citizen cyclists making urban spaces liveable

20 February 2011

What the *#@* is Cycle Chic™?

I've been getting a little feisty over at Sarah Wilson's blog today in response to the replies she received on her post What to Wear On A Bike - Part 2.

Surely we have all earned the right to wear whatever we like, on or off our bicycles without judgement?
Why is it that some women find it necessary to dismiss frocked up female riders as frivolous and silly because they sometimes like to wear dresses and heels while riding?
I wear whatever I would wear normally and get about very well thank you and yes if some days I wear f*$@ off heels, so what?

Over in Copenhagen and indeed many places in the world, women of varying ages ride in all manner of clothes as these photographs from Copenhagen Cycle Chic so beautifully illustrate.

Generations *


Classic, Classy, Copenhagener*

Basket Check

It is in emerging bicycle cultures that we are constantly forced to explain and justify our clothing choices.

Which brings me to that question I am asked so often - "what is cycle chic™?"

When Mikael Colville-Andersen first coined the term back in 2007, he was using it as a way to describe his fellow Copenhageners as they went about their daily business on their bicycles.  Devoid of any "cycling gear", just in regular clothes, doing regular things, a concept that was and still is to some degree, thought of as a little extraordinary.

In Sydney, we do cycle chic our way, we're not Copenhagen after all, but the aim is absolutely the same.
To show how the bicycle can be "an integral, respectable and feasible transport form, free of sports clothes and gear, and how it can play a vital role in increasing the life quality in cities.
... to highlight that bike culture is an effortless pursuit. No lycra needed. No fancy gear. Just get out and ride. Style over Speed. Man or Woman."
James at Customs House    bikes on bourke street

  penny and the vintage bike


The photograph below is not overtly glamorous. The "photograph that launched a million bicycles" as it has become known, is just a nice spontaneous shot of someone probably heading off to work one day.

Green Light Go - The Birth of Cycle Chic

As is this - the eminently majestic stylist Catherine Baba on the job in Paris. And frankly, if she can ride in those heels more power to her!!!

So when people say "I want to ride but I don't have anything to wear?", I paraphrase Mikael and say "of course you do, wear what you're wearing right now".

I like this cheeky photograph from Copenhagen Cycle Chic.

So at Sydney Cycle Chic when we get together for a ride, we come as we are.
We don't NEED to dress up to prove a point - or do we?

"Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel...the picture of free, untrammelled womanhood." - Susan B. Anthony, American Suffragist, 1896.


Hannah said...

I second that Saskia. There were some hostile comments on Sarah Wilson's blog but I love what you do - keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Please stop hating on those who do wear lycra. It's hard to say "wear what you want on a bike" while pointing the finger at those who choose to wear something different and saying "but not that".

Tolerance for all please.

K-star said...

Ohhh its our anonymous friend who loves lycra so much. Cycle chic didn't even mention hating lycra. You are becoming a lycra zealot.

Wear what you want - lycra or not is the point. How about we all wear just a little less judgement on our shoulders? It might make riding a little more pleasant!

Jemima said...

The thing is, most Sydney-siders/Australians think that lyrca is the norm for cycling. That deters a lot of people, and yes, women are included there.

Cycle-chic style blogs are out there to offer another option for people getting into cycling, because we DO want MORE people cycling. The fact that these blogs don't mention lycra, or point out that lycra isn't necessary is because the majority of people think it is, they're not "hating on lycra". People don't need to be told about cycling in sports clothes, they probably see it everyday on their way into work/through the city. They don't realize that cycling and "cycle-chic" (wearing everyday clothes) is a viable option.

I won't go into the animosity I often encounter from "lycra" cyclists, just for wearing something different, but if you're talking about tolerance, then maybe some of those sporty cyclists should be a bit more inclusive of us.

Stitchybritt said...

You know, this isn't even so much about what you wear, but your attitude to cycling. It needs to be ok to be a casual cyclist.

Case in point: I ride to work slowly, from Newtown to Alexandria, in my work clothes (usually a shirt and trousers or skirt, and ballet flats). I ride slow. When I ride on the footpath(and I am VERY cautious of my pedestrian friends) I get some attitude from people on foot, and I know some people have been booked on King St for riding on the footpath. When I ride on the road, I still ride slow, and cars beep me. I'm just riding a bike! Chill out people!

Carinthia said...

Lycra has its place - if you're into riding at speed it won't chafe you as normal clothes might, nor will wind billow into it and cause resistance. So if you're into speed and training and long distance rides, lycra is probably your best friend. Horses for courses.
For those of us who like to ride at a more leisurely pace, or ride wearing normal clothes, it's now acceptable to do that without feeling that one should be clad in head to toe lycra. Lycra wasn't around when the bicycle was invented. People rode in whatever they were wearing on the day, and for the transport and pleasure cyclist, that's still the case today.
Has the popular vision of cyclists whizzing along in lycra and Oakleys put some women off taking up cycling? Very likely. Especially if, ahem, like me, you don't have a fab body!
Riding a bike is about getting out in the fresh air and enjoying yourself. Taking life at a more leisurely pace. And wearing what the heck you like.

Paul Martin said...

Simple rule for cycling for transport: Dress for the destination and ride accordingly...

When I'm out 'training' on my bike, I wear sporty gear. When I'm travelling from A to B on my bicycle (nice Dutch Gazelle!) I wear what I need to be wearing at 'Point B' - simple.

I don't wear special 'driving clothes' so why should I wear special cycling clothes? :)

Great post, Saskia.

ibikelondon said...

Of course sports apparel has it's place when it comes to cycling - if yu are riding for sport, or long distances.

The problem is that as cycling became a minority activity the majority of that minority were sports cyclists. It's great that people love doing that but unfortunately the public perception of cycling became hi-jacked somewhat and now if you go in to most bike shops that is the prevalent image of 'how to cycle' you are presented with.

Cycle Chic isn't hating on sports cyclists, or those who choose to wear lycra to ride long distances. It's just showing that using a practical bike in your ordinary clothes to get from A to B is also achievable and perfectly valid. And that's going to get a hell of a lot more people on bikes than the sporty image ever will. That's not to 'hate' on sports cycling, merely to redress the balance somewhat!

Ride on, Saskia, and keep up the great work!

St Etienne said...

You tell 'em Saskia!

Just left this comment at the Sarah Wilson blog:

The idea that one needs to be decked out in cycle kit to ride a bike is one of the greatest cycling myths in Australia. If you are riding manageable distances at a casual speed then it’s perfectly fine to wear your own clothes. The fundamental difference between cycling in Europe and cycling in Australia is that the former has a much greater percentage of everyday people – male and female, young and old – using a bike to get around. Here we have a homogeneous, conformist and discriminatory culture that only suits the “establishment.” Break these unwritten rules and the hordes will descend upon you, like what has happened here on this perfectly innocuous blog entry. I hope that anyone reading this blog who is thinking of taking up cycling does it in a way that is comfortable and safe for themselves, and not for the “experts” who think they know better.

Remember people: bike shops are for bikes; clothes shops are clothes

saskia said...

Thanks for all the brilliant comments guys - I've been reading these and those over at Sarah Wilson's blog all day and you know, for once it feels like we ARE becoming the majority!

Hadn't realised this would cause such a heated debate - I must try to be fiesty more often :-)

What's really great is the feedback from people who have been inspired to take up bicycling again because of blogs like this and the countless cycle chic style blogs around the world - makes every petty comment extra sweet. And I was one of those people so I know what I'm talking about!

Lady Vélo said...

I'm echoing ibikelondon's thoughts on this one... there isn't & shouldn't be any hate between those who like Cycle Chic and those who like Lycra... it's not about that at all.

It's always fantastic to see Cycle Chic across the world, and it was certainly an inspiration for me when I got my Pashley last year & started up my own blog about style on 2 wheels :)

Keep up the great work Saskia! :)

Anonymous said...

I hope that anyone reading this blog who is thinking of taking up cycling does it in a way that is comfortable and safe for themselves, and not for the “experts” who think they know better.
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Cameron of Newtown said...

Stickybritt - do everyone a favour and ride down Wilson Street instead of on the foot path on King Street. Tell your mates too. Wilson Street is recognised by the council as a cycle route. The crowded footpath on King Street isn't.

Everyone should wear what they like when they ride. Let the small minded people who stew over appropriate dress while riding stew over it while you get on with your life..

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ScozzieJames said...

Street wear and fashion for urban living, sports wear and lycra for training.

That's my rule for life and it works pretty well for me on the bike, whether I'm commuting to school on my town bike with my son, or I'm knocking over 100km's on my gorgeous Bianchi on a Sunday morning.

Let's face it, being chic ain't easy, whatever you are wearing. I've been chastised by square friends for wearing a scarf but no jacket, and by my Lycra friends for matching my cycle shirt to my bike...

eric said...

This is an excellent article. There are tonnes of cyclists in Sydney and I don't think that we should a single one of them on anything much less what they wear to go cycling in. That's just horrible discrimination.

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