Since entering the biking blogosphere, I have discovered just how many beautiful, inspirational blogs there are out there promoting the use of bicycles for everyday transportation by those of us who don’t want to wear spandex or break any records (or even a sweat).
Now, I love the image of a woman in a dress on a vintage bike, hair blowing in the wind, just as much as anyone. After spending some time drooling over vintage bicycle accessories and picturesque images on said blogs, I began to think of my modern hybrid bicycle as very boring and lacking in romance. My typical winter biking outfit of tights, jeans, heavy socks, t-shirt, and parka seemed even worse. I think of myself as an aesthetically-minded person and generally am all for a little romance in the everyday, so I wondered what had brought me down this practical path.
I’ve realized, though, that since the beauty of biking for me is more about the freedom a bicycle can offer than it is about the bicycle itself, comfort and ease have always been paramount. Biking is also something that I love for its simplicity. It’s practical transport without having to think about fuel or train schedules or (at least not much) even parking. That means I don’t want to spend hours thinking about the material accessories that biking can bring into my life, but would rather think about where I’m going to go next.
I hope that the average biking novice realizes that they don’t have to ride a road bike if that makes them uncomfortable, but I also hope that their only alternative isn’t a sit-up-and-beg style vintage bike. While these may be perfect for short journeys under a couple of miles, I know I feel much more comfortable, and travel faster, on my hybrid commuter. And while, yes, the idea of travelling slowly in my work clothes, arriving at work refreshed-but-not-sweaty sounds wonderful, I know that I’m not always going to leave enough time to accommodate that kind of trip, and that I’ll be much more comfortable in casual clothes that I can take off at work and replace with clean work clothes. This is at least partly due to my particular trip, which is almost six miles. I’m sure if I wasn’t travelling so far, biking in my work clothes might be more appealing.
There was a time in my past when I commuted to a job that was four miles from my apartment. It was springtime, and I would travel in my work clothes. Not even heels, but just flats. Twice, I lost a shoe en route, and felt like a fool. The shoe got run over by at least one car and was really dirty by the time I could run into the road (barefoot – ick – why am I even admitting this?) and get it back. Maybe the lesson here is just that I chose the wrong work shoes to wear on my bike, but my point is that I am much more comfortable on my bicycle wearing some practical, casual, and (gasp) maybe even slightly sporty clothing, if I’m going to be travelling any distance.
In general, I’m all for people getting on a bicycle in whatever they would normally be wearing. If you always wear heels, by all means, I suppose, don’t feel you have to take them off to get on a bike. I think, though, that we could encourage more non-bikers to choose bicycle transport by pointing out those things that would make them that little bit more comfortable. Maybe my problem is just that I’m never fully comfortable in heels, even when I’m standing on solid ground, but I really can’t imagine getting on a bike in them.