Topshop cashes in on women's cycling boom

Sir Philip Green has dabbled in ladieswear, swimwear, underwear and nightwear. Now he's getting on his bike to peddle cyclewear

While intensely practical, the padded shorts, showerproof jackets and accessories for cyclists have not been renowned for their flattering qualities. So on Wednesday, Sir Philip Green will attempt to cash in on the growing market for fashionable, functional cycle-wear. With everything from cornflower-blue silk headscarves, to gold visors, purple panniers and studded leather ankle cuffs, the new line is intended to replace fluorescent jackets, rucksacks and helmet hair as the way to go.

"Topshop is filling a gap," the Olympic gold medal cyclist Rebecca Romero said. "There is a lot of cycle-wear and accessories on the market, but you have to go to specific shops. And they cater for sporting people, not for recreational users."

The success of Olympic gold medallists such as Romero and Victoria Pendleton has raised the profile and popularity of women's cycling over the past 12 months.

London design duo Amy Fleuriot and Sarah Buck of Cyclodelic, who created the Topshop line, are also hoping to capitalise on the growing popularity of cycling as a greener, cheaper alternative to driving. Last year the Government announced £100m of investment for cycling routes in towns and cities across the UK. Sales of bicycles and accessories in the UK have risen, despite the current recession, with Halfords, the UK's biggest bike dealer, expanding its women's ranges after seeing sales grow last year.

"If I get on my bike, I want what the majority want – something that is functional but which is disguised as regular clothing. This is what Topshop is trying to do," Romero said.

But while the new clothes are likely to prove popular among fashion-conscious cyclists, the designs have prompted some safety concerns. "We applaud the use of bright colours, but customers shouldn't mistake these items for proper protective gear which would need to meet European standards for high-visibility clothing," said Jo Stagg, a spokeswoman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. "We would recommend that cyclists wear a cycle helmet rather than a cap or headscarf."

Yet, aside from the safety aspect of Topshop's new line, it is hoped the growing availability of all kinds of stylish cycle-wear will encourage British women to get on their bikes.

Figures from the National Travel Survey reveal that men cycle more than women, with the gap widest among teenagers. Men aged between 17 and 20 make five times as many cycling trips as women of the same age.

In an attempt to encourage more women on to two wheels, the sustainable transport charity Sustrans recently launched a website, bikebelles.org.uk, to promote cycling among women.

However, it has not been appreciated by everyone. "It is patronising to suggest you can make something appeal to all women by making it pink and fluffy," Romero said.

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