Monday, December 6, 2010

Bicycles and the Human Figure: Do We Look Better on a Bike?

I have never drawn or painted bicycles before, but am now starting a commissioned painting that will include two female cyclists - so I've been making figure drawings and sketches of people on bikes. It has been interesting to study the postures our bodies adapt while cycling - and especially interesting to note the inherent attractiveness of those postures. 

When it comes to the female figure, our positioning on a bicycle tends to really accentuate the waist-to-hip ratio - which, according to evolutionary psychology, is the greatest implicit indicator of "femaleness" to the male.

Cycling also tends to make the legs look longer and leaner - another evolutionary measure of attractiveness, for both genders (researchers believe that long legs may have been indicators of hereditary longevity).

When we cycle, the muscle tone in our arms and legs is accentuated - a general sign of health. In males, this can also serve to suggest strength - which, according to evolutionary psychology once again, females are pre-disposed to respond to.

Finally, being on a bicycle raises the figure higher off the ground, literally making the cyclist seem taller - another advantage for males. The added height also makes the cyclist more noticeable, regardless of gender - placing their body on a moving pedestal of sorts.

Of course, these things aren't simple formulas and there are many factors to consider in addition to the evolutionarily built-in heterosexual responses to each other's bodies. But generally speaking, there is a great deal of evidence that our postures and body language implicitly communicate sexual appeal and social roles to others. Maybe "you look better on a bike" is not just a catch phrase!

One thing my cycling sketches have taught me, is that drawing the human figure on a bicycle is not easy -  which makes it especially admirable that Mr. Rick Smith is able to do it nearly every single day with his comic Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery!

As you may have heard, the folks at the Kickstand are having a Virtual Alleycat Race, powered by cycllelicious. If you are taking part, then you have arrived at the Lovely Bicycle checkpoint. You are probably looking for the link to the next checkpoint, but hang on - you're not getting it yet!

Here is what to do:

1. To qualify for the Best Checkpoint Comment Prize, please leave a comment on this post with your name and registration number. The comment must be left between 10am Eastern Standard Time on December 6, 2010 and the same time on December 13, 2010.

2. Lovely Bicycle is having its own mini-contest as part of the Alleycat, and the winner will receive a Mystery Prize. What the mystery prize is I cannot tell you, but if you like bicycles and art you might enjoy it. To take part, tell me what you like best about the way you - or others - look on a bicycle (this does not have to be physical - be as creative or abstract as you like). Please include your name and race number, so that I can identify you! The most compelling comment will receive the Lovely Bicycle Mystery Prize. Only Alleycat racers are eligible for this contest.

3. You would like the link to the next checkpoint now, yes? You shall have it just as soon as you answer a few questions [link disabled - the Alleycat is over, thank you for taking part!].

If you haven't registered for the 2010 Kickstand Cyclery Virtual Alleycat Race yet, register here now!

170 comments:

  1. When my neighbor and I were watching the Tour de France last summer, she made the observation that male cyclists develop their quads in such a way that the shape of leg becomes more female than usual. I'm not sure she's right, but I thought it was an interesting point of view.

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  2. been wanting to do a cycling related painting/drawing for a few years now... can't seem to come up with a good composition; love the paint sketches!

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  3. ummm... though I read Yahuda and your blogs... I have no number :(

    just a lowly cyclist in the world ;)

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  4. Love the prelim sketches - I would hang them as is, in a 2x2 arrangement

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  5. Thanks for hosting the AlleyCat
    Ben Martin
    #9356

    By the way I love your last post on handmade things.

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  6. Pauline was here! Here's my number: #2794.

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  7. Thanks for the checkpoint!

    To clarify -- it's not actually necessary to leave a comment w/ registration number. We're giving a prize for best checkpoint comment, however, and the registration number allows us to identify and contact the winner.

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  8. Thanks Yokota, wording changed!

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  9. The world looks better from the seat of a bicycle. It's a fact and a way of life.

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  10. Really like the artwork -JM #4889

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  11. FatguyOrangebike #1065 for the win

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  12. #1186
    What do I like best about myself on a bike? That even though after a long ride my face is red, my butt hurts, my hands are covered with black vinyl stuff from the handlebars, my forehead itches from my obnoxious plastic helmet, and I feel like doing nothing more than crashing on the couch, I still crave the feeling of speeding down the street feeling the wind against my face, the strain in my muscles, and the fresh air in my lungs. This is what we were designed for.

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  13. Of course we all ladies look great on a bike! Besides it gives us nice shapes ;)

    Iwakura
    #772

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  14. I think a lot of road frames make people's torso's look longer. #5827

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  15. Bike Haiku

    Plows rumble down streets
    Yet shovels absent from walks
    Yes, I'll bike to work

    #5635

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  16. The best thing about how we look on bicycles, at least to me, is that we look involved. We are active, part of the environment, and doing; not passive, shielded, and being done to. I enjoyed your pictures...Slowvehicle 2730

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  17. Brent Strange #2277. For the mini-prize I like the shadow my Big Dummy and I cast with either my wife or little girl riding on the Magic Carpet as we explore our neighborhood.

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  18. Another consideration is that different types of bikes require different position/posture adding to, and/or detracting from physical qualities. A short person (on a shorter bike) in the drops will look very different from a taller person on an upright in-town English Cruiser (dutch bike).

    Locus
    Alleycat # 2537.

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  19. #3367 learn it, know it, live it

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  20. #5526 fascinating read.

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  21. Xtrajack has arrived, thanks for playing along.
    Be safe out there.
    My number is 1455

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  22. #1330 likes the way cyclists appear to flow through the landscape rather than just traveling across it.

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  23. 4505 Cycler
    I think the thing I like most about how I look on a bike is that I'm in motion- legs moving, arms swaying, head swiveling

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  24. Ryan #3313
    The bicycle and it's rider offer an ideal opportunity to experiment in finding the balance between form and function. This can be looked at from how the rider has both built their bike, and prepared for their ride. Their personality visible through both sides.

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  25. Riding through the snow,
    to race the Alley Cat I go!
    I ride to stay alive,
    Racer number - seven six eight five! (7685)

    Den

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  26. Good thoughts. I'm glad I got to read it. A friend of mine, Caroline Smith, was having pictures taken yesterday for a calendar with women in their black dresses and bicycles.

    Jeff #9825

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  27. Hunter #9782, I just like the look of people on bikes out of their cars, out of their homes, just out and about, going hither and yonder with purpose or not.

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  28. I wish I was an Artist AND a Cyclist!
    #3854
    -Jim

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  29. #5168

    I have to say, the added height cycling gives me is one of my more favorite aspects.

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  30. Wow. I am somewhat behind. mrben #3089

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  31. I love the way I can sit with my back straight and my legs pumping on my beach cruiser. The bicycle almost encourages a regal wave!

    #8706

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  32. Debbie #4848

    Love your blog! For your contest, when I see people on bicycles, what impresses me is not the physical, but mental way they look. They convey a sense of independence and free spirit.

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  33. Though your paintings are beautiful I noticed that you only use a single style or cyclist in them. There are multitudes of cyclists out there, all of which have a diverse nature. I support cycling of all kinds, but I do find it somewhat sad that every time that I read about cycling or see a coming about it, the entire thing focuses on either road or urban/commuter cycling.

    I think that every part of cycling is important in promoting a cleaner and safer world, and your work is LOVELY, and true to the name of your blog, I just wish it were more inclusive.

    #7804

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  34. Billy B - #2323 The morning light on my commute in makes for memorable images

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  35. I don't know about looking better on the bike, but riding a bicycle makes you look better in the long run. Except for road rash scars. Rumors about chicks and scars notwithstanding, nobody likes road rash scars. Alleycat #899

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  36. Great post. I love the sketches!

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  37. If you have to go anywhere go on your own feet. It may be trying, but not so much so as the bother of horses and carriages. Every one with a body has two servants, his hands and feet, and they will serve his will exactly. And since the mind knows the fatigues of the body it works it when it is vigorous and allows it to rest when it is tired. The mind uses the body, but not to excess, and when the body is tired it is not vexed. And to go on foot and do one’s own work is the best road to strength and health.

    I commit my life to fate without special wish to live or desire to die.

    -Kamo no Chomei


    I do not ride to stay alive. I ride because I live.

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  38. #9729 Love the watercolors. very cool.

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  39. Jusr passin thru, #1288

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  40. opusthepoet #899 - Rumors about chicks with scars?... Man, I am really behind the times; no idea what those rumors are!

    Thomas #7804 - the sketches are a handful of many studies for a painting I am working on; they are not meant as a representative illustration of all the cyclist styles that exist : )

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  41. Riding makes the world slow down (vs driving a car), riding my bike lets me stop to watch a hawk - in the middle of a city! - perched on telephone wires, with some sort of prey in its talons. That would not happen while driving, too much going on with traffic. Just one small example from a trip to the grocery store on my bike.
    Joan Alleycat #4811

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  42. My favorite "look" on a bicycle is full facemask, goggles, helmet, jacket, gloves, pants, and boots - ready for any conditions winter can throw at me.

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  43. Trevelyan Bloomfield, #1806
    I love looking fleet on my bicycle. too early for me to be more lucid yet.

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  44. I love that I look strong and elegant and happy when riding my Linus.
    #3638-Catherine

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  45. Love this blog #8429

    Tim

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  46. Bo #8671 woke up late.

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  47. Excellent post, and a beautiful blog.

    G. Kline #6

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  48. When line are drawn so are races.

    #8310

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  49. I view myself on my bicycle as being the blur that car commuters see riding past them on a backed-up roadway in a thunderstorm, gliding in it to my workplace with a giant smile on my face, rainwater running into my eyes as my co-workers as me "Did you bicycle in this weather?" And I proudly say, "Yes."

    Melanie, #8021

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  50. Mark Balawender 2530December 6, 2010 at 11:34 AM

    This alley cat is a great idea.

    Mark Balawender 2530

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  51. Snow Day! Kids at home = late start for me!

    Allium 8247

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  52. I often get comments about my ass from drunk middle aged women as I pull them on my pedicab. Best part of the job, when they take me up on the "You can spank me, but it will cost you $1 each time you do it". I once got $52 from four women after a college football game.

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  53. thanks for helping host the alleycat! Andy, #6749

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  54. Tom 11:46 - A story like that and no alleycat #? : ))

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  55. Love the brush work. #3773

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  56. Kylie Minogue on a bike, what a fantastic sight, that would be from #6164

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  57. #6647
    On a bike, I feel free as a biker.

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  58. Beautiful art work. You have an amazing talent.

    I think what I like best about the way I, and others, look on a bicycle the complete sense of freedom and bliss.

    Richard Wezensky #4540

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  59. Jack Bulkley #6933

    I ride with fenders even on my road bike for centuries and longer, so I like the way the line of the fenders match or complement the tire and frame lines.

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  60. Yay! I'm on my way...

    All Ice #9806

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  61. Beautiful paintings - I can't wait to see more and spend more time on your blog!- My slogan is "I am Strong, Light and Beautiful while riding my bike" - so we think alike. Of course we are more beautiful on the bike!--

    Beverly Garrity aka Bevco #7012

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  62. #892

    I think people look better on bikes because you can actually see the other people on bikes. If i am riding and look over at another cyclist I see more than just their face and their extended middle finger, I see the whole person, and they can hear me and respond if I say "Hi" or "Good Morning". It's just a different world when you are out their on a bike. A more pleasant world.

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  63. I ride a Nihola - a danish cargo trike. It is a stately ride, not built for speed, but when my husband or I ride it down the street we look, I think, almost regal as we cruise the streets with our upright posture.

    Though apparently, in the summer, people say I look like I might be selling ice-cream out of my cargo area. So I get lots of smiles, which continue even after people realize I am not a frozen treat distributor.

    I look approachable, and on every ride at least one person stops to ask me questions about my ride. I've lived in this town for ten years, and haven't talked to as many strangers on the street as I have in the last four months.

    I love how I look on my Nihola, and more than that, I love how the world looks to me while riding it.

    Bluefish #5080

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  64. #4996

    very nice drawings, as an sculpture student I look at drawing as the blueprint of what I'm trying to create but these drawings have changed some of my attitude

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  65. Archergal #1498

    What I like best about me on a bike is stubbornness. I'm old and I'm slow, but dammit, I don't give up. I may have to go into my lowest granny gear, but I ride up (most) hills, even when I could walk up them faster.

    And I don't look as old on a bike, either. :)

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  66. erikJ #2787

    There's really nothing better than the big grin you catch on someone's face on a bicycle!

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  67. CB, #2082

    Loving everybody's comments!

    The thing I like best about way I look on a bicycle is that I'm usually carrying something (or a bunch of things) on my racks, in my panniers, or on my person. I like that being on a bicycle doesn't mean I can't get stuff done, run errands, and transport things.

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  68. Finally. Vindication for me. Other people appreciate the aethethetic of the human form with bicycle.
    Blaine G, #9688

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  69. When I walk inside after biking there in the winter, my friend commented that I look like an alien. I wear ski goggles, a helmet, a balaclava, flashing lights, cycling shoes, and socks pulled over my pants.
    I think I look like a happy guy on a bike.

    #4358

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  70. Great entry bookmarking blog and checking in #2389

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  71. I like the way I look at the world when I'm on a bicycle - at eye level, fast enough to take in a fair chunk but slow enough to see some details as I pedal along.
    Jay in Tel Aviv #4776

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  72. The beauty of the cyclist lies in the grace of motion. Bicycles are inherently fluid, and the motion of body controlling them can adapt a number of personalities, but almost all embody agility and many elegance.

    -Patrick Kitto
    Allycat# 6968

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  73. Blaine G #9688 - I don't think you are alone. There are several flickr groups now dedicated solely to pictures of women and men on bikes, with many of the photos taken in a way that highlights the physical features I mentioned. And of course there's the original "girls on bikes" - now called Copenhagen Cycle Chic.

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  74. I like the way people look when they're having fun on their bicycle...which is most everyone. From five year olds to eighty-five year olds (and beyond) and from a ride to the market to a grueling ride with sleep depravation, cyclist can usually find something to smile about.

    Cool artwork by the way.


    Sean
    #4911

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  75. When I see people on a bike, they have the look of freedom about them. Whether they're on their way to work, a ride to the grocery store, or a leisurely stroll around town, bikes bring a sense of freedom to the occasion.

    Jason
    #3175

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  76. I love your blog! Thanks for posting!
    Erika #9654

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  77. ScottPost #9928
    I like how I look oil-free on my bike.
    Thanks for being a checkpoint on the Yehuda Alleycat. I'm glad to learn of your site!

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  78. #9650 Paul Metz

    I like to put myself on a pedestal!

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  79. My grandsons know that I ride in some charity events. One day while we were watching the Tour de France they asked me, "Is that your race grandma?!"
    mary9761 #7292

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  80. Derrick S. #226

    Bicycles make me really appreciate calf muscles haha I have a bad habit of checking out everyone else's. Also the general, slight hunch of most rider's positions, especially as seen from behind when riding with friends, is very distinctive and memorable for me.

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  81. Hello Everyone!
    I hope I look better on my bike, too, than without it :)

    Borcsa
    Alleycat #2957

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  82. I probably look better than all the above which are speeding ...
    bipbip38 [#5993]

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  83. I use to do sketches of rowing and rowers .one has a lot to play with.in the boat ,out of the boat.speed boats following ,water,communing on the shoreline.
    nice studies on cyclists-movement -human form on the bike
    alleycat number #3686

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  84. EPIC! Stratton #1904

    A big part of what I love about cycling is seeing people move under their own power. Having worked with, ridden with, and watched so many people riding, I think my favorite aspect is torn.

    1st, I love to see people smiling when they ride. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is better than being on a bike. People just light up when they get on a bike, and I think this is my favorite aspect for myself and others when riding. I'm sure when I'm on my bike, I'm grinning ear to ear.

    2nd, If I had to opt for something else, I'd say seeing peoples legs, esp the calves, is amazing. Some commuters have AMAZING muscle definition despite not racing a day in their lives. It's really beautiful to see.

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  85. bipbip38 #5993 - The girl in the white blouse, riding the green 3-speed with a chaincase wants you to know that she was going 10mph and smelling the flowers, stopping here and there to feed the bunnies and squirrels. Frankly, she is hurt by your "speeding" accusation!

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  86. Microzen #8315 - I like how I think I look on a bike, but when I pass a mirror or reflective window, I'm brought back to reality.

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  87. I love to watch cyclists carving the corners on fast descents - the combination of speed, concentration, and balance creates a sense of wonder and drama for me :)

    HoppyOkapi #3431

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  88. #8352

    Great sketches, love how there is a subtle implied movement to them.

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  89. thanks for the checkpoint


    #5272

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  90. Sepia-toned watercolor evokes the simple beauty of cycling and cyclists - very moving, lovely stuff.

    Have you ever tried making paints out of things like hub grease, chain lube and the like? Could make for interesting outcomes.

    Rudi Riet, #2975

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  91. Just passing through. I love your blog.

    Christopher Hill #548

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  92. avery #8880 Great way to start a cat, this will definately be the easiest and safest alley cat ive done. no cars and no cops to watch out for.

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  93. #1979 Thanks for participating.

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  94. Just finished the alleycat and your blog was the best thing there. Love your work.

    Jay in Tel Aviv
    epstein@netvision.net.il

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  95. loved the quiz and really the art
    irishpunk59 #3714

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  96. Definitely like the height cycling gives me. I love the shadow from our tandem cruiser bike - it makes me look especially long and lean.

    Chanti - #9132

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  97. Got here late, two flats along the way... #502, Adam

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  98. Love the sketches... they are fluid and believable. I do love the last one... the back view in watercolour. Somewhere in front of that cyclist there's a road or path he's contemplating. Maybe a big hill. Maybe a stream or creek. Maybe traffic. But there's a real sense of movement about to happen. I'd hang that on my wall as is.

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  99. I will leave a remark. One of the best thing about cycling -- a sport that is about traveling --- is going to a bike shop and hanging out with the mechanics.

    And, I love da women who have that wonderful muscular thighs and smiles

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  100. When I am on a bike,I am almost always looking ahead. Occasionally I'll glance behind me to see if anything is sneaking up from the past, but a clear and focused look at what is coming next is my favorite look from a bicycle. Everyone seems to look this way when they are riding a bike, and it is an excellent and unique perspective.

    Thanks for hosting -- I'll be sure to poke around your site some more! -Al #8502

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  101. Lovely artwork...and thanks for helping out with the virtual Alleycat!

    #8401

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  102. Look better on a bike...yea..yea...yea!

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  103. Revolutionary Mama is racer #1873

    I greatly enjoyed this article. I like bikes and I like art, so I think I should be a regular reader here. *bookmarks*

    Thanks!

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  104. People look better on a bicycle simply because people are happier on a bicycle!

    Simply Commuting, #7742

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  105. Joao Lacerda #1995

    That´s what I call making cycling sexy! :)

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  106. Would love to see a recumbent integrated into this sketch/analysis...!

    Des | 4970

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  107. I love the partial aspect of only showing parts of the body at work on the bike, but not seeing the complete full body drawing. I still get a sense of what the full motion (or picture) would look like if the drawings were completely sketched out. Lovely artwork.

    SM

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  108. I like your art, need to bookmark this site. Thanks for hosting. What looks good on a bike? Trim ladies! GT 6917

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  109. These are indeed sensual drawings. Thanks for your work.

    Earl #5628

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  110. baudman, #1131

    You have a really good eye.

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  111. These are really fun compositions, Velouria. I love the last three. The partial figures do capture motion, and there are just enough elements to suggest "bicycle".

    Are they done in ink with watercolor wash?

    I know for a fact I look a foot taller, 75% more physically attractive, and three income-tax-brackets higher, when I'm on my DL-1 roadster.
    I also look much much happier.

    Corey K

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  112. Blaze #8992 cycled through this page...

    Thanks :)

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  113. I like the way I FEEL on my bike-- no idea nor do I care so much how I look. I want to be visible and respected in traffic, that is all. The rest of it is the sensation of motion, self propelled and passing through places at a speed I can appreciate them. Eventually arriving, but the journey is its own reward.

    Dave #511

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  114. I may not look better on a bike, but at least they are looking at my pretty bike instead of my ugly own ugly frame.

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  115. Sorry, I'm running a bit late for the start of the Alleycat because I started in New Zealand. #6386

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  116. Alley cat 4947 Skip Owens.
    I like the way I "look" on a bike because if people didn't "see" me on the road I might end up looking rather damaged on the side of the road. Visibility is EVERYTHING! Stay safe out there everyone!

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  117. I shave my legs. Does that help? Am and always will be a roadie.

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  118. Raleigh Pursuit, 8089, checking in. I visit here every day so not exactly leaving the beaten path on my virtual ride.

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  119. I like how anyone on a bike looks like their striving for something; speed, utility, ecology, or something.

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  120. Dear Lovely,
    Your sketches are wonderful paintings.

    Ones body looks so good on a bike because they are happier, feel healthier, breath deeper. And when all that happens, they just feel more attractive. And once they feel it, it is so.

    Viva Endorphins!

    Add a little flush in the cheek and thousands of miles on the bike... damn straight they look good.

    Laurentia #7084

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  121. #7607
    I think everyone looks good on a bike, and if he/she rides it every day, will look even better :-)

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  122. palmiak is here #939

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  123. Very nice blog, i'll come back..
    Ludgero #7678

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  124. Thanks! Mathieu #5121

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  125. But consider:
    “..the machine is intrinsically an ugly one. No person with any pretension to a sense of artistic proportion will gainsay this. The dull uniformity in size of the two wheels, the position of the saddle, the gearing chain and pedals, – the whole fabric of the thing, in short, is a mean commonplace-looking piece of mechanism, distinctly inferior in appearance to the old-fashioned high bicycle. And when bestraddled by a human figure, there is a sense of disproportion added…”

    “The Cycling Epidemic”,
    Scottish Review, January 1897

    Flaneur Brian #2966

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  126. #2401 John M. was here and browsed around some even.

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  127. #3731 I love your blog, the photos are great. I even referred your blog to my sister who's recently taken up cycling, and she loves it. Thanks!

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  128. #8926
    Cool sketches. Got me thinking about a woman I met once on a bike. She was faster than me and drafting her was a pleasant experience.

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  129. # 4999
    Am I the first to get here?

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  130. 6917

    Thanks for hosting the Alley Cat.
    I've bookmarked your blog. Nice.

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  131. Love the post.

    #9921
    jwm

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  132. On my bicycle, I like the way I look at the world around me... at people on the sidewalks, at schmucks in their cars, at wild animals and at alley cats, at the beautiful Wasatch mountains to my east and the Great Salt Lake to my west, at my beautiful wife who is usually riding right in front of me. I like the way I look, at life on my bicycle.

    Cheers,
    BykMor, #5113

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  133. i see enlightenment.
    Andrew #3481
    great site.

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  134. One word: cleavage.

    I'm talking about others here, not me. Glimpsing a mound of graying chest hair doesn't really do much for my cycling pleasure.

    Daniel M, #592

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  135. "glimpsing a mound of graying chest hair..."

    ah, poetry : )

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  136. 3434 Melissa Fabulous post!

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  137. Best part about riding a bike: freedom to go anywhere with your own power.

    #8774

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  138. kowenn #3784
    isn't this fun?

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  139. Hello my No is #9918.

    I have also never known such a paints. Thank you for showing me the good works.

    shuichi - mama bicycle -

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  140. Brian, #4283

    Omg those paintings are epic!

    Aloha From Hawaii

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  141. Thanks everybody for stopping by and good luck with the race - you've still got time!

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  142. shogun 9771 bringing up the rear...

    when i'm on a bike, i love the way my whole body moves going up a steep hill on a fixie and watching every body walk past me :)

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  143. conjob, #5853

    What I like best about the way I look on a bike is the way that others look at me. Whether it is disgust (because I am in some SUV's way), confusion (because it's pouring rain), envy (because I am outside and having fun), or shock (because I'm hauling a week's worth of groceries), I love the reactions that I get from people whenever I ride.

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  144. Ruth Turner #6691

    The thing I like best about the way people look on a bike, is the way they glide, as though free of all fetters of earthbound living ...

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  145. College finals killed the internet star. I wish I had been online when this melee started.
    John #7947

    www.hackin5hit.com

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  146. Love freedom sensation on bike!! 8554

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  147. Greg
    2755

    Customization & accessorization.
    Utilitarian fashionistas. Wind in zer hair.
    Warm clothes with well thought out layers.
    Cold steel, sleek lines & freedom. Dare I say lugs.
    The Confidence of owning the road, and giving them hill.

    Not to mention riding a bike makes many a cute butt.

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  148. Riding a bike is the art of racing the rotation of the Earth. Thomas B #9385

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