James Daley: The Cycling Column

Trendier designs will get more to take up cycling
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Indy Lifestyle Online

The London cycle expo turned out to be a pretty good event last week – and having pencilled in an hour to get round it, I ended up spending three.

All of the major bike brands had their new 2008 models on display, while there were dozens of stalls promoting biking holidays, as well as the latest innovations in cycle accessories.

One of my favourites was a child saddle that goes over the crossbar, allowing you to let your little ones experience cycling from the front seat – rather than from the back of the bike.

A video was playing in the background, showing the inventor taking his three-year-old off-road on his contraption – riding down some quite tricky pieces of singletrack, with his toddler sandwiched between himself and the crossbar.

I have to confess that I'm not sure I'd be confident enough in my biking skills to put my own child there (I've flown off my bike and into the bushes too many times to mention), but this little kid certainly looked like he was enjoying himself.

Another revelation at the expo was a cycling fashion show – one of the most amusing things I've ever seen. It involved five hip and good-looking young people carrying out an impressive dance routine in front of a flashy video screen.

It would have been very cool if it were not for the fact that they were all wearing cycling clothes, which – whatever you decide to do in them – always look kind of dorky.

It turns out that watching someone wearing a fluorescent yellow jacket dancing to Prince is very, very funny. Although it didn't make me want to buy any of the clothes, I was gripped for a whole half an hour.

I've moaned before about the lack of care about aesthetics in the biking world, and on this effort, I have to say, I did leave thinking it's a great shame that it's still so hard to find cycling clothes that don't make you look part of the loony Lycra brigade. What is on offer is also incredibly expensive.

I have a pair of baggy cycling shorts that are well designed, and don't leave you looking too silly if you need to make a long journey somewhere and don't have the facilities to get changed at the other end. But they cost a jaw-dropping £60!

If you want something a bit cheaper, then there's very few options but to go for the unflattering old- fashioned Lycra shorts (or just forget the padding and wear some regular clothes).

More attention does, at least, appear to have been paid to frame design on the 2008 ranges. I've already written about how I love the special London edition of the Specialized Langster (of which I'm a proud owner), but many of Specialized 2008 range were good-looking bikes, while several of the other brands appeared to have started to realise that you don't just have to paint bikes in a single colour.

Pinnacle's 2008 range caught my eye as well – with just an extra splash of colour making a big difference to the look of their bikes.

Of course, we don't want to migrate to a world where aesthetics come first and technical design comes later. And it's great to see how much thought and effort goes into the aerodynamics and technical spec of the big brand bikes these days. You can now get really good bikes for under £300. But surely it wouldn't prove too costly to invest a little more in design.

It's not just an issue of personal vanity. If we're serious about getting people of every age to get on two wheels more often, then designing trendy clothes and good looking bike frames is a must. I love the fact that my bike still turns heads. It's time that more bike companies set out to get their new models to do the same.

cycling@independent.co.uk

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