Tuesday, August 30, 2011

This is How We Do It

I suppose it's not terribly surprising that I read a number of cycling-oriented blogs from around the world. The most popular blog has got to be Copenhagen Cycle Chic, but I actually love looking at the pictures from the "Cycle Chic" network from around the world. Something that consistently leaps out at me (aside from the fact all of these people seem to default to being more fashionable than I can be with effort), is that the default type of bike is very different depending on your locale.

As a for instance, behold the bikes of northern Europe - upright, heavy, tank-like, elegant, somehow all these words apply to the classic Omafiets/Dutch Bike/Upright bike. Different brands, but generally speaking it seems in Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, they ride something that looks about like this:

Gazelle Tour Populair T8, Ladies

Whatever the brand, no matter how many pictures I look at of these cities, that is the dominant type of bike, seemingly across all sectors of society.

However, cross a very short piece of water into Great Britain. While Britain is home to iconic cycling brands like Pashley and Raleigh, their commuter bike culture isn't nearly as developed as their friends on the continent, and their bikes are different as a result. London Cycle Chic's current from page shows off a huge array of bikes - singlespeeds, upright bikes, roadbikes, old crappy mountain bikes, and so on. There's no one dominant type of bicycle, which intrigues me because they're so physically close to continental Europe and their infrastructure is vastly more similar to Europe than North America.

And on that, back home to the good ol' U.S. of A. (as well as Canada - our bikes seem pretty similar from what I can find). Our bikes come in a staggering array, but what has been missing until very recently have been bikes specifically designed for the tasks of commuting. I've gone into some of my favorite commonly available brands before and won't do so again, but our commuters are still sportier than the Omafiets of northern Europe. Even our commuter bikes, like:

Specialized Globe Daily

Trek Allant

Even these bikes have a slightly sportier demeanor than the grand lady made by Gazelle at the top. I'm becoming convinced the bikes we ride say something to our national character - the United States is undeniably a flashy place in love with the imagery of athleticism. Our bikes reflect that, even the commuters. Our branding cultivates an image of the urban warrior facing the world. This crosses over even into our cars - anyone looked at Cadillac's advertising lately? The car formerly of ladies whose homes are called estates is now sporty and modern.

I'm going to be looking more carefully at the images of cycling I find from all over the world, because I am curious what a nation's choice of bike says about that country. What do you think?

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