What Vulpine Believes In & How We Can Change Cycling

Posted on Categories News

Cycling is my life. Has been since 1986. Its never been better. But there’s so much more to do. I don’t just want to make things, I want to make cycling better. Therefore, that’s what Vulpine needs to do. Join me (said in a creepy cult leader way).

BEFORE

Back in 1986, bikes were for either paper rounds or racing cycling. It was just for kids and, apparently, Tour de France riders (strangers I met thought I did the Tour, and genuinely wondered why we weren’t all in France in July.) Cycling was a downgrade, the sad option for those that couldn’t drive. It wasn’t cool or beneficial. Health discussion was centered around AIDS and smoking then, not sedentary lifestyle and diet.

Cycling was going nowhere slowly, alone, unloved, except for The Hardcore.

It took me a long time to crack into that clique. Once in, there were no women. None. It was a harsh world of impenetrable unwritten rules, masochistic rites of passage, and a wash of suspicion and snobbery created because we were so alone in our passion. It could have quickly pushed me out and away into something else if I wasn’t head over heels in love.

It was at once wonderful but also bit pants. I expected it always to be like that.

Images13

NOW

Now? It’s, you know, everywhere. It still shocks me. I hardly need to go on. Everyone knows about Team GB, Team Sky, Hoy, Wiggo, Cav & The Trott-Kennys, Boris Bikes and the Ride 100. But also cyclist menace clickbait articles, MAMIL mid-life crisis pisstakes, red light jumping Daily Mail comment rants and GoPro crash footage (from both ‘sides’). It also seems rather agro. All this stuff sells clicks. What a sad world.

Who’s on these ‘Sides’? There are no sides, just occasional dicks who shout loudly for all the attention. Most of us are drivers, cyclists, lefties, righties, rich, poor and everything in-between. And we like each other in real life. Not very clickbait…

Cycling looks unpopular, unsafe and inconvenient. It looks like you have to take a leap into the unknown. That is a tragedy in my eyes. The lost happiness, the worsened health. Yet we know different.

Once you try, you’re hooked. The world needs more addicts.

It becomes an all encompassing passion started by a Ride 100, a LEJOG, finally saying enough is enough to a packed misery Tube, or the gentle persuasion of a bike mad partner to ride along a towpath on a sunny Sunday morning. You and I know cycling is wonderful. It saves lives, changes lives, creates new friends, even creates creative ideas and is THE BEST THING EVER (after love & cake).

Images_Extra9

Cycling has an image problem on The Outside, but its changing. I think we as Vulpine can help a bit, as can we all.

There’s this general idea accepted by the public that it’s healthy and fun, but often too unattractive, inconvenient and intimidating to take up. Everyone loved learning to ride a bike as a kid. Something is going wrong.

Lets change that, positively. Nobody ever changed their mind whilst being shouted at. That’s not how we’ll do it.

I think its my duty, as well as my desire, to help more potential cyclists start riding bikes. Who doesn’t want to share their passion?

Images18

Stuff Vulpine Believes In:

Every new cyclist is a good cyclist.

The snobs and old school moaners “Cycling was better when the 5 of us had it to ourselves” can get stuffed. There’s too much judgementalism in cycling. Too many cliques.

Not interested. Talk to my happily waving hand.

Whatever bike you ride, however fast, whomever you are, as long as you don’t ruin it for the rest of us, you’re welcome.

 

Show The Joy

Joy is literally my favourite word. It’s a hugely powerful, addictive, pure concept. It doesn’t sit on the fence, you can’t ignore it, and you can’t hate it.

So lets share joy. More smiles. More fellow cyclist selfies. More saying hello to passing strangers. More wooping wailing descents and excited blogs. More over-gesticulation evangelization to strangers at parties.

Images_Extra8
More joy. Get the joy out, we’re going joying.

I can give the joy factor a good solid nudge with Vulpine. We can reach thousands of cyclists and non cyclists with joy. I’m trying to do that right now with this blog (hello you!). Vulpine can help through our imagery, messages, the choices we make and the opinions we choose to share, not sit on the fence on. Vulpine should call out the dicks (a bit), and big up the heroes. But mostly, you know…..

Joy.

By not-at-all-coincidence, I gave my staff this last week. I guess you could call it a mission statement (blarg):

“Vulpine must lead A New Cycling. Vibrant, convenient, friendly, welcoming, inclusive & creative. With positivity, we will push beyond old cycling pre-conceptions and cliches to get more people cycling. More cycling = greater health & happiness for us all. We don’t just, and shouldn’t just make stuff.”

 

Inclusivity & Snobbery

Inclusivity in everything, because ALL cycling and ALL cyclists are great and should be supported.

The mountain goat roadie sufferwhippet.
The £5 off Gumtree first few rides wobbler.
The under (un)paid pro cyclist super-blogger woman.
The disabled hand cycling City commuter.
The downhill ripping fist-bumping panda-suit wearing ramp-smashing lunatic.
The newbie.
The old timer.
Everyone.
Me (even me).

We don’t care what clothes you wear, we won’t look down on you. We make cycling apparel that you can choose, or not. I’m not saying you’re a better or worse person for wearing it or not, you’ll just have a better, simpler, more convenient and confident day. Choice.

 

Images_Extra5

Women Are Ace (haven’t you heard?)

I wrote this on our Facebook the other day. I was angry.

“Until random chesty brand ads aren’t printed. 
Until there’s a full women’s TDF. 
Until companies design for women. 
Until female racers get equal distances. 
Until women walking into bike shops aren’t patronised. 
Until podium girls are history.
Until then.”

Vulpine devotes equal time to women and men, because that is the world we live in! Why wouldn’t that be the case? Its so simple and obvious. I employ more women than men, because it ended up that way. I took on the best candidates. It’s hard to employ only men in cycling. How does this happen?

Vulpine gets a fair bit of attention, we can show that the New Cycling includes women in everything we do. The hardest step is getting everyone to understand it’s not just some righteous battle, it’s just screamingly obvious. Not obvious enough….

 

Not Everyone Can Just Hop On A Bike

We don’t hear about about disability and cycling much. Everyone possible should be able to experience the joy of cycling. Freedom, mental and physical health, sociability. That’s why our charity of choice is Wheels For Wellbeing.

 

It’s Easier Than They Say

Cycling can be intimidating. What bike? What clothes? I’m sweating too much. I look like a twonk. How does that work? I have to spend how much?!

Despite running a high-end cycling apparel company, I’m here to say YOU DON’T NEED A SPECIAL BIKE OR SPECIAL CLOTHES TO RIDE. You just need a bike that works and whatever you have on. Vulpine are for the next stage, when comfort, convenience and style become priorities over the initial stage of What The Hell Am I Doing?! And don’t worry, we all did that in the beginning. We can give you advice. We’ve all been there. Just tweet, call or email us. Seriously, why not? We want to help and share our experience, not just sell stuff. More joy in what we do.

Images_Extra3

Attractiveness

Its an anodyne word, but one with deliberately width of meaning. Cycling is at once ultra cool and intensely naff. It needs to be normalised and attractive (I.E. you want, NEED to ride!) to all.

Cycling to me is vibrant, creative, fashionable, sociable, tough, relaxed, multi faceted, pretty much whatever you want it to be, but absolutely always worthwhile.

If I can make cycling more attractive, then more people will feel they can take the leap and begin, or continue cycling.

If events like the Vulpine Cycling Fetes (back soon) get across the vibrant creativity and diversity of cycling, perhaps that will do the same.

Cycling is something that grabs you by the soul and sucks you deeper. We need to get rid of the barriers and the elements that make people hesitate. We can help cyclists fall deeper in love, through creativity and culture. Call it indoctrination. I do.

Images12

Fear, Safety & Helmets

Cycling is safe. Fact. Don’t let Them tell you otherwise. Its simple, and it’ll change your life for the better. They don’t want that. Don’t listen to Them.

A major part of that is I want to remove The Helmet Debate from cycling. Not helmets, I wear one myself, but the distraction of the shouting about them. It’s a red herring and makes the cycling community look divided. I wrote this piece for The Guardian last year. I can summarise it like this:

Cycling saves and improves thousands of lives. Helmets stop people cycling because a lot of people don’t like helmets. Helmets are good, but you don’t have to wear one, because cycling is statistically really safe. Do what you like, its your choice, but its a disservice to cycling to shout at each other about it. Lets be friends, we all love cycling after all.

Images_Extra4

Don’t Ruin It For The Rest Of Us

I believe in collective responsibility (boo, hiss). Each human’s acts create ripples, positive or negative. All our actions matter.

You jump a red light? You’re part of the problem. You are damaging cycling and cyclists. If a driver sees 1 cyclist jump a red light, and 100 that don’t, he’ll remember the 1. Human nature. Don’t be the 1. We don’t like you, the drivers definitely don’t like you. Don’t make life harder for others, for your convenience.

Drop a gel wrapper out in the country lanes? You are the problem. Look after others, who will in turn look after you, and we’ll all benefit. I mean, come on, its not that difficult. Its common f’ing decency.

Oops, contradicted myself on the joy vs shouty thing. I didn’t say it was easy!

Summary:

  • EVERY CYCLIST IS A GOOD CYCLIST
  • SHOW THE JOY
  • INCLUSIVITY NOT SNOBBERY
  • WOMEN ARE ACE (OBVS)
  • CYCLING FOR THE DISABLED ROCKS
  • YOU DON’T NEED SPECIAL EQUIPMENT
  • CYCLING IS SAFE
  • DON’T RUIN IT FOR THE REST OF US

Call me out if we don’t stick to these principles. I’ll always reply on my twitter @aslongasicycle and in my occasional Ask The Founder Anything sessions on our social media @vulpinecc.

We’ve come a long way, as Vulpine in 5 years, and in cycling over the last decade particularly. But neither have gone far enough.

Time to make cycling even better, for everyone. Through doing the right and joyful thing.

Nick.

14 thoughts on “What Vulpine Believes In & How We Can Change Cycling”

  1. Passionate blog straight from the heart with mind boggling simplicity of why we should all cycle and how & what we should do and not do. An addictive piece written with the sole (and soul) purpose of cycling in mind – EnJOYment.
    All the best,
    Mike
    Vulpine wearing Fyde Coast Cyclist.

  2. And breathe! Just read your blog. Good read and all of it is very true. I cringe at the helmet part as I’m a police officer and have attended accidents involving no helmets, but I agree, it’s everyone’s choice. Apart from kids. They should wear them! No argument.

  3. Thoroughly agree with all of the above, before I started cycling I thought it was a very elitist sport with everybody dropping thousands on fancy carbon bikes. After plucking up the courage to join a local ride ony my steelie, I discovered that it was about the joy in the ride, as there were people of all ages (20s to 80s) on all manner of bikes, some older than me! It wasn’t about who had the best bike, it was about who was having the most fun :)

  4. Great, great blog post. Wondering how to spread the word at work without coming across all preachy – some of this will help! As an aside, I fell off my bike at silly low speed just before Christmas and had a trip to A&E for a couple of stitches in my chin. The doctor and the nurse both reprimanded me quite strongly for not wearing a helmet (despite the fact it wouldn’t have saved my chin!) and didn’t say any remotely positive about the fact I cycle to work every single day. This has to change!

  5. Nice one Nick! It’s a great reminder how wonderful cycling can and should be. Away from the daily grind of the commute, I was whizzing down the road yesterday and reflecting on just how nice it was to be able to cycle. Joyous is a good way of describing the feeling.

  6. Brilliant article Nick. One of the reasons we love Vulpine so much (aside from the lovely gear) is the message you guys send out regarding inclusivity and also just trying to get back to why we started cycling in the first place. Hopefully a lot of people will read this and take it to heart. Keep pedalling!

  7. Loved the blog. I’m a lady cyclist that used to ride as a kid, then a bit in my early twenties. Then I just stopped.
    I’m now nearly 50 and after 10 years or more of not really riding I dusted off a bike. Now I’m a volunteer ride leader with British Cycling and part of the Breeze lady cycling revolution. I changed jobs recently and CHOSE ONE that I could commute to rather than any other. In 3 years my bike collection has grown to 7 .. from one. And my husband and I have discovered a shared love of something we can do together.
    I cycle in jeans and normal boots to meet a group of ladies for coffee regularly whom all used to to ‘exercise in the park’ together. I go the to the bank, grocery shopping, and post office on my bike now (only a mile away or so) and just love it. Wouldn’t dream of wasting the petrol for such a short journey (too costly, hurts the environment, and my car!).
    I’ve taught friends to ride.
    And now I’m sharing with anyone that will listen that riding is just sheer damn FUN!
    I’m not a cycling evangalist. Just someone who found it fun and wanted to share the love a bit.
    I work in a normal job. Don’t jump red lights. And the main point of cycling for me used to be to get to a cafe for cake.
    Now I ride for the riding sake, and the cake is a brucey bonus (but always obligatory).
    I’m loving the clothes you sell. Can’t afford them at the moment but they look fantastic.
    Will point everyone I think might be interested to your blog as found it put my feelings into words.
    Keep up the good work.
    I look forward to reading your next blog.
    So great to see some people looking at cycling appropriate clothes that aren’t all based on lycra.

  8. Hi Nick,
    Thank you for an inspiring, logically and ethically sound and fun posting! I have always ridden a bike. My first bike was a three-wheel (red), the second was two wheel (yellow) and the third (and the last bought by my parents) was a Finnish brand Tunturi (silver). Bike has been my means to explore the hills of my native Finnish Lapland, to get to meet friends, to go to school, to work, to bars, to get to know cities abroad and also to stay fit. I bike year around – yes, also in the winter. And here in Oulu winter really is winter! So the long-sleeve merino base layer is very much at home here and works even at temperatures below -25 degrees Celsius :)

    So, I think each cyclist – if we stop pedaling for a while, have a cup of coffee and really think about it – has many cyclists in her/him: we have all started once, fallen over, gotten up again (fallen over gain), discovered biking and rediscovered it, changed gear, bikes, routes, attitudes…

    I like your emphasis on ethical issues, the nature, our shared responsibility for the Earth.

    Cheers!
    Kimmo

  9. Hi Nick – a great blog. I too got hooked on cycling in about 1986 – and since then I’ve cycled for all sorts of reasons – for fun, for sport, for transport – and it’s brought me such joy and happiness. I mainly tuned out of the cycling media – written and then on-line – as it was so male orientated. Just rode my bike instead.
    When I had my kids however, I got really fed up with how so much of the advice around family cycling was very macho and assumed you were part of the “club”. In my spare time I set up the website Cycle Sprog to try and bridge that gap. Same ethos – cycling should be joyful and accessible what ever your age. The more families and kids we can get cycling, then the more passionate cyclists we’ll have in the future. One day my life will calm down, and I can concentrate on looking good on my bike, rather than just frazzled from juggling work, kids, website and life!
    Keep up the great work!
    Karen
    p.s Kids in the Netherlands don’t wear helmets!

  10. Love this. I really appreciate how much clothing can help to make cycling more inclusive, especially to women. I love that vulpine’s womens’ cuts mirror the mens’ in colours AND in sizes. Keep it up! I can’t stand companies that have a token women’s range that caps at a size 14 , but their men’s stuff goes to an XXL – cycling can be exclusive enough as it is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *