.no matter what you wear, as long as you ride
In the quiet period just before new year, CityCycling artist Andy Arthur posted a cartoon of his favourite winter cycling clothes headed with the question "what are you wearing this winter?" on his Tumblr blog. It was the latest in a series of cycling-related illustrations, including many of those created for or featured in CityCycling. I saw the picture when it was posted and took it to be a simple celebration of the apparent cessation of several recent unseasonable warm spells, finally resulting in weather cold enough to warrant wearing his weatherproof winter cycling shoes. It seems quite reasonable that someone who likes cycling with a talent for drawing should be allowed to combine the two; a common theme in many of his cycling illustrations are the huge smiles on his characters' faces - he's certainly presenting cycling positively.
I was rather surprised a few hours later when I returned to the internet to find that the illustration had been Twitticised by none other than Mikael Colville-Andersen (of Copenhagenize® and the originator of the original Cycle Chic® photoblog) after he disingenuously misinterpreted it as discouraging non-cyclists from becoming cyclists (and preventing cycling culture from going mainstream) through its purported insistence on the use of special clothing. It wasn't the message I'd taken from the picture. Supportive messages from like-minded associates were similarly dismissed. Not only was activity-specific clothing wrong; woe betide anyone who should perform their own repairs, which might dissuade them from wearing their smartest clothes for fear of getting them all oily: repairs are solely the remit of a qualified Local Bike Shop, who get sacrificially oily on your behalf so that you may stay neat and spiffy.
Colville-Andersen's strong opinions were restated a few days later in a post titled "Overcomplicating Winter Cycling - Why It's Bad" on Copenhagenize.com which re-posted the link to Andy's illustration (initially labelling it a 'useless infographic', though the post has since been re-worded). Support of this idea that non-cycling-specific winter clothing may be used to go cycling in winter was present in the form of photographs of Copenhagenites not wearing cycle-specific winter clothing during winter whilst riding bicycles. Apparently a typical Copenhagen Citizen Cyclist (such as Mr Colville-Andersen) may open their wardrobe (in itself a fairly purpose-specific item of furniture, though he chose not to mention this) and find within it a whole rail-ful of clothes suitable for cycling in all manner of seasons. Presumably one such item was the 'thousand dollar suit' he had previously tweeted several times about wearing whilst cycling in on his >€1,800 Bullitt.
When merely drawing items of clothing which are both cycling- and winter-specific is damaging cycling, actually wearing such things must logically be even worse, even when someone demonstrates the affordability of cycling when their entire cycling wardrobe and everyday bicycle cost less than a single Copenhagenize-approved suit. I'd not hitherto suspected that it was possible to be (like Andy) a keen cyclist and enthusiastic disseminator of the niceness of cycling whilst also being personally responsible for sabotaging efforts to encourage greater uptake of cycling. I'm also guilty of getting my own fingers oily rather than running to the LBS whenever a barrel-adjuster requires tweaking. I not only wear clothing sold with 'cycling' in the item designation, I now use clipless pedals after finally getting round to giving them a try eight months ago. I might wear cycling-specific clothing now but I didn't immediately start wearing Endura and Altura the very first time I sat on a bike; my cycling wardrobe has been cheaply pieced-together over several years in various sales, with very few items costing significantly more than their non-cycling equivalent. Each new item has been carefully selected, only purchased if it would be of benefit.