Cycle chicly

Apparently there’s a bit of foofa going on about Cycle Chic.

Some are complaining that the “Cycle Chic” movement is too sexist – using imagery of svelte 20-somethings to promote cycling. Now, the line between the “movement” and the person behind the movement is getting a little blurry. And the Twitter insults are flying like fur at a cat fight.

Of course, if you look at the original Cycle Chic website (and companion Copenhagenize website that deals with the nitty gritty of advocacy) – you’ll see a wide range of citizens, both men and women, riding bikes. Not all are 20, blond and wearing short skirts billowing in the breeze. (Although, hey, it makes for nice photos.)

Fashion makes the concept of cycling more accessible – making the bike simply an accessory to an outfit. Let’s be frank. You’re not going to win over every potential new cyclist by throwing out technical jargon about Sturmey-Archer gears, dynamo-whatnots and lugged frames.  The fashion angle allows for another entry point to the otherwise unfamiliar world of bikes.

Could I do without one more Momentum magazine cover photo of a perky looking woman with a “see this is so easy” grin on her face? Yes. But I’m already a convert.

Start looking around, you’ll see it. Who is on the cover of Ottawa’s bike map? Who is featured in the Enviro Centre’s bike safety videos? A young woman.

Who sells laundry detergent, dish soap and lunch box snacks? Women.

It’s no surprise that marketers know that winning over women is the key to a bigger market share for their product or service.
Chez Laurier
Be chic by being visible.

But, it’s a narrative that gets stale when women start feeling pigeon-holed into certain roles and behaviours. (Which is why we are starting to see men doing household chores in commercials. But how many decades of fabric softener ads did we all endure before we saw a dude sorting out whites on air? Exactly.)

Canada Day bike ride
Wear something that makes you feel comfortable for your ride.

It’s time to expand the narrative of chicness. Show me the mom who carts her six kids around. Show me a grandparent getting groceries. Show me a group of friends with their bikes at a café.
Ride a pink bike with turquoise pants.  Why not?

No one is attacking the Sartorialist for taking photos of beautiful pedestrians. There is no pedestrian chic movement. No one needs to learn how to walk.
Laurier style
Wear your work clothes.

Overall, I support the Cycle Chic movement for showing people riding in their regular clothes: men, women, parents. And personally, I don’t care if “regular clothes” means businesswear or yogawear, heels or flats. Some people have the luxury of only riding short distances and can cycle in their work clothes, others prefer to change. Some of us ladies, just don’t like heels. Period.

Wear your head scarf.

Personally, I’m more concerned about people choosing reliable bikes that won’t break down or mess up their clothes and bikes that will carry their things in order to make using it fun and practical. Fun enough that they won’t want to stop.

If showing aspirational photos of fashionable people riding bikes gets more people interested in riding – that’s great. Really great.
Sens-ible use of the bike path.
Be sporty.  Support the Sens.

(Could I have done without the Cycle Chic manifesto item about your outfit costing more than your bike? Yes. Every single outfit I own fails this test. And I don’t care. I love my bikes.) And maybe the city-specific spin-off Cycle-Chic websites could show a bit more variety of cyclists? Yes?  Yes.

And no one needs to start getting snippy about other bloggers who have “unattainable” bikes since, in the long haul, a well-made Dutch bike like Dottie’s will save you money.  But is anyone going to hold a crank shaft to your wallet and force you to purchase an Oma as your first bike?  No.

What would a Dutch person wear to cycle the 156km to Arnhem? WWDD? (What would the Dutch Do?)

Did I try biking in a skirt after seeing so many photos of women in Copenhagen doing it? Yes. And most of the time, it works out just fine for me. But just because it works for me, doesn’t mean everyone has to do it all of the time.
Winter bike parade
Dress warmly.

Anyway. Long story short.
You can bike in Nike cargo shorts and a helmet. You can bike in a dress. Wear whatever what makes you get on your bike again the next day.
Is this cycle chic? Why not?

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16 thoughts on “Cycle chicly

  1. Thank you for this! I read much of the comments and attacks yesterday and got a bit sad. The message was clearly lost. Cycle Chic and their content inspired me to give up aspirations to spend loads of money I didn’t have on cycling gear, and remember what I used to ride in as a child…my regular clothes. You are right, wear what you want, and those that are opposed to Cycle Chic need to understand that the message is to make cycling accessible to people who are intimidated by all the gear, as you said.

    For the record, though, photos of my family and I have been on Cycle Chic. I am in my 30’s, curvy, and was wearing jeans and a boxy jacket in the photo, and my kids were in sweaters. Here’s the link, featuring many men as well:

    • I am jealous that you got to try that Trio Bike! I don’t think Ottawa is one of its stops, sadly.

      When I first moved to Ottawa, I bought spandex shorts for biking. It just seemed the thing to do at the time. Suffice to say, I am much happier in my regular clothes. I’m glad that people can see that there are lots of different ways to ride a bike.

    • My favourite part is when they’re all “we’re not taking advice from some guy from Europe”… Too bad he’s from Alberta. : )

      • No kidding! I think what tends to get lost is that Europe has almost always been ahead of North America, being that their civilizations are much older than ours. So the cycling infrastructure and accessibility has grown there first, and it seems only right that we look to them for how to move forward for the future. And the fact that recommendations are coming from a guy who spent a lot of his life in Canada should mean that it really could work here.

  2. I always viewed cycle chic as anything but bicycle specific clothing (aka spandex).
    I don’t like helmets (and will fight helmet laws), but I don’t begrudge anyone who makes the choice to wear one (so long as they respect my choice not to wear one).

    may not fall under traditional ‘cycle chic’, but it’s what I view cycle chic as being (non-spandex people on bikes).

    I did find some of the comments on Taking the Lane a bid unusual — with some claiming cycle chic as being sexist. Do cycle chic blogs have more pictures of younger women? Yes — but there are plenty of well dressed men and people of all ages as well.

  3. So, exactly where would you have to shop to get an outfit that costs more than your Babboe? Not even sure Holt Renfrew would do it.

    I think I am the least cycle chic person on the path – every day in a pair of MEC shorts and a $4 quick dry white shirt. And rolled up jeans when I go out.

    • Oh Chris. I bet that a pair of shoes and dress from Holts could easily break the Babboe bank. Then again, I just use Holts as a shortcut through the CD Howe building!

      I’m usually dressy during the week on my way to work, but on the weekends, it’s whatever goes. I’m hanging out with a four year old who thinks a Spiderman t-shirt is the height of sophistication. The bar is set pretty low for the weekend.

  4. I found the personal attacks against M.C.A a bit hard to take. In person, he is very much a cycle advocate above all else. The blog is about marketing an idea and it does it very well. I also found it silly that people feel he is “telling” them what to wear or ride. Just too silly. As for the blogs featuring more women then men. That may be true though I think we all strive for balance. But personally, I find that women dress better than men on bikes and are just a bit easier to photograph.

    • Yup – I agree. While I may not agree with his firm stance on helmets, I think his work on infrastructure and traffic calming is key to healthy cities for cycling, walking and living in general. It’s been said that women are an indicator species for a healthy bike culture, so if there’s an imbalance in the male and female photos on his site, it’s probably a calculated decision.

      And we do tend to have a wider variety of outfits in our closet.

  5. Pingback: A little this, a little that — a rash of road rage, a Cycle Chic kerfuffle and a scofflaw driver on video « BikingInLA

  6. I don’t know why this hasn’t been mentioned, but a lot of the Danes’ bikes are kinda crappy and old. So the thing about clothes costing more than bikes isn’t just some aspiration, but a reality. I have friends whose bikes were rescues and ancient. Sure a new bike will cost a lot of money and since those things they ride there are built are built to last, they do. Thus, clothing can sometimes cost more than the bike. Unlike here where things are built to fall apart.

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