One of the many pleasures of riding around is checking out the others. Some make it look pleasurable and easy, others look miserable? Learn from both.
When someone says – ‘this is how to ride a bike.’ What they almost always mean is – ‘this is how I ride a bike and it works for me.’ They may have useful wisdom but it’s their wisdom. Whatever you do – or don’t – know about cycling, you are the expert on your own life.
Beware of dogma, manifestos, dopey lists of ‘DO’s and ‘DON’T’s. They change every few years anyway. Riding a bike is much too young to have developed anything like a classical form. There are principles. There are no rules except this one and only.
You may ride in cycling shoes,
in street shoes,
in any shoes,
or in no shoes at all.
You may ride in any kind of clothes, or none,
in normal clothes with office shoes,
in tan brogues and attire so very normal
it meets fancy dress coming in the other direction.
You may wear cycling shoes with smart clothes.
You may wear cycling shoes with any kind of clothes BUT
if you’re going to dress for efficiency, footwear comes first. Never ride wearing clothes designed for cycling efficiency with anything other than shoes, made for pedalling, on your feet.
There are two reasons to wear cycling clothes. The first is to enable faster and/or lazier progress. Reinforcing your feet is the most important part of this. The second is because you want to resemble a cyclist. Anyone who cares will look first at the vital interface where biological power turns mechanical.
Consider evolution, only a theory but let’s run with it anyway. Once-upon-a-time your feet – articulate structures of multiple bones and joints – were flippers for swimming in the sea. Then they adapted for grasping branches and peeling fruit in the forest canopy. Finally they became delicate systems of balance, enabling bounding progress across the savannah.
On a bike you’re making brutal industrial power with the biggest muscles in your body, this is delivered repetitively, with no need of finesse, through the soft and subtle medium of your feet. Reinforcing your feet into rigid levers strengthens the weakest element of the system, which makes the whole transmission more effective.
Running shoes are designed to absorb energy. On a bike there’s no impact. Cycling shoes transmit energy. If you ride hard in shoes not designed for cycling you will soon destroy them. Cycling shoes save money.
Riding a sports bike with soft shoes on is equivalent to playing table-tennis in boxing gloves, it’s difficult and makes you look foolish.
Just say – ‘No’.
There are no other rules.
What do we want? update
Last month Transport for London were waiting for the current trouble – over the assumptions underlying the way the streets they administer are laid-out – to blow-over. They’ve now cracked and propose to redesign their crass ‘cycle-super-highway’ modifications at Bow Flyover. They’re asking for our input.
Announcing a change to works completed less than a year ago can only be interpreted as an admission that their last attempt was badly wrong. Bow Flyover is at a critical location, on the boundary of Inner East London – where cycle-traffic is booming – and Outer London, where conditions for cycle-travel are at least as difficult as anywhere else in the whole country. The outcome of the conflicts this discontinuity produces will have national resonance. Proximity to the imminent festival of running and jumping only increases the significance.