CityCyclingEdinburgh Forum » Debate!

At what point is technical clothing 'bad'?

(119 posts)
  • Started 12 years ago by Wilmington's Cow
  • Latest reply from gembo

No tags yet.

  1. Mulling over some thoughts on the copenhagenize/citizen cycling/on lycra/normal clothing debate, especially after a twitter storm kicked off when kaputnik stuck an 'infographic' on Flickr of his winter wardrobe. It was quickly derided as 'propaganda', which seems to completely miss the point as well as displaying almost religious fervour of those who declare you must wear normal clothing to commute.

    Anyway, buried in the debate was a comment from one protaganist that he wore a ski jacket to keep warm while cycling. This, obviously, meant that it wasn't cycle specific and therefore proved you could wear 'normal' clothes.

    My thoughts ran like this:

    1. What if you don't ski? In order to keep warm while cycling if I bought a ski jacket for the job would that still be okay, or because I didn't have it in my wardrobe already would that be buying technical clothing that was unnecessary?

    2. My base layers are for hillwalking. Does this mean I'm okay to wear them to cycle as I already own them? If I buy a cycle specific base layer made of exactly the same material is that then wrong?

    Now I've said before, I know from first hand experience how wonderful it is to cycle in Copenhagen. And you really do feel 'right' cycling in 'normal' clothes. But I'm fast coming to the opinion that you need the infrastructure, political will and understanding motorists before people will feel comfortable getting on their bike in the first place, let alone in normal clothes.

    Yes, I can see the argument that telling people they should wear hi-viz and helmets gives the impression that cycling is 'dangerous'. But then so do left-hooking drivers; speeding buses; and untreated cycle facilities. Normal clothing doesn't, as far as I'm aware, have the political and legal clout to make those changes.

    'Normal' clothing - cause or effect?

    Posted 12 years ago #
  2. Smudge

    Hmmm, well when commuting I mostly wear normal clothes, but I do wear a grey "night vision" jacket. Imho at night (despite eye searing led lights usually) it's harder for car drivers to spot cyclists and retro-reflective kit is amazing. The grey also doesn't show the commuting grime (as much) and it's a practical top on a bike (good ventilation, adequately waterproof etc etc.
    I think the obsession with "correct" clothing is a nonsense, whether "Copenhagen" or "Lycra warrior", I grew out of dressing in the same clothes/style as my peer group many years ago (except when forced by work!).

    Wear what is comfy and practical for what you are doing at the time (and if necessary, acceptable for those whose opinion matters to you!) and wear what you like, imo...

    ps. "Technical" is a name dreamt up by clothing advertisers so they can add a zero to the price tag ;-)

    Posted 12 years ago #
  3. Maybe 'nominally activity specific' rather than 'technical' :P

    "No matter what you wear, as long as you ride"

    Posted 12 years ago #
  4. Arellcat

    I like to think that 'technical' clothing is 'wrong' if, for example, you pair it with jeans or your work trousers and it doesn't quite go. I've had a lot of mileage with my plain black hyper-wicking Helly Hansen t-shirts.

    Posted 12 years ago #
  5. wingpig

    "At what point is technical clothing 'bad'?"

    When he says it is. When he deems it to be putting NORMAL people off NORMAL cycling. When it's not winter not-cycling wear too. Insofar as there was any coherent argument to distil, technical clothing is fine as long as it was already in the wardrobe, whether it's a ski jacket or a boiler suit. Presumably it had to be in the wardrobe before being considered for use when cycling otherwise it would count as a targeted purchase.

    Posted 12 years ago #
  6. Min

    I agree completely. it is ridiculous to suggest that the streets would suddenly fill with "normal" people on bikes if existing cyclists just stopped riding. A lot more people cycle now than did 10 years ago and a lot more people wear hi-viz and h****ts. You can't say that such gear puts people off cycling while numbers keep going up.

    Can I ask how much cycling this Copenhagen guy has actually done in the UK?

    Posted 12 years ago #
  7. Smudge

    Hi viz and h**mets make some nervous starter/re-starter cyclist feel safer, I happen to disagree as to the value but that's not the point, it can be the extra "comfort blanket" effect that allows them to make the leap and start riding. Maybe they'll always use them, maybe over the years they'll decide they don't need them. Doesn't matter. We have plenty rules without making more for ourselves.

    Posted 12 years ago #
  8. "... it can be the extra "comfort blanket" effect..."

    I'd never thought of it that way. An interesting counterpoint.

    As has been said here a few times recently, and I think I've finally worked out how to put it into words, people aren't necessarily scared of cycling because they're told it's dangerous, but rather because they personally look at the traffic and think nah, that's not for me. Infrastructure changes that massively. I know, and don't think, we can put a separated cycle lane everywhere, but where possible... Then you can think about sartorial elegance.

    Posted 12 years ago #
  9. Cyclingmollie

    I bought a mountain bike in the mid nineties to use to get to remote hills. I used to ride it in full hill walking kit. When I didn't have time to go walking I'd go cycling, still in walking kit. But the toe clips rubbed the tops of my boots, there was, shall we say, insufficient protection down below in frosty weather, the full length Goretex jacket was like a sail in the breeze, worsening headwinds etc. etc. Every piece of kit I bought from then on that was cycling specific improved the experience - clip-less shoes, padded shorts, close fitting jacket, gloves, eye protection.

    I'd happily tootle round to the shops on a Pashley or whatever in normal clothes, but for commuting and recretional cycling I would always use cycle specific clothing.

    Posted 12 years ago #
  10. Roibeard

    It's cold outside. Should I go to work in my normal work clothes (combats and t-shirt), or should I dress specifically for the journey such that I'm comfortable during it?

    I think those folk wearing cold weather gear today solely for their commute are discouraging others from walking/cycling/taking the bus/car/train to work...

    It's fashion snobbery to suggest that one shouldn't dress appropriately for an activity - if you run 100 yds for a bus, it doesn't matter what you wear, but if you jog 3 miles to work, that dress suit and high heels might not be ideal!

    My cycle commute is long enough that cycling specific shoes prevent unusual wear on my work shoes. A cycling specific jacket means a more comfortable microclimate, and so on.

    Did I start with my everyday wardrode? Certainly, but as I became more experienced and wore something out, the replacement became better suited to my current lifestyle.

    Sorry folks, I'm more interested in making myself comfortable than in making cycling appealing, fashionable or sexy.

    Even if I tried, I'd fail at that, although that's not to say that some of you handsome devils/beautiful people couldn't pull it off!


    Posted 12 years ago #
  11. Min

    Smudge = "Hi viz and h**mets make soem nervous starter/re-starter cyclist feel safer, I happen to disagree as to the value but that's not the point, it can be the extra "comfort blanket" effect that allows them to make the leap and start riding. "

    Yes I have often thought this myself. Maybe a lot of people wouldn't have got on their bikes if they didn't feel they could wear them without feeling stupid?

    Anth = "but rather because they personally look at the traffic and think nah, that's not for me."

    I have often thought that cycling is not as scary as it looks. But it does look pretty scary.

    Posted 12 years ago #
  12. wingpig

    More offputting than looking at traffic or clothing I think it's more to do with non-cyclists looking at a cyclist puffily churning up a slight slope in far too high a gear and doing that side-to-side pigeon-head leg-effort-thing and thinking 'Eurgh; that looks difficult,' which we can counteract by trying to make it look as easy and enjoyable as possible, wearing whatever makes it easy and enjoyable. It is not inconceivable that a cyclist puffing away in far too high a gear heading uphill from Tollcross to Bruntsfield with buses and taxis and vans steaming impatiently past creates a far more off-putting impression of cycling than the same cyclist puffing similarly away at the same speed in a similarly too-high gear to ascend the similar-gradient slope of the Leamington Walk cycle path, where (despite the puffing and nodding and straining) they're faster than the surrounding traffic and not at risk, no matter how much they wobble, of being whizzed past by an angry vehicle.

    Posted 12 years ago #
  13. "... although that's not to say that some of you handsome devils/beautiful people couldn't pull it off!"

    I think you've posted that to the wrong forum? :-/

    Posted 12 years ago #
  14. Instography

    When I ride my bike, I have two things to do: be comfortable and stay alive. My cycling-specific clothes, lights etc. do that for me. I don't really care if that puts someone off cycling (and I could entirely agree that the sight of me in my cycle specific clothes might be enough to put anyone off). They must be easily dissuaded but if the only solution is for me to compromise my safety then, sorry. No.

    Posted 12 years ago #
  15. Morningsider

    Technical clothing only becomes "bad" when it no longer serves its purpose. I wear a breathable, waterproof, highly refelective cycling jacket on the bike (and off too - chosen to look fairly inconspicuous) as I cycle and walk a lot in Scotland. I wouldn't wear it in a hot, dry climate - that would be daft.

    I can't really see how this is an either/or argument. I do commute in my work clothes, I just wear cycle specific stuff on top as it is the best thing for the job. It's not the TdF after all - just a few mile trundle to and from the office.

    I certainly wouldn't wear any of my "good" clothes on the bike for more than the occasional jaunt as cycling tends to expose clothes to more wear, dirt, chance of destruction than anything else they may be asked to deal with. Cycling in a nice suit and hat perched at a jaunty angle may look good in summer - but after 20 minutes in battering rain it isn't such a good look.

    Posted 12 years ago #
  16. chdot

    This argument is slightly pointless (not a comment on CCE posters!)

    Personally I am against any convention that's says that cyclists (especially new ones) must where bright yellow.

    However there are enough people on bikes with other garments that anyone 'put off' by 'having to wear xxxx' is just making excuses!

    I wear a cycle-specific jacket, bought in a bike shop, it isn't yellow, but it does have those nice reflective panels. They probably make me more visible to approaching motorists.

    The jacket keeps me pretty worn and mostly dry and has lotsofpockets - with zips.

    Most 'normal' people seem to wear similar styles of outerwear (probably with fewer reflective bits). Not sure if the are are all 'outdoor types' - walkers/mountaineers/adventurers.
    /bususers/etc. or if they bought from Black's, Tiso's, Rohan or?

    Doesn't make me any more or less likely to be become like them (in their chosen pursuits/travel options).

    I ride bikes, I wear clothes.

    Posted 12 years ago #
  17. crowriver

    For many years I just cycled in 'normal' clothes (jeans, trainers, t-shirts, casual jackets). I was vaguely aware of things like cycling caps and jerseys and shorts, but not being into racing I never thought to buy any of this gear. That's despite riding a 'technical' bike at the time (a 10 speed 'racer') as trouser clips, old roadsters, mudguards/chainguards and dynamo lights were just things your granddad would have (thoughl kinda cool in a nostalgic way).

    What I did find was that cycling influenced certain clothing choices: flat soled tennis/baseball shoes (themselves of course 'technical' footwear in their original context); bomber/harrington jackets with zip fronts for adjustable ventilation and collars which can be turned against the wind; narrow legged jeans and trousers which wouldn't get caught in the pedals or chain; a light packaway cagoule that could be slung under the saddle or stuffed in a shoulder bag; longer socks that trouser legs could be tucked into; etc. I had no rack or any way of carrying bags on my racer, so luggage was generally light and small shoulder bags or a small rucksac.

    It was only in the late 1990s that I really became aware of more technical cycling specific accessories such as h*****s, track mitts, panniers and racks, and specialist clothing. This was partly because I had started frequenting bicycle shops that had those things on display, and also because of the mountain bike fashion, which I think more than anything else started off a huge market in technical and safety gear for a wider public. Prior to that I think it was really only teenagers on BMX bikes that wore h*****s, but they had the elbow and knee pads too, like skateboarders.

    So along with my shiny new MTB I bought a shiny new h****t, a rack, some panniers, a hi-viz tabard, track mitts with padded palms, and a courier bag. I was buying into a whole experience, with all the gear to 'look the part'. What part it was I was playing I'm not entirely sure: some kind of cool, urban courier/mountain biker dude from California/New York who just happened to be chilling in draughty Edinburgh for a while. I still wore 'normal' clothes under this street armour though.

    As I've aged I've oscillated between going back to the 'normal joe' look with no h****t, ordinary clothes, etc. and more 'specialist' wardrobes for longer rides, touring, etc. It's relatively rare that you'll catch me wearing lycra shorts, though I do occasionally wear them for long rides in summer (and I have crafty padded undershorts for when it's less clement). I own various technical bits of running and walking kit which I do wear quite a lot: merino base layers, craghopper zip-off lower leg trousers, etc. I also have cycle specific waterproofs (they are just the best for the job); two Walz caps; a h****t (though haven't worn it much until my recent accident); trouser clips; plus more cycling bags. bar bags, rack bags and panniers than you can shake a stick at.

    I'm not a 'roadie' so I don't do the whole bib shorts, club jersey thang. I've never got the hang of SPDs and don't use them at all. I abandoned toe clips too after one too many falls at junctions. So in the footwear dept. I'm definitely a 'normal' (though I do own waterproof overshoes which is a bit nerdy). I try to commute in my work clothes, to save on weight apart from anything else.

    (Sorry for rambling on. Stuck inside for too long).

    Posted 12 years ago #
  18. Min

    Utterly humourless article on why no-one should ever be allowed to make a cartoon of themselves and ask other people what they wear because we should all wear what the author tells us and not what we feel comfortable in.

    Apparently if you google "cycle winter clothing" you get, er winter cycling clothing. Whoever would have thought it? Mind you no-one else is allowed to ever mention the word cycling on the internet except for him. Ooh I just did it myself!


    Ooh I did it again!

    Posted 12 years ago #
  19. crowriver

    Mr. Copenhagenize has a real problem with 'environmentalists' and 'cyclists' (unless they're Citizen Cyclists ® © Copenhagenize Consulting).

    There are a whole load of things wrong with this article. First, the history. Cycling boom in the 1960s/1970s was driven by myriad factors, amongst the most important were.....environmentalism and sports cycling. The others were fashion (especially in the 1960s and late 1970s), and post 1973 oil crisis, fuel prices.

    The reason why sports cycling is marketed by bicycle companies nowadays is because the car manufacturers were just too successful. Bicycles are now marketed as a niche product in many countries because that is exactly what they are, like it or not. In much of the West, cars are dominant and places like Copenhagen, Amsterdam etc. are very much the exception. Developing countries are abandoning bicycles for cars, look at what's happening in China and India.

    Yes, marketing is important but it won't produce change alone. It is a pity that Mr. Copenhagenize attacks cyclists who don't have the good fortune to live in enlightened countries like Denmark and the Netherlands. You know, he is starting to sound just as preachy as those he accuses!

    Posted 12 years ago #
  20. Morningsider

    Min - thanks for the link. Exactly what I would expect from a fashion blogger.

    Also, "Flaneur" - I had to look it up, but just the perfect word in these circumstances.

    Kaputnik - excellent graphic (as ever) and retort.

    Here's a conundrum for Mr Chic - almost all my cycle specific gear costs me nothing, as people tend to give me cycle stuff as presents. Should I:

    1. Demand they take them back and get me some real clothes.
    2. Accept the presents with good grace, but never wear them.
    3. Wear them when I feel it is appropriate.
    4. Decide to do away with all my "normal" clothes and wear only cycle specific clothing at all times.

    What's a guy to do? I had no idea this clothes business was so contentious!

    Posted 12 years ago #
  21. LaidBack

    In much of the West, cars are dominant and places like Copenhagen, Amsterdam etc. are very much the exception.

    Yet as a fan of 'Borgen' I'm afraid that Copenhagen appears to be just as full of cars as many other places.

    OT but has anyone else watched this latest drama from Scandinavia? The politics are brilliant - Workers Party MPs were forcing PM to build a motorway last week as payback for their support.
    One amusing line - "We've had to move the bikes into the greenhouse as the security service are using the PM's garage". A significant inconvenience there obviously that would resonate with the home audience.

    Posted 12 years ago #
  22. Baldcyclist

    I cycled into work in my 'Buff' this morning. Is that chic enough?

    **For the avoidance of doubt, there were other items of clothing involved too, no need to call the Police.

    Posted 12 years ago #
  23. Morningsider

    It is of course wishful thinking that there is no such thing as congestion in Copenhagen. This from a 2008 report by the Forum of Municipalities (Representing Copenhagen area local authorities):

    "For the last few years, traffic in the Greater Copenhagen Area has increased annually by more than 10%. The traffic load on some stretches of road is such that the average speed during peak hours has sunk to under 20 kph. More than 130,000 hours are wasted daily by sitting in traffic jams within the Greater Copenhagen Area."


    "Reasons for increasing congestion
    It is very simple – there are more and more cars on the road and thus more and more congestion"


    Posted 12 years ago #
  24. Min

    Morningsider:-"4. Decide to do away with all my "normal" clothes and wear only cycle specific clothing at all times."

    Actually this is what I do a lot of the time. I doubt anyone has even noticed. It is very practical for daily life, especially back pockets and kidney-covering flaps to stop you showing your back (or worse) when you bend down to pick something up.

    From the article:-

    "Like this bicycle user, above. Did she buy that outfit, complete with goggles, in order to cycle in the snow? No. That ski suit was in her winter wardrobe already. The goggles, too, as she enjoys skiing in the winter. They were already in her closet and came in handy."

    Hang on, she enjoys skiing in winter? You mean she doesn't ski just to get from A to B in winter and yet she buys specialist clothing to unnecessarily persue a sport that she ENJOYS?

    HOW VERY DARE SHE!!!!!!!!

    Crowriver:-" It is a pity that Mr. Copenhagenize attacks cyclists who don't have the good fortune to live in enlightened countries like Denmark and the Netherlands."

    I think this is what does my head in the most. If decent infrastructure and political support turn you into a supercillious snob then perhaps we are better off without it?

    Posted 12 years ago #
  25. crowriver

    I dunno why he went off on one and ranted against 'hobbyist' cycling enthusiasts. He should focus on motorists as a target instead. The Copenhagenize blog in a more thoughtful mode:

    The Anti-Automobile Age - and what we can learn from it

    Fave quote from the book:

    "The more intellectual critics often called the automobile a pagan idol demanding sacrifice. The car was, for example, a juggernaut: a wheeled object of idolatry which crushed lives out under its wheels. (...) In 1916 an authority on the automobile industry wrote: 'In the view of the press, the automobile is to-day a juggernaut, a motoring speed-monster, intent on killing and maiming all who stand in its way'."

    It strikes me that protests against pedestrian road deaths were exactly the root of a movement which has eventually led to nice segregated cycle infrastructure in the Netherlands, and maybe Denmark too.

    No doubt car drivers saw them as 'environmentalists' and 'cyclists' stirring up trouble. Hey aren't we all people?

    Posted 12 years ago #
  26. LaidBack

    Thanks Morningsider!
    It is very simple – there are more and more cars on the road and thus more and more congestion"

    I sometimes get the impression that some people are waiting for a great age of cycling to occur led by our friends on mainland Europe. Sorry but I don't think so, as global marketing and shopping are targeted on selling new smaller cars - all of which will need space, electric or not. Removing VED and giving them cheaper parking will encourage this trend. Unless bikes were marketed as a mainstream item they are likely to remain 'shed accessories' for many.
    Edinburgh will increase car ownership - it is behind Amsterdam. Heavy marketing directed at people of my daughters age via their smartphones is already creating demand.

    Speeds will fall on the remaining road space and more people will walk and a few more will cycle or use other two wheelers I'm sure.

    I saw somewhere that the 'minority interest' of scootering on a Vespa is growing. This trend is also happening in Amsterdam with 999euro petrol scooters mixing with bicycles.

    On a positive note... bikes make up 20% of vehicles on some routes in Edinburgh at peak times according to Spokes survey. That's pretty good.

    Posted 12 years ago #
  27. kaputnik

    It's not an "argument" that can be won.

    The arbiter of what qualifies as cycling-specific qualified my merino wool vests as cycle-specific technical clothing even though they are wool, much like his own coat and even though they were not bought or designed for cycling purposes (in fact, they were purchased before I started cycling, and I tried and disposed of various other man-made fibre vests along the way to woolly epiphany).

    If I wore my cotton vests purchased from Marks & Spencer, that would be fine, but because I chose the vests purchased from Tiso that are better for keeping warmer and more practical for cycling in, I crossed a boundary and incurred the wrath of his blog.

    But anyway, he'll be getting his come-uppance in cartoon format in the near future...

    I'm with Morngsider when he says "when it ceases to have a function".

    Posted 12 years ago #
  28. crowriver

    But anyway, he'll be getting his come-uppance in cartoon format in the near future...

    Looking forward to it! Let me guess, the Bullitt will feature, along with the 'Danish trawler skipper c.1930' overcoat?

    Posted 12 years ago #
  29. kaputnik

    And perhaps an excerpt form his own "I'm not a political movement but have a manifesto" manifesto. And some price tags...

    For those who don't, I tweeted a few sketch ideas here and here

    Posted 12 years ago #
  30. minus six

    Copenhagenize sez:

    Anybody who cycles in the winter deserves respect. Anybody who tries to tell the general population that you need anything more than your regular winter clothes to do it... does not

    That's all very well for a trendy urbanite putting in a couple of miles each way between house and workplace.

    Try a daily 15 mile commute each way on long rural stretches in your dandy duffle coat...

    I'll stick to my assos airblock winter longs, thanks!

    Posted 12 years ago #

RSS feed for this topic

Reply »

You must log in to post.

Video embedded using Easy Video Embed plugin