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Old 01-19-15, 03:24 PM   #1
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Looking like you own the place

Do you dress or choose gear in order to give an impression? What impression? Do you think of it that way?

A lady just posted on my local Facebook community forum:
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I don't have a car, so I walk to and from work thoroughly bundled up against the cold. The reaction I get from my town, just because I can't afford everything everyone else can, is one of hostility and disgust...
She goes on to describe the typical iniquities and indignities we often talk about here (insults, thrown garbage, and specifically today, loose dogs).

It's quite regular in BF Commuting for us to tell people they need to get out there on a 25yo mountain bike, with a backpack. I see these people. At first glance they look poor, like they're on the bike because they must be. There's another type out there that I think of as the Serious Commuter who have a touring bike, bright LED lights, day-glo windbreaker, panniers. They look wealthy, like they're on the bike because they want to be.
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Old 01-19-15, 03:54 PM   #2
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I guess I have thought about the way I look or my bike looks, probably gives the impression that I bike because I want to, not because I have to.

But no, I dress in such a way that is functional, to keep me either warm or cool, or whatever other needs there may be.
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Old 01-19-15, 04:07 PM   #3
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I also look like I want to be there pedaling my but off.

I do try to walk around like I own the place most things I do. It's awkward in a store when a customer asks me for help, and I don't work there.
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Old 01-19-15, 04:10 PM   #4
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Oh yeah I forgot, when off the bike I usually go without shoes. So looking like I "own the place" generally is not the case.
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Old 01-19-15, 04:15 PM   #5
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I usually am not dressed for the part either but it doesn't stop people looking for help.

It's more strange when I can actually help them and then when someone working comes I over I'll pass them off.
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Old 01-19-15, 04:29 PM   #6
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I do try to walk around like I own the place most things I do. It's awkward in a store when a customer asks me for help, and I don't work there.
My industry sometimes hands out polo shirts with program logos. I don't wear them... they make me look like a Target employee
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Old 01-19-15, 04:31 PM   #7
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I'm thinking too of the "hipster or homeless?" thing from a few years ago
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Old 01-19-15, 04:41 PM   #8
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I choose my gear solely based on visibility as it pertains to my commuting. You did a really good job describing me above......touring bike, nice lights, hi vis. It's all super functional, but truth be told, I work my ass off to be in shape, and it would be really nice to have a hi vis jersey that's not so "club" fit...lol, but I choose function over form. Im a total Fred.
On the occasional club ride, I'm in a club kit looking snazzy, and when I'm using my townie or utility bike, I look like I'm going to a Pearl Jam concert, or to people in my neiborhood, a homeless dude. Lol.

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Old 01-19-15, 08:17 PM   #9
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Americans typically don't like healthy, inexpensive or environmentally friendly things in general. They have unused gym memberships, drive cars they can't afford and are drowning deep in medical debt yet still find time to ostracize people for taking their health and finances into their own hands by buying a bicycle and commuting to work. Regardless of what you wear or even what bike you ride people will still "voice their opinions" because you're not conforming to the status quo. I started out riding a Schwinn 10 speed with jeans, t-shirt and a backpack and now I ride a modern bike with racks+panniers and cycle specific clothes and response I receive has always been the same:

"You can't afford to take the subway?" (usually the same people who complain about how unpredictable and expensive the subway is)

"Why don't you just buy a car?" (same person couple sentences later... "OMG the traffic in NYC is so terrible and parking/insurance is so expensive!")

"It's not safe to ride a bike on the street" (but its safe to sit on your couch and eat yourself to death)

"You're such a hipster!" (usually in a condescending or derogatory way...because taking your health and your finances into your own hands is a bad thing)

"[after mentioning that I intend to ride my bike to location X] Oh I can give you a drive" (because sitting your car for 2 hours while you drive in circles looking for a parking spot is better for me)

the list goes on...

One thing I've learned since becoming a bike commuter is that not to give a f*** what people think. Ride your bike, enjoy yourself, save money and get in shape. If all you have a 25 year old MTB then throw some slicks on it and enjoy yourself. It's your life, don't let the opinions of strangers have any bearing on how you live.
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Old 01-19-15, 08:33 PM   #10
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I don't choose my gear for the purpose of making an impression, but I also don't fool myself that it doesn't. For people who don't know bikes, the beautiful red city bike with the clearly middle-class lady in a dress and heels communicates someone who has chosen her mode of transportation. For people who do know bikes, the dyno hub, IGH, B&M lighting, and Ortlieb panniers communicate the same. The high vis vest and mirror, on the other hand, scream "FRED!" to one and all
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Old 01-19-15, 08:56 PM   #11
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I guess it's a matter of how you look at things. Sure - for lots of commuters a bicycle is a practical tool that they want to sink as little money into as possible ... and it shows. It depends on your priorities - some people have families and kids to look after and it's hard to fault them for putting that first. Those are the same guys that would buy a used Honda Civic rather than a new 'Vette if they were driving a car to work and no one should have an issue with that.

But everyone likes to look at toys regardless of if its the hopped up street rod the kid next door put together or someone's new Porsche. And that includes bicycles too. The fixie crowd gave us a whole new look for single speeds. I think the key word is passion. And probably that was partly because of the amount of time they actually spent on their bikes - a lot!!

So maybe I'm one of those guys you're referring to because I believe in form and function and ... overkill. But you only live once so it might as well be fun. At the moment I don't have any kids to worry about so my bikes get a lot of money thrown at them because I'm testing different gear.
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Old 01-19-15, 09:22 PM   #12
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Well I'm a blue collar working guy who commutes on a 31 year old Ross MTB pourter, or a 41 year old Robin hood sport, wearing a mish-mash of cycling gear, work clothes, and outdoor clothing. I'm also a cycling enthusiast who spends a fair bit of time and money on cycling, just plunked down a good chunk of change on a new Gazelle toer populair t8.

I don't care if other cyclists think my bikes are boat anchors, or others think I'm poor, I don't ride to make a statement, project an image, or for approval, I simply enjoy doing it, and how I do it.
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Old 01-19-15, 09:35 PM   #13
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I wear mostly clothes for function. In the winter that means from outside appearance I have on a hooded jacket and black athletic pants, but with some cycling-specific clothing underneath. I have a small athletic bag of clothes strapped to a rear rack with a couple of bright blue bungee cords.
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Old 01-19-15, 11:06 PM   #14
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I want to look like a commuter that knows what he's doing, not a homeless person or a kitted racer boy.*

I think how one rides communicates that better than clothes do. Being assertive and comfortable talking your place in traffic.

*though, between the two, homeless person would be preferred!
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Old 01-20-15, 12:04 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
Do you dress or choose gear in order to give an impression? What impression? Do you think of it that way?

A lady just posted on my local Facebook community forum:
She goes on to describe the typical iniquities and indignities we often talk about here (insults, thrown garbage, and specifically today, loose dogs).

It's quite regular in BF Commuting for us to tell people they need to get out there on a 25yo mountain bike, with a backpack. I see these people. At first glance they look poor, like they're on the bike because they must be. There's another type out there that I think of as the Serious Commuter who have a touring bike, bright LED lights, day-glo windbreaker, panniers. They look wealthy, like they're on the bike because they want to be.
Geez, she must live in a crappy town. That's despicable behavior.

When talking about Bike Forums recommendations, context is important. Lots of people come here wanting a good bike for commuting but they have a limited budget. A used rigid mountain bike of decent quality fits the bill because they are versatile and plentiful, - at least they were. Frankly, unless a commute is particularly challenging and requires something a little more specialized, I like the advice of using whatever the person already has or finding something good but inexpensive. Ultimately they may decide that they want a different type of bike than the one they start on. Before potentially spending thousands on cycling equipment, I think it's good to have some experience to help drive the choice.

As far as backpacks go, most people in the commuting forum seem to prefer and recommend panniers though backpacks have their fans too. I've never gotten the impression that we are telling people to use backpacks. When I see somebody on bike with either a backpack or panniers I just assume they are a business commuter or a student. I don't give much thought to wealth unless the bike is clearly in a state of disrepair.

When on the bike do I dress to impress? Do I worry about what sort of impression my bike gives? Not really. It's not that I don't care, but most of all I want to enjoy my commute. I'd also prefer to spend money on nice vacations rather than the latest and greatest cycling gear so cost and function matter more than appearance.

I have two bikes that I think look pretty good and a 3rd one that was put together out of spare parts. It has a red frame, a fork that kind of matches but not really, one green wheel, and one black wheel. Guess which bike I ride the most?

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Old 01-20-15, 01:08 AM   #16
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I use plenty of lights and try to take advantage of the 'Mary Poppins' effect. This means no mountain bike (cruiser or city' only) and no backpack (unless it is Vera Bradley looking!). I don't want to look wealthy either...and I don't because I'm not....I just want to seem regular. Lots of people around here seem to be on bikes anymore. Think regular clothes, nothing special.

I just don't want to be hit or hassled. That too much?
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Old 01-20-15, 01:50 AM   #17
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I think the grin on my face gives enough of a message. Not sure how different people really see me though. They could compare me on a crappy Bikesdirect fixed gear, wearing work dickies, backpack, and no helmet. To me on a $1600 cyclocross bike, bright lights, reflective helmet, and $130 in tires alone. Granted I'm still usually wearing work clothes, though they are often jeans in winter and normal shorts in summer. (I did just find a nice, new hole in the crotch of my work jeans today)
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Old 01-20-15, 06:11 AM   #18
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I've heard the quote before "riding your bike for transportation signifies either dedication or desperation". Unfortunately I'm a cheapskate so I'm sure most think it's desperation for me. In the words of my wife, I "make $30/hr and look like I make $7/hr".
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Old 01-20-15, 07:07 AM   #19
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Fortunately I live in a casual town with a university and a lot of cyclists. Lots of folks dress down and ride a "steal some other bike" kind of bike.
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Old 01-20-15, 08:47 AM   #20
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It depends, when I am on my road bike I always wear Lycra shorts and jersey and cycling shoes, for commuting I usually wear jeans, work shirt, sneakers and a regular jacket - just another guy on a bike.
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Old 01-20-15, 08:56 AM   #21
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I commute in lycra, bc that is what I find comfortable for anything over 5 miles. If I lived closer, I am sure I would just ride in whatever I planned to wear that day. My bike also has racks, panniers, lights. I don't think anyone who passes me is under any impression that I am poor. Those people in our area ride Next bikes, on the sidewalk often going the wrong way.
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Old 01-20-15, 08:59 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
... There's another type out there that I think of as the Serious Commuter who have a touring bike, bright LED lights, day-glo windbreaker, panniers. They look wealthy, like they're on the bike because they want to be.
Hope ILTB doesn't see that.

I understand what you're saying but I don't use any of the the things you mentioned aside from the LED lights and I'm definitely riding a bike because I want to. Probably less than 10% of commuters I see match your description of a serious commuter. Maybe less than 5%.

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Old 01-20-15, 09:03 AM   #23
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The only person I need approval from is me, and I approve of myself.
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Old 01-20-15, 09:04 AM   #24
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I choose my commuting clothes for visibility and functionality. Most of my jerseys, jackets and vests are yellow or high-viz neon. I also wear cycling-specific clothes that are warm but breathe well. I wear cycling shorts year-round and tights in colder months. My jerseys and jackets are as form-fitting as I find comfortable. My commute is fairly long (31 miles RT) and hilly, and cycling clothes make it more comfortable and less sweaty. My route is entirely on streets with no isolated bike paths and lots of traffic on some of the roads, so I want to make myself as visible as possible. I also have 2 headlights and 3 taillights most of the time. In other words, I have embraced my inner Fred.
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Old 01-20-15, 09:49 AM   #25
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I try to stay away from cycling specific gear, but sometimes it really is the best gear for the job.

3 seasons, I ride in what anyone would consider casual street clothes. A bit closer inspection reveals details like tech undergarments, wool shirt and socks, poly blend pants... In the winter, cycling specific gear rules, so hi-viz outer jacket, tech overpants, but still just a knit cap and regular hiking-style waterproof boots. I gave up on cycling cold weather gloves in favor of snowmobiling gloves, can't justify the expense of winter insulated cycling-specific footwear.

I like fostering the idea that anyone can ride without cycling specific garb. And the subtle tech I do incorporate into my cycling attire is good for more than just cycling. For the most part, I wear street casual clothes when commuting, but when the weather turns south, cycling specific gear, which instantly makes a cyclist stand out as a "serious rider," gets the not simply because it works better than non-cycling specific gear.

On the street while riding, I don't know that either mode of attire -- casual street, tech cyclist -- grants me any difference regarding driver attitude. Other riders and pedestrians always seem to be more accessible when I'm in street wear. Off the bike, doesn't make a lot of difference -- now that there are a lot more people wearing hi-viz (construction workers) as a matter of course, it seems to draw less attention than a decade ago.
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