Transportation in London: Is the Bike Lane Greener?

Despite the short amount of time we were in London (3.5 days), we still managed to get a ton of photos of the transportation scene – of course. As with any new city, there were some notable differences, not the least of which was the fact that traffic seemed *crazy* to us. But also – it was really, really quiet! No honking, no loud motors, extremely few obnoxiously loud motorcycles… even the tourist hop-on/hop-off buses were quiet! We know because we took one. The most notable things were: quiet streets; hi viz everywhere; indecipherable street markings; bikeshare stations *everywhere*; and the ease with which we were able to find and get on every train and bus we took.

Quiet Streets

We were there for Friday morning and evening rush hour and Monday morning rush hour, plus the weekend in between, and were astounded at how quiet it was. Honking was the exception, not the norm. Buses were quiet. Motorcycles were quiet. Nothing at all like New York City! It was so nice, ahh….

Lots of hybrid double decker buses (also, so fun to ride!)

Hi Viz Everywhere!

Everyone wore hi viz, even the cars. Cops, maintenance workers, cyclists, little school kids in museums, people on the sidewalk. Police cars, maintenance trucks, emergency vehicles, and similar – they were also decked out in hi viz. Either the hi viz companies are doing a bang up job at marketing, or the streets really are that crazy. Maybe it’s that hard to see in the London fog?Indecipherable Street Markings

Thank goodness there were instructions at the crosswalks about which direction to look! That opposite direction traffic had us totally turned around, and not in the right way. If the intersections weren’t marked, we had no idea what was going on, and weren’t there long enough to figure it out. Seriously, what do the zigzag white lines mean in the streets?!?

Also really loved that the crosswalks were divided not only by the medians, but were not directly across from each other. Having to turn left or right to walk to the continuation seems like really smart street design to me.Bikeshare Stations Everywhere

We were amazed not only by the sheer number of Santander Cycles (aka “Boris bikes”) bikeshare stations on every corner, but also by the fact that they were all twice the size of the Capital Bikeshare stations here in the DC Metro area. We never tried them, because we were a bit afraid of the traffic and because we didn’t know where we were going. Although, from what we observed, people just biked out in traffic and didn’t seem to be phased by the vehicles around them. And honestly, I know it exists, but we never saw any driver acting aggressively towards or honking at cyclists. Thank you, London drivers, for the positive impression!

Seriously, look at all those stations!

Other notable bike-y things: the bike lanes were really narrow; there were tons of bike boxes; we saw the most bike lanes and cycle super highways in the central City of London part; Bromptons were everywhere; Transport for London had tons of information about how to travel with your folding and non-folding bike on buses and trains; buses and many trucks had stickers on the back corners cautioning cyclists about turns… It seemed like it was just part of everyday life there, not some totally outlandish idea that a crazy minority indulges in. (Ed. note: yes, that’s sarcasm.)

So Easy to Get Around

A system this big must be hard to manage, but The Mechanic and I never waited more than 5 minutes for an Underground train (Or “tube”), even after seeing a show on Saturday night, and only waited about 10 minutes for one of our buses. It was so easy to get around! The bus map I picked up in the airport was super easy to read, finding bus stops was really easy, and with our pre-ordered Visitors Oyster cards, using the Tube and the buses was as easy as using our SmarTrip cards here at home. That was definitely a dream.

I also love that so many Tube stations have shops and kiosks around them.

Is the Transportation Grass Greener?

I have to say, that if I lived in London, the Tube is so easy that I might not be a cyclist. What?!?! Okay, I probably would but I’d definitely need to figure out the streets. But given how easy it was to figure out the Tube and the buses, I might be more than happy to let someone else do the driving for me, rather than fight it out on my own on the streets. But I’m going to have to conclude that I need several more chances to explore all the options in London before I can decide. So, next flight to London?

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Maybe I’ll Give Up Biking

Yes, Dear Readers, I had this thought – maybe I should give up biking.

I am normally a pretty patient person but I was really OVER the whole bike commuting thing last week. One (or three) too many drivers cutting in front of me to get to the parallel parking on the right side of the bike lane; one (or two) too many buses speeding past me to zoom into bus stops at the right of the bike lane; and one too many pedestrians running across the road *not* in the crosswalks, then saying “watch for crazy cyclists!” Seriously?!? The selfish, unthinking, clueless, uncaring attitude is what is driving me nuts – is it really THAT HARD to look out for others?!?!?!

The next day, I saw a Tweet from Nelle Pierson, deputy director for WABA (Washington Area Bicyclists Association), saying that she knows 60 people who have been hit by drivers in cars. Sixty! I’m trying to imagine ALL of my friends having been hit by drivers, not just the few who actually have been, including The Mechanic. That same day, Rootchopper blogged and tweeted about the fact that he’s actually Number 66, since he had just been hit by a driver not paying attention. And here is my colleague’s experience after she was half-doored by a driver: Why You Should Care About Other Modes Now.

All of this was clearly the straw that broke my back – I’m so sick of having to prove to the world that biking is a perfectly reasonable, healthy, safe, green transportation option, not crazy, stupid, dangerous, or MAMIL-dominated. They do it in other countries, in quite high numbers, and without helmets! Why is it so impossible to do it here?!*

It would be just as easy to not bike, and probably easier. My alternative commute is a super easy bus route. In the morning, my bus stop is a block from our apartment, and the bus drops me a few blocks from my office. In the evening, the bus stop is in front of my office, and drops me in front of my apartment building. The bus ride takes about the same amount of time as it takes me to bike, with the added bonus of the super nice bus driver who calls me “Supermodel.” It’s nice to start the day with his friendly face and cheerful words.

Not only does the bus offer a super easy route, riding the bus means I don’t have to deal with a helmet, lock, lights, panniers, gloves, pants strap and whatever else I might need. It means that on rainy days, I get to the office comfortable, instead of mostly dry. It means I can read the news or Twitter or catch up on Instagram friends’ sewing projects. It also means I walk right past three different breakfast place options, rather than detour as I normally do, if I want to buy breakfast that day. It means not having to jockey for a spot on the bike rack, either. So there are many reasons why riding the bus to work would be SO MUCH EASIER than biking to work.

Rainy day bus stop selfie

But would I really give up biking?

I don’t know.

At least it did me some good to do some bike errands this weekend – The Mechanic and I biked to Westover where we purchased art from local artists at the Handmade Arlington craft show, then purchased potting soil and some planter boxes, so we can grow lettuce for Gaston. It was a leisurely day with minimal traffic interaction, and made me feel a bit better.

Easily transportation bags of potting soil on a Workcycles bike

Maybe I just need a break from it.

 

*I know all the reasons, but I’m tired of the excuses. Please don’t try to excuse away the behaviors, put the blame elsewhere, or whatever. I’m perfectly entitled to feel how I do.

 

 

All Biking, No Sewing

Yes, it’s true – this past weekend I did all biking and no sewing! Well, almost all biking – I walked on Sunday. But I biked errands on Friday and The Mechanic and I had a bike date on Saturday, which is more biking that my usual bike to work routine, so yay! And I really didn’t do any sewing, although I did cut out a pattern. And ordered two new patterns. And keep staring at the fabric swatches I got in the mail last week. And helped explain some pattern directions to a friend. But technically, no sewing.

My daily bike commute leaves me somewhat complacent (and with minimal exercise), so it was good for me to shake off some cobwebs and bike around Arlington. And as always, I experienced and observed some things than I feel could easily improve the experiences of others who wish to bike but are concerned, that 60% “interested but concerned” cyclists that the cycling advocates always focus on.  So here are my takeaways from this weekend:

Signage

Imagine my shock when, cruising in a bike lane up to an intersection, I spot a sign way across six lanes of traffic that read “bike lane closed.” Considering the sidewalk was also closed, because the whole block is currently a construction site, there was nowhere to go but the traffic lane. Luckily the driver in the car next to me was considerate and let me in front so I could get across the intersection and back onto the trail safely. Also, there was a jogger taking the lane because again, so sidewalk and no accommodations. For an inexperienced cyclist, this could have been a really stressful situation. My suggestion? Add a “bike lane closed” sign in *advance* of the intersection. I could have made route adjustments and gone down a different street. Seeing the sign at the stop sign was a bit too late. Covered Bike Racks

During Friday’s errands, it unexpectedly started raining. I had my Cleverlite Cleverhood in the bottom of my pannier, so I stayed dry (ish), but my bike did not, even when at a bike rack. As I struggled with pannier, bags, gloves, ‘hood, seat cover, lock, keys and lights, I thought about how this situation prevents those 60%-ers from biking more often. It’s a bit of a hassle, running in and out of shops with wet gear, fumbling for the lock while trying to keep everything as dry as possible. Think then, how nice it would be if more outdoor bike racks were covered! There are a few places in Arlington where the racks are covered, such as by the Clarendon Metro station, but overwhelmingly, most places are lucky to even have a few thought-out staples near popular destinations. Even places like schools would encourage more biking more often if the racks were covered.

Lucky bike commuters get nice large bike rack covers near the Clarendon Metro Station in Arlington, VA

What do we need to do to encourage this trend?

Useful Access Points

This is somewhat a pedestrian issue rather than a bicycle issue, but really, I get so annoyed when sidewalk curb cuts are blocked, be it by snow, cars, or construction bollards. Clearly it’s too hard for people to consider that someone *might* actually need to roll something down off the sidewalk – wheelchair or baby stroller or maybe even bicycle.

I hate this spot in particular, because I think it is too narrow and too angled to be useful to someone in a wheelchair.

If I, as an experienced cyclist, find these things frustrating, imagine what someone who isn’t as experienced or dedicated might react to these. A sudden vanishing bike lane could scare someone off riding a bike again, while rainy weather and no comfortable place to leave a bike could make someone revert back to their car. Blocked curb cuts are enough to make anyone realize that their local government and community doesn’t really care about how they get around by foot or bike, or how they might struggle with a walker, and cause them to relocate elsewhere. It might seem like a small thing, but really, it’s not.

Is it any wonder that I prefer to stay home and sew?! It offers a good refuge from a city that seems to have it out for me, the cyclist. Currently I can’t wait to order some of this Thread International canvas and jersey, made with recycled plastic bottles collected in Haiti. I want to make 1930s-style wide legged trousers and a simple tee shirt and lounge around in them all summer. Guess I’ll need longer pant straps to keep those pants from getting caught in the gears. That’s at least one frustrating thing I can control!

Not bike friendly but awfully cute!

Tulips and Bicycles in Philly

A friend and I spent a freezing cold Saturday in Philadelphia, PA, admiring all types of plants in wild, brilliant blooms, at the Philadelphia Flower Show. The theme was “Holland: Flowering the World,” and my hopes for tulips and bicycles were happily achieved – so many of the display gardens featured bicycles in some way or another. Tulips, my favorite flowers, were present everywhere. I have never been to the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society’s 188-year-old flower show, but my gardening friend and I were eager to go, and let Reston Limo to do the driving. Taking a day trip in a motorcoach from the Vienna Metro Station to the Convention Center in Philly was the perfect way to spend time with flowers, and each other (see, who needs a car?). I was expecting an exhibit hall of floral landscapes and scenes, but in fact, the show is divided up into several sections. We started with the landscapes, worked our way through the educational displays (where sustainability was on gorgeous display), then studied some of the art displays before walking through the plant competition on our way to the market place, then checked out the complimentary wine and spirits tasting. There was so much to see that we didn’t get to see it all! We also ran through the Reading Terminal Market, which was across the street, and a quick peek into The Fabric Workshop and Museum. Whew! So much to do in a day!

I loved the creative landscapes:

And I loved that so many of the landscapes included bicycles and bike parts: There was definite emphasis on how bicycles are embraced by the Dutch, as well as a sustainable form of transportation. Something I wasn’t expecting was all the cool artistic flower displays, which were really amazing:

I was inspired by all the displays about sustainability and green space, and its importance in cities, and hope that visitors had a chance to really read some of the signs and information.

It was a shame that the weather was so cold, because I had made a long-promised dress for my friend, and it was too cold for her to wear it. I guess she’ll will have to wait until the weather really is spring-like to wear her floral print spring dress! But isn’t it cute?

McCalls 6520 with modified sleeve – the perfect flower show dress, if it had been warmer!

It was so much fun getting to indulge in flowers, friendship and, as always, bicycles, for a day. I think we will add this to our annual “things to do” list! To see more and better photos of the flowers, and shots without the crowds, check out the article in the Washington Post.

Current State of Affairs

After last month’s series of five year anniversary re-introductions, I thought I’d catch everyone up on the current state of my affairs. As always, there is a lot going on, so much so that I missed my last planned anniversary re-introduction! That one was supposed to be about travel and how The Mechanic and I love to travel. Recent examples include a spontaneous rental car trip, where we attempted to go by VeloOrange in Annapolis (not open on the weekends), then drove through a powerful storm to Baltimore, arriving just as the storm ended and discovering their new ebike bikeshare system and bike lane wayfinding signs.

I’ve been sewing of course – finished the Simplicity 8166 blouse I’ve been dying to make forever, at last! It was sort of a bear. I love the tencel twill, the weight and drape of it, but maybe it was too heavy for all the rows of gathered elastic. Trying to feed it at the same time was challenging, but looks amazing in the end. I haven’t worn it yet because I had to wash it – get the chalk marks out as well as the blood – I managed to stab myself every time I sat down to sew, and didn’t realize until after I’d gotten blood on the garment. Sigh. But isn’t it gorgeous?!?

Gorgeous, but not a single bit of reflective on it!

Gorgeous, but not a single bit of reflective on it!

I *bought* a sweater and then realized I had a spring sewing theme going – a nautical theme! I was lusting after this J. Crew sweater with an Art Nouveau type floral design as well as mermaids! I love mermaids, so much so that even though this sweater is merino, and I find it terribly itchy, I had to have it. I’ve already suffered through an itchy day worn it and think it’s just the loveliest thing (well, I think the ruffled collar is a bit not my style/odd).

(sorry, I couldn't manage a better photo than this...)

(sorry, I couldn’t manage a better photo than this…)

Then I realized that my current sewing plans include some Breton striped garments – a top using some cool ammonite fabric from Spoonflower, and the cute Christine Haynes Marianne dress. nautical-sewing-plansAdding these two patterns plus my mermaid sweater to existing nautical things in my wardrobe, well, I should be headed to the seaside somewhere!

A friend and I are heading to the Philadelphia Flower Show, and I am finally making her a long-promised dress –  she had picked a lovely floral print, so of course she needs to wear it when we go. I love the fabric, although its slippery polyester and has required a lot of hand basting, which I don’t normally do. Am I the only one who tries harder on clothing not intended for me? flower-show-dress

A super cool non-sewing dress came my way last week, the Betabrand 3M reflective dress that I’d supported way last fall – it finally arrived and is really cool! It’s that stretchy nylon fabric that will be perfect for travel, with pockets, pulls on over the head, and omg reflective!!!! Seriously, it’s pretty cool. I can’t wait to wear this somewhere. Clearly not designed with 360* reflectivity, the reflective fabric is only in the front. I’m a bit disappointed by that, to be honest; it seems like a lost opportunity. I’m sorry it’s sold out on Betabrand but keep Tweeting to 3M and maybe they’ll eventually figure out there is a retail demand for reflective fabric and help out us home sewers who are desperate for it.

A-maz-ing!!!

A-maz-ing!!!

Speaking of reflective, have you seen Vespertine NYC’s reflective collaboration with Brompton? It’s really lovely and I wish I could get all of it, but there’s that wool thing again. I mean, I guess I could do the shoelaces, but those seem so less interested compared to the cool designs of the hat and scarf. Check them out if you haven’t yet! brompton-x-vespertine-refective-collection

I don’t know if Vespertine will be at the National Bike Summit this week, but she’s been there before, so if you are in the area, check it out!

I’m not attending the National Bike Summit this year, as I have in the past, but I’ve been watching attendees roll in (literally) on Instagram and Twitter. Bikie Girl Bloomers, Pedal Love, Bikey Face, and many other bikey ladies I know from NBS and social media are there. But speaking of bikes, Bletchley, my new vintage Raleigh, is in the process of being taken apart to be upgraded. I’ve been riding The Mechanic’s Workcycles bike to test out the hub, and we found brake levers that I really like. Slowly but surely this bike will come together. bletchley-brake-leversLastly, Gaston is a delight, and seems to be getting fluffier by the day. He’s gotten a bit snugglier and while I don’t foresee him sitting in our laps any time soon, demands and gets as much attention as we can give him. It’s a shame I can’t pet him and sew at the same time! gastonSo what else did I miss while I was reviewing the last five years of my blog life?

Re-Introducing All (Four!) of My Bikes

As part of my five year anniversary month, I am going to re-introduce you to the key parts of my life – bicycles, sewing and travel. Today’s blog post will focus on the bicycles, since that’s really what got this all started.

Six years ago, I moved into my first Arlington, VA, apartment, and finally had space to keep a bicycle (in my living room), and found myself a block away from the Custis Trail, a multi-use trail that connects the eastern and western ends of Arlington. With a low budget bike, a birthday gift from my parents, I gradually explored my new neighborhood, and was amazed to discover how much easier it was to go further, faster. For years I’d been walking to a subway station or Metro station – gosh, a bike cut that walking time in half! I biked to the closest Metro station to catch my bus to Tyson’s Corner, where I was working at the time, but soon, that mile wasn’t far enough, so I biked to the next station after that, which meant not only did I get more miles in, I didn’t have to switch buses. Freedom! Adventure! Discovery! Happiness!

April 2011 - my first new bicycle!

April 2011 – Lacey, my first new bicycle!

Later that year, I met The Mechanic. We bonded over bicycles; his first (bike) love is mountain biking. Our second date was a bike maintenance date – he brought tools and showed me how to change tires and adjust brakes and so on. Long story short, we are now married with eight bicycles between us!

Over the years, I’ve experienced all kinds of biking – I did the Seagull Century on my road bike; we went bike camping along the C&O Canal; The Mechanic introduced me to mountain biking; we got folding bikes; we have done a few half centuries and other biking events; and we did a bike tour through Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

I have biked in snow, rain and sweltering heat, for my bike commute to work and on vacations and out of necessity. I don’t like to bike when it’s icy and when it’s snowed (mostly because the bike lanes are never cleared and I don’t trust drivers), when the temperatures are below 20*F, and although I don’t love to bike in the rain, my Cleverhood makes it manageable. I wouldn’t call myself a fair weather cyclist, because I do bike in all kinds of weather, but I definitely prefer the nicer days!

I recently acquired my fourth bike, so it seems like a good time to re-introduce you to my fleet.

Fauntleroy

Fauntleroy, or Little Lord Fauntleroy, to use his full name, is my current and beloved commuter bike. The Mechanic created him out of a bike he had built for himself and since the addition of my fabulous Danish bike basket and Swedish skirt guards, imported from our trip to Copenhagen in December 2012, I haven’t wanted to change a thing about it. So much so that although Fauntleroy desperately needs a new paint job, I can’t decide what color, so the paint gets more and more beat up. Guess I should go with the same color, haha! It’s a heavy bike, but has a super wide range of gears so I can easily climb the big hill coming home from work, and pick up some speed on the trails when I have a long stretch of no lights, stop signs or others on the trail. Seriously, I love everything about this bike.

January 2013, when we added the European accessories - hasn't changed since!

January 2013, when we added the European accessories – hasn’t changed since!

Sopwith

Sopwith is my mountain bike. The Mechanic built it up and I picked a vaguely Sopwith Camel color scheme; at the time, The Mechanic’s mountain bike was red, so he renamed it The Red Baron. The Mechanic added a nice touch for the head badge, and I started adding stars every time I go mountain biking. As you might guess, we haven’t done much of it. sopwith-1

Amsel

In the spring of 2016, almost a year ago, The Mechanic and I sold our road bikes and purchased folding bikes instead. We lost interest in road biking (although it was fun at the time!) and wanted bikes that we could travel with. As it turns out, our Tern and our Dahon are not as travel-friendly as Bromptons – bigger, heavier, less maneuverable…. But still brilliant for taking on the Metro and easier to toss in a rental car for day or weekend trips. I named mine Amsel, German for black bird, and The Mechanic named his Schwartzvogel, also German for black bird.  They take up little space, which means we are unlikely to get rid of them soon, even if we don’t use them as much.amsel

And Introducing Bletchley!

As much as I love Fauntleroy, his only drawback is the top tube – not as convenient for skirts and dresses. I have been on the fence about getting a step-through bike, but the vintage Raleigh bikes really catch my attention. Alas, they tend to be pretty small for my 5’10” frame, so finding one I could potentially fit has been a challenge (honestly, finding a modern made step-through bike big enough for me was a challenge as well). But recently The Mechanic found one on Craigslist, so a quick test ride and a few hundred dollars later, I had a “new” Raleigh! Internet research and Sheldon Brown’s resources determined that this new bike is a 1973 model of the Raleigh Sport. It’s in pretty good space, most likely owned by only one person in the last 44 years.

Introducing Bletchley!

Introducing Bletchley!

I absolutely love the details on these old Raleighs – the fork crown detail, the front fender, the logo and “R” on everything and the straight angled top tube design (as opposed to those with curved designs).

I decided to name the bicycle Bletchley, after Bletchley Park. Recently, I read a book about the thousands of women who worked at Bletchey during WWII and made invaluable contributions to winning the war. They rode bicycles probably quite similar, while working intense, secretive jobs and living in rented rooms and shoddily built dorms. This simple, classic, dignified bike will be my personal homage to those women who made a difference, and to all women who have and continue to do so. riding-bletchleyThe bike needs some updating and modifying – internally geared up, taller handle bar stem, new brakes, plus of course new accessories, so although I’ve ridden it a bit, it will be a while before it’s ready to be my commute bike. Initially I thought I’d replace Fauntleroy with a new step-through bike, but I find myself still unable to dismantle my perfect bike. So we’ll see what ends up happening to my fleet!

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Over the last six years, I’ve learned what I like and don’t like about bicycles, explored types of riding, and befriended the bicycle community. During that time, I’ve developed my own style and discovered my personal preference for slow, casual, explorative biking, with a bit of vintage style and whimsy thrown in. My bikes have to have personalities, with accessories to match, because as with many things in my life, a certain style is key, so how my bikes look is just as important as how it rides. I know it’s not that way for most people, but I’ve never been like most people – I definitely have my own style. And a preference for British names for my bikes, apparently! When I first asked for a bike for my birthday, I had no idea where the road would take me, and look at me now: owner of four bicycles and a closet full of #memade reflective bicycle-appropriate clothing. Never saw that coming.

So here is to the first six years of my bike style, my currently fleet of bikes, and here’s to whatever the future of my bike life brings!

victorian-lady-cyclist

Looking backwards while looking forwards!

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Blog-iversary and Re-Introduction

February marks my five year anniversary of this blog, yay! It’s pretty amazing how my life has changed in five years – I had just started my current job, met my now-husband, and was just getting into biking and sewing. And because so much has changed, I thought it would be nice and possibly useful to do a re-introduction of who I am and what I do.  Here’s a quick summary:

  • My name is Elizabeth but I really dislike being called Liz or Lizzie. The blog name is inspired by the “Tin Lizzie”Ford Model T cars; I love vintage cars. I grew up in Sacramento, CA, started off wanting to be a costume designer, ended up touring with Disney on Ice for three years, then moved to New York City to work as a dresser or Broadway. After doing that for a while, I went to grad school and finished a Masters degree in Modern European History. I ended up in the D.C. Area after a stint working as an editor for a human rights nonprofit before finally stumbling into my current job. I promote transit benefits and sustainable transportation in Arlington County (VA). So I’ve been all over the place, figuratively and literally! 

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  • I married The Mechanic in June 2014. We met in September 2011, when I was fairly new to biking. Our second date was a bike mechanics class – he taught me how to change a tire, remove the chain, and so on. It was a marathon date that lasted all day! We couldn’t stop talking. Because of his love of taking things apart and fixing them, and his vast range of bicycle (and motorcycle and car) knowledge, he stays anonymous on the blog and other social media outlets as “The Mechanic.” He’s a civil engineer by training, and although his professional focus is water resources management, he’s personally interested in transportation and urban design and how cities can make it easier for it’s residents to walk and bike as much as possible.
We biked to our civil ceremony in Arlington, VA

We biked to our civil ceremony in Arlington, VA

  • I haven’t owned a car since I moved to New York in 1999. (Technically I’ve never *owned* a car, having driven one of my parents’ cars up until then.) I have gotten around quite easily on public transportation, on foot, by bike and by a wide range of rental vehicles. Moving to Arlington, VA, showed me how easy it was to get around by bike, and I drank the Kool-Aid, as it were, and now try to encourage others to try it as well. (Seriously, this is part of my job.) Between The Mechanic and I, we now own EIGHT bicycles – we each have a folding bike, a mountain bike and two commuter bikes. Thank goodness we recently moved into an apartment that has a bike storage room that allows us to keep them safe, protected and out of the elements.
The Mechanic's blue Workscycles bike with my new vintage Raleigh

The Mechanic’s blue Workcycles bike with my new vintage Raleigh

  • Biking revived my interest in sewing. I don’t want to ride my bike to work and then change clothes, so I started exploring ways to sew clothing that I could wear in the office, but were also bike-friendly. Basically this means “are also reflective” because just about everything I make myself has reflective fabric or trim somewhere on it.
  • I love to travel. The Mechanic and I love to travel. Sometimes we travel domestically (just got back from Disney World!) but we really love to travel internationally. We are planning on another European bike tour later this year, huzzah!

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  • We recently adopted Gaston, an extremely fuzzy 3lb lionhead rabbit, from the local shelter. Poor baby, in his almost three years of life, he had been in the shelter twice. I told him that although we couldn’t guarantee his forever home, we’d be his forever parents, wherever that takes us. He’s a naughty, smart, cautious boy with chronic runny eyes, and I couldn’t love him more. Isn’t it amazing how wonderful it is to have a pet? gaston

So that’s a summary of me and my loves. I plan to expand on these over the rest of the month, to bring you up to speed on my bikes (new bike this weekend!!!), my sewing and our travel. You can follow Gaston’s antics on my Instagram or Twitter feeds, as I tend to share photos of him there.  Instagram is where I post mostly sewing pics while Twitter is bike and work related, so pick yer poison.

I look forward to sharing more in the future, and hope to get to know you more as well! smithsonian-penny-farthing

Perils of an Outside Bike

Pampered, protected Fauntleroy, my trusty and beloved commuting bicycle, has become an Outside Bike. I’m sure there’s some bicycle social hierarchy involved with this, as I am sure being an Outside Bike is a step down from being an Indoor Bike. I feel guilty about Fauntleroy’s demotion but whisper to you, Dear Readers, how nice it is not having a bicycle as the centerpiece of our apartment. Of course, that honor has been assigned to Gaston, our teeny 3lb lionhead rabbit. This pampered spoiled beloved bunny now even has his own IKEA bed, as is popular with rabbits of all sorts.

I can't explain it but even His Fluffiness, who doesn't play with any of his toys, loves this bed

I can’t explain it but even His Fluffiness, who doesn’t play with any of his toys, loves this bed

See? I’ve already started off a post about my bike with info about my rabbit. Poor Fauntleroy.

No, not Fauntleroy's Outside Life, just a quick stop at Whole Foods (thanks Rev Cycles for the rack!)

No, not Fauntleroy’s Outside Life, just a quick stop at Whole Foods (thanks Rev Cycles for the rack!)

The weather here in the DC region has been completely bipolar so far this month – freezing temps earlier with an early touch of snow to fairly warm over Inauguration Weekend. But Fauntleroy has mostly weathered it, well, outside.

Yeah, should have moved him inside for this

Yeah, should have moved him inside for this

So I’ve learned even more things.

  • Bike light batteries do not hold up for long when living in really cold temperatures. I’m not in the habit of taking my lights off my bike because in my apartment, there’s no need, nor is there at my office. And although lights are technically easy to remove, they are just hard enough to be a pain. When I remember. And this is the time of the year when I do actually need functional bike lights!
  • A wet top tube gets my clothes wet. I have a seat cover for the days when I didn’t realize it would rain and get out to find puddles in my saddle, but that doesn’t stop my legs and pants or skirt from getting wet when the top tube is dripping wet. Another argument for a step-through frame.
  • Rust happens faster than I realized.
After only a few days outside. Whoops.

After only a few days outside. Whoops.

I really can’t blame the loss of my bike gloves on the fact that my bike lives outside most of the time now, or in the storage room, but I kind of can. Previously I would just through gloves and things in my front basket then carry all of it up the stairs into the apartment. Now I have to strip everything off and carrying it through the hallways to our apartment. Admittedly – one I lost at the movie theater and one at the gym. But I’ve lost still two different bike gloves, and I’m still blaming it on Fauntleroy’s Outside Life.

Anyone seen a pair of gloves like this, but opposite?

Anyone seen a pair of gloves like this, but opposite?

While out and about recently I passed a brand new apartment building that had a street access bike room. What?!? Although the glass walls would make me nervous about people seeing my bike, being able to roll right in a secured room with staples, right off the sidewalk, would be amazing! Can you imagine? Then Fauntleroy’s problems would ALL be solved – a cozy, secure, inside space that’s easy to access. bike-storage-roomHe’s not a completely neglected bicycle, however. The Mechanic and I are on vacation this week, and Fauntleroy is safely tucked away in our building’s bike storage room. Awkward and not as convenient, but warm and dry. I do still love him, after all.

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2016 Lessons Learned

The fact that 2016 was a challenging year can’t be denied but it wasn’t all that bad either – The Mechanic and I traveled a lot and we adopted Gaston! gastonI can’t say I’m glad the year is over, but I do like new beginnings, so I’m always happy to ring in a new year. I enjoy looking back over my year and looking ahead to the new one, and I love planning, so of course I love making new plans.

There is always something to be learned from our past, even our really recent past, and 2016 is no different. I definitely learned some lessons last year, which will help feed my plans for 2017. The lessons applicable to this blog are about biking and sewing, of course!

Biking

I biked to work just about every day this year, and our new apartment gave me an extra half-mile each way. But I feel that I’ve gotten a bit lazy…

  1. Biking to work 3 miles each way every day really isn’t a workout. Combine lack of weekend/recreational biking along with my inability to get to the gym much this year, and I’m definitely out of shape. So I need to add “biking on the weekends” to my 2017 plans.
  2. I still prefer bike touring in new places. I stopped biking on the weekends mainly because I’d exhausted the trails that are easily accessible. If I can see in my head every turn and stop, I’ve done it too much and find it boring and uninteresting. But between our weekend at the Fall Foliage Bike Festival and our New Years Eve (chilly and quick 12 miles) bike ride in Purcellville, I’m reminded that I prefer new places to bike. Adding “find new places to bike” to my 2017 list.nye-wod

Sewing

Including the three garments I made last week during my Sewing Staycation, I made a whopping 29 things in 2016! Not all of it was for me, and not all of it I like and wear often, so that brings me to some lessons learned:

  1. Take time to get the fit right. Part of the reason why I don’t wear some of the things I’ve made as much is because I don’t love the fit. It’s nice to have quick, easy projects, but if I’m not pleased with the end result, then it was sort of a waste of time. Last weeks’ Sewing Staycation aside, I don’t have much time to sew, and hate the time it takes to properly fit and alter patterns, and to make muslins, but… I know I need to do it.
  2. Focus more on “corporate” things. I spend more time going to work than anything else, so to be wearable, I need to give it the “corporate meeting” test – would I wear this garment to a meeting with Very Important People? If yes, keep sewing. If no, think again.
  3. Keep working on nicer fabrics and things that coordinate. I’ve got several things that I love but don’t really go with much. It’s not a huge deal to wear the same outfit over and over, but I would prefer things to be multi-functional.

    Completed last Sewing Staycation project - complete with reflective ribbon tab on left hip, of course!

    Completed last Sewing Staycation project – complete with reflective ribbon tab on left hip, of course!

With these lessons in mind, I’ll have to work on some plans for 2017. I do so love planning! I’ve already got 8 sewing projects planned out – Spring things that hopefully will benefit from the above lessons learned. And The Mechanic and I are already talking about a mountain biking weekend – and planning a European bike tour for our big trip this year, yay!

Whether or not you make plans, resolutions or goals for the new year, I hope that you achieve all you want in 2017! Here’s to future success!

On the road to a successful 2017!

On the road to a successful 2017!

 

 

 

Happy Holidays, Dear Readers!

This year, Christmas and Hanukkah are at about the same time; Hanukkah starts at sundown on Christmas Eve. Regardless of what you celebrate and where you celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful weekend with love and friends and family! holly-treeThe Mechanic and I will be celebrating with traditions and friends and of course Gaston, who is already spoiled with the arrival of a special hand-knit Christmas stocking from my mom. gastons-stockingIt coordinates with the stockings she made for The Mechanic and I (and Edgar!) last year.

Bicycle for The Mechanic, mini stocking for Edgar, Gaston's, bunnies for me, and Danish hearts in between

Bicycle for The Mechanic, mini stocking for Edgar, Gaston’s, bunnies for me, and Danish hearts in between

I took next week off for a sewing staycation, and can’t wait to have some dedicated time to sew. But first, let the holiday festivities begin!

Much love and happiness to all of you, dear Readers!

Santa is still riding his bike this year! Good for you Santa!

Santa is still riding his bike this year! Good for you Santa!