Biking Couture

- By Thomas Dai -

 

For any urban gal or guy on the go, the hunt for the perfect bicycle is almost a rite of passage. Environmentally friendly, cheap and surprisingly convenient for navigating perilously congested city streets, the bike is the preferred mode of transport for everyone from budding financiers and Chinatown delivery boys to Bill Cunningham and the rest of the New York fashion set. If Scott Schuman’s much loved photographs for The Sartorialist are to be believed, then every pretty young thing in the city these days rides around all summer on charmingly retro bikes wearing adorable sundresses, ballet flats and Ray Ban shades with the latest it bag stowed conspicuously in their bicycle basket.

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In this day and age, cycling has become both an ergonomic lifestyle and an international fashion zeitgeist, and several luxury houses have taken notice. Just last year, Missoni made the hearts of stylish cyclists everywhere collectively palpitate for their exuberant, zig-zag print bicycles for Target while Ralph Lauren channeled a turn-of-the-century bicycling paper-boy-about-town for the Rugby line’s “Tweed Run” campaign. Karl Lagerfeld even put his stamp on the trend several years back by incorporating several Chanel signatures—timeless black, graphic lines and a quilted leather pannier—into a luxury bike, shown below, made for Cocophile cyclists the world over.

 Missoni for Target

 Chanel 

Yet in spite of all this, the luxury cycling market is still happily devoid of any big names (the Diors Vuittons and Pradas of the world) and is instead driven by several smaller businesses operating mostly out of Europe and Asia, where the demand for top quality cycles is much higher than in the states. Brands such as the Italian Abici and the Danish Velorbis, specialize in creating beautifully crafted bicycle frames that will set you back a pretty penny (1.5 k and up). But with these bikes, quality is what you’re paying for. For fashion-loving cyclists, a luxury bicycle is like a classic in their wardrobe, the two wheeled form of a cashmere Max Mara coat or an Hermes wallet, something that will not only last for years but will remain eternally in style, regardless of passing trends. Thinking about it that way, the bank-busting price tag starts to make a lot more sense.

 Abici “Primavera”

For the discerning cyclist on the hunt for something even more exclusive, AKA couture for bicycles, there are men like Brit Ricky Feather of Feather Cycles. Ricky is something of a cycle couturier, building top notch bikes from scratch for his clients. Each bike is custom made and often comes adorned with intricate detailing, from nickel plating to whimsical iconography. Business is good according to a recent feature in GQ UK and stands to get better as more people become interested in this niche market.

If bespoke bicycle services are just too far out of your price range, there are less pricey options. The American brand Fuji manufactures an “Urban line” of light weight, utilitarian bikes that retail for a friendlier $499 and still look great. Urban Outfitters also operates its own online bike shop where would-be cyclists can customize their own bicycle from a variety of color and frame options. Adding the right accessories can obviously boost your style quotient when opting for a more wallet-friendly bicycle. Invest in a brightly colored bike saddle to add a pop of color or a timeless leather roll-up pannier to add function to your ride.

*Styling Note

Unless you’re Catherine Baba, biking in stilettos is a major no-no. Save yourself the inevitable trip to the ER by wearing functional but chic suede boots with a low chunky heel or ballet flats during the warmer months. You can always store your heels in your bag and switch into them at the end of your commute. As for the clothes, I suggest separates like skinny jeans and comfortable knits with a great jacket (I love this Alexander Wang parka) to throw over it all. If you insist on biking in a dress, be sure to place a skirt guard (shown above) on the back wheel to avert potential disaster for you and your Philip Lim frock.

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