair land can ride.

 Citizen cyclists- mount up and ride wherever you happen to be going!


  1. Oh come on, you know you're hot - working those power tools in them high heels... while cycling! : ))

    I had no idea there was a kerfuffle; too busy working and building up bicycles, and trying to squeeze in 26-mile recreational rides every day or at least 2nd day, and admiring my leg muscles : ) but will go have a look now, sounds exciting.

  2. Hi,
    I read your post a few days ago on the article, and read the article, and then I was reading the "full hands" bike blog and she had posted this article which I thought was a nice counter point.
    It's a bit more affirming and happy, so maybe you will enjoy it.

  3. I've come to the conclusion that feminism is nothing more--or less--than being a woman and doing what you need or want, not merely what is expected or demanded of you. Then again, what do I know?

    Anyway...Your attitude about cycling is healthy. It's good to understand and appreciate the different kinds of cycling and the equipment used for them--and whether or not they're for you. And it's also good to be assertive, but not pushy about one's preferences. You do those things, which is one of the reasons I read your blog.

  4. I've just tripped over your blog! - love it!!!

    I too avoid the chic concept because the connotations can be limiting - certainly doesn't tempt the men in my family!

    I like 'citizen anything' and have been liberally using it to describe my antics on my bicycle blog!!!!! (it's infectious this blog thing - http://freedomcyclist.blogspot.com!!!) But given our rubbish helmet laws, here in Australia, I go with "freedom cyclist" because until we rid ourselves of these civil-liberty-denying-statutes we will remain 'trapped' and fat!!!!

  5. Excellent post! I missed the kerfuffle, too (love that word!), but I'll check it out. Here's to biking for everyone!!

  6. Velouria, you had no idea? You were pretty upset with me the other day when I jokingly associated you with chicness. I agree with both you and Cycler that clothing should not be used to stereotype, particularly by gender, but I pay attention to what I wear on the bike (both utility and fashion), just as much as I make sure my tie, shirt, and suit are coordinated at work (but I don't wear them riding my bike).

  7. Since I've been commuting daily by bike, and I go to work in my work clothes, I find myself shopping for clothes with the bike in mind. Not in a real fashion sense, which I've never been good at, but just a practical a) will this be comfortable on the bike? and b) can I get away with it at work? I work in academia, so it's fairly casual. A lot of my clothes now come from shops like REI and EMS. More technical fabrics, less cotton, especially for summer. I do own cycling clothes for the weekend, but plain solid-color jerseys unadorned with logos. I've worked as a designer and I like to have things that look nice, but I don't like to sacrifice functionality for it.

  8. Jefe - I'd read the BSNYC post mentioning it, so I knew what you were referring to, but I had not read the actual WSJ article or any of the "kerfuffle" that followed. I just assumed it was like any other article on this topic. Why are you giving me a hard time, eh? : )

    Now I have read it, as well as the comments, and I actually don't think it's such a big deal. Yes, there are mean comments - but I have read more vicious debates in the comments on some BikeSnob post about "salmon", as well as on Copenhagenize when the talk is about skirts and helmetlessness. All in all, I think this WSJ article and its comments have received way too much undeserved attention. I am not outraged by it, just a little annoyed and bored.

  9. Aren't we all just people on bicycles?

  10. Perfect! I think more and more people are thinking this way. I really don't care what people wear or ride as long as they are out...bike messengers, lycra buddies, moms with kids, tweeded roadsters, young ladies headed to the pub...they all make my ride safer. I don't think cycle chic is all that bad either...if young girls interested in fashion take up cycling to "look good" or boys are out looking and smelling fine in their Chrome pants and Axe body spray, they are still out CYCLING, by gum. Maybe they will eventually commute as a part of the workforce, too.

  11. Hee, hee, I agree all kinds of citizen cycling is good. That said, I get a kick out of being faster out of the stop light on the bike path on my old 3 speed than the spd cleated commuter that takes a few slow pedal strokes to get into the pedal to take off. I do think spds are kind of silly for short city rding-- but to each his own. I am outnumbered here.

    That WSJ article sort of hit a nerve with me. I started commuting on a shorter route than the author, but certainly not flat. I think people tend to underestimate their ability. It is easy to get freaked out on a hill climb, but if you are reasonably fit, most of the time it can be done even on a "heavy" internal geared bike.

  12. I'd been meaning to write a comment on this over the last few days ... the last week's been busy. Personally, I appreciate the 'chic cycling' trend as an impetus to think of how one can use a bike without necessarily sacrificing a sense of personal fashion or comfort. It goes beyond the standard lycra vs. regular clothing debate but also, say, how to be visible at night without looking like a UFO .. or how to ride with trousers without looking like an endangered animal that's being tracked with ankle transmitters. I think that even within regular clothing, there's a 'bike guy' fashion type and it's good to question some of the underpinnings of that and see how to address the functional needs of cycling with clothing that's just as appropriate off the bike as on the bike.

    With that said, I do find it regrettable that the trend can inspire its own sort of fundamentalism. In the same way that I tire of cyclists who champion "fixies > everything" or "carbon > steel" or "The Gospel According to Grant Petersen" I also bemoan the attitude that declares a dutch commuter bike as the only bike appropriate for an urban setting.

    So, yes, personally, I'm fine with "cycle chic" now being a part of "cycling culture" however that's defined. But I'm also happy to see folks moving on from the specific prescriptions of Northern European bike fashion and embracing a wider view

    (I wonder what the next trend will be ... affordable recumbents, anyone?)