Alex Mowat shares tips for dodging lycra and getting into some “property industry & meeting friendly” cycle gear
I was somewhat alarmed to read Leanne Tritton’s “Boys - we need to talk about lycra”, article in the Winter edition of Velocity Magazine. She explained the unfortunate effect that property professionals in lycra have on her. Having talked to a few others I see that she is not the only one to be offended by spandex wearing cyclists on a regular basis!
Since my architecture student days at the Royal College of Art I have been cycling in London almost every day working as an architect for 26 years. I have never owned or worn any Lycra either on or off a bike. I have never had to offer my clients or colleagues the choice of “late or lycra”. Both are to be avoided!
Being in the property industry means getting out and about and visiting people and properties. The best way is by bike and cycling is not remarkable, it is normal. Here are some personal recommendations for “property industry & meeting friendly” cycle gear for men and women.
A helmet that folds into your bag invisibly
Walking into a meeting carrying a piece of over-styled, go-faster polystyrene shouts “Look at me I came on my bike!”. This is not always the first impression that you want when you really want to discuss and focus on the property opportunity that you have arrived to discuss. Closca make a cycle helmet which concertinas into a third of its size and slips into your bag. I avoided the “architect black” version and chose the white one with a reflective visor for night time safety. I am thinking of adding their woolly Nordic liner for winter. Don’t just take my word for it, they have won a Red Dot design award and an ADI award.
Carrying your kit
Now you have a slimline helmet the next question is, what do you put it in once you arrive? Rather than over the shoulder messenger bags that most cyclists use I follow my chiropractors advice and “carry the load evenly on both shoulders.” That means a traditional, two-strap backpack but it doesn’t mean looking like you are ready for camping on Mont Ventoux. J.B. Brookes and Co (est 1866) make small slim backpacks that don’t swing around when you cycle but you can carry like a briefcase when you arrive. Some even have innovative reflective leather!
Breathable coats that cope with rain but don’t overheat
Mackintosh have been making waterproof coats for almost 200 years just outside rainy Glasgow. After such a long time they are the very best at what they do. In the last few years they have developed coats from lighter weight linen and denim fabrics that are bonded together with rubber that is dyed to perfectly match the outer cotton layers so there is no show-through. The light fabrics are perfect for cycling. The length perfectly covers a cyclist’s thighs as you peddle if it starts to spot with rain. Amazingly they don’t market their coats to cyclists at all, but they are perfect for cycling.
Warm fingers from an old British factory
Whilst we are admiring old British brands who are underpinned with a depth of knowledge that their history brings, there is one brand who can keep your fingers warm whilst you keep a grip on the handlebars. They have been making gloves for men and women since 1777 and they even have their own museum. They are Dents gloves. Unfortunately their shop is hidden on an industrial estate in Warminster so you have to buy online.
I wear their Guildford range which has a leather palm for grip. The top side is made from flannel which is the side that gets wet but cleverly the flannel dries out quickly. The elasticated wrist and outer-strap keep the draughts away from your wrists when you reach for the brakes.
Cycle friendly tailoring
Many brands have tried to achieve cycle friendly suits and many have failed. However, there is a way for men and women to get a suit with extra shape for your knees or a slightly longer sleeve without having to fork out for a totally bespoke suit. Claire Pringle and Bayode Oduwole at Pokit start with their standard cutting patterns and a selected range of cloth. They will skilfully make you their style of suit shaped exactly to fit you and your bike. Their trade mark is a discreet seam down the front of your trousers which helps avoid stretching the fabric at the knees. It takes a couple of weeks but it is well worth the wait as it will last many miles of cycle commuting.
Something for after hours events
Why not turn to welsh brand Huit Denim? They are a company that has the best and simplest mission statement you could wish for: “We make jeans. That’s it. Nothing else. No distractions. Nothing to steal our focus. No kidding ourselves that we can be good at everything. So each day we come in and make the best jeans we know how.”
Their Low Lighters’ Roll Up Reflective Tech Jeans are light and quick drying with inbuilt reflective ankles for the late night cycle home.
All these products meet similar criteria to the ones that we seek to include in our architectural projects. They are simple but very effective adaptations of normal typologies, reconfigured to bring added benefits to their users. Their materials are carefully crafted and assembled in order to perform well and to get better with age. These products allow you to cycle without shouting about it!