Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Real Gentlemen don't wear lycra

Having just taken ownership of a splendid Pashley Sovereign Roadster I am left wondering why others persist in commuting on such inconvenient and seemingly impractical conveyances?

To my mind the commuter bicycle reached it's zenith in design in the 1920's, and such bicycles seem to have it all as far as practical commuter cycling is concerned. I am left somewhat in awe of the lycra clad, skin tight, legging wearing, middle aged, balding males with beer guts who happily don their pan's people outfits on the 7.21 and waddle up to town on cleated shoes, with weighted back packs and flashing lights dangling from every conceivable strap, topped off by some ludicrous plastic headwear.

Gentlemen do you have any idea how ridiculous you all look?... kitted out in spandex and neon clutching your super lightweight folding monstrosity? You are a figure of ridicule to all those svelte long legged sirens you long to bed as you gaze across the train zipping and posturing......and I mention this with confidence after speaking to one of the said sirens, a rather demure thing with the most wonderful auburn hair in tresses, having asked her opinion of a bevy of available lycra clad cycling manhood. Her comments were gentle, but with an air of hilarity.

How much more alluring to do the gentlemanly thing and wear a fine well cut Saville Row suit, good English brogues, a thick wool coat and a dashing moleskin cap......while riding a solid piece of British understated classic cycle.

......of course some bright spark will now point out that only folding bikes are permitted on the 7.21....but of course a gentleman seldom rises before 9am....... so on the trains I catch,....... folding is rather passe.

Toodle pip!


  1. Sir,
    I don't know what the conditions are in terms of culture and conflict where you live, but I think you may be criticizing (or I suppose in your case criticising, which I am admittedly jealous of because English spelling is generally nicer looking) the folding bicycle unfairly. Choosing a bicycle that has style and class for where you live is great, but when one wants to travel, what's so wrong about folding bicycles? They are great for this purpose. When I step off of a plane, I need only to claim my compact vehicle at the baggage rack, and off I go. Furthermore, I don't think this idea is so far off from your self-acclaimed love of old-fashioned elegance. Take, for example, the antique Louis Vuitton bed trunk, perhaps a good parallel for the functionality of the folding bike for today's cyclist. Even though it may not be the most stylish thing to sleep on, just as a folding bike may not be a thing of beauty, there's no denying it's damn useful and not without a touch of class in its own adventuresome, get-up-and-go way. [IMG]http://i58.photobucket.com/albums/g269/fashionphile/louisvuittonbedtrunk.jpg[/IMG]
    Just something to consider.

  2. Dear Sprockette,

    Thank you for your well argued point.

    Having had a look at the said Louis Vuitton folding bed....I have to say it certainly has the thumbs up from me. As an example of design, from a purely personnel perspective it seems a damn site prettier than your average folding velocopide.

    Perhaps where the lycra clad chappies are going wrong is that what they actually require is a good set of tweeds and a bicycle that folds out of a custom made mahogany and brass carrying case that doubles up as a useful box to carry things in on the back of the bike?

    Hold hard a momment! You might just be on to something there old chap...why not get onto the design council or someone and see what you can conjure up? While your fortune may not be assured by it, you would certainly gain my plaudits.

    It is the sheer lack of refinement, the very utilitarian nature and refusal to countenance any pleasure the physical object might engender that I truly object to in the current crop of folding monstrosities I refer to.

    I do not deny their practicality...it is their form I find hard to take.

    Bravo anyhow, and thank you for the comment once again!

  3. It appears that we are more in agreement than I initially thought. Yes, that is an issue with not only folding bicycles, but a multitude of products for sale. The wooden/brass design would be more attractive and I have to admit that if given the choice I would of course pick that over some aluminum job. I try to be open minded about things in general because I do not take stock in being nostalgic about the past , but as far as aesthetics, style, and a good leisurely ride with a strapped-on picnic basket and a book of sonnets, I guess I am an old-fashioned girl.

  4. Dear Sprockette,

    I am very glad that you feel we have some common ground here, and I think that you have a splendid point in respect of the sad state of much everyday design.

    There are some glowing examples of good modern design, my iphone (being used here to make the comment) being a case in point. As you know I hark back to a simpler age, but I am also a blogger and so am myself guilty of modernism.

    I don't think I'd buy one myself, and I do not know how it rides, but have a look at this example of what I think is good modern design; http://bigthink.com/ideas/24287

    Would you not prefer to sit next to a well dressed person carrying this than a lycra clad and probably gently perspiring) individual whose folding bicycle ladders your stockings?

  5. Sprockette...a thousand pardons....I reffered to you as a chap when clearly as your name alludes to you are a chappess....my humble apologies once more....!

  6. Folding bicycles wielded by lycra clad warriors? Surely not.
    If I was unfortunate enough to be battling the hordes on public transport then a folder would be a logical choice, especially that fine little British product. But never in lycra… a little akin to wearing a formula one racing suit to drive your Ford Anglia.
    I have a friend to thank for discovering your site, truly delightful, thank you!

    Kiwi Don.

  7. Dear Kiwi Don,

    I think you have a point here, there is something rather ingenious about the folding bicycle. Having been prompted by your comment to examine my earlier position, it is clear that no true velophile could take the least exception to a folding version of our chosen means of locomotion. I think those who use them clad in unspeakably clingy polyester appear to confuse issues of utility and practicality in the bicycle with their own sartorial style. In my book function may at times supersede form as far as the bicycle is concerned, but never in the attire a "Gentleman" wears.

    While I appreciate your reference to the venerable Ford Anglia (ah the joyous teenaged memories of restrained under skirt fumblings with Fay Copley) I think it rather more akin to turning up in shorts and a cap-sleeve-t-shirt at your London Club!