Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cycling's Made a Man of Me; Riding a Bike Is a Great Way to Get about the City " but Forget about Looking Feminine

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cycling's Made a Man of Me; Riding a Bike Is a Great Way to Get about the City " but Forget about Looking Feminine

Article excerpt

Byline: CATHERINE SHOARD

LOTS of cyclists in London are female. One in three, even. You'd never know to look at them. Biking through Hyde Park yesterday, I tried to spot some.

That figure with the bulging calves?

Surely not. The one in neon, swearing at the tourists? Got to be a bloke.

But no. They were both women, women with beefy arms and enormous voices. I suddenly realised, with a wobble, that I must look like that too. Because cycling in London makes a man of you, whatever your original gender.

The lady cyclist's transformation starts with the clobber. First, you discard your heels - a relief, really.

Then it's on with the industrial keychain and village constable cycle clips, before you velcro yourself into a reflective vest.

Strap on the thermal mitts and you're ready for your crowning glory, the helmet - an accessory which, though handy if you haven't had time to straighten your hair, will never be big on the catwalk.

At best, you feel like a builder. At worst, the warden from Bad Girls, on account of the jangling.

Handbags are out, too. I remember the first time I made the mistake of sticking mine in a front basket. As I rattled down the Edgware Road, my belongings one by one leapt merrily into the incoming traffic. I'd just waved goodbye to my hairbrush when a pothole gobbled up the bag as well.

This means panniers, and you'd think there might be some nice ones, what with women being widely understood to be keen on bags. In fact, they've all been designed for mountaineers.

The chief problem, though, is the attitude that's required to cycle effectively in London. That sure ain't ladylike. Cycling puts you on the front line of commuting. It's every man for himself: ferocious, competitive, dog eat dog.

The laws are tough, the unwritten ones tougher. Apologising to car drivers is wimpy. …

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