Mythbuster: Utility Cycling Requires Special Gear

*MythBusters: Utility Cycling Requires Special Gear*

No special cycling gear is needed for utility cycling

The current emphasis on hi-viz and other special cycling safety gear being promoted as de rigueur for even a trip to the shops may be counterproductive, and off-putting to many potential bike users.

The subconscious message that cycling is a dangerous activity is being unwittingly promoted by the plethora of safety gear now being deemed essential equipment for a bike ride. In fact cycling is statistically a very safe activity and can be done in normal clothing.

Some choose to dress up: is it really necessary?












Some choose to dress up: is it really necessary?

More people cycling (no matter what they choose to wear when riding a bike) means safer cycling for everyone. Getting more people to regard cycling as an easy and sensible option they can choose to get from A to B, is one of the most important things that can be done to improve road safety.

If more people are to start to cycle for short journeys, it must be regarded as a normal everyday activity suitable for undertaking in normal everyday attire. Nearly 25% of car journeys in the UK are for 2 miles or less, yet this is an ideal cycling trip distance for anyone to undertake. However, fear and the erroneous perception that cycling is a dangerous activity are the main reasons for people persisting with those short car journeys. 40% own a cycle and would like use it to replace short car trips, but 47% strongly agreed with the statement that “the idea of cycling on busy roads frightens me” with a further 27% tending to agree.

It is interesting to note that in countries with high utility cycling where no special safety equipment is thought necessary, there is better cycle safety.

Each person should be free to choose the type of attire that they feel comfortable in to cycle. Safety gear should be regarded as a matter of personal choice rather than a necessity for utility cycling.


I live and ride in a rural setting. Folk around here are used to seeing hi-vis shirts or vests or jackets worn by a whole range of people:- agricultural contractors, truck drivers, road workers, hunters, emergency service workers. So, in riding on my local roads, especially the ones where most traffic is at 100 km/h, I still look to wear some high vis gear, and don't think that makes me look quite as abnormal or danger-obsessed as it might in a city setting.

However, I do try to make my cycling clothes look more "everyday". The litmus test is being able to call into a local watering hole on the way home on a Friday night and look more like the local I am than a rail trail tourist. This definitely means no lycra!

Stephen Wood , based in Central Otago

To my mind, high visibility means red, orange, hot pink, silver, yellow or lime green etc. – you can get clothes in these colours from lots of different shops. I recently bought a fabulous silver rain coat that is way more attention grabbing that any piece of cycle gear. Any bright piece of clothing will get you noticed, and if it’s styley, it’s a win win situation - the 'car drivers' and the 'non-car drivers' will notice you!


Auckland Cycle Chic

no quite so easy for mens clothes.

I biked home on Friday night in the lcoal bloke's uniform of moleskin trousers and fisherknit jersey. I can report that It definitely passed the local pub test on the way home, but not many of the patrons I talked to understood the appeal of cycling in the winter here.

Stephen Wood , based in Central Otago

Just get on and ride...

In Japan, where 86 million of that country's 124 million people own ( and frequently use) a bicycle, helmets, hi-visability gear and lycra, backpacks and water-bottles are virtually non-existant and the vast majority of bicyclists there simply get on their bikes wearing whatever they happen to be wearing at the time.

Having bicycles that are fitted with mud-guards, chain-guards, baskets, carriers, spoke-locks and (internal hub-dynamo-powered)lights all contribute to enabling them to ride without the inconvenience and expense of having to make preparation for every trip.

This adds greatly to the appeal and convenience of using a bicycle for just getting around.

Transparent umbrellas (usually hand-held) are often used when riding in the rain. Poncho's (clipped onto the basket) are also popular. 'Mama-chari' ( Mother's chariot) shopping bikes are sometimes fitted with hand-covers for freezing winter weather. It's essential to wear sunglasses when it's snowing.

Alan Preston in Mangawhai, Northland. NZ.
Promoting urban appropriate utility bicycles and utility cycling in New Zealand