Bike Fashion is just fashion on a bike…


Often people tell me that they cannot commute by bicycle because they must wear a suit or formal attire to work.  Well I’m sorry, but that excuse just doesn’t cut it.  I bike to work in a suit or business casual everyday.  A friend of mine bikes to the Opera, in a tuxedo.  Now, some of you may call this “hard core”, but I think it’s just the opposite.  To those of us that do bike NY, it’s mundane and completely rational. 

As the wonderful blog says, “Cycle Chic means normal people riding normal bikes in their normal clothes.”  People that display true “bike fashion” or “bike culture” are not trying to make a statement.  They are just people that dress well and get around town on a bicycle.

There are a several great blogs dedicated to chic cycling, among them Boston-based Chic Cyclist, San Francisco’s Velo Vogue, and Toronto Bike Chic.  Two of my favorites are Copenhagen Cycle Chic and Copenhagenize, both of which offer very funny explanations of what it means to have a bike culture (worth reading, click here and here). Definitely read the linked posts, but in summary, biking has very little to do with fashion, the environment, or living an alternative lifestyle and everything to do with convenience and practicality.

Right now the “cycle chic” community is buzzing after several recent articles in the New York Times.  I have mixed feelings about these articles.  On April 2, there was an article in the Times Fashion & Style section about Ralpha, a small London brand that is “restoring taste to cycling clothes.”  The company sells $195 Sportswool biking jerseys, $205 bib shorts, $25 socks, and a $750 tweed jacket for urban commuting.  Now to me, the prices alone are disturbing, but the idea that there needs to be a separate line of clothes for people that bike is preposterous. But then again, I’m probably not the target market for this product: “My friends were on bikes that would cost $3,000 or more, but then they’d go spend $50 on a shirt that was badly made and badly styled and had no passion in it.  There was a gap in the market for this.” 

On Wednesday, the Times Fashion section struck again with a big bike spread.  The main article called “Riding the It factor” talks about the increasing appeal of Dutch bikes.  The article is accompanied by a short piece about “How City Bikers Look Sharp”, a photo slideshow, and audio commentary.  As it happens, today I sold my trusty hybrid to a friend and purchased a Dutch-style bike that I ordered last week.  The Times was right about one thing, biking the city this afternoon I found it to be one sweet ride. The wide handlebars had my hands practically at my sides and the upright seating position had me pedaling with good speed without standing up.  With a rear coaster brake, a 3-speed geared hub, fenders, rear wheel-lock, and a bike rack, the KHS Green is a great commuter bike. And unlike the bikes mentioned in the article, it didn’t cost $1,000 to $2,000. My new bike cost just $360 from my favorite bike shop, Enoch’s on W37th and 10th Ave.  Now while Club Monaco is selling the very elegant Gazelle for $995, you could buy my more modest KHS and still have the money for a nice suit from Century 21 to go with it.

26 Responses

  1. My biggest beef with all these articles is that they always couch them in terms of the recession – times are tough so people are forced to ride a bike – implying, of course, that we’ll return to “normal” as soon as possible.

    I’d like to see these articles referencing the health, social, and environmental benefits, and leaving the financial benefits as a footnote.

    But in the end I’ve decided that we need to take these mainstream media overtures in the best possible way and hope to use them to continue to show people that, whatever the reason they have for getting on a bike, cycling is a fun, viable, responsible transportation choice. Let’s emphasize the fun part!

  2. This is actually pretty amusing: Some Americans (I think) living in China created a parody of the NY Times article: Shanghai Style: The Chinese Bicycle, 5,000 Years of Civilized Riding and The ‘It’s the S**t!’ Factor. Good for a few chuckles….

  3. Love your article… having come from the fashion insustry in both new york and toronto i tend to focus on the bohemian aspect of having a bicycle as an acessory…no different than a pair of shoes.. they both help me to get from a to b… this comes from being surrounded by the trendy waitress and retail sales girls, and beer toting brothers trying to pick up girls in the local park who can’t afford the $3000 bike and wouldn’t be caught dead in spandex that had a company logo screened into it…

    with that said a vintage bicycle locked up on a ring post with its story telling scratches and rust spots still gives me the same feeling as finding a great deal on a pair of shoes…

    oh yah and passing cars wearing heels in rush hour is fun!

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