I bike to work every day, all year long. There's one day, however, that I particularly enjoy biking to work is (you guessed it) BTWD. I love BTWD and everything it stands for; it’s a day where like-minded folks can get together and geek out commuter style. It's also a day where people who are skittish about riding to work can learn the ropes, get advice, and join the protection of a convoy to get used to the road. It's a great thing.
On this lovely Bike To Work Day I fell victim to the DC pollen and was benched on my favorite day of the year to ride to work. This pissed me off. Then my alarm went off and the first voice I heard was that of Rivendell's Grant Petersen being interviewed on NPR. This really pissed me off.
The worst thing about cycling culture or any other culture for that matter is the large number of judgmental shitholes who get off on telling everyone else that they're "doing it" wrong. This behavior is usually reserved for elitist road or mountain bikers touting the latest unobtainium. This morning however we learned there is a new douche bag in town, the elitist commuter.
I had to listen to the full interview online...
"Wear the clothes that you're going to wear at work," he says. "Don't dress up like an American Bike Geek just to ride a bicycle to work."
"If your commute is reasonable — say, 10 miles or under — no problem," Petersen adds. "Dress the way you're going to dress for the weather, or the day."
"Bicycle riding doesn't make a lot of demands on your body, your upper body is still when you're riding and your legs are just turning around in small little circles."Grant Petersen, who's shop is in Walnut Creek, CA just outside of Berkley, (that place with the best weather in the entire country), wants you to bike to work in the clothes you are planning to wear to work. Anyone who's ridden a bike in DC (or most other parts of the country) knows this is bullshit and would only work a few days out of the year. Grant goes on to say we shouldn't dress like and "American Bike Geek", which I'm guessing means we're not aloud to wear cycling jerseys and shorts. I just want to point out that most European countries, where bike commuting is more mainstream, never have a DC summer.
I'm going to stop here because he said too many stupid things to comment on without getting angry. After this, I'm sure the internet will be full of colorful Grant Petersen critiques. More than anything this interview makes me sad. I think Grant's point was that you don't have to buy the latest high tech race gear to commute to work, which would be a good point had it not been lost in the douche bag delivery. The irony is that in saying don't go hi-tech Grant joined the ranks or all the elitists on the other end of the spectrum.
There was a good opportunity here to inform and encourage novice commuters but Grant dropped the ball.
If you want to know how you should dress while bike commuting, don't listen to Grant Petersen, unless you live in Berkley. If you are new to bike commuting and don't know what to wear, get some advice from local commuters and shop employees who have been riding in the same conditions and roads that you plan to. Consider their advice and then do what makes you happy. Finding the right clothes for your commute can take a lot of trial and error and there is no right fit for everybody.
The bottom line is that if you are comfy wearing shorts in the winter, great; if you like the feel of wool and wearing it all year round is your thing, awesome. If you find what works for you, go for it, just don't let some douche bag, whether they're wearing lycra or tweed, tell you you're doing it wrong.