California Cycle Chic

Two of my photos made Rate My Velo photo of the day over the weekend.


chic etymology: 1855, from French chic from German Schick (“elegance, tact, style, skill”), from Middle High German schicken (“to outfit oneself, fit in, arrange appropriately”), causative of Middle High German geschehen, geschēn (“to happen, rush”) from Old High German giskehan (“to happen”) from Proto-Germanic *skixanan (“to run, move quickly”) from Proto-Indo-European *skek- (“to run, jump, spring”). Akin to Old English scēon (“to happen”), Dutch schielijk (“hasty”).


We can see that “chic,” in the context of “cycle chic” means to be well dressed while riding a bicycle, and that means “the total value of my clothes always exceeds that of my bicycle” according to the Cycle Chic Manifesto.

There’s a nascent Cycle Chic here in America as well, but in this birthplace of Casual Friday and denim jeans we’re much more likely to see folks cycling in casual clothing than evening attire. When it comes to casual wear and bikes in Silicon Valley and Santa Cruz, there’s an embarrassment of photographic riches.

Take, for example, Saturday’s Rate My Velo Photo of the Day.

Girl in shorts on bicycle

I saw this young woman riding near the big Monopoly Board at Discovery Park in San Jose, California. She’s wearing heather gray bike-style shorts underneath jogging shorts with a racerback tank top. These can be athletic apparel; the only thing that identifies her as a transportational cyclist it the big messenger bag slung across her back, but it’s comfortable attire and gets the job done.


Sunday’s Photo of the Day was shot on a summer day near Santa Clara University in California.


The cyclist playfully stuck her tongue out at me as I shot her. She’s wearing a simple heather gray t-shirt and orange yoga pants for her bike ride. Nothing special, but it fits in our casual California culture.

Today’s Rate My Velo Photo of the Day also comes from California. Christa from Santa Barbara submitted a photo of a young woman in a bright yellow dress riding a cruiser bike at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

USC bicycles

From this collection of Photos of the Day, you might get the impression that Rate My Velo is more about girl watching that transportational cycling, but a number of men have made it to photo of the day, and many of my own photo submissions have been of guys on bikes, including this popular photo with a 71% approval rating.

If you’d like to see less casual and more ‘chic’ go upload some of your own photos and start voting for your idea of the perfect cycle chic. I’d love to see more stylish cycling around North America.


  1. The ratings on Rate My Velo, if not all the photos, definitely seem to be more about the girls than the bikes. Also, the website weirdly crops all the photos such that the bikes are often barely visible. Two thumbs down.

  2. I understand why the cropping is done (to keep a consistent aspect ratio for all photos) but it is a little annoying. The photo submitter has control over the cropping, but it takes a little figuring. I think most of my photos have a vertical profile, which doesn’t fit with James’ horizontal profile and cropping, unfortunately.

    For less girl watching and more “chic,” vote to make things change.

  3. Not only is it mostly about girls on bikes but it’s the whitest site I’ve ever seen. I guess people of color don’t ride bikes….

  4. Richard is correct – I had to force people to create a thumbnail in order to maintain a consistent aspect ratio so that the photos would align correctly in the output (you can see the full sized photos by clicking on them or hovering the mouse on them on certain pages).

    It’s up to the submitter to select the thumbnail, but I concede that it isn’t as intuitive as it could be, so I will definitely be enhancing it soon.

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