Bikes: the ideal meeting place for fashion and politics

by Miles Schneider on April 29, 2013

As many of my friends will attest, I love many things about bikes. I loved the elation I felt the day I left my training wheels behind, and I love the freedom I get today, just riding to work. I love the graceful lines of their frames, the ingenious engineering of their components, and the way they make people smile. And I love that they are an intersection point for summer dresses and governmental policy.

Allow me to explain.

Me, looking far less fashionable on the Vitesse D7 than fashion blogger Zoe

There is no shortage of bike-centric blogs on the internet, covering every aspect of the subject. There are blogs that dissect every mechanical detail of their engineering, blogs that promote DIY bike building, and blogs that write exclusively about penny-farthings (those goofy old bikes with the big front wheel). And for some reason, there are tons of bike blogs about fashion–and many fashion blogs about bikes, as was the case recently when we sold a Dahon Vitesse D7, only to find it pop up the following day in a very fetching photo shoot from fashion blogger Zoe.

When you think about it, perhaps this is a logical combination. Successful fashion designers and bike builders need to have keen eyes for detail, an intuitive feel for aesthetics, and extreme technical facility. Both are somewhat esoteric pursuits to we mere mortals–the average person probably has no more idea how to weld a frame as knows how to put together a good outfit (ok, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but I am not great at either), and both produce goods everyone eagerly consumes. Mostly, it makes for some very pretty photo shoots.

Bicycles also offer a surprisingly fertile ground for political commentary. In a world reeling from increasingly catastrophic climate change, bikes offer the most immediate

NYPD escorts the 5 Boro ride. (image from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bitchcakes/7149717155/sizes/n/in/photostream/)

and pure transportation alternative to the greenhouse-emitting systems in current use. In New York City, a proposal to limit or eliminate the usage of electric bikes has many up in arms–here at NYCeWheels, many of our electric bike customers purchase these vehicles as a clean, efficient, affordable replacement for their cars and the costly mass transit system. And in the wake of the Boston marathon bombing, events like Bike New York’s 5 Boro Bike Tour become a lightning rod for debate over how we react to domestic and international terrorism.

Even outside of the world of blogs, I find fashion, lifestyle, and politics coming up a lot just on a daily basis in our shop. Many customers end up choosing a bike based on the merits of its paint job, the shape of its frame, or the slope of its handlebars. Some want a step-through frame so they can wear a dress while riding; others, simply because they like the look. A few want to buy a Brompton just so they can have something to ride while wearing tweed. Equally numerous are those who enter our shop determined to bike their way out of obesity, or to a smarter monthly budget, or because they do not want to support fossil fuel-based transportation. Some just like the feeling of self-reliance that comes from moving around directly under their own power. Many come to us for folding bikes because they commute across boroughs or state lines, and need to rely on a combination of mass transit and bike power to get to and from work every day. For these customers, a folding bike is not simply an accessory or toy. It is a tool without which they would be unable to navigate modern life in a gigantic, modern city.

So I love bikes for their design and beauty, and their power to improve life and invite discussions. But mostly I love bikes because, for one reason or another, they make people smile.

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  • http://BikePretty.com Bike Pretty

    Even this fashion designer tried her hand at frame building, thanks to the Bamboo Bike Studio workshop.

    You’re totally right about the skill overlap! A healthy attention to detail was a great asset.

    But rather than making good-looking bikes, I prefer to make biking look good and hopefully inspire new riders out there.

    And thanks for the shout-out!

    • http://nycewheels.com Miles Schneider

      Well you certainly made ours look good! Keep in touch.
      -Miles
      P.S.
      Bamboo Bike Studio looks like a really interesting project!

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