Cycling has always been hip. It became even more fashionable when it was seen as an essential part of a new urban mobility strategy to reduce air pollution. So, riding a bike was not only fun and healthy, but it was good for the planet. Along came technological and commercial advances, such as bike sharing and e-bikes, and cycling became an increasingly important lifestyle choice for people who wanted to be healthy and make the world better.
Then Covid-19 struck, shutting gyms, pools and fitness centres and making public transport a potentially unsafe mode of travel. The result was a veritable boom in the sale and use of bikes in cities around the world, to such an extent that many bike stores have run out of products due to the high demand and manufacturers have been caught unprepared.
While the pandemic will certainly fade away, sooner or later, the bicycle is certain to remain an important part of the Western urban lifestyle, especially as many large cities from Europe to South America are expanding and/or improving their cycling infrastructures. Among other things, this means that cycling accessories will not only have to be practical, but they will also be part of the consumer’s identity.
First of all, the urban cyclist will need an accessory to carry stuff, whether it’s material related to work, shopping or some leisure activity. A daypack or messenger bag is ideal for light loads and short trips – and it will go with you after you park your bike. A rear rack, pannier or basket works well for heavier loads over longer distances – and panniers can be waterproof, which makes them a useful feature in all types of weather. For serious load hauling, a cargo trailer is essential. Cargo trailers are pricey but practical and cool-looking, and they come in different colours. I’ve even seen them used to transport infants.
Not everybody wants to buy a bike to be part of the urban cycling lifestyle, so security is vital. You’ll need a heavy-duty U-lock and a secure place to park your two-wheeler when shopping, at a public event or at work. If you live or work in or near a high-crime area, you might consider purchasing a second bike with low kerbside appeal and resale value.
It’s also important to keep your accessories secure. Use a bolted seatpost clamp, rather than a quick-release (and easy-to-remove) clamp, and take your bike computer and lights with you when you leave your bike somewhere.
Now for the fashion part: Except in winter you don’t need to wear special clothing to ride a bike. But there are some useful tips to keep in mind when dressing for a ride:
1. Avoid long scarves and billowy skirts or long jackets, which can tangle in the rear wheel or brakes. On bikes without a chainguard, long pants can get caught up in the chain or get mucked up by oil.
2. Roll up or tuck the pant leg into a sock on the chain side, or secure it with a rip-and-stick strap to prevent the leg from flapping onto the chain.
3. You don’t need cycling shoes for your daily commute; regular shoes are more versatile. But use shoes with soles that grip to help keep your feet on the pedals. If you wear smooth-soled shoes, a strapless pedal toe clip will prevent your feet sliding forward.
4. For rainy days, purchase a jacket that is wind- and waterproof. Rain pants and waterproof shoe covers will also be useful if you are serious about riding your bike year-round.
However, as cycling has become trendy, style-conscious people have started buying trendy clothes specifically for cycling, and sportswear and other clothing manufacturers have begun marketing products that blend cycling function with city fashion. These include garments made of wind-resistant fabrics that also stretch for comfort, clothing decorated with discreet reflective touches to make the cyclist more visible, and pants with hidden roll-up tabs.
When clothing stores open again, many will offer clothing targeting the new urban cycling lifestyle, which is certain to be part of the future of city life.