Bike fashion: Ditch the spandex for new commuter clothes

Posted Online: May 13, 2013, 11:33 am
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By Aimee Blanchette
MINNEAPOLIS — Johnny Woodside's cycling clothes almost are as cool as his name. The 30-year-old Minneapolis hydrogeologist dons flannel shirts, Red Wing boots and has a tapered mustache. Forget the blinding neon spandex get-up.
"The last thing I want to do is walk into the bar and hear, 'Lance Armstrong's here!?'" said Woodside, who bikes to work, to happy hour and everywhere in between.
As more people trade four wheels for two, retailers are courting bike lovers by tapping into the cycling lifestyle. From boutiques that carry commuter-friendly clothing lines to hip bike hangouts with craft beer and coffee, every corner of the local cycling scene has a pit stop for people with a fashion sense.
"It's not a bunch of bike geeks anymore," said Luke Breen, owner of Calhoun Cycle in Uptown Minneapolis.
Minneapolis has the nation's second-highest bike commuter rate behind Portland, Ore. — and the number is growing. Bike traffic in the city rose by 47 percent between 2007 and 2011, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Twin Cities area is home to a busy schedule of bike events that bring together this well-dressed community. The recent Artcrank show drew more than 6,000 people to celebrate bikes, posters and fashion. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts often is overrun with cyclists for its annual Bike Night (July 18).
But for most who attend these gatherings, bike fashion is more than a passing fad.
"The bike has become a part of my identity," said Katrina Wollet, a 24-year-old marketing specialist who gave up her car last month, but not her style. "Just like clothing, it's an extension of my taste, personality and lifestyle."
Suit and tie (and cycle)
Until recently, commuting to work often meant packing an extra set of clothes and announcing your arrival at the office in an outfit of unflattering spandex and clickety-clack cycling shoes.
"There hasn't been a lot of gear out there that you can wear comfortably in the office," said Greg Kurowski, who commutes 25 miles from Victoria, Minn., to downtown Minneapolis several days a week. The president and CEO of Periscope advertising agency said he's had to wear his racing gear on hot days.
"Now, there are cycling-specific technical clothes that breathe better, wick moisture — they don't look like normal cycling clothes," Morrison said. "You can wear this stuff to the office and it's making commuting by bike a lot more feasible."
But commuter-friendly clothing isn't cheap. The pants in Levi's commuter line ($78) are water- and odor-resistant, feature reflective tape on the cuffs and a loop for a bike lock at the waist band. A Lands' End bike blazer ($250) also has reflective tape, hidden pockets and a spot for earbuds. Mostly, it just looks like a stylish sport coat.
Are you cycle chic?
When Lisa Austin started biking frequently in the early '90s, she recalls having zero options for women's bike clothes. Not even a Lycra jersey. Now the options are wide open.
"It's refreshing to see people biking and wearing anything they want," she said.
For her that means skirts — and even heels.
"They're totally easy to ride in," Austin said.
Cyclists are hitting the local runways, too. "All of this is helping to redefine our bike culture," said Patty Soldner, events manager for the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, which plans to hold its second bicycle fashion show next year.
Then there are the blogs, such as San Francisco-based Bike Pretty, which inspires people to, well, ride a bike and look pretty. Blog entries include: "How to ride in a maxi skirt" and "How to dominate hills in a dress."
Zachariah Schaap ascribes to a larger movement called "cycle chic," which refers to cycling in everyday fashionable clothes. The 27-year-old graphic designer and co-founder of "30 Days of Biking" shows up to meetings on his bike wearing button-up custom-made shirts and ties, and leather-soled dress shoes.
Schaap said cycling in streetwear requires no more effort than any other commute in Minnesota's temperamental weather — and provides much more of a payoff.
"Being stuck in a car during rush hour is the bane of my existence," he said. "I'd much rather look fancy on my bike."

Quick tips for biking in style

Wear a skirt: You can do it without flashing people. A-line or wider styles work best. Equip your bike with a skirt guard or fashion a garter out of a headband and safety pin. Skirt weights keep hems in check.
Wear heels: Pedaling in heels is easier than walking in them. Just make sure they fit properly.
Suit up: Invest in a pannier bag made to carry a suit without wrinkling it.
Stay dry: Invest in fenders if you commute year-round.
Safety first: Always wear a helmet (hopefully a stylish one), plus reflective tape and lights.
Don’t sweat: Racing around like you’re in the Tour de France only will make you perspire. Slow down and savor the views.


Local events heading

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1889 -- 125 years ago: Harvey McKenna, of Detroit, billiard player matched to play Wizard Schafer in New York in January for the world championship, was a professional friend and manager, Billy Catton in Rock Island.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Levi Cralle, former Rock Island county sheriff, had come from his farm near Mitchell, S.D. to visit friends in the city.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Work is being rushed on the new high school building in Orion to replace the one destroyed by fire last winter. Classes are being held in churches.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Rehearsals for the 84th season of the Handel Oratorio Society chorus will begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday on the stage of Centennial Hall, Augustana College.
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