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Slow Biking: “if you think you’re going to sweat, slow down”

“First there was Slow Food and then Slow Travel, Slow Companies, Slow Planet, etc. The time is ripe for Slow Bicycle.”

In 2008, a group of relaxed cyclists founded the Slow Bicycle Movement as a way to “take cycling back” from the spandex-wearing, 21-gear-using, speed-loving weekend warriors and return it to the category of “‘normal way to get to work, to the shops, to the cinema’. Indeed, ‘normal things to do'”.

On the Slow Bicycle Facebook page (with over 2,000 members), they argue that this is where it belongs, after all:  “Only decades ago the bicycle was considered a normal way to get around. It still is in Denmark, Holland, Japan and many European cities but returning the bicycle to its rightful place as a feasible transport option in the rest of the world is a noble goal.”

Working toward that goal, there are a growing number of bike shops and bike manufacturers catering to people who want to cycle simply to get around town.

“In America people are daunted by getting into biking because ‘oh, I’m not in shape to ride’, ‘oh, I’ll have to wear spandex'”, explains Stephan Schier from Seattle’s Dutch Bike Company, “our biggest deal with people is that there’s no uniform required in our world.”

Instead rigs with dozens of gears and racing handlebars, Slow Bikers tend to use city bikes (or commute bikes or Dutch bikes) which have no more than 8 speeds and come with all the accessories, like fenders, a chainguard, a skirtguard and mud flaps, to keep your work clothes clean. They also usually have utilitarian accessories for an urban mode of transport, like a bell, lights and a basket and/or rack.

When the movement asked members for suggestions for a manifesto of The Slow Bicycle Movement, the most popular ideas- half in jest- included:

  • Please ride the bike you have, in the clothes you like, at the speed you enjoy.
  • Our bicycles give us the freedom of the city and the keys to the country.
  • Hills and/or gradients may be walked.
  • The recommended posture for slow bicycling is upright, straight-backed. Just like your mother taught you.
  • The average speed of cyclists in Copenhagen is 15 km/h. This is the maximum speed for the Movement. Unless going downhill and shouting Wheeeeeee!
  • Membership is contagious. Spread the slow word in low, sultry tones.

In this video, we talk to David Schmidt and Stephan Schier of the Dutch Bike Company (in Seattle, Chicago and soon New York City) about the movement, the gear and why they tell people “if you think you’re going to sweat slow down”.