Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Cyclists who don't like Cycle Chic

I saw a link in a post by Sheffield Cycle Chic to a blog by a woman cyclist who doesn’t like cycle chic. It has of course whipped up a lot of attention. I read the post which included a photo of a woman cyclist who was undressed, that is wearing tight Lycra shorts and top with her midriff exposed, cycle shoes, speed helmet and gloves as the bloggers example of proper cycle attire. I started to read the comments but then stopped and left.

I stopped reading because it doesn’t matter that she doesn’t like Cycle Chic. She is entitled to have an opinion. From what I read she feels that cycling in heels is a backward step for women and looks strange. I applaud that she is a feminist but it is apparent that she did not know that the point of feminism was to give choice to women and freedom also means choices that to others may not appear appropriate. In this case some women may cycle in heels and some don’t. Does it matter if one group thinks the other strange when the real goal is to promote cycling in all it’s forms.

I also wonder if she just had a problem with high heels off or on a bike. That’s ok too. Not every woman likes or wears high heels and neither should anyone feel they must conform to doing so. But never underestimate the power and force of fashion and style in our lives. People who are anti-fashion are just as caught up in being ‘anti’ as those who adhere to fashion trends but consider that they are not playing the same game. What we wear is important to our psyches and is a marker of our identity. Linda Grant novelist and academic outlines the importance of clothes in her great book ‘The Thoughtful Dresser’. The uniform of the Sport Cycle tribe sends the message ‘take me seriously because I take cycling seriously just like an athlete’. Economically this is a powerful group as a lot of money is spent on high end bikes, specialist clothing and accessories. So much money on looking just like other sport cyclists is odd to me. But then there is the comfort of fitting in when you wear a uniform. To each his or her own.

I also felt that perhaps she has missed the point of Cycle Chic which is to get more people back onto bikes and cycling just as an everyday ‘no big deal’ event. The Sport Cycle tribe attracts other people who wish to take cycling seriously. That’s great for them but I don’t want to be part of this tribe. I am not a cyclist but a woman who happens to cycle (in her own clothes) and I am interested in people who do this too.

It would be interesting to know the research of what type of cyclist attracts more non cyclists to cycling.


Anonymous said...

Like most self-proclaimed feminists Libby appears to have no idea of the movement nor its original principles. Thus, like most second and third-wave feminists, she is doing it and resulting womens movements a great disservice.

It would seem that Libby is guilty of practising what she rebukes, pandering to others in order to validate theirselves. A cursory glance at her article and some psuedo-psychology (although much that passes for it is infact psudo-science, but I digress) would hint at a yearning for acceptance amongst a particular group of cyclists (racing types), pretty much what you were saying, however due to her narrow-minded approach, she is equating all forms of cycling to that single type.

Therefore by extension, one can see why she would feel defensive, if she views herself as an anomely - probably is quite self-conscious esp. with the drive for female cyclists (not to mention additional tips due to recent accidents) when the style gaining the most traction is something which she and her clique (fellow lycra-heads) look down upon.

Very, narrow-minded, unconsidered and inconsiderate; then again from reading her post and her response to comments, a benighted outlook does seem de rigueur.

I wonder what she thinks about the concept of 'Lipstick feminism'.

sheffieldcyclechic said...

Have you seen this on the guardians bike blog

Essentially the same:

"What's stopping teenage girls from riding bikes?
Campaigns to get women cycling seem to focus on how to look good over other concerns. Is this really all girls care about?"

If you've seen the government's road safety advice aimed at kids - it is essential to have shallow image conscious cycle advertising just to redress the balance! Even the most independent minded teenager is going to be put off by all the images of awkward looking kids in huge helmets and identical hi-viz vests. It looks like school uniform for aliens. Ride around looking like that and even your best mates will disown you.

It is depressing that so many people, including a lot of cyclists, are threatened by the idea of the bike becoming an everyday object instead of a fetish, but it is little steps forward that count. It took Copenhagen 40 years.