Product Review: My Beloved Cleverhood

Let me first state that I really can’t say enough good things about my Cleverhood. I really, really love it. It makes me ride in the rain, which, until I had one, was something I was NOT keen on. But now it keeps me so dry that I don’t mind.

(Now that I’ve said that, I have to also say that I wore it today on my bike and on foot, and it works better on a bike! It has poured rain all day, with some strong winds, which meant lots of diagonal gusts. I was pretty dry when I got to work this morning, but doing to a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon had me out in the aforementioned diagonal gusts, so everything the Cleverhood didn’t cover was soaked. And I mean inches of water inside my boots. Bleh.  But when I biked home again, still in the rain, I felt much  more comfortable. Moral of the story? Wearing a Cleverhood whilst biking in the rain is the better option.)

I got my Cleverhood last fall, as an engagement gift*, and it was pretty much love at first sight. I mean, it’s reflective! “Electric Houndstooth,” to be exact. And you know how I feel about that.

I love all the well-thought-out details, too. The elastic thumb loops to keep it on my handle bars, the magnetic closure on the arm slits, Velcro tabs at the sides to cinch it in a bit if desired, a chest pocket, and best of all, the hood is cut away so that when it’s under your helmet, you can still see out the sides! That’s always been my biggest objection to hoods, not being able to see around them. Susan, the founder and leader of Team Cleverhood, thought of all kinds of practical things! (Having met her, I have to say I think she’s pretty awesome, too!) The only thing I dislike about the ‘hood is that the hem has a tendency to curl up, and I’m not sure why. It’s not a huge deal, just mildly annoying to the sartorial neat-freak in me.

I’ve worn it on my bike, instead of carrying an umbrella on days I didn’t bike, and even in the snow, over my heaviest “blizzard” coat. The bonus to the Cleverhood is that it’s not hot and heavy, and I can throw it on over a coat, and not overheat, so it works great as the very top layer. And all the bags I carry under it are miraculously dry! Just like the rest of me.

Lovely packaging, with a reflective bow!

Lovely packaging, with a reflective bow!

Prepared for another massive snowstorm, complete in biking goggles ($4 safety goggles from Home Depot!) and my Cleverhood to top it all off.

Prepared for another massive snowstorm, complete in biking goggles ($4 safety goggles from Home Depot!) and my Cleverhood to top it all off.

Here I am on a Capital Bikeshare bike in my Cleverhood. (Not the best photo since we were hurrying in the rain...)

Here I am on a Capital Bikeshare bike in my Cleverhood. (Not the best photo since we were hurrying in the rain…)

The Mechanic even got in on the game when he was also gifted one, but he wanted a more subdued olive green color. His is not fully reflective like mine is, but it has reflective detail on the shoulders. I’d show you but I’ve somehow managed to lose the photos! I’ll add it once I find it again…

To sum up, I really just love this product. It keeps me so dry in all kinds of conditions, and since it’s lightweight, I know I can wear it throughout all the upcoming warm weather spring showers. I also plan on taking it to Europe with me when we go on our honeymoon. I’m sure that not only will it be handy if it rains during our bike tour, but any other time, and we can easily throw them over our backpacks. Although we both plan to do bike accessories shopping while overseas, it will be nice to show off a great American-made product as well!

So get yourself a Cleverhood and bike dry, bike happy!


 *Full disclosure – Susan gave it to me as an engagement present last fall, an extremely generous and well-loved, well-used gift! Probably better than the wine decanter we registered for. She did not ask me to write a review of any kind, or promote it in any way, but because I love it so much, I really wanted to. It’s taken me half a year to really test it out, and I am still impressed with it every time I wear it.

Yep, Out of Shape

I decided that since it was so lovely out today, and since I haven’t been getting enough exercise, to bike the long way home. Twelve miles instead of three. Bit of a difference! And although I felt a bit out of shape, I was also pleasantly surprised at how strong I felt.

I left Rosslyn by way of the new bike counter – at last I was counted! I don’t normally go that way, so it was worth the detour. I think it said I was number 1202 for the day, but I was too busy avoiding the clueless roadies that I didn’t pay too much attention. The Mount Vernon Trail reminded me of why I like my streets-and-bike-lanes commute – much less crowded than the trails! Everyone was out! It was a sea of Ortlieb, spandex and hi viz. I was happy to turn onto the Four Mile Run trail, but that’s when it got worse. Headwind, setting sun, uphill, and what’s up with the crazy narrow switchback going up into Potomac Yards?! The turns were too tight for my bike skills. I did notice a couple of roadies carrying their bikes up and down the stairs, which is probably the best option, but still not ideal. Who came up with this plan?!?!

Switchback detour route over a bridge that can normally be passed under.

Switchback detour route over a bridge that can normally be passed under. Not fun.

At least the Four Mile Run, Shirlington Connector, and W&OD Trail were not as crowded as Mount Vernon, even if they were all uphill and into the wind. My legs had felt pretty strong initially, and I was pleased to see I was cruising along in the 14 and 15 mph range (I usually average about 12mph, so I’m pretty slow. I can’t even blame it on the heavier commuter bike,  since that’s about my road bike average as well.).

Almost the entire Arlington Loop!

Almost the entire Arlington Loop!

But I was very pleased with the ride, because it felt good and wasn’t as painful as I expected. I think I’ll try to do that more often, maybe once a week. I need to get back into shape before our honeymoon bike trip. Although we’ll only do about 20-25 miles a day, it’s still way more than my daily 6 miles roundtrip to work! Plus I have a wedding dress to fit into….

And yes, I did the entire 12 miles while wearing vintage rhinestones.

And yes, I did the entire 12 miles while wearing vintage rhinestones.


New York Moments

My quick trip to New York last weekend was full of the kind of New York moments I haven’t really had in the other times I’ve been back since I moved to the DC region, and they made me miss the city for the first time.

The first moment was when my friend Kim and I found ourselves madly clothes shopping for an event that night. We had known we were going to the Ukrainian fashion event at the National Arts Club that night, but hadn’t realized there would be a dress code! After looking it up to make sure, we ran through several stores, including two different H&Ms, then changed in a Starbucks bathroom. A total New York moment – it’s not the first time I’ve done that!

Watching the fashion shows from the front was a treat for both of us, having dressed models during countless Fashion Weeks. Admiring the designs as they came down the runway was just as much fun as observing the audience. The first collection was by Ukrainian Oksana Karavanska, considered the “go to designer,” according to the program. Every look had a nod or two of native Ukrainian design, but all in quite modern ways. I was too enchanted to take better photos.

Another New York moment was the kind you see on TV shows – I had lunch with some friends, one of whom brought her baby. So there we were, martini glasses in front of us, when the baby woke up and needed to be played with. I promise, we did not let the baby get near our martinis!

In my Cleverhood at a New Jersey Transit light rail station

In my Cleverhood at a New Jersey Transit light rail station

Naturally I ran to B&J Fabrics, where I buy the reflective fabric. They didn’t have much left, just a Peep-yellow and an orange that is somewhat of a Creamsicle orange. I bought a yard of that, although I have no idea what I’ll do with it. Probably bias tape, to put in some future project, since I can’t see me wearing something made out of orange. I did find out that a lovely blue reflective material exists but is not in the shop, so I need to find out if they would be willing and able to order a bolt. Since I can only afford to buy two yards max, I’m not sure it would be worth it to B&J to do so. But I’ll find out! I also bought some trim from a few trim shops, for the wedding. That’s such a New York thing, digging through fabric stores. IMG_8781

I ran up one side of Fifth Avenue and then down the other, stopping in Joe Fresh, shopping in Uniqlo, treating Kim and The Mechanic and I to Teuscher Chocolates champagne truffles, and buying custom print American Girl Doll t-shirts for my niece-to-be. Even though I suppose I am now a tourist, I felt like a native, scorning the tourists who patiently waited for the crosswalk signs to change. New York moment – crossing on a red light in front of a cab. “I’m walkin’ here!”

I was surprised to notice that although Citibike is a new thing for NYC, it felt so much like a part of the landscape that I hardly blinked whenever I ran across a station. Maybe because I’m so used to seeing the red bikes everywhere around here? Their stations are much larger than ours, and of course the blue bikes blend into the scenery a bit more, but they didn’t seem odd or unusual. Although I didn’t get to ride one, many people were, and I hope that they soon become New York moments for everyone else.

When I lived in New  York, the New York moments were too many, too close together, and I couldn’t wait to get away and find some peace and quiet. I love my tree-lined street and my two-story garden style apartment, and being able to bike through Arlington with relatively few obstacles. So now that I’m settled, I’m ready to return for more New York moments – I think I need more of that grittiness than I realized.

Blogging Blahs

I haven’t much felt like blogging lately. I haven’t felt much like biking lately, either. I think the winter blahs are turning into blogging blahs. I was really hoping that my trip to NYC this weekend would incorporate some warmer weather, but the forecast says rain and winter-ish temps. So much for trying to look cute/stylish/cool. At least my Cleverhood will be cool. Of course I’m taking that instead of an umbrella.

I took a ballet class again last night, which I very much enjoyed. I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy it more when I can bike there. I did see some signs of spring, even if they were surrounded by fresh snow! Enough already, Winter!

Despite unideal weather, I am looking forward to going to New York this weekend. I haven’t been since Citibike got started, so I’ll have to check that out. And I have a sewing project in mind, so I’m headed straight to the fabric stores once I arrive. I have another idea that I may or may not try to do, so if I find appropriate fabric, I will. But I’m not going to hunt around town to find it. I really hope B&J Fabrics has more of that reflective fabric I love. It’s been a year since I was last there, so who knows. I really want to make more bias with it.

Last year's options. I am hoping for a blue this year, but I'll settle for anything.

Last year’s options. I am hoping for a blue this year, but I’ll settle for anything.

I really hope that seeing friends snaps me out of the blahs, although I’m not sure how it couldn’t. I’m sure I’ll be inspired when I get back. As weird as it is to say this, it will be my last trip up there as a single woman! Eek! I’ve already promised to take The Mechanic with me on the next trip. Our second Mr. & Mrs. trip?!

So here’s to travel and friends and creating! Beat the blahs! Come on Spring! IMG_8727

Product Review: NatrilGear Purse

I am supposed to be on a shopping freeze until I get to Europe, unless the purchase is somehow directly related to the wedding. So the reason why I bought a new bag at the Women’s Bicycling Forum is because I will need it on the honeymoon, of course!


Natril Gear had a stand set up showcasing their brightly colored and fun print panniers, purses and wallets. The panniers come in a range of colors, from “Pink Lemonade” to “Hero” to “Summit Sky“, while the purses come in matching fabrics, as well as the prints such as “Spring Rain” and “Sunny Bamboo.” Honestly, I didn’t look at the panniers as closely because I love mine and wanted something small enough for my wallet and lip balm, that I could just throw over my shoulder after we check into our hotels during the bike tour part of our trip. I picked the “Aquarius” purse.

This small handlebar bag has sturdy Velcro straps on the back that attach to the handlebars, plus a detachable shoulder strap. I naturally love the reflective strip on both the outside flat and inside pocket, which means that no matter what, there is a reflective strip on the front of your bike! The inside has a zip pocket as well as mesh sides so nothing falls out if it’s opened all the way. The double zipper pulls are brilliant to let you zip around any item that might stick out awkwardly out the top, or you want to grab something (treats!) from time to time.

What really sold me on the bag is the way the top flap opens up and can fold over the handlebars towards you, with a clear pocket for maps, a phone, notes, or whatever. I’m not sure what sort of cue sheets or maps we’ll get from the bike company, but hopefully they can go in this pocket.

This clear pocket has two Velcro closures as well, to keep things from falling out

This clear pocket has two Velcro closures as well, to keep things from falling out

Natril Gear founders Nathan and April were inspired by their own long trip (4146 miles!) to create durable yet fun colored bags, so when I mentioned that I was thinking about taking the bag on my honeymoon bike trip, April was very enthusiastic. That helped win me over – after thinking about it, I decided that I should get the bag, and help out the small company. If all I shove in that clear pocket are Swiss chocolate wrappers, it’s worth it!

Their panniers seem well thought out, with bright color linings, key chain clips, inside zip pocket, and a plastic backing. I have no doubt that they worked out all these details on their long journey, so they know from true experience what works best. I wish them all the luck with their company! I think they are already succeeding in the “improve and enliven the world” part of their mission!


Product Review: Hi Viz Scarf

I’m not a bit fan of hi viz yellow biking gear. It’s an awful color, for starters, unflattering to all, and it pretty much screams at everyone around them, a bit like emailing IN ALL CAPS.

But then I won this scarf in a raffle at a WABA Women & Bicycles event last weekend – the Bird Industries Hi Viz Infinity Scarf.

Winner! The Hi Viz Scarf

Winner! The Hi Viz Scarf

Although I went to the bike washing for women event to wash my bike (apartment renting and washing bikes are a difficult combination), I had seen this raffle prize on the event page, and really rather wanted it. Imagine my surprise when they actually called my raffle ticket number! I never win anything.

Yay, clean bike! You can't really tell, but I swear, he's clean!

Yay, clean bike! You can’t really tell, but I swear, he’s clean!

The scarf quickly won me over. Lightweight and made of strips of hi viz cotton jersey fabric, I think it will be a great spring/summer accessory. Under a coat collar it’s a bit hard to find, despite the glow. Although it has left fluorescent fuzz on my clothes, I can see me wearing this often. It’s so lightweight and airy that it hardly seems like wearing a scarf, and it’s uniqueness overcame my aversion to hi viz.

Made of of several strands of fabric, it's nice and light, not heavy and bulky

Made of of several strands of fabric, it’s nice and light, not heavy and bulky

I swear it glows! But looks good even with Missoni for Target stripes!

I swear it glows! But looks good even with Missoni for Target stripes!

I also love Bird Industries’ skirt garter. I can totally see this made with reflective detail, maybe a nice flapper tassel? I mean, if you are going to wear something like this, might as well make it hard to miss! I hope she makes one; I don’t want to copy her idea.

If you too are reluctant to wear hi viz (I know, it’s not terribly cycle chic), I suggest this great little scarf. It’s exactly what I love – fashion mixed with extra safety features! Check out owner/creator Amanda Stolle’s website (, her Facebook page (, and follow her on Twitter (@chkybird) to keep up with her other creations!

Don't worry, I won't let you wear spandex - unless you really, really want to...

Don’t worry, I won’t let you wear spandex – unless you really, really want to… if you are training for a century, perhaps….


2014 National Bike Summit Women’s Forum

On March 3, I attended the National Bike Summit’s Women’s Forum. Most of the area, including my office, was shut down because of the snow storm, but I threw my reflective Cleverhood over my purple blizzard coat, and braved the oddly empty streets – DC at 7:30am during a snow storm is quite otherworldly.

I need to blog about my love for my Cleverhood - great in the snow, too! (as are my $4 safety glasses I mean bike glasses)

I need to blog about my love for my Cleverhood – great in the snow, too! (as are my $4 safety glasses bike glasses)

Of course the streets were empty - everything was shut down for the storm.

Of course the streets were empty – everything was shut down for the storm.

I’ve been struggling all week with my thoughts about the forum. Like last year, I experienced a mix of excitement and disappointment, then disappointment that I wasn’t more excited. I feel as if I should have been inspired, fired up, ready to change the world, and yet… I wasn’t. I feel guilty about that, because I’m sure (I hope) that for many attendees, it inspired and motivated them. I hope that most of the attendees were able to attend the following days’ summit and lobbying days, to truly get the best experience, but I was only able to attend the first day. It’s possible that my feelings would be different if I could have attended the entire 2014 National Bike Summit.

I opted to take Metro to the forum, rather than bike, but the snow made me feel less lame...

I opted to take Metro to the forum, rather than bike, but the snow made me feel less lame…

The things I enjoyed about it:

  1. I loved seeing all the vendors, all the women-specific products. It was fun to play with the new bikeshare Po Campo bag, see the new tan GiveLoveCycle bags in person (love the matching hardware!), discover (and purchase) NatrilGear, see Susan of Cleverhood again and admire her new reflective fabric (I will review mine soon, I promise!), envy the pretty blue bike jersey by Velocio Cycling Gear, and so on.
  2. I was so impressed to hear the speakers. All were amazing women, but some stood out to me in particular – Shannon Galpin of Mountain2Mountain spoke about her experiences bicycling in Afghanistan, where it is illegal for women to ride bikes. Kristin Gavin moved me as she spoke about starting Gearing Up, a program in Philadelphia that helps “women in transition” gain confidence through biking.
  3. My favorite of all the speakers was Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization of Women. She talked about women and biking from a slightly different angle – she said, rather than think about how to get women into biking, think about what women need, and how bikes fit those needs. I thought that was powerful because it came from a very normalizing point of view. And I’m mostly interested in making biking normal. I don’t know how much impact bicycling can have on the larger population of women, but we did hear stories that proves biking does make a positive difference is many women’s lives. Hopefully, all the attendees were inspired by her.

    Suzi Wunsch, of VeloJoy; Tanya Quick of CycloFemme; Susan Mocarski of Cleverhood; and Kristy Scrymgeour of Velocio (not the best picture, I realize...)

    Suzi Wunsch, of VeloJoy; Tanya Quick of CycloFemme; Susan Mocarski of Cleverhood; and Kristy Scrymgeour of Velocio discussing lifestyle branding, bikes, and women. (not the best picture, I realize…)

The things I didn’t enjoy:

  1. I suppose I shouldn’t complain. I should be grateful that there even is a women’s forum. But I was disappointed again at how segregated I felt this event was from the Bike Summit. No breakfast (not even coffee) on Monday, but apparently on Tuesday. The only vendors were the women’s products. I didn’t see any New Belgium beer at the women’s day, but they were proudly announced as a sponsor at the Monday night dinner and evening plenary! It was almost as if the women’s day was an afterthought, with no budget. I know, those are very small issues, and yet, they stand out to me. I also read on Twitter many comments about the lack of diversity on Tuesday, once the women’s forum was over – I guess that’s why I continually want to say “the women’s day” and “the men’s day.” Oops.
  2. With only one day, there were few breakout session options. Between the opening plenary and the lunch plenary, there was only time for one set of sessions (three topics), then an afternoon session, then the closing keynote. True, I couldn’t have been in more than one place at a time, but just as I felt things were getting rolling, the event was over, and they were setting up for the dinner event. I think we need more days!
  3. According to my program, most of the sessions at the Bike Summit focused on advocacy, policy, and lobbying. I would have liked to have heard about “Next Level Lobbying and Election Strategies” or “The Role of Enforcement in a Vision Zero Strategy.” Instead, I attended “Power of Storytelling to Engage Women in Bicycling” and “Gearing Up, Climbing to the Top.” I always enjoy storytelling, and eagerly listen to anyone talking about leadership, but somehow these topics seemed a bit “soft” compared to what followed the next day.
    Conference + snowstorm = overwhelmed coat rack!

    Conference + snowstorm = overwhelmed coat rack!

    So what would inspire me instead? Let me attend one Bike Summit, not two, and hear some of those women speak to everyone, alongside Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Pittsburg mayor Bill Peduto, and Phillip Darnton, Executive Director of the Bicycle Association of Great Britain. Let me pick out a new bike-friendly purse, and then examine some new, high tech bike counters. Let me hear about how to better involve my community, then learn about how to impact regional laws and influence politicians. Yes, I love biking in fashionable, bike-friendly clothing, but I also want to know more about laws that impact my route to work. I want hard facts AND touchy-feely stories. Yes, I want it all!  (oh, and by the way – boss, can I go to both days next year?!)

Pledging to find a way to work with Girl Scouts and biking, after my wedding

Pledging to find a way to work with Girl Scouts and biking, after my wedding



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