This week, my quest for Total Bike Immersion led me to thoughts of water, torn jeans, steamed mussels, bungalows, iceberg lettuce, VW Beetles, and Seattle. What's the common thread? It's a trajectory, really. From humble to chic. From simple to stylish. From ignored to desired.
To this list, we can add the bicycle. Once merely a combination of simple machines - wheels, axles, levers, and pulleys - the bike has been transformed into a symbol of chic and forced into a game of dress-up. Purveyors of haute-couture have discovered that bikes sell clothes, not my bike, of course (who besides me would want an outfit that complements a charcoal-gray comfort bike?) but high-end, fashionable bikes designed by Fendi and Gucci. And if the clothes are outrageous enough, a simple bike will do.
Look at these Armani models, covered up like last night's leftovers in their aluminum foil shorts. Have you ever seen these guys on the trail? Maybe some people would find them attractive, but I think they're just a little spooky, some sort of android peloton powered by embedded computer chips and tiny solar panels. No doubt their dark glasses are hiding their yellow eyes.
High fashion is, without a doubt, much more fun on a stylish bike. C'est vrai. Would you cover yourself from head to toe in Ralph Lauren and then hop in your Yugo? Heavens no. You wouldn't be caught dead. Haute couture demands un haute velo. Thank goodness for Fendi, the self-described "Italian luxury fashion house," that has designed the world's most excessive bike. Called the Abici, this beauty offers more luxury than my entire house.
Priced at $5,900, it's expensive but what kind of car could you get for that money? The detachable leather case on the front handlebars goes for $975. The more subtle leather accessories include covers for your keys and bike chain and a holder for your GPS navigation system (in case you become disoriented en route to the spa). And if $5,900 isn't eye-popping enough, consider the $9,500 model, which includes the fur saddlebags shown above.
The totally fun and hipster-blog Copenhagen Cycle Chic covers every aspect of cycling that you can imagine, and some that you can't. It firmly believes that choosing a bike and biking clothes is a matter of style, not function. The first tenet of its manifesto is "I choose to cycle chic and, at every opportunity, I will choose style over speed." It holds that cyclists have a responsibility to "contribute visually to a more aesthetically pleasing urban landscape."
And they contribute they do. Wondering where the "aesthetically pleasing" people are? They're in Copenhagen. All of them (except for the few that strayed into Paris). They seem to have congregated there and they're all on bikes. No helmets, so their hair looks great. No Spandex or Lycra, but plenty of funky coats and scarves, messenger bags, and skinny heels.
Maybe, with our safety-conscious, practical American sensibilities, these Danes seem a little ridiculous. But they're on bikes. They're keeping bikes in the news and on the roads. They're having fun on two wheels without circulation-killing shorts or a bulky padded crotch that feels like a diaper. Really, if you're just an around-town kind of cyclist, can you ever make the case for these?