Panelists James Schonzeit, Adolfo Hernandez and Rubani Shaw
Let’s Go Ride a Bike blogger Dottie Brackett recently told me she thinks Chicago’s male cyclists could put a little more effort into their appearance. “I see a lot of women on bikes who are looking really nice, but I think I’ve only ever seen one man riding a bike in a suit,” she said. “It’d be nice to see more than just jeans and a t-shirt, and if you’re going to some sort of event why not spiff it up a little?”
Last year Brackett participated in the first Bike Fashion Panel organized by the Chicago Cycling Club (CCC), an exploration of how to get around the city on two wheels without sacrificing your personal style, with a focus on women’s fashion. The panel also included Emily Taylor and Maria Bousted from PoCampo bags and Alexis Finch, who produces the Thought You Knew pin-up calendars. The participants discussed their favorite clothes, bikes, accessories, tips and tricks for pedaling with panache.
Earlier this month the fellas finally got their say. This year’s Men’s Bike Fashion panel, also presented by the cycling club takes place in a cozy upstairs room at Schubas Tavern, 3159 N Southport. The three male panelists include product designer James Schonzeit, Active Transportation Alliance staffer Adolfo Hernandez, and graphic designer Rubani Shaw. All three are known as natty dressers who spend plenty of time on bikes.
The format is reminiscent of the 1970s show “The Dating Game,” with Active Trans’ Rebecca Resman serving as moderator, sitting across from the trio of bachelors. She introduces them. “James is always on the lookout for pretty women, potholes and the occasional forklift,” she says. “Adolfo was born and raised in Little Village and has been wearing clothes since 1982. Rubani is from Alberta, Canada, which has influenced his love of both outdoor and indoor winter activities.”
Resman’s first question for the men is “What is bike fashion?” “It’s a combo of what you’re wearing, what you’re riding, where you’re going,” says Schonzeit. “Cyclists don’t look the same all over the world,” says Hernandez. “Here semi-athletic wear seems to be the dominant bike fashion,” says Shaw. “In Seville, Spain, everyone’s very well-dressed and well-coiffed and they’re riding bikes,” Hernandez says. “In Mexico one time I saw a butcher riding down the street wearing a bloody apron, just wearing what he wore to work, or else he’d just killed someone.”
Next the moderator asks, “Does your style dictate your bike or does your bike dictate your style. Shaw recounts how he started out riding a mountain bike, then switched to a fixed-gear. “I broke it and the bike shop lent me a Schwinn Cruiser,” he says. “I felt like I was in Havanna. I found myself wearing my suit jacket and nice shoes and I thought, ‘I like the way this feels.’”
A photo from The Sartorialist selected by Schonzeit.
Hernandez says appearance was definitely a factor when he bought his bike. “I was probably a little vain in picking out my bike, but I thought, ‘If I’m riding a bike I want to look good.’” Schonzeit is less proud of the appearance of his ride. “I ride a relatively dorky hybrid,” he says. “It has disc brakes which work really well for me but I do get major bike envy.”
Next the conversation turns to helmets and the difficulty of finding one that looks good. “Some people can look good in a helmet but I’m not one of them,” says Resman. “But I like to have a brain and be cognizant.” Hernandez says that in some respects the need for a helmet is dictated by where you are and what kind of riding you’re doing. “Nowadays in Seville it’s a lot safer to ride a bike, so no one wears a helmet,” he says. “Here I always wear one if I’m working but if I’m riding four blocks to the grocery store on quiet streets I might not.”
The guys show slides of well-dressed men on bikes from the street fashion blog The Sartorialist. One features a distinguished-looking white-haired gent with a handlebar moustache on a Dutch cruiser. “He’s wearing what he was going to wear anyway,” says Hernandez. “His moustache matches his bike,” notes Schonzeit.
“If all of your bike gear was in a burning building and you could only save one thing, what would it be?” asks Resman. “My bike lock key,” says Shaw. “My bike bag has totally changed the way I ride responds Schonzeit. “My messenger bag briefcase,” says Hernandez. “One time I scraped it against a freshly-painted wall and I had to get it dry cleaned four times to get the paint out.”
When the floor is opened to questions and comments CCC member Joe Dickstein, dressed in a Lycra jersey and black racing shorts, offers a defense of Spandex. “I ride one-and-a-half hours each way to and from work and I ride for exercise, “ he says. “I feel it’s a heck of a lot easier to wear bike clothes when I’m exercising and just change when I get to work.” Art Gilfand seconds him. “I no longer care what I look like when I stop into Dominicks,” he says.
Julie Hochstadter, who runs the Chainlink, asks whether women dress more fashionably because women’s clothing is more conducive to cycling than men’s. “I was riding to work with a friend today, responds Resman. “We felt sorry for the boys, that they’ll never know how breezy carefree it is to ride a bike in a skirt. Of course I’ve had my share of “whoopsie daisies” where I’ve shown off a bit more than I should.