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The Cycling World of Chic

By Christopher Ashley

In much of the world, cycling is synonymous with Lycra-clad roadies and technical-wear mountain bikers. But there’s always been a more urbane side to the way cyclists dress – so let’s take a look at how social media is revolutionising what we wear when we ride.

Everyday riding

Cycle chic was a phrase coined by urban designer Mikael Colville-Andersen who runs the Copenhagenize Design Company. Working with city planners all over the world, he’s transformed urban environments to make them better places to live – and that includes the clothes we wear.

The message is simple – you don’t have to conform to the tyranny of sportswear just to ride your bike. Jeans and a t-shirt are fine for a cycle about town – and why not wear a suit on your ride to work? If you’re cycling up Mount Ventoux, what’s the problem? Take a picture of a cyclist wearing everyday clothes and post it to social media.

Super chic

Clothes say a lot about who you are and what you do, so it’s unsurprising that the grassroots cycle-chic movement has inspired the professional creative community. Wunderkind photographer Horst Friedrichs exemplifies good taste and has spent time tracking down some of London’s more sartorially refined cyclists.

It’s inspiring to see such diversity of styles and tastes in the clothes of these cyclists and it’s reflected in the diversity of the bikes they choose to ride. There are Dutch bikes, vintage fixies, single-speeds, and foldables – but they all share the elegant simplicity of an uncomplicated urban life.

Commercial influence

It’s unsurprising that companies have responded positively to the advent of cycle chic and are keen to exploit the growing enthusiasm for comfort and convenience on a bike. Way back in 2001, Rapha released this surreal short film showcasing their city range.

Cycle chic has also helped to broaden the conversation about what cyclists really want from their cycling experience. And, perhaps, the area with the greatest aftereffect is the female cyclists’ experience. In 2015, We Love Cycling made this short video looking at the shift away from the shrink’n’pink attitude, lead by women, and you can see plenty of chic to be celebrated.