Cycle Chic: Heels and wheels
Saskia Howard is inspiring men and women to get on their bikes, and look good while they do it.
Saskia Howard was inspired to ride after coming across images of women looking stylish while on the bike. She went on to begin her own website encouraging readers to take to the streets on two wheels, which led to organising sedate and stylish rides for like-minded enthusiasts.
Name: Saskia Howard, the lady behind Sydney Cycle Chic
Bike: Velorbis Victoria Classic
What is your background? Have you always ridden or are you a newer bike rider?
Believe it or not, I hadn’t ridden for almost 30 years before I bought my bike last May. I rode as a kid like we all do but stopped in my teens. I remember loving it though, so who knows why it took me so long to get back on the bike. I think it has a lot to do with the image of ‘cycling’: the serious sporty image just doesn’t work for me.
What was the motivation behind beginning Sydney Cycle Chic?
I found the Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog and it just completely opened my eyes to a whole other kind of bike riding. To see those images of women – specifically, women like me, dressed in normal clothes just getting on with life – really inspired me. And then I started looking at other blogs and came across the Cycle Chic Sundays girls in California. Cute girls on cool bikes wearing vintage clothes – BINGO! It was like I had found my calling – they just looked like they were having a hell of a lot of fun. I emailed the founder, Miss Eva, in California to see if we could start a Sydney version, and that was that!
What is your dream city?
A thriving, creative, culturally and environmentally-aware green city that has few cars, good bike and pedestrian infrastructure, wide cycleways and a sensible respect for freedom of choice in regards to mandatory helmet legislation. I’ll tell you when I find it!
What do you think are some barriers to getting more women riding?
Many of the women that I speak to are intimidated by the “sporty male in lycra” image that bike riding has. For a lot of women, the assumption that one has to look and act a certain way in order to be accepted is off-putting.
It’s also a matter of convenience. Women tend to still be the main child carer in a family, so riding and organising school drop-offs and pick-ups just isn’t feasible in a lot of cases.
But that’s where we come in. I see our role at Sydney Cycle Chic as changing and challenging those perceptions, to re-educate and show a different possibility. An easier, fun, uncomplicated option. After all, women have been pioneers throughout bicycle history and continue to be a driving (or should that be riding) force. We’re all in the process of re-marketing the bicycle – and it’s exciting.
Do you have any advice for women who might be nervous about taking up riding?
Do what I did – get online immediately. Seek out positive images of women on bikes, images that work for YOU and not someone else’s vision of what you should be riding or wearing. If the ‘serious’ bicycle groups are not your thing (and they weren’t mine), get a few like-minded girlfriends together and go for a ride. Dress up, have fun, ride where you feel safe and confident – bike paths, harbour foreshores, side roads, footpaths, wherever you can. Find a bike that suits you, whatever your budget or style. There are a lot of choices and it can be overwhelming so do research and ask around. Above all, just get on a bike!