Cycling has had a major makeover in recent years – it’s been well and truly ‘Gokked’. When I first started cycling in London five years ago, us girls on bikes, with a blatant disregard for Lycra, were few and far between.
Despite the long list of advantages to riding a bike, cycling’s lacklustre image was a turn-off for most women. The city cyclist uniform of geeky helmet and gaudy anorak was keeping women away in droves. The only cycling celebrity around was Jon Snow and, although a great newsreader, he was not exactly the most relevant role model for the fashion-conscious girl about town.
But I am pleased to say things have changed and cycling has eagerly pedalled its way up the style rankings. We now have a whole army of glamorous cycling celebrities, from Agnes Deyn to Kelly Brook. Bicycles often grace the pages of glossy fashion magazines advertising luxury brands such as Dior and Liberty and there are countless TV ads that use cycling to signify femininity and freedom.
But it’s not just the media who are jumping on two wheels. The market is showing real signs of change with London’s cycling lanes now bustling with Topshop-wearing, Pashley-riding pretties. There are now hundreds of blogs following the lead of Copenhagen Cycle Chic, documenting real women on bikes looking fabulous, turning ‘Cycle Chic’ from a mode of transport into an international movement.
The relationship between women and bicycles is no new phenomenon. In the ‘20s and ‘30s artwork of women looking elegantly seductive whilst riding bikes was a major force in the marketing of bicycles. More examples can be seen from the golden age of Hollywood with screen icons such as Audrey Hepburn and Bridget Bardot posing for photographs on bicycles. But in the 1970s and 1980s various factors led to cycling’s image becoming more sport-focused and masculine. However the glamour is now confidently making a comeback.Article continues below
I started Cyclechic.co.uk in 2008 to celebrate the shift in the industry and provide fashionable accessories to the blossoming market. As a Vogue-reading city cyclist myself I was frustrated with the lack of stylish cycling accessories on the market and it was my quest to find a stylish bike helmet that laid the foundations for the business.
When I dug a little deeper I found a handful of innovative, young brands coming up with bikes, accessories and clothing with a fashion element. Yakkay, Sawako Furuno and Bern designed stylish alternatives to the traditional bike helmet and Dashing Tweeds, Cyclodelic and Two and Fro were tackling reflective clothing with aplomb.
Over the past three years we have sold a wide range of fashion-focused cycle products and have spent time talking to our customers, observing which products sell and why. The key formula is products that both flatter and solve a problem.
This year we are launching our own brand of cycling accessories – The Bicycle Muse – with this formula at the heart of our first two accessories.
We found that most women didn’t want to give up their beloved Mulberry handbag for a frumpy rucksack, so we came up with the ‘Handbag Hugger’, a spring loaded rack that attaches to the handlebar stem but unlike a basket sits on the inside of the handle bars keeping your bag within easy reach. Problem solved and style intact.
Our second product, The Vintage Box bag, has also been carefully researched. We identified a high number of women in our market preferred to buy and ride classic, traditional style bikes.
In response to this we created a product modeled on a vintage design, the perfect accompaniment for a traditional style bike. As well as looking good on the bike, the Vintage Box Bag is the perfect size for a handbag, lock and a waterproof coat or a few groceries. The lid also buckles down securely keeping the contents safe and dry.
Both products are selling well so it appears our formula is working and that cycle fashion is still very much en vogue.
Caz Nicklin is founder of Cyclechic Ltd and writes a cycling column for The Sunday Times.