Tuesday, 5 April 2011

There is nothing wrong with this man

I spotted this chap, presumably about to set off home by bike. He is dressed in bike-specific trousers, jacket and even shoes, with a high-visibility tabard and pannier cover and a helmet. There is nothing wrong with this man.

The Cycle Chic movement was borne partly out of a desire to "re-normalise" cycling, to make it feel like a normal everyday activity which almost anyone can enjoy. I imagine the man in the picture is happy with his choice of clothing and his bicycle, and I say good for him. Some people misinterpret the cycle chic movement as being against cyclists like the man pictured, but this is not at all the case. What we are trying to show is that his way of cycling is not the only way. He prefers to wear specialist cycle gear but someone else may prefer not to.

The problem here in the UK is that the cycle industry and mainstream media portray cycling solely as a sporting activity, which attracts people who are predisposed to enjoying cycling for sport. What it also does is put-off people who want to cycle a few miles to get around, visit the shops or meet a friend for lunch by making it seem like an energy-intensive activity requiring specialist gear, sporty bicycles and a lot of perspiration. The aim of the Cycle Chic movement is not to find the most fashionable cyclists or to direct hate at sport-focussed cyclists who wear specialist clothing. It is simply a way to try and redress the imbalance in the image of cycling in the UK, where too much focus is given over to sport-cycling and the potential for the bicycle to be used as everyday transport is all too often overlooked.


  1. "The problem here in the UK is that the cycle industry and mainstream media portray cycling solely as a sporting activity, which attracts people who are predisposed to enjoying cycling for sport."

    It's also that the roads are pretty hostile to us, in general. Similar types that I've ridden in France at a 10mph average without problems are very hairy below about 15mph in the UK, because the motorist's perception is that you're encroaching on "their" space here, and that if you're not rattling along at a fair clip, you're "holding them up". Once you're doing that sort of speed, on a longish journey, the roadster & pinstripe suit option becomes less attractive!

    The hostility in the UK, and our road safety messages (largely, avoid cars/help cars to avoid you rather than hey, drivers, you're fast & heavy, so take it easy/look out for people) may also lead to a feeling that "protection" is essential, however chimeric the safety benefit.

    Nice post though - it's often easy to make folk feel like "the enemy" if they're not taking the street clothes/upright bike route.

  2. @John,

    I agree that the unsuitability of many of our roads for cycling does essentially ban cyclists who are not willing/able to ride at a consistently high speed.

    To me, the obvious answer would be quality infrastructure. Some sport-oriented cyclists are against this because they fear it will just be more of the same crap we already have, in addition to the widespread "Careful what you wish for" fallacy in which it is implied that infrastructure investment = cycling on the road banned. With so much focus on sport cycling, and the numerous organisations representing the interests of sport-oriented cyclists, the only voice of cycling heard is generally a sport-oriented one, which is generally against/apathetic towards the infrastructure needed to make the roads suitable for everyone else who rides or wants to ride.

  3. Well said.

    I enjoy cycling and don't mind getting sweaty. At the end of my work commute I have to get changed into a clinical uniform so cycling in work clothing is not an option for me. I also like cycling hills + distance while carrying all my camping/cooking gear so more exercise friendly clothing becomes a requirement. However, if I am just popping along to the local shops then jeans and a T shirt does me just fine.

    I am for making cycling more friendly for all and hopefully reducing the dominance of the car in road planning. I fully support the move for segregation of cyclists and vehicles as per the Dutch model and espoused by the CEoGB. I don't hold out much hope it's going to happen any time soon though!

  4. I always feel a little bit sorry for people who feel they *have* to clad themselves in such clothing. It takes a lot of the spontaneity out of cycling.

    But then I've no place to pass comment; I generally don't ride (or I don't feel 'right') unless I'm wearing some sort of padded short, whether as under- or outerwear, because it's just so much more comfortable to ride in them.

    Hypocrisy - a game we can all play.

  5. This picture show that we have an extremely hostile road environment, once we change that people won't feel the need to dress like that. The aim of the Cycle Chic movement is to show that is doesn't have to be the way it is now.

  6. Yesterday, Manchester University had a "cycle safety day", including visits from the police and Stagecoach, who brought a double-decker so that people could sit in the driver's seat and see how bad the rear view is in the mirrors.

    The bus drivers were also very keen to impress how much easier it is to spot a cyclist if they're wearing hi-viz. This was repeated several times.

    Don't get me wrong. I want to cycle like a Dutchman. I don't wear a helmet and I have my work shirt under my hi-viz jacket rather than lycra. I don't want to wear a gimp suit. But I also want to get home to my kids every night, and as much as I rant about physically separated cycle paths we don't have them along Oxford Road.

    The kind of kit you see in this photo is a symptom of the problem. The cause is a lack of quality infrastructure and cyclists' exposure to busy motor traffic.

    Posts like this are dangerously close to blaming the wearer for the status quo. This can only serve to alienate cyclists who, like me, are already unhappy with the road conditions. This is really unhelpful.

    So you wear your trendy clothes, and good for you, but please be careful cycling between the buses on Oxford Road.


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