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OK Commuter

by Dylan Muhlenberg / 05.07.2012

Between my motorbike’s brakes failing and my car’s alternator going, I found myself weighing up our various public transport options. There was no clear winner though, with bus, train and taxi all being equally unreliable, overcrowded and gross.

Necessity turned me into a cyclist.

And now, even though I’ve got my beloved boney back and my car’s sorted, I’ve continued to grab life by the Shimano grip-shift handlebars.

I live in the ‘burbs, a place associated with decreased physical activity, lawnmowers and sedentary behavior. Add to this the chronic stress of Mandela Boulevard’s gridlock traffic, and the benefits of bicycling to and from work are there for all to see.

Health is the new wealth, but commuting on your own steam has its fair share of uphill: there’s the danger of other road users who don’t “think bike”, the problem of sweat and, probably the biggest detractor, having to dress like a fucking idiot to counter these first two.

Would dressing up as an over-accessorized road-racer in a car-guard’s neon vest get me to work more safely? Some would argue that it would make me more of a target, if you were to believe an Australian study, which I mentioned here.

What about speed, sweat and style? I asked an ex-pro and Bicycling magazine contributor, Neil Gardener, to comment: “The pro racers you see on TV dressed as mobile billboards with alien heads are paid to look daft. You’ll be relieved to know that if you just want to get to work and back with minimum style point deductions, there are options. Well-cut, sweat wicking garments in muted tones are available from Cape Storm, Indola and First Ascent. For the essential helmet go for a Bell Faction for the non-crustacean look.

Half a million New Yorkers ride bicycles several times a month, and commuting by bike has increased 260% in the last decade there. In fact, bicycles make up a third of rush hour traffic along major routes in Brooklyn and Manhattan. So it makes sense then that Levi’s is the latest brand to slipstream the zeitgeist with their Commuter Range.

I was fortunate enough to test their kit out at the last Moonlight Mass, which I wrote about here and have worn it every day since.

The slim-fit khakis borrow the 511’s skinny silhouette and has cycle-centric features such as a waist-band for u-lock storage, higher rise in the seat – so that you needn’t offend anyone with your plumber’s crack – reflective accents inside the cuffs, and are slightly elasticized. Anyone who rides regularly will want them for the reinforced crotch alone.

The jacket is based on a 1967 design that has a longer cut, a slight drop in the tail and enough extra fabric so as not to restrict your movement and so that you can store all the crap that living a modern lifestyle entails. Like the pants, the jacket is resistant to water and dirt and boasts antimicrobial odour-protection.

So far, so much better than spandex, and with the urban-commuter’s style woes sorted, all we need now is a safe, effective bicycle lane that connects us from A to B.

But first more people need to get on their bikes instead of into their cars. And now that we no longer have to dress up like prawns, we’re closer to getting there.

*Dylan Muhlenberg is the Men’s Health Online Editor. Read more of his steez here.

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