The Brompton is in the bike shop just now, having its gears looked at. Hopefully I’ll get the bottom gear back which will make coming home from the pub a bit easier… Anyway, because I have a rack on my road bike (and a rather nice pannier to use on it) I can use the road bike as a backup utility bike without too much hassle.
This gives me the opportunity to contemplate the question, does the same person, wearing (roughly) the same clothes, get treated differently depending on what bike they are riding? I have to admit at the start that I don’t have any firm conclusions, just some thoughts.
Firstly, I’m actually wearing a different coat. My warmest winter coat is a big long thing that flaps out behind me and makes me look “like the wicked witch of the west” (I quote). And my usual spring/autumn coat is a leather one that is also quite flappy. I don’t fancy riding the road bike in that coat, though, so I am wearing an anorak which does not flap. So I wonder if I look smaller and possibly more competent to a driver approaching from behind.
Today I did up the flappyness levels a bit by wearing a skirt! I’ve never tried wearing a skirt on the road bike before, but after seeing David Brennan wearing a kilt for PoP I thought I should give it a go. I suspect my skirt was more flappy than a kilt, but it was ok and the crossbar didn’t get in the way – in fact the point where I felt most inelegant was swinging my leg high to get on in the first place!
The theory behind this discussion is that if you look more competent then drivers will give you less space. There’s also the study that showed that a man wearing a long blonde wig got more space than the same man not wearing a wig (I assume he looked reasonably feminine at a glance – if I spotted a man cycling around in a long blonde wig I’d probably react differently to the way I’d react to a woman! ). Anyway I have short hair and have been taken to be male when wrapped up in winter clothes, so that effect is not always useful to me.
One thing I do find is that I feel it is harder to look behind me on the road bike because I am not in such an upright position compared to the Brompton. This means that keeping a good eye on traffic while negotiating the pinch points is a little bit trickier. However I have not had a bad incident this week. Yet. Going towards the station the road bike tends to pick up more speed and oddly I sometimes feel less safe, I wonder if this has something to do with the fact that it takes cars marginally longer to overtake. Or something.
Anyway it is about a week since I started this post and so far I don’t think I have noticed a difference…. so there goes that theory, at least as far as my anecdata is concerned. I’m quite enjoying the fact that the road bike gets me places faster; but the saddle is a lot less comfortable (I usually ride in it in padded shorts) and it is a lot more difficult to carry up and down steps, so I will be glad to get the Brompton back (the hub gear is going to be replaced, which at £70 plus labour is 2 or 3 tanks of petrol. But I digress.)