Frontier Psychiatrist

Frontier Cyclist, vol. 18 – Biking in Style

Posted on: September 7, 2010

Feelin’ it on the Dutchi

[Our weekly cycling column appears on Tuesdays]

My first bike was a hand-me-down – a red and yellow two-wheeler that had been owned by a local boy several years earlier. Thankfully, the “boy bar” was removable on this particular model, saving me from further embarrassment over not having a brand-new more blatantly girl bike.  So I did what any young girl obsessed with style and personalization would do to mask the hand-me-down aesthetic: I pimped it out with a white basket (for my Cabbage Patch passengers), a rainbow flag on the back, and those florescent spoke attachments that would clink up and down when the bike moved slowly until speed suspended them in motion.

At 13, I upgraded to a peach and teal Huffy 10-speed (purchased with allowance and garage sale profit money), which matched my 8th grade bedroom in a sweet tribute to the color palate of the early 90s.  The purchase was easy- mom drove me to Child World at the local strip mall, the selection blessedly limited.

As an adult, more than a decade later in NYC, biking seemed much more complicated.  I saw all sorts of cyclists: messengers on fixies risking their lives (and the lives of others) and spandexed racers making the rounds in Central and Prospects Parks.  I was interested in returning to cycling, but wasn’t quite sure how. Too many styles and too make types of bikes led to confusion.

Someone's Bike Style (Not Mine)

In 2005, I took the plunge and bought a hybrid – a chunky black Giant that seemed like a good compromise – not too sporty, not too rugged, and light enough that I could carry it up or down the stairs in a pinch. Plus, the hybrid wasn’t really committing to any of the cycling subcultures that I had observed during my time in New York, and as a young New Yorker I was in no shape to commit to anything. The Giant met its original purpose, withstanding Red Hook’s cobblestone streets and remaining steadfastly attached to bike racks by its giant Kryptonite chain. But it never felt quite right to me.

Functional, But Not Pretty

For starters, I didn’t feel like I could dress like myself on my chunky bike.  Ballet flats, cigarette pants and a tube top would have looked absolutely ridiculous on a sporty, off-road-ish bike, which relegated me to a selection of ill-fitting gym clothes and other assorted sporty items I collected along the way.  Running shoes (usually saved exclusively for the elliptical), a pair of thermal leggings I bought for the one and only time I ever went skiing, a ratty long sleeved tee bearing the name of a musical artist whose album was never released… I rode looking like the morning after a frat party, when lounge wear meant hangover.  I couldn’t look like myself on this bike.

I Want To Look Like This

In June, I tried a stylish new bike store in Tribeca. I didn’t plan ahead for the visit to the shop, and met my husband there wearing a tight pencil skirt and fitted blouse.  And when the salesperson pulled the bike I asked to see, I flashed passersby to a glimpse of my undies as I hoisted my leg over the bike bar.

When I pedaled back to the store, the saleswoman was waiting and watching, ready with a suggestion.  “Have you considered the Dutchi?” she asked, and pulled a slim step-through for me. Amazed, I was easily able to hop on in my tight skirt and sat upright on the frame, gliding down the street, simple as could be. This was my bike.

In August, I christened the Dutchi, riding it to Summer Streets dressed in striped leggings, open toe ballet flats and a flowy tank top.  I accessorized my new Bern helmet with a reflective bow, made by a coworker, and a seafoam wire side basket. Sitting upright, I breezed past spandex riders and kids with training wheels, enjoying the scenery and finally feeling home on two wheels.

Robin Lester Kenton lives with her husband in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn.  She writes Clinton Hill Blog and helps spread the word about NYC transportation initiatives.  She often chooses fashion over comfort, but never chooses fashion over safety when it comes to protecting her brain.  She is still working on combating helmet hair. She rides a Linus Dutchi 3.

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2 Responses to "Frontier Cyclist, vol. 18 – Biking in Style"

Awesome bike! Hot hot hot!

[…] need a house to live in, and deciding on a solution for our yard was no easy task. As I’ve mentioned before on this site, style is a major consideration whenever making a purchase. Form is equal to (if not […]

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