Things that put people off cycling: cycle specific clothing

Wearing lycra to ride your bike makes you weird. The truth is that the vast majority of people who ride bikes do so without pseudo-scientific technical fabrics or specialist footwear.

This occurred to me while reading something Mark at iBikeLondon has written about Boris Johnson’s consultation with the bike industry: City’s cyclists should have their say (and Mayor Boris should listen)

In it he says:

“I firmly believe that we need to take the ‘other’ out of cycling and rehabilitate it as an everyday and ordinary activity in people’s lives again. If you want mass cycling rates, the masses need to be able to associate with cycling. I’d probably start with the inequality in cycling rates between men and women and be asking why aren’t more women cycling?”

The final point about rates of women cycling is a huge issue. British Cycling are running a survey about it: Have Your Say- Why are fewer women cycling? If you are a woman who has a view on why you or your friends don’t cycle I urge you to complete this survey.

He goes on to cite Carlton Reid’s article Forget blokes, it’s women we want to get on bikes:

“… not all cycling women want to be Audrey Hepburn with a basket-on-the-front, pearlised-pink Dutch bike. But there’s no escaping that this sector is the one that produces the best photographs for promoting cycling to a mainstream audience. Forget helmets, Lycra and speed; non-cyclists find all that a big turn-off. “

In that perspective it’s no surprise that the Tweed Ride movement is gaining momentum. The estimable Tweed CC should be your first port of call for all such matters.

The important thing to remember is not the dressing up bit but that the ethos is about wearing what were once considered everyday materials and clothes to ride your bike. The notion that you should be able to ride your bike to work without needing to transport your wardrobe with you should be celebrated and embraced as far as possible.

I admit to wearing specialist shoes on my ride to work but that’s largely because normal shoes would be uncomfortable on my SPD pedals. I probably don’t need to wear them and it’s habit as much as anything.

I also wear my Rapha Classic Softshell most days but would much rather wear something I can go to lunch in as well as ride to work in. It’s not the worst looking jacket but it’s still clearly a cycling one.

I’ve had it about four years now, picked it up in one of the early sample sales at Velorution, can’t imagine that happening these days. Velorution probably have as good a selection of clothing for cycling that isn’t cycling clothing as anywhere in London.

I probably would like some of the stuff that Swrve (US)/Swrve (UK) (same company it seems, just different UK/US setups) or Outlier do. But from the outside they still have the look of “cycle-specific” clothing, or rather everyday clothing sold as cycling specific.

What’s wrong with riding your bike in whatever you happen to be wearing?

It seems to be good enough for our European friends, even when riding the Tour of Flanders sportive. I saw more than a few people in their everyday garb. I even got passed by a bloke in a trenchcoat on a town bike on one stretch of cobbles. Yes, you read that right.

See, even such hallowed terrain can be ridden as if you’re off to get the papers and a pint of milk. Come to think of it, he probably was.

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