As we all try to adopt to the ‘new normal’ while coronavirus continues to wreck everything, the number of us hopping on our bikes to avoid the public transport has soared. But if you want to look more urban chic and less Tour de France, what are your options? Plenty, it turns out…
And with ongoing concerns about social distancing, it looks set to become the new commute for many of us too. But even before lockdown, many Londoners were choosing two wheels as an alternative to the bus or tube.
Indeed, according to statistics from Cycling UK, around 162,000 of us cycled across the central London cordon in 2017, compared to just 27,000 in 1977.
Many offices now have dedicated bike parking spaces too, and we’re all aware of the positive impacts that fresh air and a daily dose of exercise can have on our mental and physical wellbeing.
Check out this infographic from cyclescheme.co.uk, an employee benefit scheme that saves you 25-39% on a bike and accessories:
The pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated the cycling trend even more so. For many of us, a bike ride has been the perfect way to make the most of our increased free time, with two wheels offering the ideal means to explore London’s hidden nooks and crannies.
Transport for London (TfL) predicts that cycling in London will increase tenfold compared to pre-lockdown levels, and many think it will become the new commute of choice, since it means avoiding the crowds on public transport and makes social distancing that bit easier.
In fact, the Government has released a £250m ‘emergency active travel fund’ aimed at helping prevent public transport and roads becoming crowded as lockdown is lifted.
‘Not everyone loves lycra, as practical as it is – and your usual office wardrobe probably isn’t the most functional. So how do you manage to pull off cool and comfortable when cycling?
But 61% of people feel that cycling on the road is too dangerous, so new cycle lanes and wider pavements are among the emergency measures already underway, with TfL fast-tracking new cycleways between Kensington Olympia and Brentford, as well as Tower Hill and Greenwich.
But then comes the issue of cycling kit – not everyone loves lycra, as practical as it is – and your usual office wardrobe probably isn’t the most functional. So how do you manage to pull off cool and comfortable when cycling?
It’s a tricky combo, but it’s not impossible. Here, we compile some of the coolest gear on the market that’s both stylish and visible so that you can keep your cool and stay safe on your new cycle commute.
Cycling, but make it fashion
Cyclists kitted out in Lycra often get a bit of bad press (MAMIL is pretty much the worst insult you can throw at a male cyclist), but trust us, there are some cool options out there. Browse brands like Rapha, Stolen Goat, Cycology and Rose Bikes (which has a great urban lifestyle section) as a starting point for both men and women.
If you’re completely anti-cycling kit, then check out Cafe du Cycliste’s collection. The French brand is every bit as chic as you might expect, with the stylish Laureline jersey for men (£122) and the straight-into-the-office Yvonne jersey for women (£169).
Thought you couldn’t cycle in jeans? Think again. Rose Bikes stocks brilliant cycling jeans, with stretch, extra pockets, reflectors and – the best bit – a higher waistline to prevent the dreaded ‘builder’s bum’ look.
But don’t be afraid of the Lycra look, it’s popular with cyclists for a reason – it’s practical, wicks away sweat and keeps everything streamlined, so you can power your way to work without anything flapping around and holding you back. We love this Flash Bodyline Jersey from Stolen Goat, priced £75, and we couldn’t leave this Coffee & Pizza design off our list either, since it features two of our favourite things (sports nutrition if ever we saw it). It has been created by Pip Claffey as part of Stolen Goat’s Artist Collection, and is £75.
If you want to look like you know what you’re doing, the Rouleur Short Sleeve Training Jersey from Sundried, £40, is a great choice. And if you’re really serious about your ride, complete the look with the Sundried Rouleur Training Bib Shorts, £50.
The morning commute is bound to get a bit chilly as the weeks go on, so layer up with this Attaquer gilet from Sigma Sports for £115. It is medium weight and promises to offer protection against the elements, keeping you shielded from wind and rain. For colder days, this Void Shelter Softshell Jacket, priced £135 from Sigma Sports, is ideal.
In the bag
You’ll need somewhere to store your change of clothes and laptop, notepad, phone, purse and so on, so a proper bike-friendly bag is an essential.
Pannier racks can really wreck the look of your sleek road bike, but there’s no better way to beat that sweaty backpack-back, unfortunately. At least you can get yourself a cool pannier though.
The British brand Hill and Ellis has just launched a new Canvas Collection of versatile cycle bags designed to be both stylish and functional. Made with high-quality, water-resistant canvas, they can be attached to your bike when cycling, and then put over your shoulder when you arrive at the office. There are seven different designs to take your pick from, priced £88-£98.
Sadly, London’s roads aren’t always the friendliest of places for cyclists, so if you invest in anything, make sure it’s a good, well-fitting helmet. This one by Met, available from Sigma Sports for £63 to £81, will do the job perfectly. It uses a HES construction that is able to spread the force of impacts over the entire body of the helmet rather than localising it, reducing the threat of serious head injuries in the event of a crash.
Alternatively you could go for a high-tech ‘smart’ option, such as this design from Livall, which looks a little more ‘city’ and less ‘pro-sports’ than most. Available at Halfords for £99.99, it features bright front-and-back LED lights to make you more visible from all directions.
Plus, it has rather genius brake warning lights, activated when the built-in gravity sensor detects a significant deceleration. It even has indicator signals too – ideal when you’d rather have both hands on the handlebars. A fall detector also means that in the event of an accident, an emergency system will kick in and send your GPS location to emergency contacts.
Alternatively, there’s this design, also from Livall, available at Halfords for £99. It features wireless technology to connect to your smartphone, with built-in Bluetooth speakers, a hands-free microphone and SOS alert safety sensor, which will be activated in the event of an accident.
Bike lights are an absolute essential too, especially if you’re commuting early in the morning or late at night, or during the winter. Cateye is a reliable brand to look out for, with lots of lovely lumens to keep you visible. It’s worth spending a bit more on lights if you intend to cycle on busy roads at night, but you can pick up this set from Halfords for £19.99.
If you wanted to jazz things up a bit, we love this wheel light from MonkeyLectric, which creates hologram-like images when you are on the go, with 19 themes available (Halfords, £51.99).
The finishing touches
Long cycle rides can take their toll on your hands, especially in bad weather, so get yourself some specially designed gloves or mitts. We like this colourful pair from Ale, available for £25 from Sigma Sports.
Don’t forget a bottle of water – cycle commuting is thirsty work, especially in summer. If you’re after a high-quality, reusable design, then Ohelo is a good shout. This London-based brand was launched at the end of last year, specialising in eco-friendly, durable bottles that are all BPA, BPS and BPF free (around £30).
And then there’s the shades. Cycling shades can be, frankly, hideous, but it’s Rapha to the rescue here with their Pro Team Flyweight Lens, which at the time of writing happened to be on sale, reduced from £20 to £14. Cafe du Cycliste has some fly options too.
So hop on that bike and, remember, two wheels good, four wheels bad!