Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Fall of Lycra (?)

Is a growing distaste for the kit of the competitive cyclist a sign of the normalization of cycling or is it just Lance Armstrong backlash? According to the Wall Street Journal, Lycra's decline is all Lance Armstrong's fault. On the other hand, an article written in Minneapolis posted to an online periodical from the Kingdom of Oman indicates that the culture of cycling is changing. As far as folks in Oman are concerned, some Americans think cycling "[is] not a bunch of bike geeks anymore," and that "smart wool in the new Lycra." Even the WSJ admits that commuters are displacing competitors in the saddle and that, considering this, cycling newcomers see no need for special sports equipment. Now, to my mind the latter article counts twice because it was published in two different countries and the WSJ article makes three instances of Lycra described as passé so this is officially a trend. I'm calling it.

Of course, business is quick to exploit a new trend. Giro, Armstrong's former sponsor, has launched a new line of apparel they call the "New Road" collection. It's normal-looking with specially placed pockets and breathable fabrics like Levi's Commuter line, H&M's collaboration with Brick Lane Bikes, and Lands End's Bike Blazer. Like all of those products, it's also just for guys.

Ugh. I was going to write this screed about how companies courting cyclists need to be attending to female cyclists because we're the "indicator species" and blah, blah, blah. But these companies are made up of people who can read so they should  know that already. They know how to look at related markets and should see Harley Davidson's success with women is linked to the programs and products directed at them--like the comprehensive line of women's motorcycle gear and apparel that only they make. But it's not my job to tell these companies how to make money. The normalization of cycling isn't going to come from the decline of Lycra alone--infrastructure improvements that make people feel more comfortable on the road (women in particular) will go farthest towards that development. It's just weird to me that, in a movement that supposedly depends on women and possesses a compelling symbol in the "cycling girl," that women should be left out in any way.


She Rides a Bike said...

You might be heartened to learn that the Phoenix city bike coordinator, a man, told me that women are his focus and his job is to appeal to their needs. Further, he said that I, and women like me, dressed in normal clothes are the models he wants to put forward to as what bike commuters look like. Yes, it is indeed frustrating that more men don't seem to appreciate that we are the "hands that rock the cradle" so to speak.

Unfortunately, I still have conversations with those in the vehicular cycling crowd that don't seem to want to hear what women want in terms of bike infrastructure or other factors either supporting our decision to get in the saddle or remain steadfastly behind the wheel.

Courtnee said...

That is great to hear. I hope other leaders in the area of urban infrastructure are similarly attentive to women.

While I'm very grateful for the 3 feet Georgia requires drivers to cede to cyclists on the roads, not every motorist obeys that law. I'd really prefer a bike lane or a path that everyone can see and recognize as the space belonging to cyclists. I need the extra space (and time) when I've got a bunch of groceries. I wonder if vehicular cycling advocates think about stuff like that.

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Maira Gall