I bike everywhere in the city. I strap on my helmet and birkenstocks and head for the streets. But sometimes I like to look a little more ‘put together’ than usual. In the post Bike Love I talked about the wide range of biking benefits. There’s the obvious fact that bikes don’t release greenhouse gas emissions but there’s lots of other less obvious benefits. Bikes require less resource intensive material, they’re easy to repair, make for a healthy lifestyle and facilitate environmentally beneficial dense city living.
Even though biking is one of the best (and sometimes fastest) ways to get around there’s a lot of different reasons why people can’t or won’t bike. Infrastructure such as bike lanes and bike posts are essential to encouraging the two-wheeled commute. But another important factor in promoting bike culture has to do with fashion and beauty. Short skirts, work pants and flowing dresses don’t exactly work well with high crossbars, chains and grease.
Cashing in on the biking craze, Levi’s has designed the Commuter Jean with stretchy material to accommodate for movement, reflective tape under the cuffs, reinforced seams where you need it, a special waistband for u-lock storage and higher back rise to rid the world of plumber butt. They’ve also released bike friendly and stylish jackets and shirts to make the bike commute a little less spandex and a little more civilized. The “Sanitized™ hygiene function” and “NanoSphere™ technology” featured in the line repel odours and water but raise some alarm bells for me in terms of potentially toxic elements released during wear and production.
This issue aside, I’m impressed by Levi’s efforts towards combining functional design and style. It looks like the line is currently only available for guys but since most of the riders on my commute are women let’s hope Levi’s addresses the other half of the market soon.
Now that we’ve got the clothing piece (partially) figured out we need to talk about our noggins. Bike helmets have traditionally not been the most stylish of headgear. Thankfully, companies like Nutcase have come up with some pretty cool designs that make wearing a helmet much more fun. Plus, each helmet comes stamped with their “I love my brain” logo to remind us of the important stuff you’re protecting. There’s also a Russian designer that has transformed motorcycle helmets to look like brains, golf balls, watermelons, globes and all sorts of stuff. I don’t think they’re available for sale but they’re a really neat idea.
While I love my paint spalttered Nutcase helmet, if I desire to do anything beyond a simple ponytail with my hair, my helmet really cramps my style. And I will admit that sometimes I’ll reluctantly forgo my brain protector in favour of a fancy updo. And that’s a serious problem since the basic issue of having to wear a helmet, whether its legislated or just for safety, may be a real deal breaker for anyone considering biking.
Confronting this problem head on (ha!), two ingenious girls from Sweden invented an invisible bike helmet. The Hovding helmet looks kind of like a zip-up collar/scarf. When abnormal movement is detected the collar pops open an air bag for your head. One of the most amazing things about this creation is the passion and drive of these girls. Repeatedly told that their vision was impossible, they soldiered on and made their crazy dream a reality.
So designers and stylists here’s your challenge! If these girls can come up with a way to make a helmet look cool how can you make biking more stylish, functional and beautiful?