Taking to the saddle to avoid the risk of Covid-19 on public transport or the gridlock of the roads? Great, you are going to love it, trust me. But what to wear? Catherine Ellis picks her favourites when it comes to sartorial elegance for cyclists….
No one can have missed the fact that cycling is becoming a popular choice, whether for commuting or getting fresh air and exercise in your spare time. And why not? There hasn’t been a better time to cycle. Since the pandemic started, air pollution in some UK cities has reduced by a huge 40%, road traffic has dropped significantly and £2 billion pounds is going to be invested into cycling infrastructure to increase and improve bike lanes and cycle routes.
Add to this that public transport is expected to work at only a fraction of the usual capacity over the entire summer, making social distancing tricky, and cycling to work is now a no-brainer. Oh, and with the delight of the long summer days, there is no better season to take to the bike.
Luckily cycling to work no longer means inappropriately fitted lycra as young brands are designing for life with a saddle. Here are my top 6 independent brands, who are designing stylish kit that works for life on and off the bike.
1. A safe but stylish helmet
Let’s start at the top: The roads might be quieter but safety is still key – and luckily wearing a helmet no longer means compromising on style.
British brand Dashel design chic bike helmets, all with a retro style that are worthy of wearing inside the office as well as on the bike. All their helmets are made in the UK, they have a stunning carbon fibre helmet and their latest range of Re-cycle helmets can be recycled …into another helmet.
All their styles are extremely slim fitting and light, designed without compromising on safety. Both ranges are tailored to fit, via special coolmax pads inside which keep you cool and prevent any helmet hair.
2. The must-have accessory
Led by London fashion designer Comet, Glow and See is a not-for-profit global enterprise. They work with women from low socio-economic backgrounds across the world who knit a range of hats and neck warmers from sustainable wool and reflective yarn for comfort and visibility.
3. The versatile jacket
July has already reminded us that the British summer can never be relied upon, and bright sunshine can turn to a summer shower faster than you can say “that cloud looks ominous”.
Thus, a water-repellent but light jacket is the perfect answer and British designer Oliver Spencer has just teamed up with Brompton to create a stylish jacket that works perfectly for cycling to work. Made in Portugal in light-weight, water-repellent fabric, it is also anti-crease so it can be folded into your bag.
However, a really cunning feature is that the jacket also has straps so it can quickly be transitioned to wear across the back when you’ve pedalled hard up the hill and need to cool off. A pricey £385 but think of all the money you are saving on travel!
For an alternative for ladies, Georgia in Dublin make elegant jackets that are also lightweight, stylish and water-proof.
4. A poncho for those really wet rides
A poncho is decidedly the best option for cycling in the rain. One’s thighs are at the mercy of the rain and always get drenched in a downpour, but as the poncho covers your upper body and your legs (like a mini tent), it saves your legs from a complete soaking and you don’t need to worry about faffing around with waterproof trousers.
Otto London is an independent brand that makes cycle friendly unisex ponchos in a beautiful collection of bold colours. Designed by Otto Lauterbach and Eleonora Perez, both artists and avid cyclists, these ponchos have lots of neat detailing for the cyclist… and they can double up for the 2021 festival season.
5. The bag that works on and off the bike
The trick of getting to work without a sweaty back is a pannier bag. And it also saves your back.
Historically, panniers have been pretty ugly – made out of plain black PVC with hooks that dig into your back as soon as you carry the bag off the bike. But since 2013 Hill & Ellis has been on a mission to design bike bags that look good on and off the bike and work perfectly in both situations – making them the ideal cycling to work accessory.
Its most recent collection is made in cotton canvas with a range of striking patterns all designed by award winning London print designers. It also has a striking collection of British made satchel bike bags in bold colours. These pannier bags use German manufactured, adjustable pannier hooks to attach securely, fit a laptop, and all come with features for the cyclists such as a waterproof bag cover and reflective detailing.
6. Race around in iconic shoes
Already a show icon, Tracey Neuls has been a London shoe designer for an impressive 20 years. Her shoes are beautifully crafted – designed in the UK and made in Portugal. Tracey herself has a penchant for cycling and designed a range of reflective shoes for men and women over 10 years ago and they remain one of her best sellers.
They are crafted in reflective fabric that is a matt grey during the day and glows under lights at night, they also have a rubber sole for comfort and better wear on the bike pedals. They are stylish and perfect for cycling… and clubbing (when that time comes).
All these new and returning cyclists can’t be wrong! Surely, there has never been a better time to dust off your bike and get back in the saddle. And with such cool, stylish cycle gear now available, you can look fabulous regardless of where you are going and what the British weather decides to throw at you. Enjoy!
Catherine Ellis is founder of Hill & Ellis, which produces a range of high quality, stylish cycle bags. For more information see www.hillandellis.com