I have been rather worried recently about the proposed changes to the rules regarding bicycling; there is plenty of good stuff about how cyclists should be allowed to go the wrong way down one way streets -- something which I applaud when I am on my bike, but about which I am not so sure when I am behind the wheel of my car -- jump red lights, ride on the pavements, claim exemption from all forms of tax, be eligible for state grants, and be awarded vast index linked pensions, the likes of which are only at the moment enjoyed by retired public sector workers.
However in all the current 'two wheels good, four wheels bad' jingoism and razzamatazz one thing seems to have been omitted: correct forms of dress. I cycle a great deal -- I love it -- it is about the best way to get around London, it lifts my mood and lightens the spirit. Moreover I love my Pashley almost as much as I loved my late Bentley Turbo R and accidents are far cheaper than they were with my four wheeler from Crewe. I just wish that someone could lay down some guidelines as to what suits to wear and how to wear them when swinging into the saddle and pedaling off up into the West End.
My colleague Mr. Tom Stubbs is very eloquent on this subject and I have seen him on board his Pashley wearing what I can only describe as a germ warfare suit, which I believe and I am sure he will correct me if I am wrong, was made for him by the CP Company. I have asked him to introduce me to the CP Company's head cutter, but so far no introduction has been forthcoming, so I have had to formulate my own rules.
Cycling is of course physical activity and never mind how slowly you pedal, a little heat will build up, so it is perfectly acceptable to unfasten one's collar button in order to allow a little circulation around the neck. Moreover there are occasions when it is permissible to cycle in shirtsleeves, in fact I do this rather a lot and on such occasions I fold my coat and tie place them in the small zip-sided Bill Amberg modern traveler bag that is clipped into place on the parcel shelf at the back. In case of rain I slip a Brigg umbrella underneath the bag and strapping on a skateboard helmet that I like to think imparts a touch of the Hell's Angel to my appearance I set off, taking care to slip a bottle of mineral water and small cigar in the wicker basket at the front to sustain me on my journey. I find that a Cohiba Siglo IV works well when cycling, not too overpowering and yet sufficiently flavorsome...without diverting one from the business at hand.
However I have recently come to a crisis: my Brooks leather saddle has started to shed its color and being a saddle such shedding necessarily takes place at the expense of the seat of my trousers: I have two options, either to cycle only in dark suits, or when wearing tweeds (which I do quite a lot at this time of year) to place a shower cap over the seat. Neither is an elegant solution -- after all I could hardly cycle in a dark suit on a Sunday (unless I wish to be mistaken for a Church of England clergyman circa 1952) and while practical the shower cap hardly cuts the dash that my vanity demands of me.
Perhaps someone from Messrs. Brooks might care to enlighten me as to how previous generations of cyclists have overcome this problem.
This piece was originally published in Finch's Quarterly Review.