They say that form is fleeting by class is permanent. Similarly, fashion comes and goes, but style is permanent. Or maybe fashion is what you where, but style is how you wear it.
Sometimes you see a rider with all the right kit, just put together in an awful way. And other times you might see someone with all the right kit, put together in too right a way, everything just exactly as fashion demands, and there’s something styleless about that too. I suspect that why The Rules are so irritating, because they imply, albeit tongue-in-cheek, that you should follow fashion in order to have style on the bike, when in fact the two aren’t related and style abhors rules.
My 12-year-old son has style. It doesn’t matter what you give him to wear. He makes it look good. I don’t know how he does this. It’s part keen, unconscious eye maybe, part indifference, part body proportion. He has it, and I don’t. Is this what stylish people struggle with, via fashion, ways to impart style to the rest of us, when it communicates in a language that is non-verbal, or sub-sonic, or accesses a part of the visual spectrum we just can’t see.
Of course, there are a few ways to think of style on the bike. There’s what you wear, and there’s how you move. This latter is perhaps a more natural entry into thinking about cycling style as it’s less superficial, and we all want to move well, even if we don’t care what we’re wearing. Not caring what you’re wearing, ironically, might be stylish.
So that way of moving is souplesse, smoothness, gracefulness, ease. I can’t tell you with 100% certainty that it makes you a faster bike rider, but I can tell you that imbues the experience of riding a bike with a different sort of pleasure, like umami for the athletically inclined. It’s a long time since the bike messenger was the avatar of cycling style, but I recall watching some of those guys ride, back in the ’80s, and thinking how goddamned good they looked, just pedaling their bikes.
This week’s Group Ride asks, does style even matter? Do you need to have one on the bike? Or is this like asking if being left-handed matters, you either are or you aren’t? How do you develop your own style? And how do you communicate that, if not through rules?
Image: Rides a Bike