Cycling is a man’s sport. From anyone’s perspective: there’s no female Tour de France, no female Armstrong or major pro team. Local serious riders are usually 10:1 on Velodromes or road rides. Even as an industry at the annual Interbike conference in Las Vegas, women are almost always demo models, media or support. It can feel kind of discouraging.
Thankfully there’s a lot of ladies who haven’t gotten that memo.
In cities and towns all over North America (hello Canada!) women are making major waves in cycling – but it doesn’t look the same as what the boys have done. Women are making cycling an everyday, civic and style minded affair to integrate into the everyday as something that’s non-competitive and… fun.
Bicycling, like exercise, meets with a lot of “it’s not convenient’ excuses. But a new generation of women are lobbying their city governments, opening unique businesses, starting collaborative groups, educational projects and leading the way for major social change in their own communities. It’s amazing that the renaissance of women and social action in regard to cycling hasn’t met with overwhelming positive coverage by local and national media, but in a way that makes it better: women are free to make their own way and listen to the needs of their own communities over the homogeny that happens when something becomes a (inter)national trend.
There has been a national trend that’s overshadowed and in many ways lessened the progress that’s happening: it’s called “Cycle Chic.” Popularized by a blog out of Copenhagen celebrating fashionable cyclists in that city stylishly riding a bike as transport, it caught on everywhere as a vision of what cycling should become. It’s a leap born largely out of desperation: cycling as transport in America has long been viewed as juvenile or something that only the poor or slightly deranged might be driven to. Watching beautiful pictures of designer apparel clad gorgeous Europeans on classic city bikes seemed to be the answer to changing that mentality. But it seems strange that America has adopted a view point that unquestioningly adopts the perspective of an old world socialist government. What’s good for one country isn’t always the right solution for another. American fashion houses have put forth their own, sometimes silly, answers to making cycling an envious lifestyle fantasy.
But however amazing New York designer Philip Lim’s 3.1 Girls on Bikes collection for fall 2011 is; it’s the daily conversations and innovations that make something once reserved for children and Frenchmen a protected and cherished form of everyday transport. In this effort it’s the thousands of unsung heroines that are slowly making major changes bound to positively affect millions of people who might not yet think bicycles are mankind’s greatest invention.