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Can H&M; keep cyclists from looking silly?
In "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference," Malcolm Gladwell says  mysterious sociological changes accumulate toward a Big Bang -- "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point."
In that spirit - we hope - H&M's has announced an 11-piece menswear collection for the urban cyclist coming March, 2013.
A fashion designer working on the project said:
"Cycling is a global phenomenon, with so many men choosing to cycle both to commute and for pleasure.”

They even made a movie about it.

Notes the magazine Grist.org:

Like all H&M clothes, they promise to be cheap and disposable, and you shouldn’t necessarily run out and buy them. But if being able to buy good-looking cycling clothes helps more people ride bikes — especially people who wouldn’t otherwise — that’s a plus. And if H&M is designing cycling clothes, it means that cycling is becoming more mainstream than would have seemed possible just a few years ago.

H&M is so enthusiastic about the marketing Karma it expects to garner from this, that they've gone the Helen Lovejoy route, producing a web-page explaining that they're making adult bike clothing for the sake of the children.

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“Won't somebody please think of the children?!”
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H&M; outfits to match?
 The collection is set to launch March 7, 2013 as part of H&M’s “Conscious” label and will feature sustainable materials, such as organic cotton, recycled cotton, and recycled polyester.
That's where The Simpsons' Helen Lovejoy's "Think of the Children" tagline comes in. 
H&M's "Conscious" line includes a segment dubbed "All for ChildrenAll for Children", "which is set up to protect the rights of some of the poorest children in the world," according to H&M.
Children saved, H&M is turning to Mother Earth with its bike commuting line.
Point being, they're doing cycling clothing to get on the "green" bandwagon. 
This is not trustworthy:. The columnist Bike Snob NYC put it best when he suggested that people who get into cycling for the environmentalism would likely switch to pogo sticks if they were declared the next enviro-friendly transport mode.
Encouragingly, however, H&M's design staff apparently includes some avid cyclists.

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According to H&M's own website: The 11 piece collection will launch on 7 March 2013 and will be available in 180 stores worldwide, and online. The clothing will draw on vintage inspiration and modern sports performance and is designed to work as well off the bike as on it.

The idea to release a bike clothing collection came about because, “There were quite a few people in the menswear design team that were interested in bicycles and have used bikes for a long time,” said Petter Klusel, the H&M designer in charge of the project.


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The masses, apparently, are finally poised to get around by bike...
Um. Not like on the left. (Wouldn't mass-participation six-day racing be cool, though?) 
But H&M's gambit suggests people are moving by bike rather to the store, to work, to school, and for recreation.
That's good news. Independent speciality outdoor-wear companies have been toiling for this day.

There's reason to be skeptical, too, however.

The non-cycling fashion industry's attempts to clothe the self-propelled, however, has been littered with failure.

In 2009, the Fashion Institute of Technology and Louis Vuitton/Moët Hennessy (LVMH) sponsored a bike-commuting-clothing design contest based on the inactive-person's view popular at that time saying outdoor-wear looked ridiculous. The result: preposterous garments such as cycling-purposed ponchos. 
Yes. Ponchos.
At this time, Gobha-Clothing was taking root as your founder spent substantial savings on rolls of Schoeller Dynamic soft-shell fabric, bought dozens of fancy sweaters to cut up, (having not-yet forged a connection with Levana of New Zealand,) and spent hours and days obsessively snipping, stitching, sewing, disassembling, re-cutting, re-sewing, testing, and sewing again.

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Yet another Gobha prototype in the works!
Unbeknownst to the Philistines at LVMH, your Gobha-Clothing founders knew that soon after a fledgling bike commuter takes to the streets, she focuses on practical function as much as beautiful appearance. 

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Nan's custom cycle-wear at factory prices
Bicycling has very specific demands when it comes to weather, sweat and appearance. 
FIT Ponchos and their ignorance-borne ilk satisfy none of these.
Time went by, the LVMH event produced FIT-student winners and the obligatory New York Times article, but little in the way of propagating better cycling wear. 
Instead, real innovation was going on at the grass-roots. Knowledgeable, skillful textile pioneers such as Oakland's Nan Eastep, owner of B. Spoke Tailor in Oakland, plugged-away making beautiful clothing that was truly functional and practical for urban cycling.


In early 2012, Levi's jumped on the bandwagon, filling their entire, three-story-tall flagship Union Square store display window with mannequin cyclists and giant cycling murals, advertising their "Commuter" line. Their tag-line was, to be honest, quite empathetic: "Form, Function, Cycling."
By this time, Gobha, and her predecessor firm, DiSanto Clothing, had been making enthusiastically-received cycling hats based on the idea of using the finest-possible materials, completely original and distinct proprietary patterns, and a unique invention: the reversible soft-shell/Merino thermostat for your head.
And now, H&M, the archetypal cheapener of whatever mode of dress seems to have tipped the Zeitgeist, has seized upon the idea of bike clothes.
We wish them well.
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Always the best design, workmanship and materials. Made in San Francisco.
 
 
SF Gate's Bay Bikers Blog gave us a nice mention in their Gift Giving Guide for this year. Check it out at http://blog.sfgate.com/bicycle/2012/12/11/gift-guide-some-bicycling-gear-we-like/. Thank you Amy Harcourt!
 
 
For the cause of cycling and bicycle commuting to take root globally, cyclists of the world need to band together and help a certain Pennsylvania bike rider find a date.

While forward-looking cities such as San Francisco may have bicycle-themed dating scenes, other parts of the country can be matchmaking wastelands, suggests Brybot, a poster on a Pittsburg, PA bike-commuting bulletin board. 

Brybot's lifestyle choices might make him a hipster hottie in Berkeley or Brooklyn:

After a year here, and using my car so infrequently, I decided I might as well sell it. That way I could have the cash, not have to pay for insurance and yearly fees, and I wouldn't have to worry about the car falling apart in disuse on the side of the road. In the roughly four months since I sold the car, I've used Zipcar once to go to Greensburg for a concert. Otherwise, I've been able to do everything on the bike, save busing to the airport when necessary. Anyway, I consider this to be a huge financial gain on my part.


In Pittsburgh, however, some women view a man who gets around by bike as a loser.

The downside, which I recognized but may not have understood the true extent, is that girls (generally speaking) do not want to date a guy without a car! As sexy as I think I am on my bikes, it just doesn't cut it for some women. Tonight, I was talking to a girl, who as soon as she found out I didn't have a car decided it was a deal-breaker. I'm certain this is not the only case either. I already feel like a misfit in this town. I don't know what a Steeler or Penguin is, and I don't know how to say Yinz. Add the biking and not having a car, and I'm a total weirdo! =(
Has anyone else experienced anything similar, or am I the only one?


A social movement that interferes with its participants love lives is bound to fail. Witness the Shakers, a Christian sect that reportedly attracted 20,000 converts during the 19th century. They banned sex, however. Unable to reproduce, the faith disappeared.

Despite its rapidly growing popularity, Bicycle commuting lives a tenuous historical moment. Even in burgeoning San Francisco, around one-thirtieth of commuters go by bike. If the movement is to survive, it must reproduce. To reproduce, it needs to shed the capital "L" that seems to have attached to cyclists in the minds of certain Pittsburgh women. Obviously, Brybot should make the first move and purchase several  jaunty Gobha hats in colors that coordinate with  various outfits. 

The rest of us, however, need to help Brybot find someone to love. Women of Pittsburgh, we assign you to recognize the fitness, global-mindedness, practicality, economy and health of your city's cyclists. Date them. And watch the dream of a better world unfold.

 
 
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Mike during the 1970s, when he tore up Northern California, then national, then international bike races as an inexhaustible roleur.

Until thirty six years ago, there was no such thing as an American bike racer at the front of the European professional peloton. Until twenty four years ago, there had not been a U.S. based team winning top European races. Both are commonplace now.

One man was instrumental in producing both milestones. Neel finished 10th in the 1976 world professional road racing championships. In 1988, he coached US 7-Eleven team captain Andy Hampston to a Giro di Italia win. 

Neel is now only marginally employed, living in a remote California mountain valley, in a house he bought for $50. His story is one of an anguished character prone to extreme-seeming behavior who's spent a lifetime struggling to find purchase on the world.

As we close out a year in which bike racing has made headlines with new evidence detailing the alleged extreme behavior of a certain US post-office-sponsored squad of ex-champions, cycling pioneer Neel serves an example of the fact that extreme behavior may be cycling's price of entry.

Exhibits One and Two: the star witnesses in USADA's dossier accusing Lance Armstrong were Floyd Landis, whose acute case of non-conformism led him to flee his Amish community for life as a Southern California mountain bike racer, and Dave Zabriskie, who took to cycling as a refuge from his father's drug abuse.

"Happy, well-adjusted, shiny people do not race bikes at the highest level," said Rob Roll, discussing his days riding for the 1980s 7-Eleven Team coached by Neel.  "For someone to subject themselves to that, you have to be very screwed up. Everyone on that team was a knacker, a sociopathic reject, and it would have been very difficult to get along in normal society. To stay out of a mental institution, it was necessary to kill the dysfunctional background. You know you must be there racing. Until you kill the rage, you know you must be there."

The November 2012 issue of Pro Cycling features a profile of Neel, now-forgotten hero of the USA's 1976 arrival on the global cycling scene. His 10th place in that year's professional road championships, along with George Mount's Olympic 6th place that year, propelled America into the European big leagues.

For Neel cycling was an escape from the 1970s Haight Ashbury drug culture, which destroyed the lives of some of his youthful friends. He has a gentle, self-effacing yet erudite demeanor, but with a viper's strike in the realm of bike racing.

Right before his 10th place at the 1976 worlds, where he sprinted alongside greats such as Eddy Merckx, Neel had become one of America's first-ever European professionals, riding for the Magniflex squad sponsored by an Italian mattress company.

That didn't work out for long; as a Euro-domestique, the former U.S. star had no chance to shine. Thankfully, he had a fallback skill: As a youngster Neel worked as a horse groom. His husbandry skills matched a post-racing career as a coach.

Andy Hampsten, one of his charges, recalled Neel once became disgusted upon seeing a horse being trotted on pavement. That's bad for the hooves, Hampsten learned.

"He treated us like thoroughbreds," Hampsten recalled.

But before he rose during the mid-1980s to status as a world-beating coach, Neel spent several years behaving outrageously.

He launched a cycling-goods import business with his friend Lee Katz.

"He shoved the business and the warehouse up his nose," Katz said, referring to what Neel acknowledges was a freebase cocaine problem.

Neel's marriage fell apart.

"He's a good coach, but that's it," his ex-wife Lauren Sweezy said.

And he drove away family members who had sought to help him.

"He was a terror to be around," said his brother Larry Neel.

Neel got help back to his feet from cycling impresario Tom Ritchey, who's since also sponsored the personal redemption of 1970s champion and convicted child molester Jonathan Boyer.

 Ritchey gave Neel a job developing a dealer network for Ritchey bicycles. His job in a bike business inhabited largely by ex-jocks allowed him to refresh his contacts with bike-racing team managers.

By 1985, Neel coached 7-Eleven team captain Andrew Hampsten to a tactically-artful stage win in the Giro di Italia.

And in 1988, Neel nurtured Hampsten to one of the most storied victories in sport, where Hampsten endured a sleet-smothered ride over the Gavia Pass, taking enough time to eventually put him in the Giro di Italia's pink winner's jersey.

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Prior to Andy Hampsten's legendary 1988 Gavia Pass stage, Neel rubbed his riders legs with heat-sealing Vaseline, "like English Channel swimmers did." And he bought special ski caps and gloves the night before.
By 1989, the year after Hampsten's Giro win, Neel was making $90,000 per year, and was featured on increasingly-frequent television  cycling broadcasts as the soft-spoken, multi-lingual master-schemer behind the 7-Eleven stores-sponsored America's Team.

In the 2004 book "L.A. Confidentiel: Les secrets de Lance Armstrong," anti-doping journalist David Walsh wrote that, despite Neel's own recreational-drug-abusing past, the 7-Eleven coach ran one of the European peleton's rare non-doping teams.

"Neel managed an irreproachable medical program that reflected their conception of the sport," wrote Walsh, a writer famed for publicly indicting riders he believes to have doped.

During a 1989 cross-Europe drive between races, Neel was put into a coma by a car crash. 

The resulting brain damage meant he couldn't handle the demands of team management. He ended up working construction, and by his own admission behaving erratically, before eventually getting his bearings back and signing up to coach a series of second and third tier cycling teams.

Those jobs became successively less viable. 

A strong US based team sponsored by the Spago restaurant chain fell apart during the early 1990s with riders purportedly stiffed of salaries. He later coached a women's team sponsored by Timex, and a regional men's team sponsored by the Sierra Nevada Brewery.
[Adversisement]

Now, according to talented Northern California journalist Gary Boulanger, author of the Nov. 2012 Pro Cycling article, Neel isn't coaching these days. He's getting by on occasional  construction jobs, and any other mountain money-making enterprises he can conjure. Given ample downtime, Neel rides a seven-year-old Belgian-branded bicycle every day, Boulanger writes.

Perhaps it's an apropos life for a man once famed for coaching a successful squad of "knackers." 

After Neel's Spago debacle, he went back to his home in Siskiyou County and spent a good part of the year going on 100 mile bike rides, despite the fact his family was broke.

Zabriskie, in his USADA testimony describes going on bike rides and later achieving success at racing as an exhilarating escape from a troubled home life. Armstrong so resented his no-show father that he instructed relatives on his dad's side to never contact him. It's possible to imagine that Armstrong's life, too, started to seem better once his brain was deprived of oxygen during five-hour rides.

There's something noble, even beautiful, about the fact cycling attracts and uplifts people with such needs. 

It shouldn't be a surprise, though, that some cycling veterans later-life rides are swiped with existential road rash.

[ And please remember -- buy a Gobha hat! ]
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