Roadsters need a champion, but who is it going to be? With their origins firmly based in counter-culture, BMX, longboard and even down-hill riders might think they have the upper hand over road-cyclists when it comes to style and cultural heritage. Where kids that take up skating have people like Rodney Mullen to look up to, the biggest name in racing for the past decade has been the sorry story of Lance Armstrong. It’s time we reminded ourselves of the cool of the casual racer.
The aesthetic heritage of the racer blows the BMX rider out of the water. We’re talking crisp, clean woollen jerseys, tasteful racing colours and leather cycling gloves. The origins of the road race lie on the continent, and like anything the French and Italians were heavily involved in, the clothes of early cyclists had some serious style.
The bold, clean lines and trim, tight fit of ‘20s cycling pioneer Giuseppe Pancera’s riding outfit was way ahead of its time. The tight-fit sports jersey is now standard across the majority of sports, but in cycling’s need for aero-dynamism it first began.
Skating and BMX feel they can be called a product of subcultures crying out against the US government in the mid-20th century. In the same manner, road cycling first took off in Europe, in the early 1900s. At the same time as Italy’s earliest road-race, the beautiful Milan-San Remo race, was started, Italy’s revolutionary Futurist movement was in full swing.
The image of a cyclist, strident and sure in his movements, matches so closely to the bold, kinetic art of Umberto Boccioni with its assured curvature and locomotive feel, most expertly captured in his anthropomorphic sculpture, Unique forms of Continuity in Space.
So you see, whenever racers hit the road on suspension free, 10-speed cycles, they’re taking part in a rich cultural ritual, over one hundred years old. How can other forms of cycling compete?
Things do seem to have gone off track a bit since the very-early 20th century. Futurism was, of course, later to affiliate with fascism; more recently, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong was stripped of all awards on anti-doping grounds.
But it seems like the sport could be regaining lost esteem. The Tour is invigorating itself by newer, more exciting sections in places it has never been to before. Racing is getting Sky TV coverage, and people like Chris Froom and Bradley Wiggins have become household names, and heroes to many young cyclists.
With this new wave of optimism, it is a great time to start cycling. You can pick up old road-bikes second hand for under £100 pounds. They might not be fibreglass, but the basic design hasn’t changed that much since 20s day! Channel your inner Pancera with Dare2b heritage bike clothing and when you’re racing you’ll be following in the tyre-tracks of some top cultural icons.