I'm not a sports person. Elementary-school Sports Day was an annual hell. But the bike-decorating portion, now that was my kind of competition. Even today I get choked up when I catch a glimpse of that one artsy kid in a community event proudly parading a bicycle with crepe paper woven through the spokes, homemade fringes on the handlebars.
Cycling and creative work go together. It's the mode for many artists, either out of financial necessity or personal resolve to think outside the car. The bike has been referenced and re-worked in staggeringly imaginative ways, all over the world. But during my daily ride to the studio, when my morning brain gets into gear, or on my way back home, when my aching parts get some easy physical release and my lungs some fresh air, I often think about what would make biking a little less...outdorky. Especially in the sog. Or the dark. Which at this time of year has people screaming, Enough already with the soggy dark!
I'm not talking about the usual raingear and lights and reflectors — although there are some new innovations that are making it all a helluva lot easier, like Mountain Equipment Co-op's rechargeable, quick-release bike light
— but gear that will actually attract people to embrace workday cycling. We've got the bike lanes and the sensible equipment; now we need to add a little form to all that function so we can jump off our bikes and into the workplace as seamlessly as if we were getting out of a bus or car. We need to get past the clacking bike shoes, mushroom helmets, and day-glo hazard vests. If it takes more time to look half-way presentable at a meeting over coffee than consuming that cup of coffee, it's a deal-breaker.
Bike shop in Altlandsberg, Germany. Photo from copenhagenize.com
Designers know there's a demand for taking an aesthetic approach to daily cycle-commuting, in both the bike and the clothing. 'Cycle chic' is going mainstream, thanks to folks like Mikael Colville-Andersen
and his Cycle Chic Manifesto
that includes the vow: "I embrace my responsibility to contribute visually to a more aesthetically pleasing urban landscape."
I'm not deluded enough to assume I'll ever look chic on a bike but I am still jonesing for a black flocked equestrian helmet. I'm also waiting for some designer to come up with waterproof knee-high riding boots — maybe neoprene? — that meet up with a black flared knee-length waterproof shell coat with embedded reflective motifs. Giant mums would be nice, on the back and sides that appear when hit with headlight beams and streetlights. Others might prefer a bio-hazard motif or the ubiquitous skull.
Photo from hovding.com
Not so crazy, when you compare these designy dreams to the Hovding, the prototype of an inflatable helmet that follows the same technology of an airbag and looks like a cowl scarf. Yes, it's a one-time use item, and yes, it's over $400, but in my lifetime of on-and-off cycle commuting, my helmet has never been put to the test (touch wood). And the Hovding includes 'black box' technology that can record evidence of crash. (See it in action, and the fashion-conscious Swedish designers, below:)