Wednesday 31 August 2016

Paul Galvin: Cycling was once a stylish affair - but no longer

Published 20/06/2014 | 14:19

Kerry football star Paul Galvin
Kerry football star Paul Galvin

Cycling was once such a stylish affair. The men of The Rising swashbuckled about town in woollen 3-piece, tailored suits, neat hair, neater shirt collars, and neater again ties. Hell sometimes they even wore cravats. Yes they did. They rode High Nellys with straight backs and much propriety.

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Today cycling etiquette is a less classy affair. All grunt, no glamour. It’s a little less dangerous too considering those same men of The Rising cycled around dodging bullets and capture. Today we dodge potholes, doggies, pedestrians, road works, cars, buses, other cyclists, and whatever other hazard comes our way. Traffic lights. They would be another major hazard that cyclists mainly try to avoid. Or ignore.

Lycra has replaced the woollen suit and country roads have replaced the city streets as the preferred circuits. You must admit the Lycra makes hopping on a bike much less appealing. When the Lycra comes in neon colours it's a deadly combination. Then you throw in the cycling shoes that any cyclist worth his salt will slip on for a ride and the ankle socks and the shorts and it's a whole new ball game. It’s very hard to pull that unforgiving ensemble off.

God be with the days our grandfathers threw on their Sunday suits, side-parted their hair with a comb, slid that comb into their inside jacket pocket and cycled to Mass. Cycling is a much less urbane, much more competitive, and often charitable, pursuit today. Everyone seems to be cycling for some charity or other. With the changing times and the competitive nature of cyclists today that comes the necessary change in cycling attire. A three-piece suit will slow you down (drag you see) and a flat cap will go flying unless you're meandering around town. Having settled hair doesn't matter so much. What’s the point in combing your hair when you've got to wear those uncouth helmets on your head? Safety before style. In this case helmets are very necessary.

There are signs of late that cycling may be returning to its roots again. Bikes are becoming a growing fashion accessory. If you've seen Michelle Williams in the latest Louis Vuitton ad campaign straddling a Louis Vuitton bike in her Louis Vuitton Spring Summer 14 garb you'll know what I mean. Louis Vuitton has also commissioned a special edition, fixed-gear polo bike complete with leather strap handlebars and chainmail wheel protection. You can't get much classier. Bikes and cycling are getting a makeover. Then you have Darren Kennedy striding around town in one of his DKxLC numbers accessorised with a bicycle. Not forgetting designer Sam Lambert over at Art Comes First. He's forever bombing around town on his BMX powered by his 3-hole Doc Marten no more and no less, uniformed in a three-piece suit. 

These revolutionaries, Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton, Michelle Williams, Darren Kennedy, and Sam Lambert are re-claiming cycling as a sartorial, stylish pursuit from the handlebars of neon Lycra-clad, helmeted peloton. I think I might just join them. I'm off to buy a BMX and a new suit.

Paul Galvin

National Bike Week 2014 runts until Sunday, 22nd of June - 

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