19 August 2011

Overcomplication - Bicycle to Boardroom

Dublin Cycle Chic - Dutch Couple Night Ride2
A Dutch colleague of ours, Philip de Roos, lives in Dublin and he has kindly provided us with this guest post. It relates to something we often talk about here on the blog and over at Cycle Chic. The PRETTY GIRLS ON BICYCLES & PROFITEERING ON THE CYCLING CRAZE post is an example. An overcomplication of the simple act of cycling. Philip also has the Dutch in Dublin blog with his girlfriend.

I'll let Philip - pictured above with his girlfriend Joni - from Bear Bicycles in Dublin, take over here:

Recently I read 'From Bicycle to Boardroom', an article by the Financial Times Travel Editor Tom Robbins. It’s a review of Brompton's new ‘cycling jacket’.

In impeccable FT style, Robbins describes there are more bikes in London nowadays than there are Angry Birds on Google Chrome. Robbins also observes: “shorts, courier bags, cagoules and helmets (…) are just not acceptable in a business context, and that goes double for Lycra”.

That’s right.

He then describes his difficulties to find the right clothing for cycling, and finally concludes: '(...) cyclists don’t need gimmicks, they just need clothes that are breathable, crease-resistant, smart (...)'.

That’s almost right.

In my humble opinion, the search for smart ‘cycling clothes’ is less likely to yield results than the search for the Loch Ness monster. As cycling advocate, Cycle Chic blogger and boyfriend of a lady with a Dutch bicycles shop in Dublin, I think it would have been more to the point had Robbins written 'cyclists don’t need gimmicks, they just need clothes. Period. And perhaps: a bit of deodorant.'

Because as long as the bike is right, any clothes will do.

Amsterdam and Copenhagen residents have been demonstrating this for years, but also increasingly in Dublin (my current home) and other European cities, people on bikes (I write 'people on bikes', not 'cyclists' -- there's a difference) wear the same clothes as they do in the boardroom -- or, in my case: the cubicle.

Sweatiness can't be a problem either. At the right pace on the right bike, there is less need of breathable garments than there is in London's tube.

In that same vein, I also disagree with Robbins’ remark that 'Brompton’s jacket is a pedal-spin in the right direction but the “solution” is still a little way off'. The solution, quite simply, is in the bike -- not the clothes. And the good news is: it has been there all along. Now all cities need are bikes that are suitable for suits, and a cycling culture that supports fun and functional cycling.

Since Robbins seems to enjoy cycling himself, I thought he might help turn the FT into a powerful pro-cycling ally. I wrote Robbins a letter, asking him to join the cause of building a cycling culture that would allow his readers – captains of industry, bankers, solicitors – to take a bike to work and give their chauffeurs a day off.

If Robbins replies, I hope that you – the readers of Copenhagenize – will be there to help with facts, figures, and photo's that show this can be done, and has been done.


Klaus Mohn said...

A dapper gent like you probably has an answer to my problem: sitting in the (leather) saddle systematically kills the seat of my dress pants. I've had to get a pair restitched recently, and killed another pair last year. What's to be done? I'm not gonna stop cycling or dressing properly for work :[ I suspect the fact that I have a diamond-frame bike probably doesn't help...

Anonymous said...

It's true about the clothes and the bike, but terrain and climate matter too. Amsterdam and Copenhagen are almost entirely flat cities where it never gets too hot. Change either of those factors and it's still possible to ride a bike, but it gets a lot more complicated.

kfg said...

"The solution, quite simply, is in the bike . . . : it has been there all along"

In Dublin, where they made the bloody things.

Sarah D said...

In Dublin, it may be possible to ride in a suit without getting too rumpled or sweaty. However, in central Texas(USA) in the middle of summer, it has been over 100 degrees for more than a month now. I don't resort to lycra, I just wear jean shorts and a t-shirt and change clothes before work. Either way, it's do-able without the gimmicks.

Miguel said...

Agree with the post for the most part, with a ditto on what anonymous said on the impact of different types of geography.

Lots of corporate environments have gone casual, so, also, the problem is not as bad as it used to be.

The only really big issue I see is rain (and snow) and, for that, there is definitely a need for technical clothing or at least bike-friendly clothing.

The ideal, I've found, is if there is a gym on the premises or nearby for a quick shower. But even without the shower, it's doable.

domotion2011 said...

Clothing is only an issue when a person who rides a bike has not done their fieldwork. Outdoor ambient temperatures will have twenty people dressing very differently. Throw in all these other variables such as length of bike ride, terrain, physical shape of bike rider, wind conditions, humidity, and you can see that clothing becomes specific for the purpose of the ride. My viewpoint is from a four season perspective. Whatever the season, dress for comfort, layer when needed, and keep in mind how you dress factors into how you control your body temperature. Bike riding is learned from time in the saddle. In America, so much fashion is casual that it shouldn't be hard to dress for the street and work and still look good.

tstreet said...

I appreciate the view that we just need simple, well made bikes for simple needs like going from point A to point B with little fuss. We don't need to do that much to change the basic bike but there are those who, in part, will be drawn to cycling by new technology and elegant, interesting design. I know you don't have much use for folders but I recently sold my road bike and bought a folder which I consider a very practical vehicle and, at the same time, something that is a work of art. And I did not pay an arm and a leg for it.

There will always be those who just seek simple, inexpensive transportation in their cars, for example, and there will be those who want something a bit more flashy and, in their eyes, more beautiful.

Anyway, I don't think it is useful to be too doctrinaire in one's choice or recommended choice of bikes or clothing. Most of the people in my neck of the woods, still ride road bikes, including for things like biking to work or the store. Not my choice, but we are all better off if we welcome everyone to the party even if they choose to wear lycra, bike shirts, and helmets.

Edward Scoble said...

Bear in mind is the commute distance, they differ largely between London and Copenhagen/Amsterdam.

In London, being so big, people commute a much longer way than their other counterpart, says, 5+ miles, as far as I know, the average miles for a 'commuter' in Amsterdam is 1.8 miles.

This is why people often get the 'right' clothing for commuting so it'll be more comfortable for them, it's doable to have normal clothing on a dutch bike for a 10 miles each way commute (I did this) but it'll take quite a while and the upright position can be a bit of a drag.

also, people want to get home ASAP, so naturally the Londoners want to find a way to get home faster thus a lots of them have lightweight bicycle with lycra clothing to get home in 45 minutes.

ndru said...

@Edward Scoble - My commute is over 8 miles each way, a few hills on my way too. I commute in normal clothing (occassionally suit) on a Pashley Princess and don't find my self neither crumpled nor sweaty, save time and money on changing and I am totally comfortable if I have to for instance visit a shop on my way (don't feel like a complete idiot). Maybe I am different than the rest of the population or maybe people forget about deodorant.

Redmond Citizen Cyclist said...

When I was a student in Spain, my Dutch roomate ALWAYS arrived sweaty on his bike; he just went into the bathroom and splashed around in the sink to freshen up. So, it is not like Dutch people don't sweat when they have to bike a hill or a distance.

This refusal to acknowledge that people sweat seems a bit silly. I don't sweat when I ride to the grocery because its flat and not usually windy. But on my 7-mile ride to work, there is a two mile hill climb at the end of the ride, and no matter how I do it, I sweat as I grind up the hill in the lowest gear.

Some days, I just put my work clothes on, pedal in, and deal with it. This week I decided to pack a weeks' worth of clothes into the office on the weekend so I can push it if I want on the way in, and then I shower in the corporate locker room when I arrive. Other days, I'll just change into a nice dry shirt.

But every day, I sweat - that doesn't vary! And it isn't because I don't have the "right" bike - I do. Perhaps the real problem is that inactive people forget that sweating is part of being active, and inactive people/cultures have lost perspective on the appropriateness of sweat :)

La Morcuera said...

+1 Redmond Citizen Cyclist.

Here in Madrid it gets above 40C in summer and you sweat. Add two kids to the bike, backpack and laptop and you sweat some more..

So I say wear what the heck you like and find the solution that works for you, your commute and your environment. The important thing is to ride,feel good and hopefully look good!

Veer said...

wow !!!!! beautiful post.
Flights to Lagos
Flights to Johannesburg

Vicki said...

The jacket looks like it has some great features, but that is a lot of money to pay for what would essentially be a casual jacket, no matter how many cycling friendly adaptations it had. When I have cycled to work I have varied how I do the clothing according to the circumstances, sometimes I would cycle in work clothes, sometimes take a change of clothes with me, it can get hot here in Oz! I agree though that we need to change our attitude to sweat, so long as you are clean, sweat does not create an unpleasant smell.

counter strike said...

There are so many bicycles around the world but few are driven each and every day and it's a real shame!