Thursday, 4 November 2010

Speed vs Style

Ah, the eternal dilemma of every cyclist, especially the female ones. Or just the vain ones. The roads are full of examples of bikers who have decisively chosen one or the other and nailed their (literal) colours to the mast. The head -to- toe neon-clad Lycra Lads, for example, are prepared to brave the aesthetic wasteland of their chosen attire for the sake of those extra mphs. They even take the ridicule of walking around in clippy cloppy shoes because they know how much swifter they are than trainers. On the extreme other end of the spectrum the Pashley Princesses choose elegant, heavy bicycles and pedal sedate as the Queen, never breaking into a sweat or allowing a carefully tousled hair out of place. They will arrive when they arrive,because the party doesn't start until they get there.

Both of these positions have their merits. I just can't decide which one to choose, and I sort of hope I don't have too. At the moment i
I sit uncomfortably between the two, torn by their equal and opposite priorities.

I really do enjoy the aesthetics of things. I don't give a fig about fashion, but I deeply appreciate colours and textures and shapes. There is something so jarring, so unsensual about man-made materials in highlighter colours. Surely, surely, there are ways of making bike kit look lovelier. We cyclists are the moving installations of this city, we have become visual punctuation and it would be nice to be adding something to the glorious landscape rather than blighting it with fluorescent chartreuse and badly fitting leggings.

The trouble is that I also really enjoy speed- there are few things as quick to make you feel like a giddily joyful five year old than that sensation of flying. With my basket, mac, huge scarf and flowing skirt all causing drag, not to mention my flexy-bottomed shoes apparently wasting half my effort, I'm unlikely to get up to those kind of speeds very often without the help of a big hill. 
It is not just the sensation either- the quicker I am the more time I have in bed. This factors in a troubling number of my major life decisions- I really, really hate mornings. An extra round of the snooze alarm looks like a good reason to sacrifice style, most days.
And obviously I'd rather not get killed on the road and therefore need to be visible. I'm no Oscar Wilde, I do understand there are many more important things than beauty.

So what to do? Most mornings I look at my basket, contemplate swapping my lovely handbag for a rucksack in order to increase my aerodynamicity (is that a word?) but decide I don't want to look like a snail. Or get a clammy back.

Places like Bobbin Bicycles and the London Cycle Chic shop are probably the way forward- so I'll just have to ask for vouchers for Christmas, and keep treading my uneasy middle (cycle) path between speed and style.

1 comment:

  1. I've chosen the middle ground...I wear pretty dresses and colourful tights, but also spd shoes.
    And, you know, practical cycling bags need not be ugly. The Knog ones are rather ok looking and I have of which has a nifty flap which allows me to attach it to my rack like a pannier.

    It's good going for the best of both worlds and I particularly enjoy zooming past (when I have the energy) a lycra clad person...or a person in horrid cycle clothing feeling all smug.

    But in the interest of safety, with it being dark most hours now, I do have a high viz wind breaker...which I still wear with my pretty dresses.

    The middle ground's not such a bad place...