Take to the Open Road...

Naturally Cycling Manchester was the worthy winner of the Cycling Embassy Summer Poster Competition. Here she talks a little about what inspired her to choose the design she did – and to take to the open road herself in a dress and pretty shoes

[img_assist|nid=2201|title=Dressed for Cycling…|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=180|height=240]If you had asked me three years ago to cycle to work or to the shops I would have probably laughed and replied “Me, on a bike? No thanks!”.

Cycling I was able to do, wanting to cycle or wishing to cycle wasn’t on my list of ‘fun things to do’.
But a train trip to Berlin then Copenhagen became my eye opener. I saw what transport cycling actually meant, I saw what cycling on proper cycling infrastructure was!

Lo and behold… I started cycling back in Manchester, yes even with the rather non-existent infrastructure, while wishing for things to change, to get better… for Manchester to have one day the level of cyclists that I saw in Berlin and Copenhagen. I would have never thought nearly three years down the line I would be loving my bikes and cycling everyday, and on top of that having met some great people also passionate about cycling advocacy, wanting transport cycling to be supported and promoted in the UK!

I have accepted cycling challenges that have also had the affect of making me questions the status quo.

In May this year I took part in the Manchester to Liverpool bike ride, a 40 mile ride through Cheshire and Merseyside. I decided to take to the open road in a pretty dress! Partly for my fundraising but mostly because I wanted to promote ‘everyday’ cycling, yes, even for a 40 miles charity bike ride. Why not?

Writing my blog has brought me to come across and research many a topics. One of them has been the need of re-normalising cycling once more, from a by-gone era where lycra and high-viz didn’t even exist.

[img_assist|nid=2202|title=Cycling Pre-Lycra © Allan Nelson|desc=|link=url|url=http://www.bikeit.eclipse.co.uk/cyclingprelycra/|align=center|width=560|height=371]I came across this blog that described the cycling adventures of the author’s mother and father in the ‘40s and ‘50s. Wonderful images of elegant long distance riding that looked incredibly appealing as an alternative to the current sight of expensive, specialised cycling gear.

[img_assist|nid=2203|title=40 miles later, and ready for anything|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=240|height=180]And so my decision to ride the 40 miles in a pretty dress didn’t seem so crazy or out of the ordinary. I set off with some great fellow riders on my Pashley, wearing a dress, ballet pumps, and my denim jacket. You couldn’t get any more ‘everyday’ than that!

As I proudly crossed the finishing line, I was cheered by other riders, who commented how I looked ready to just head off for coffee with friends!

Cycling isn’t just a sport, it can be a lot more… it’s thinking time, it’s me time, it’s transport, it’s political action, it can be zen and it may just make you question the status quo. Why can’t you ride long distance in your fine clothes? I say, take to the open road, wearing whatever takes your fancy!


I think our hardest task is going to be convincing people that “Cycling isn’t just a sport, it can be a lot more…”, to many cycle campaigns and politicians think of cycling in terms of a leisure activity and not as practical means of transport. This is where riding in ordinary cloths is so important, showing that we are riding just to get somewhere, and not as part of a race. So keep up the good work!