10 September 2008

North American Poll: Is Lycra still dominant?

I'm told by my friends in Europe that Americans still think that one must wear lycra to ride a bike, even in the city for short jaunts. I feel like this perception has changed, but perhaps the act of observing in keeping this blog has changed the observer (me).

It seems to me that all the articles about bicycle commuters that have gone along with all the articles about fuel prices have changed the way Americans see their noble and lowly bicycles. Among my colleagues there are two American men and one Dutch woman who commute in lycra, the rest of us commute in our work clothes. This change in cycling perception has happened in my family, what about yours? Your colleagues?

Fellow North Americans, what is the state of our cycling union? Are people aware of their cycling options? I'm terribly curious as to what you think!


JPTwins said...

i think Americans on the whole are still connected to the lycra thing. Pretty much all of the news reports where the reporter decides to try commuting on a bike has them wearing the bike shorts and tight yellow cycling jersey. and gloves and everything.

now, i have a hilly 15 mile commute each way and since i shower anyways, i wear cycling shorts underneath "normal outdoor clothes". it's more comfort thing than a style thing -- i also wear gloves.

that said, the idea that anyone who rides needs to look like they've just ridden a century ride is ridiculous. a "short jaunt" is less than 5 miles and by no means requires special gear of any kind (save, maybe a helmet, if you're so inclined)

Dean said...

I'm still seeing a lot of lycra.

Krista said...

I still see tons of people out biking in lycra, with their drop handlebars and fancy sunglasses, but living in Pennsylvania, the state with (I believe) the most bike trails, that's not too surprising. There's plenty of people who commute in normal clothes, though, and I like them better.

Shannon said...

Most people I see in Richmond, VA are wearing regular clothes. My bike commute is 6 hilly miles each way, and I tend to get sweaty when it's 90+ degrees and sunny, so I personally wear a loose fitting, sleeveless running top to ride. However, I'm looking forward to cool weather so I can just wear regular clothes!

burrito said...

It's a mixed bag in my office - most people commute by bike and I'd say most do so in non-lycra bike clothes - not their office clothes though. One or two go the lycra route. No one bikes in their work clothes, perhaps because it rains a lot here (Vancouver, BC) and if you come from one direction you have to go up a hill at the very end of your trip which will make you sweat even if you walk it.

I see a mix on the roads - lots of people who look like their on their way to a bike race, some people in non-lycra grubby bike clothes, and the occassional dapper/chic person but sadly, the dapper, chic people are the minority still.

Roadrider said...

Although I commute in my work clothes, in the summer that doesn't include my dress shirt which I change into after the sweat dries. It's hard to be chic when it's 85F at 9 am. Judging by the number of sweat-soaked clothes draped over bikes in the "bike room" at work, I'm not the only one. I reserve the lycra for my morning training rides but switch to regular clothes for my short commute to work. Style definitely suffers until the morning temperatures get down to the mid-70s, though. New Orleans bike culture is a lot more sweaty than Copenhagen's!

Jackson said...

I switched to "street clothes" for commuting last year and now I even were civvy clothes for mountain biking!
About half the commuters I see are still wearing lycra, and they aren't the half that are smiling as they pedal along.

bethany said...

im from encinitas (north county san diego) and i there are tons of triathletes and cyclists here. on my saturday morning rides with my bf we stick out like sore thumbs in our normal clothes.

when it comes to the commuters the young ones wear normal clothes, the yuppies all wear lycra outfits. most of them even wear them on short rides during their lunch breaks.

luis said...

hello all; on the commute it's about 60/40 lycra/street attire. in the office there are 3 of us who cycle regularly, no one wear lycra but all of us wear "cycle clothes" -- warm/cool depending on the weather and comfy.

Mariss said...

I wear whatever I am wearing to work that day, but will most likely wear my sneakers or a pair of flat shoes (and my helmet ;). I'm in Philly and have a pretty short commute, but most of the people I see are wearing normal clothes.

The people who have the longer commutes seem to be the people I see wearing lycra.

Christopher Perez said...

Around Portland, OR during commute hours I'm seeing more and more street clothes. Lycra is still visible because, well, its so visible. Bright colors on Lance Armstrong-wanna-bees. Fortunately, Lycra appears to be on its way out.

Now I'm seeing regular go'n to work wear as well as knickers and small-billed caps. The ladies are starting to wear beautiful dresses too.

Its got to be something in all the organic brew we have around here. :-)

lagatta à montréal said...

Although lycra exists here in Montréal, it definitely seems to be in the minority, and I see more and more examples of cycling chic. But that is not just because we are so chic ;-), it is also because the city itself is relatively compact, for historical reasons (like Boston, old by North American standards) and geographical ones (we are an island).

Our main problem, of course, is the very severe winter. I do not cycle when there is a lot of ice and snow, like most of last winter (the winter before, I cycled every day until the 15th of January).

Here is the poster for this year's edition of "En ville sans ma voiture" (In town, without my car), featuring a chic cyclist in office attire.


Tom said...

I see some lycra, but as far as I can tell those that were it aren't commuters. I talked to one guy who said he tried commuting but he had to get up too early to ride.

Most commuters i see here are in regular shorts and light loose fitting shirts. They have back packs or panniers and they change at work.

Anonymous said...

for chicago, it's a mixed bag depending on where you are in the city. if you're downtown, bike commuters are most likely in lycra or bike messenger gear (reflective vests over normal clothes). anywhere else, it's mostly street clothes. i work by a hospital, and many ppl ride their bikes in their scrubs or white coats. i think lycra makes sense for long commutes (an acquaintance commutes 10 miles by bike). i'm still scared of getting run over, so i just ride around the block.

Anonymous said...

Hm, I have a friend who works in City Hall @ San Jose, CA and has to dress formally, but his commute by bike is about 17mi, so he wears bike shorts and a white t-shirt haha while carrying his suit (or whatever) in his messenger bag. And, my boyfriend, whose commute to the airport where he works is about 5mi, just wears his work clothes (dress shirt and slacks). But, seeing people bike to work in their dress clothes in that suburban city is a rarity :P

In Berkeley, I see a lot more people dressed in work clothes and biking, but our city is literally 5mi wide so a "commute" is merely a short ride any way. I just dislike some darn hills!

rcp4 said...

Here in central AZ, most people wear regular clothes. The roadies wear lycra, but they tend to do training rides in groups. I only know one commuter who wears lycra - but he is also training for races at the same time.

Pierre Phaneuf said...

I only wear lycra above a certain distance threshold, say 40 kilometres? When I commute, it's pretty short (about three kilometres), so I definitely don't bother.

While Montreal isn't too large (the interesting parts, anyway!), there is a hill in the middle, and one of the neighbourhood is called the Plateau, for obvious reason. Since I bike not only for my commute, but all over the place, combined with my extreme laziness, I have a pair of those low-end clip-less shoes that look more or less normal (no velcro strap, just normal lacing). It's no San Francisco here, I'm just really lazy. ;-)

I do have gloves, mainly because my bike has stupidly incomfortable handle grips, which I really should replace with something decent.

Bruce's Bike Blog said...

My commute is 25 miles one way in the mornings--the wife picks me up at 15 miles on the way home because there's a bit more traffic in the late afternoon.

Tucson, AZ is hot--my rides home in the summer can be 100 degrees or more. My commute is mostly climbing, so I'am pretty soaked with sweat by the end of the commute.

Lycra is best for me--but I try to wear just the plain one-color jersey and not usually the flashy speedy ones. Plus my bike has fenders, and saddle bags, so I would say people would think, oh that guy's riding to work.

The lycra wearing crowd here in Tucson are for the most part out training--and there are some great places to ride and train on Tucson's roads. We also have a good amount of nice bike lanes.

I have secretly worn my lycra under everyday clothes--but its just too hot.

One reason you would not see more everyday people wearing everyday clothes--in my opinion--is that most people think that riding a bike on the streets of this city is too dangerous.

I commute because I can, and I feel confident riding on the roads here--I would just ask that motorists respect that and share the road safely and with courtesy.


Audeamus said...

Unless I'm going out for a long "fitness" ride, I am definitely wearing street clothes much more often. I'm even going w/o a helmet more often, although I'm still kind of on the fence.

I fell out of cycling for a few years about 15 years ago, and when I got back into it, I just couldn't do the Lycra thing. I went into wool when I found a good source, but I'm even moving away from this for commuting and more casual rides.

There's still a great deal of Lycra out there. Most weekend warriors are very concious about what they wear, and most of them are worried about being ridiculed for not being "serious riders." Of course, this is BS for 98 percent of the riders out there, but Americans are for the most part not a terribly fashion-forward people. But things are changing...

cris said...

I think the original post was eaten during OpenID verification, but I would like to say that I go both ways.

If my commute is just home to office and back, or if I'm just going on a bike ride out to God knows where, I'll wear the superhero outfit. Sweat and a cotton shirt are not two tastes that taste great together.

If I'm errand running or jaunting about, then I'd like to wear a pair of real pants with real pockets.

But, what I love most about riding in the fall/winter in New England is an excuse to wear wool, which sort of fits in to an enlightened peloton and a pedestrian crowd.