28 October 2008

Just When You Thought They Understood

I was sent a link to a newish American bike brand today. Civia Cycles. I like the look of the ride. Above is their Loring model. Very cool, very European in style, lovely lines and functionality - they forgot the chain guard, but hey... First impression: cool stuff. Very cool.

On the Loring page there is even a little gallery of photos featuring photos, like the one above, of regular people on these regular bikes in an urban setting - refreshingly helmetless, too.
Lovely. First impression just got better.

And then...


I find this page on their website:

Featuring Sub-Arctic Extreme Bike Ridin' Dude-o-rama Rock and Roller! I seriously thought it was a joke. Have a look at the Clothing/Weather page here.

They're crafting fine bicycles for relaxing urban use and then they have a whole page with this crap. And this text:

"And lastly, we state the obvious: these are only suggestions. You must ultimately use your own best judgment when dressing for a ride. So remember, when it's cold, skin does freeze, and when it's hot, heat stroke can kill."

And lightning DOES strike during storms and tsunamis CAN hit your coastline after distant earthquakes and mixing beer and wine CAN cause hangovers...

It's just ridiculous. They should really have a little corporate powwow and figure out what it is they want to sell. I just don't understand. Or have a long read of the promoting cycling tag here on the blog.

What's more, they offer up 13 photos of 'dressing' for every weather condition from Dry 100º to Dry -20º and Wet 30º to Wet 100º but they haven't bothered with, for example, Wet -20º - which is what we call SNOW.

Not even in northern Sweden, in cities with 25% bike usage in the dead of winter do you see people dressed like the Rambo guy on the website. Sheesh. Not to mention the fact that Rambo would look so bloody stupid on one of their lovely bikes with the cool wooden box at the front.

And with the harsh winters over the past two years in Northern Europe, people still just ride - infrastructure or not - in the clothes in their closet. Instead of 'following the money' to the products so eagerly sold by the sports industry. Useless, pointless overcomplication of urban cycling that risks alienating newcomers to urban cycling by telling them they need fancy, geeky winter 'gear'.

This is NOT how to sell urban cycling to the masses. This is sub-cultural marketing.

Regarding cold weather, here are some pickings from the Copenhagen Cycle Chic archives. Featuring cyclists that would actually look great on their Loring bikes above.

UPDATE: Here are some photos of snowstorm citizen cyclists who HAVEN'T been sucked into buying "winter cycling clothes" who who just wear the same clothes as when walking around the city.

Wind Chill -15º
Wind Chill -15

Wind Chill -20º
Wind Chill -20

Wind Chill -25º
Traffic in Snowstorm

Wind Chill -20º
Snowstorm 01

Brochure for Adult Education Classes
Snowstorm Brochure


Anonymous said...

um..have you been to Minneapolis (home of Civia and QBP) in the winter and done much cycling? Snow, wind, ice..nonstop. The QBP folks cycle year round and I'd trust them on winter clothes for that region. You may have a point about the other seasons.

Tom said...

Yes, unfortunately that is how it's done over here.

The other day as I was leaving work in in my normal work clothes a fellow cyclist could not believe that I could ride a bike dressed like that. I assured her I was not some kind of crazy communist. To make her feel better I removed my tie.

John-Paul said...

I'd note that the riders in their first photograph are doing to other things wrong:

1. Their seats are too low--they're killing their knees!

2. They're hopping off the street onto the sidewalk. Let's hope that's a bike lane, but I won't hold my breath.

Alexander said...

I live in Minneapolis (right near the namesake Loring park) and commute all year. I agree that the Civia guides are WAY too techno commuter — especially with their new bikes! You can be much more chic and still stay warm (at least I try!).

One thing to note, however, is that Civia is using degrees F, not C. -20 F is almost -30 C — they don't have a wet option for that temp because it rarely if ever snows when it's that cold.

DEVO said...

I have lived in both Copenhagen and Minneapolis, and I assure you Minneapolis gets way colder. I realized it got colder when I was commuting and my eyeballs started freezing.

Minneapolis is the #2 rated bicycling city in the US,( http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/bicycles/10000Bicyclists.asp ). You can see how amazing that is when you look at the temperature variation that poor city experiences... ( http://home.att.net/~minn_climo/msp06x.gif )

I also have fraternized with the QBP/Surly/Civia folks, and can vouch for the fact that many of them are committed commuters, though not necessarily the most fashion forward fellows. :-P

chrismpls said...

The Civia brand is very nice, but its a niche brand. Its intended user is someone who owns a very nice high-end racing bike and is accustom to quality components. And with a price tag on the Highland at $1900US its not for your average cyclist. Not to mention the Rohloff hub equipped model that runs aroun $3400US.

I'm also a minneapolis resident and can vouch for extreme cold. No, you don't have to look like uber-nerd but you've got to cover up. Skin starts to freeze in less than 30 seconds in a -20F wind chill.

You folks in Copenhagen have it made...

Fonk said...

Former Minneapolite here, too - yeah, I don't think most people realize just how cold the upper Midwest in the U.S. gets. And Minneapolis seems warm to those poor folks up in Duluth! You really have to cover up about every inch of skin that you can on the coldest days of winter, and goggles are well-advised on the coldest days, as you literally can feel your eyeballs dry up and start freezing. Luckily all winter isn't like that, but when the cold snap hits, only the heartiest souls are out on their bikes, and they are covered head to toe.

All that said, it doesn't mean you have to look like rambo bike nerd - regular winter wear will do. Though nothing wrong w/ dressing up that way, if you so prefer.

The different pages on their website do seem to send conflicting messages. Who, exactly, are they targeting? I think it's the classic mistake a lot of companies make, trying to appeal to everybody instead of just defining your niche and doing a good job of pleasing those customers. Find a niche and serve it well, or try to serve everybody and do it poorly...

kstrygg said...

I live in a northern suburb of Minneapolis (and St Paul prior to that) and bike commute year round. Civia's suggestions for winter clothing are really not that far fetched at least for the colder side of the scale. -20F is frickin cold (that's the ambient temp their looking at, windchill would probably fall somewhere below -40F while biking).
The lobster gloves and balaclava are great items to keep you warm. Windproof jacket and wool sweater. If it's warmer, say 0F wool tights (like the fashionable lady in your pic) are good, a windproof layer is better. Goggles are overkill in my opinion, the balaclava pulled up over my nose keeps in just enough warmth to keep my eyes from freezing.
I definitely would not go hatless like the nut in your first pic.
I flaunt the fashions that keep me warm.

As for the civia bike itself, I can't imagine taking a ~$2500 bike out in the winter only to get destroyed by salt, sand and other types of gunk in general. I prefer the winter the winter beater.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. You're way off base on this one.

Anonymous said...

i love this blog and appreciate your passion and dedication to cycling, i read just about every post that comes across my rss feed from this site.

i would like to state my opinion (and it's only and just that, my opinion) that i think you're off on this one.

relax a little, it's just clothing. i think some people like to gear up (not including me) and it does get them out the door and onto a bike... on cold days riding into work, i could see myself utilizing that type of gear to stay warm and comfortable! :)

but keep up the great work!

George said...

"relax a little, it's just clothing. i think some people like to gear up (not including me)"

And not including many people who don't bike. I've only lived in places with -10c windchill (-2c plus 70kph), but even there you could still dress like a normal person. All that "enthusiast" gear frightens away normal people.

Zakkaliciousness said...

Thanks for all the comments, even those who disagree.

I fear a couple of points may have been missed or misunderstood.

Many of you compared Minneapolis to Copenhagen although in the post I referred to other cities in Europe. Winters are milder these days but here's a video from a cold winter in 1996 as an example of what can happen here. And regular winter clothes are just fine.

In many Swedish and Norwegian towns and cities there is respectable cycling levels. Frozen Västerås has about 30% and even Trondheim in Norway has about 8%. And they can chat with you about cold winters. And nobody looks like rambo. Those are just two examples. 100 million people ride every day in Europe and they don't all live in Barcelona. Most live in Northern Europe where winters are winters.

Regarding the bike brand, i just think it's plain silly combining those sub-arctic clothes with those lovely bikes.

As ever, I think that branding cycling as a 'gear-dependent' activity is wrong if we are to get more people on bikes. Especially when you consider the fact that people elsewhere just get on with it, without the gear, in the dead of winter.

Pierre-Luc Auclair said...

I agree with Zak on that one.

You can easily use normal winter clothes in the winter. Sometimes more technical wear can be required (for long rides), but as long as you've got hot gloves, a nice toque (don't like freezing my ears off) and good shoes+wool socks(as I do) or boots for those of you who are more prone to being cold.

But there are definitely days that you need to get dressed in dorky ways. Here in Québec, we know winter good. Sometimes I need to put on the ski goggles and the balaclava, and the winter pants too, but these don't occur that much.

By the way, up to under ~ -25 windchill (it's not a C unit), there ain't much frostbite problems. You can read up about it on Environment Canada's website, they have a whole section dedicated to it.

Adrienne Johnson said...

I think everyone is missing the point here and a few things are being missed.

1) Civia is an American brand in America. Not only is our 'bike culture' in its infancy here, America is not Europe (and that is OK). Americans tend to be attracted to the more techie side of things. This is not a failing, it is a cultural difference rooted in a different history (which BTW is shorter and based in a time period dominated by technological advancement).

2) Even in areas of snow and cold, most people do not participate in a lot of outdoor activities when it is hovering around 0*F except to do things like ski. We don't laugh at people in ski clothes, or criticize them for their choices of attire. So, when starting out in an activity like bike riding in the snow and ice, it makes sense that newbie riders would look to something like skiing to give them an idea of how to dress to move fast in the cold.

3) I ride my bike everyday. I have an upright Dutch bike (not Dutch 'style', Dutch), I ride in my everyday clothes (including my high heels). I do not wear a helmet. Weight is not high on my list of important bike attributes. In the US, I get ridiculed for that. My bike (a Batavus Soccoro) has 27 speeds and hand brakes, and my favorite jacket to wear on it has reflective strips. On this blog, I am ridiculed for that. I don't care, either way, because I ride for me, so mine is the opinion that counts.

If we want there to be a 'bike culture' in the world, then we need to stop ridiculing those who are trying to start them and recognize, that not every facet of that culture is going to look like Coppenhagen's. What if every person in America decided to ride bikes? That would be wonderful! What if everyone of them decided to do it in helmets and lycra and clips? Would that make it less so?

As to the warning labels- Warning! Reading warning labels while riding can lead to accidents and injury!

MadSwede said...

My city is colder than your city. :P

Ride what you got. Wear what you want.

Peter said...

these american manufacturers refuse to deal with chain guards. i'm not sure why. their aversion to clean oil-free pants is a weird disease or something.

Ryan said...

The bikes in those photos are prototypes. The production models will have painted-to-match chain guards.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think people should wear what they want so long as they are comfortable.

Here in America, which is different than Copenhagen, when the gas prices spiked, the people who ride bikes for sport were amongst the first to ride to work, showing the rest what was possible and starting the discussions about what it takes and helping to spark change, almost enabling others. They weren't solely responsible, but they were part of getting more people out on bicycles.

I really could care less what you wear while riding, I do care, however, that people ride.

Belittling or judging helmets or clothing choices is, in my view, quite beside the point and a waste of our energy.

Encouraging more and more people to ride is what is needed.

twodeadpoets said...

What ever happen about "lets just get them on a bike, who cares about everything else" attitude. Isn't that what's important? Who cares what they're wearing!

And besides, he looks warm to me and trust me cold wet winters in the US on a bike here are a bi-ch.

twodeadpoets said...

BTW, "style over speed," not over function.

kpankow said...

I do not see, that people really think, cycling is a gear-dependent activity, and that this prevents people from starting cycling, as you like to claim, although I admit that making cycling more stylish helps to get people get back on bike. When people start cycling again, they normally wear normal clothes. But when people cycle more often, they realize, that sometimes it is just more convenient to wear functional clothes. And, I would claim here, that these functional clothes help, that people stick to cycling and don't give it up with the first rain ... .
I really like to cycle and I use my bike every day. I wear normal clothes, but I have an rain-resistant outdoor jacket. It is not that stylish, but I feel more comfortable with it. I also think about buying a softshell jacket. When it rains, I also wear rain trousers over my normal trousers, because I do not like wet jeans. I do not wear spandex clothes when cycling, because I do not like to change clothes after arriving and I do not like the look, but I can understand people who use spandex. I never wear high heels; I cannot walk with them (Maybe cycling with high heels is easier than walking ;-) ).
I have never used snow goggles, but there was a moment with snow and wind last winter, when I really missed them. The woman in your last picture with the snow storm looks stylish but not very happy. Styling is nice, but in the end it is all about comfort.

kpankow from Berlin

Pippi said...

I've lived in Trondheim, Norway and Minneapolis. Minneapolis is colder. Hands down. Me and my friend from Saskatoon (even colder than Minneapolis) laughed at the Norwegians complaining of cold because they just had no idea. In Minneapolis I had days of school cancelled because the temperature plus windchill was -70F. You need some pretty serious clothing to cycle in the winter when it gets that cold. Lots of days, even most days given the rise in temperature over the past years, regular winter clothes would do, but if you want to cycle during a real Minnesota cold snap you need to look like a bit a fool.

MtMann said...

What's wrong with looking like a cold weather cycle-ninja? I think it's awesome! I wish Portland had the kind of weather where I could justify riding my bike in goggles, lobster mitts, and a super-spy-chic black turtleneck.

Anonymous said...

Okay, we get it. Anyone who wears a bike helmet is a total idiot who shouldn't even be riding. I have a suggestion for you: get over it. If someone wants to wear a helmet, why shouldn't they? I personally have known three cyclists in the U.S. who've been killed by cars while on their bikes – all three wearing helmets – all three experienced adult riders who rode bikes a lot. My point is not that helmets don't work – my point is, unless you're lucky enough to live in Copenhagenizeland, riding a bike really CAN be dangerous. If a helmet makes people feel safer, why ridicule them? I say anything that gets people out there and riding is a good thing.

Zakkaliciousness said...

what people wear isn't interesting to me.

it would be lovely if you would actually read the posts.

i don't approve of helmet promotion and legislation.

i approve of promoting cycling and will continue to bang on about it regardless of a few people now and then don't get that simple point.

Zakkaliciousness said...

people, get a grip. i believe that many people are marketing cycling wrong and that we are not doing enough to get people on bikes.

it's a sad hangover from decades of the sports industry dominating the field. it's time to take cycling back from this geeky, gear-oriented angle.

i dont' give a shit what you wear but i'm going to be noisy about people who need a kick in the marketing ass. get used to it.

and this 'my winter is colder than your winter' is tedious. let's move on.

kstrygg said...

Your point on marketing is well taken. The page was based on what people are wearing now, not what they may wear in the future. That may be hard to change based on the fact that people riding now have found what works for them and as such they may be less inclined to keep looking. So as supporters who have found what works for us, how do we get that information along to other folks without turning them off, yet making it as easy as possible? How do we keep them going knowing one bad riding day in the rain or cold may turn them off?

And not to tediously beat a dead horse but here's my last bit of noise on your weather comparisons. It's not oneupsmanship, rather it's the fact that winter to me means something different then winter to you...or someone in Trondheim...or some one in Västerås. This can be clearly seen by the following information:
If only our winter leveled out through Dec, Jan and Feb.

Pierre Phaneuf said...

I'm with Adrienne Johnson, if everyone rode bikes, but they liked to do it with a pink elephant hat on their head, I'd go for that (I'd skip the hat, myself).

And Pierre-Luc Auclair is right. You can wear normal clothes most of the time, but there's some "special days" where you might have to be a bit dorky to ride and survive. I like to take the subway on those days, or just plain work from home if I can!

When I saw the pictures, I cursed at the lack of chain guards, they seem to keep pulling that off around here! But glad to hear from Ryan that the production bikes will have them. You can't add chain guards (at least, not easily!)...

Zakkaliciousness said...

Chainguards can certainly be added. Walk into any bike shop here and buy one for between 60-120 kroner and slap that puppy on.
Or buy them online.

Regarding the weather, let's remember that the vast majority of people in the world live in cities with climates and geography that are perfect for cycling, so highlighting one cold city is not showing the big picture.

And I reckon we should all go to Montréal this winter on a field trip - real winters and people who can figure out how to ride in it. I'll get the first round in.

Pierre Phaneuf said...

Sweet! Add-on chain guards! Couldn't find any here, hopefully there's a way to fit them despite the three platters in the front of my Marin Belvedere...

I'm actually supporting your thesis here for the climate: if I can bike through a good part of the winter here, it ought to be fine in most cities. And thankfully, there's the subway for those way too cold days.

If you do visit Montréal, I would gladly ride around with you! Maybe you can catch our local Montréal en lumière?

The Jolly Crank said...

The point of the original post was not that it's not cold in Minneapolis, but that the image of the winter biker was out of synch with the aesthetic of the bikes the company was selling.
I think even if one didn't mind looking like an agent in an anti-terrorist brigade, there's another reason to find 'cycle specific' gear unreasonable: price. Have you seen what that gear costs? If someone thinks that is what they need they're not going to do it (ironic when we're talking about the cheapest form of vehicular transportation ever invented). Wool sweaters and a windbreaker is what I use all winter long--and they were all in my closet! Oh, and I also live in Minneapolis and bike year round. Sure, it gets cold here, but come on Minneapolis readers--would you walk your dog or shovel snow dressed like that guy? (it's just as cold when you do those things--what makes biking any different?)

kstrygg said...

I don't usually walk my dog or shovel my driveway at 16mph (i.e., increased wind chill).

Anyways, the money I save in gas is more than enough to buy a pair of scrumpciously warm gloves or whatever. And I'd rather spend it at my LBS than at the pump.

Zakkaliciousness said...

i'd love to visit montréal, pierre!

the price of the gear is definately problematic, not least because you're telling people that they HAVE to buy THAT gear if they want to ride.

If people live in Montreal, Calgary, Minneapolis... chances are they have winter clothes. They are good enough for a bike ride. When it snows here, I just use my ski jacket and ski gloves.

kstrygg: shoveling snow at 16 mph / 25 kph!!?? My god, man, that's fast... are you riding a skidoo? :-)

Pierre Phaneuf said...

I got some slightly expensive gloves, but the trick is mostly to cut the wind, and ski gloves can do that well (but they're also not so cheap, and they aren't exactly normal clothes!). The rest is my jacket, a good scarf, and a tuque (mine is a bit classier than that one, but it's very hard to be fashionable with one of those!).

There's a threshold where ski goggles for riding become a good idea, but it's not that often, and that's my cue to take the subway.

That said, my winter coat wasn't cheap, but it's what I wear when I walk around town. There's nicer, but this one keeps me nice and warm!

The Jolly Crank said...

kstrygg: I've got nothing against taosty gloves or spending money at your LBS. However, I wear clothes that are quite warm when I'm snow-shoeing on a frozen lake and the standing wind chill is -30 F. Those clothes are quite adequate for riding my bike. Wind chill is just that--if you stop the wind from touching your skin, it doesn't chill--and you don't need cycle specific, XTREME gear for that. I use a $10 thrift store windbreaker (designed for golf, I think) over layered wool sweaters. Never had a problem and I ride no matter the temp.

Dusty said...

Where I live in the mountains of Colorado we get more cold than snow, that doesn't mean it doesn't get cold (many days under 40 below last winter), but we had over 40 feet of snowfall last year, and because of this the snowplows use lots of salt to try and melt the roads,so most of the people don't ride their nice bikes in the winter because they will get destroyed, so becuase people are riding junker bikes anyways they make creative solutions to their bike to make the ride warmer so that they don't have to where such ridiculous clothing. mostly these come in the form of wind gards, like half milk jugs attached to the handlebars to keep hands warm, somtime even large sheets of plastic or samaler materials that are affixed to the front of the bike to cut down on wind chill, but then they don't have to dress like so biker ninja.

Zakkaliciousness said...

creative solutions. i just always think what people did in 1910 when cycling around. they managed without space agey gear and so can we.

Anonymous said...

No need for a chain guard because there isn't one. It's a belt drive.

Anonymous said...

No need for a chain guard because there isn't one. It's a belt drive.

Anonymous said...

No need for a chain guard because there isn't one. It's a belt drive.