How to confound other cyclists just with your clothing.

I have a new raincoat. I bought it to test strangers’ IQs and it is already working. I chained my classic city bike outside my favourite cafe, and waltzed inside wearing my coat. I had the great fortune of finding myself sitting beside two advocates of mountain bike tourism, who I could overhear plainly. “These guys who ride around upright…” (they were referring to me) “…have no idea what cycling is really about, riding a real bike downhill through the bush. It’s as exciting as snowboarding, surfing…[bla bla bla]” Should I have recited my list of race wins to them, challenged them to a mountain bike ramble, or asked them where they were 20 years ago when I was getting invitations from pro teams (as I recall, vaguely, I could be wrong)? Hell no. I was eavesdropping, and marvelling at how something so simple as raincoat—admittedly, one you could see from the moon—can confound people with narrower outlooks.

I am really tired though of grassroots bicycling advocates. By my count, there are only a few hundred informed ones in the whole world: not enough to share between the world’s cities. My city is lucky. There might actually be a few who have read Pucher, or Copenhagenize, or at the very least Bike Snob. But their authority in the eyes of local government, is derived from the number of cyclists for whom they speak. This is problematic, because the cyclists they speak for only ever express myopic self-interest.

Don’t read my blog today. Better you read this brilliant post from As Easy as Riding a Bike, while I take another ride in the rain to my favourite cafe.

About Steven

I'm on a mission to put cycling on the agendas of architects, urban designers and fellow academics, who see the potential for bicycles to change cities and buildings. My PhD is in architectural history and my interdisciplinary research spans art theory, philosophy and cultural studies. I teach architectural history and theory and design studio at The University of Tasmania, Australia, and formerly worked as an architect designing large public housing projects in Singapore.
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3 Responses to How to confound other cyclists just with your clothing.

  1. Benedikt says:

    Hi Steven,
    hooray it was raining in Tasmania. It was raining in Germany, too. I like that rain coat, although I personally would have chosen a more subtle colour. But as a bike traffic advocate you need to commandeer some attention, so good choice, sir.
    Nice to see some pictures of that raincoat. On the homepage there are only a few small photos. If the Cambridge Raincoat people are reading this: You need more and larger promo pics.
    The ‘Anglosphere’ seems to have been hit particularly hard by car culture, even though England once started the mass production and spreading of bicycles. I suppose in West Europe espresso sipping patrons would have only talked about your coat, not you’re riding position. And maybe about your hair-do. (Which I do not mean to mock, I’m merely stating that it is unusual.)
    Those mountain bikers are good examples for the bad state of modern society. Obviously the bicycle is vehicle that can be used for many purposes. How can one claim cycling “was really about” spare time off-roading? [Though I agree it is great fun.] Do they have an opinion about what driving “was really about?”
    Society makes fools, and fools make society. A vicious circle that we need to break. Maybe the gent in the red coat can help?

  2. Luke says:

    You looking so cheerful in rain in the video reminded me of what is, as far as I know, the only poem about happiness and waterproof clothing – Happiness, by A A Milne:

    John had
    Great Big
    Waterproof
    Boots on;
    John had a
    Great Big
    Waterproof
    Hat;
    John had a
    Great Big
    Waterproof
    Mackintosh -
    And that
    (Said John)
    Is
    That.

    It is generally accompanied by a picture of a small child, but in future editions, I can see it being accompanied by a picture of your good self.

    http://www.brainpickings.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/milne_happiness.jpg

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