Sunday, July 19, 2009

Evolution of Style

I've been trying to improve the conditions around riding the singlespeed. When I bought the bike, I took it as it sat from the shop floor and rode it home. I was thrilled with it. I still am. It's an elegant-looking bike to begin with, and I felt that bolting on typical bicycle accessories like a bottle cage or a saddle bag really detracts from the style and purpose of the bike, which is to sit in the garage ready for action. Owning a bike I can simply jump on and take off for a while with no special preparation is - or was - a great convenience. Lately though, I'm finding reality a little different. The reason?

Well, at work I look like this (really), but at home I look like this (sort of). I live in cargo shorts or jeans when I'm not in the office, and changing into bike gear is a tedious extra step. Riding in street clothes was fine for a while, and as a matter of fact, nothing beats jeans for winter riding (even if you really stand out in group rides). But I quickly found a disconnect between practicality and utility. All over the interwebs are pictures of people merrily moving along on their bikes in all kinds of get-ups: suits, dresses, cargo shorts, dress shoes, high heels, tennis shoes, etc. I don't see how they do it. For one thing, I sweat when I ride; and even if I don't, I tend to absorb the smell of my surroundings. Do they? If not, St. Louis county must be the smelliest, most sweat-condusive place on the planet.

In spite of the utility, on anything but the shortest of rides I found that jeans and street shorts tend to rub and get a little manky in the seat, especially in the summer. I solved the problem by buying a pair of these to wear under my cargo shorts. Later on, I bought a pair of these to go with them, because lets face it, summer here is brutal, and riding in Levi's or cargo shorts just doesn't cut it when the alternative is a nice pair of Zoic's. Of course, once I started wearing bike shorts, it was only a short step to athletic T's. So now I'm back to changing clothes, and the spontaneous hipster-street-clothes aspect of riding the bike is gone. And that was just the beginning.

One day I had a close call with a pile of glass. I was lucky because I had strayed a good distance from home and I would have been stuck otherwise. I started carrying a spare tube banded together with a tire lever and CO2 in the leg pockets of my shorts. Then it dawned on me that the wheels on the Masi are bolt-on. Before the next ride I remembered to grab a 15mm box-end from the tool chest. Then I thought about it, and turned around and put the tube, the wrench, the CO2, and a patch kit in a saddle bag, and strapped the bag to the bike.

The official end to my spartan urban riding came on a hot June day. I was thristy, and felt more than a little silly stuffing bottled water in the pockets of my shorts like some junior high-schooler. I found a bike shop on the way home and bought a bottle cage and a cheap bottle. The bike was now fully decked-out and so was I. Well almost.

The only thing unchanged is the pedals. The bike still sports the cheap-o platform pedals it came with. I've held out on the pedals because they are truely the utilitarian part of the bike - I can still jump on and go if the need arises. I've had more than a few instances of the need arising, and nothing is worse at, say, the moment the kids suddenly want to ride, than telling them "wait while I change my shoes". Its a buzz-kill. And while those times aren't frequent, they aren't rare either. The pedals do offer enough stability when I'm riding with the kids, but they don't begin to cut it when I'm riding on my own - especially in traffic.

Even if nobody walks around in bike shoes, I wanted to. I thought: wouldn't it be cool if there were shoes practical enough for daily wear, that also clip in, but won't scratch the kitchen floor? There is. They're damn comfy and fit my super laid-back street style too. I'm not sure what to do about winter riding yet, but I'm considering these. As for pedals, there's only one choice isn't there?

The most important thing I figured out about riding in street clothes is that I don't need to. Sure, I take short trips with the kids, or pedal to the drug store or to the gym, but I don't have to get around by bike. I'd like to, but I can't. Most of the time I use the bike to wander. I don't stop at coffee shops (or bars), commute to work, pick up groceries, or make it part of hanging out with friends. I guess what I've done is find a happy medium - somewhere this side of depending on the bike - that really suits the way I live. And my style. Without having to run around in a spandex diaper.


Jane said...

I didn't know I was married to david Beckham. When did that happen? I always knew I was posh though!!!!

Sam Sylar said...

My secret life.

That's how I can afford the extra bike shorts.