Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cycle Chic...Moi?

I am generally as far from “cycle chic” as it gets. My typical commute is 10 miles and I sweat like a pig – even in cold weather. So biking in work clothes…I don’t think so. Besides, comfort is more my style, and I’m usually clad in lycra or fleece – depending on the season. However, if I’m just riding my bike to the metro, I try to wear my “normal” clothes (which aren’t very chic, but a cut above sweat pants).

But this morning, I was taking the Arlington wiggle to the Ballston metro – about a 3-mile ride and it was brisk, but not too cold. On a whim, I put on black tights, short little boots and a claret-colored Betsey Johnson dress with a swingy skirt that I nabbed for a couple dollars in an Olympia, WA thrift store. Topped off with a tight black jacket and a scarf wound round my neck, I took off about 8:20 a.m. feeling, well, chic.

The “wiggle” takes me through my Arlington, VA neighborhood, and I was just in time for the elementary school bus pick-ups. The streets were swarmed with the big yellow monsters, and there were loads of kids with their parents clustered at the bus stops. I secretly hoped that I was inspiring the bus stop kids to beg their parents to let them bike to school, feeling like a good role model for the joys of bike riding.

Maybe it was my imagination, or perhaps it was my good mood – feeling so light and free on my bike, and having my current favorite song-to-bike-to come on Pandora (J Band, Take Our Turn – I don’t care if it is about Jesus) but I definitely think I got a lot more smiles from people while I was wearing my “chic” outfit. Is there something about wearing lycra that creates a subliminal (if not totally conscious) antipathy in non-bikers? Are all people in lycra associated with the obnoxious and impatient racer-types who cut in and out of traffic and seem grimly intense in their pursuit of speed? Or is it just that people still prefer to see a woman in a dress than in sports gear?

In any case, it made me re-think this whole “cycle chic” debate. I have to say, riding in tights and a loose, swingy, stretchy skirt was as comfortable as could be. Sadly, it was really, truly my last ride before shoulder surgery, but once I’m out of the sling, I may rethink my bike attire, trying to add some more “normal” clothes for short trips and see if the smiles are sustained.

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