Tuesday, 16 August 2011

All About the Looks

Gazelle, Summertime
As recounted in previous posts, I am frequently approached by strangers who are drawn to my loop frame bicycles. It is not a matter of how expensive the bicycle is, and it is not a matter of whether the bike is new and shiny or old and crusty. But something about that elegant curve - combined with the dress guards, chaincase, and wide cream tires - seems to make these bicycles visually irresistible. Most of the time it is women who approach me, and most of the time they are not cyclists. Their attraction to my bicycle is purely a matter of looks. Upon learning that I actually ride for transportation, the ladies will typically enumerate all the reasons why they can't possibly ride a bike - all the while staring at mine with a longing that I can tell is normally reserved for jewelry store window shopping.

Having gone through this type of interaction more times than I can count, I cannot help but believe that aesthetic attraction alone can make people want to ride a bike, or at least try. And while that motive has been mocked by some, I personally find it fascinating. Just think about what this means: The natural beauty of the classic transportation bicycle is so powerful, that it can make even those who are not interested in cycling wish to do it.

Although my reasons for cycling were never based on looks per se, looks certainly played a role in pushing me over the edge from an ambivalent "it would be nice, but..." attitude, to the enthusiasm that led to the start of this blog. The Co-Habitant and I had talked about getting bikes for a couple of years, but when it came down to it I just could not imagine myself riding. Then one day, I spotted this bike in the neighbourhood and suddenly I could imagine it perfectly well. The design of the bicycle suggested that cycling could be done in a way that is easy, safe, and not in the least bit sports-oriented. While initially the extent of our cycling ambitions was to ride on the trails together on weekends, my growing fascination with the bicycle led to the research that made us view it as a viable option for transportation. And although this was never, ever our intent, two years later we stopped using our car entirely.

While I am not suggesting that every woman who thinks my bicycle is pretty is likely to follow the same course, I do believe that looks are important. And it is not so much a matter of beauty, as it is a matter of engaging the imagination - of the person being able to picture themselves riding the bike. There are multitudes of people out there who do not cycle, because they do not view it as something that is "for them." Setting eyes on a bicycle that appeals to them could change that in a matter of moments.

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