Friday, 13 November 2009

Style vs. Practicality

Last Saturday, as I watched the parade of cyclists going up and down Diablo, I started working on a theory.

Cyclists make dozens of decisions about their bike, components, set-up, accessories, and clothing that are represented by the dots on the graph above. And for any one item, there tends to be an inverse relationship between practicality and style. The more stylish an item (i.e., the more "PRO"), the less practical it is for the middling recreational rider (i.e., 99% of all cyclists).

Exhibit A - the Saddle Bag. The larger the bag, the less cool. In fact, the most styley thing is to roll with no bag at all, and carry the essentials in your jersey pockets. However, having ridden with a trunk rack - once I carried a thermos of tea - I can honestly say it's nice to have room for a layer, a multi-tool, a bag of energy drink powder, an extra Clif Bar, whatever.

Exhibit B - Gearing. Here in hill country, most of us would be better off with a triple, or at least a larger cogset. But chicks dig dudes with a racing double and corncob cogset.

Exhibit C - Handlebar Height. Long and low may be the business, but you will pay for this look with brutal neck and shoulder pain.

Exhibit D - Mirrors. The pinnacle of uncool. But, aside from style, why not?

Exhibit E - Road Cycling Shoes. Why should you have to walk like a cripple, just to have an official "road" shoe? I'm a sensible shoes girl myself.

There are a few items which break the trend. These are on the upper right and lower left corners of the graph.

Uncool AND Impractical - Recumbents. Like a guy lying on the ground and trying to fight off an attacking eagle with his feet.

Uncool AND Impractical - Shocks on Hybrids. Shocks make the bike heavier, require more maintenance, and are totally unnecessary on the road.

Cool AND Practical - Full-Size Frame Pumps. A relatively recent old school backlash to the ineffectual mini-pumps.

Cool AND Practical - Cycling Caps. Keep my head warm and my eyes shaded.

As for me, I find myself smack in the middle of the chart. I won't sacrifice form for function. I actually appreciate the odd little rules that govern the cycling aesthetic, and like knowing them. So, no mirror for me, my saddle bag is modest, and the IF sports a compact double, not a triple. Still, I love me my mountain bike shoes and 27-tooth cog.

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