At last it’s hip to be an old codger, Tim Dawson (2009)
From The Sunday Times June 19, 2009
There is nothing like a supermodel’s endorsement to herald an underground movement joining the mainstream. So Agyness Deyn’s extensively photographed rides around London and New York on a sit-up-and-beg bicycle have provided the fanfare for the sedate arrival of the “slow bicycle” movement.
A glossy cycling magazine recently devoted a cover story to the subject. There is a blog, theslowbicycle.blogspot.com, and a Facebook group. The movement takes its cues from the slow food movement — which promotes taking time over finding and preparing what we eat. In a cycling context, the emphasis is on people using bicycles to get around town in the unfussy, utilitarian way that they do in Amsterdam and Copenhagen.
Forget Lycra, dozens of gears and hunching over your handlebars. This is all about robust push-bikes whose mudguards and chain cases make them look a throwback to the 1930s.
Retailers have been quick to hitch a ride. Halfords has announced a new “Real Classic” range of bikes with a full chain case and hub gears. Evans has a similar steed in the bike-to-work scheme.
It may, of course, be a fashion fad that causes customers to buy bicycles on a whim and then ride them only rarely. My experience, however, is that once you discover the relaxed pace of a utility bike, it is hard to give up.
A decade ago — after quarter of a century on touring and racing bikes — I began looking out for old-codger-style bicycles. It was not easy. In fact, at that time, if you wanted a hub gear, mudguards and a rack on a bicycle, the easiest option was to buy one abroad. In Holland or Denmark, such mounts have been mass sellers from one decade to the next, apparently unaffected by the fashions that drive our cycle industry.
Then I struck lucky. My local bike shop got in a utility bike to “test the market”. It bore the badge of Giant but was manufactured in the Netherlands and was clearly aimed at the domestic market there. The frame is solid steel, it has a kickstand and a lock fitted to the frame, as well as the hub gears and full mudguards that are the mark of the urban utility bike.
Today, I own several bikes that are designed for speed, but my 40lb urban runaround remains my favourite. It is neither flash nor fast but it is dependable whatever the weather and does not get my work clothes dirty.
Of course, it made me the subject of mockery from the moment I rode it home. “Have you been cast in a Hovis commercial?” my friends asked.
That fashion has taken a while to catch up with me is to be expected, I suppose. A movement that celebrates slowness was always going to take some time.