It’s almost old news but it was great to see The Wall Street Journal’s Christina Binkley mention our Bike Klutch bags & Hipsters – right below the new Coach bicycle bags and right above Kate Spade’s! Original publish date was May 19th – the day before National Bike To Work Day.
Beyond Spandex: Chic Styles for Cyclists Take Off
Kate Spade, Paul Smith and Other Designers Respond to Urban Commuters’ Demand for Fashionable Bags, Coats and Shoes
When apparel maker Betabrand created a pair of khaki pants whose back-pocket linings and hems could be exposed to reveal reflective fabric, it expected the pants to be a short-term novelty item.
But the $90 “Bike to Work” pants took off among two-wheeled commuters seeking clothes that marry fashion and function. “They’re one of our most popular products,” says Chris Lindland, the 38-year-old founder of the San Francisco company, which now has a women’s version of the pants.
Bike commuting is a trendy mode of transport in the U.S. these days, hitting that sweet spot where green, stylish and retro meet. New York City has been in a ferment of debate over new bike lanes that are taking up car lanes, while in Portland, Ore., 6% of workers were bicycling to jobs in 2009, according to the League of American Bicyclists. Today’s bike commuters tend to be early adopters and influencers, the sorts of people who snapped up first-generation iPads.
But outfitting oneself for bike commuting raises style issues. Street clothes can be uncomfortable and limiting. Yet as a sport, biking relies on Spandex bike shorts and neon windbreakers. Commuters are hungry for bike-friendly clothes and accessories that don’t require a quick change in the bathroom before a business meeting or a restaurant dinner with friends.
“It’s very hard to find stylish cycle clothing,” says Helio Ascari, a 34-year-old Italian model who lives in New York City. But because he rides his bike everywhere, including work, concerts, stores and even parties, he requires clothes that seamlessly transition to all his destinations.
Bags that look and function like briefcases or luxe handbags are a particular request of many commuting cyclists. One of Mr. Ascari’s favorite finds is his canvas Linus Bike panniers, which have a minimalist look. “I have a classic-style bike, and the bag matches my bike, besides being very useful,” he says. “I can carry all my belongings in a very stylish way.
Vote: Essential Cycling Gear
Manufacturers are responding to demands like his with an array of bags, shoes, coats and even tailored clothing. Some of it comes from brands such as Paul Smith, Coach and Kate Spade that are selling the styles in their own stores. Others come from new specialist brands that are selling online.
In August, Coach will launch a line of bags—each a classic leather Coach look—that’s attachable to a bike’s handlebars, frame, or rear rack.
Nona Varnado, a brand manufactured in New York, makes a chic clutch bag with straps that hook onto a belt. The company also makes a variety of “hipsters”— bands that wrap around the hips and cover up any flesh exposed when a rider leans forward over the handlebars.
Kate Spade New York last month launched two cycling bags in collaboration with Adeline Adeline, a New York City bicycle shop that specializes in urban commuter biking. (The partnership included a limited-edition, $1,100 Italian Abici bicycle fully outfitted for commuters with enclosed chain guards and fenders and a silver rear rack.)
The Kate Spade bags are versions of two of the brand’s classic designs altered to be easily be attached to bicycles. The $425 cowhide Essex bag has two clips on the strap that attach to handlebars. The $375 Bay Street Quinn tote, made from crinkle patent leather, has hooks on the bottom that can be fastened to a rear rack.
Julie Hirschfeld, the owner of Adeline Adeline, says there’s a need for more urban-biking fashions designed for women. Also a graphic designer, she commutes to work each day over the Brooklyn Bridge and says, “I want something that looks as good as a handbag I would buy.”
Ms. Hirschfeld has designed her own bike bag, which she plans to bring out this summer. The bag will come in canvas and leather versions and will sell for roughly $400. Many of the panniers and other bags she currently carries come from Great Britain, Holland and other places where commuter biking is more established.
Madame de Pé, a brand developed by a marketing consulting group in Amsterdam, makes women’s coats that look more fashionable than the tent-like rain ponchos to which many bicyclists resort. The coats have a long, weighted hem that covers pedaling knees and a ruched hood that moves with the head for clear visibility when a cyclist looks right or left.
British cycling-clothing company Rapha last fall launched a clothing collection with designer Paul Smith. It includes a purple polka-dot neck scarf and a jaunty cap for men.
Rapha also makes a tailored wool jacket, in collaboration with bespoke tailor Timothy Everest, that could walk straight from the bike rack to the boardroom. Priced at £400 (just under $650), it has a protective storm collar and front hems that can be folded back to free up a bicyclist’s legs. (The company’s website said recently that it’s sold out, with new supplies due in July.)
“We’re all businessmen and get around by bike,” says Slate Olson, general manager of Rapha in the U.S. “You want to feel like you could step into a meeting.”
He rattles off a list of Rapha products that came out of company executives’ own needs: button-down shirts with discreet side panels that provide room for reaching forward, buttons that prevent a collar from flapping in the wind, and special pockets that prevent a cellphone from tumbling out.
Rapha’s latest invention will be out in six months: a cycling brogue shoe. It’s made of leather that has been dimpled like a wingtip but also has a recessed cleat that will attach to pedals—without clicking on the floor when walking.
Mr. Everest, the tailor, has also worked with Brooks, a British manufacturer known for its leather bike seats, to create a cycling coat that Brooks expects to launch this year. Called the “Criterion” jacket and priced at $1,400, it is made of the water-shedding Ventile cotton used by the British military and is lined in English tweed. It has channels for iPod wires and a pocket on the lower back—an easy-access location for bicyclists.
Brooks is also bringing out more bags, especially for those early-adopter influencers. “We need things for the laptop,” says Cristina Würding, Brooks’s business director, “things for the iPad.”