Overcoming Anxieties and Returning to Biking

Okay, let’s try this again. It’s been at least *seven* months since I have regularly bike commuted to work, thanks to two major surgeries in that time period. I briefly started biking in the middle of that time period, right before the second, unexpected emergency surgery. After that, I tried really hard to not to ANYTHING to disrupt the healing process again (nope, not telling you what it was, sorry). And in that entire time period, as much as I missed biking, I began to get anxious about it.

Throughout the time I was off my bike, I had more time to read the news about pedestrian and cyclists injuries and fatalities here in the DC area. I also had plenty of time on buses and in Lyfts to observe drivers making a range of really dangerous decisions every single day. At the same time, electric scooters sprang from nowhere in our area, leading to litany of unsafe and reckless rider allegations. Nevermind the fact that the one fatality so far was a young man hit by a driver of a BMW – it’s those reckless kids on scooters that are the menace!

Somehow, being away from the bike lanes seemed to amplify all the dangers that come from not being in a car. It’s no wonder that people who don’t bike <ever – often- in a city> tell me that they are scared to try it. If I, a regular bike commuter for 8 years, can get anxious about returning to it after 7 months, of course someone who has never done it will be scared.

I am happy to report, however, that I biked three times this week and not only survived, I remembered how great it is! Somehow, in my head, the distances had seemed soooo much longer and seemed to take so much more effort. But my short 4 miles each way went smoother, quicker, and even safer than I’d built up in my head. I did start off slowly – Tuesday I biked to work then took the bus home. Wednesday I had a work event super early and i wouldn’t have biked anyway, but then my bike was waiting for me at the office so I could bike home. Instead, The Mechanic and I met up for bike date night – something else we haven’t done in ages. Friday I biked to AND from work for the first time since March. It all felt great!

I am sure our bikes enjoyed being out on the town together again!

Thursday, the remnants of Hurricane Michael swept through town, a rainy day I opted not to bike. But the following day, Friday, was surprisingly delicious cool, fall like temperatures, hooray! I was finally able to wear the reflective brocade bomber jacket I made ages ago but never got to wear on the bike. I paired it with a charcoal and yellow sweater vest I got last winter from Ann Taylor, and was impressed at how the colors looked together and on me. All of last fall and winter’s clothing was designed around my blonde hair, so I am sorting out what looks better on me-the-redhead. This was definitely a winning look!

I’m looking forward to my regular, consistent bike commutes again, now that I’ve taken the first steps back. Who cares that it’s just in time for cold, dark weather, haha?! It’s worth it. It makes me happy.

Comfort Biking: My Commute

It occurred to me that if I am going to talk about comfort biking, I should talk about my daily commute, which I eventually settled upon because even though there are many options, this one is the most comfortable for me.

I have a pretty short, pretty easy route, and I confess that I am quite lucky in this. The first mile-ish is through my lovely neighborhood, then bike lanes the rest of the way. Honestly, the hardest part of my commute is hauling my bike up and down the stairs to our apartment.

This would be easier if the landings were bigger and my bike fit on them!

This would be easier if the landings were bigger and my bike fit on them!

Once I get out of my lovely, quiet neighborhood, I turn onto Clarendon Blvd. and have buffered bike lanes through most of Clarendon before hitting Courthouse and Rosslyn. It’s generally pretty light traffic, although I have to watch for cars turning into the Starbucks in Clarendon, because they always seem to be so focused on caffeine that they don’t notice where they are going.

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The way home is more challenging. It’s uphill – not a huge, dreadful, painful, awful hill, but it is a hill nonetheless. I dislike hills. Now it take me past recently opened Tupelo Honey Cafe, a Southern restaurant where The Mechanic was able to indulge his Texas-reared okra-loving tastebuds. (It’s definitely worth a visit, but it has only been open a week and getting busier each day as worth-of-mouth gets around.) In the evenings, Clarendon is a bit of a mess – after passing Revolution Cycles, I arrive in the restaurant part of Clarendon, and everyone is trying to parallel park through the bike lane, and generally doing a bad job. I thoroughly disapprove of parallel parking to the right of the bike lane. But then I turn back into my neighborhood, and it’s easy pedaling the rest of the way home.

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This is my normal route on a map: Google Map Commute OptionsAs I mentioned, there are options, as you can also see on the Google Map. There is also the Custis Trail, which runs just north of 66, straight into Rosslyn. It’s used by hundreds of bike commuters every day, and I prefer not to use it. I don’t find it comfortable.

There, I said it. I mean, bicyclists are *supposed* to want trails for commuting, and I do. But I find the bike lanes much more comfortable, even though I’m mixing with cars. The trail is full of roadies, whereas there are fewer in the bike lanes. I find the trail boring – not as much to look at before you get to walls separating the neighborhoods from those passing through. I like to see the shops and the houses and the people walking their dogs, and the people running to the Metro stations. I see some of the same people everyday, in fact. I have seen houses being built, office buildings going up (some more slowly than others), a small public space was created, and now a new hotel is going up in Courthouse and I get to watch that happen, as I bike over construction plates and dodge signs in the bike lane. It’s more interesting and it makes me feel more connected to my community. However, if I didn’t have the bike lanes, I don’t know that I’d follow the same route. I much prefer to be in a bike lane than trying to share a lane, so I’d probably find a different route, or suck it up on the trail, miserable though that would make me. (The Custis Trail is also really hilly in that stretch, which is probably really good training, but my knee isn’t interested.)

So comfort for me is:

  • Bike lanes. Buffered bike lanes are better, and protected bike lanes would be heavenly!
  • My community. Getting to see what is going on around me, the places where I shop, workout, dine, and spend time with friends and family.
  • Nature. I think I get more nature in my neighborhood than on the trail. I see all the trees blossom, then turn colors, all the flowers in the yards, all the chipmunks and rabbits and birds, grass and weeds and shrubbery. I know it’s there on the trail as well, but I really enjoy people’s gardens. It’s different, somehow.
  • Flat. It’s not a totally flat route but it’s flatter than the Custis! Thank goodness for the small ring….

What provides comfort on your bike commutes? Why have you picked the route you take? Do you have options, or do you make it work?

Selfie with Revolution Cycles!

Selfie with Revolution Cycles!

Guest Blogger: Oanh in Australia

A special treat! A guest post from fellow bike-and-sewing blogger Oanh, from Melbourne, Australia!  Oanh and I connected over our mutual love of bikes and sewing reflective clothing, and she’s the one who helped hook me up with the super cool reflective fabric last month. I asked her to write about biking and sewing; I am always interested in what biking is like in other countries, as well as what other people who bike sew, and I hope you are too. Follow her blog, and check her out on Twitter. Here’s the first part, about biking (mostly):

I have my first guest posting gig.  I should be famous any day now.  Thank you, Tin Lizzie, for inviting me to ramble on about biking in Melbourne, Australia to your readers, wherever they are.

So, a little about me.  I’m Oanh (it is pronounced like the number one, if you have an Australian accent. Oanh, one, won are all phonemes in my ears and if they’re not for you … any variation on how you say one or won will probably make me respond.)  I blog over at www.uniqueschmuck.wordpress.com about whatever takes my fancy, and the thing that currently takes my fancy is SEWING.  But I have rather a lot of hobbies, and one of them is also RIDING MY BICYCLE, which together with sewing is how I came to find Tin Lizzie and her awesome reflective Tron dress.  I love Lizzie’s obsession with making reflective clothing because it is also my obsession.

In my mind, I’m new to cycling, but in reality I’m not.  I keep forgetting that I’m actually quite experienced.  I just counted on my fingers and I’ve been riding a bicycle as my primary and preferred mode of transport for 7 years.  Currently, I lie a little when I say the bike is my primary mode of transport, because I live in Australia and it’s a big place and my job gave me a car that I have to use to get to a number of different places in and around Melbourne which if I went by bicycle would mean that I was cycling for most of the day and still not at a site in time for a meeting (but boy, would I be having fun).  So, I drive much more than I would like but I consider the bicycle my preferred mode.  I also lived in the UK from beginning of 2007 until end of 2010, which is when I became a cyclist.  There, I pretty much rode my bicycle everywhere.  When we left the UK, my partner and I intended to ride our bikes back to Australia.  We did not quite make it – we wriggled and wended our way around Europe and Morocco for 8 months instead.  We wrote a fairly detailed blog, which if you’ve got lots of spare time, you should totally waste some of it over there: www.crazyguyonabike.com/nnocycling

Oanh in Montenegro - doesn't that look like perfection?!

Oanh in Montenegro – doesn’t that look like perfection?!- TinLizzie

Basically, I’m a travel and commuter cyclist.  I don’t race and I definitely do not do any crazy-ass downhill mountain bike riding.  Matter of fact, I’ve been known to walk my bike downhill because it’s just too scary (for me).  For my cycling purposes I have two bikes: my Santos tourer and a Trek Belleville, which is my commuter bike.  Both are actually in the same kind of ‘market’, they are built to carry STUFF, riding posture is mostly upright and both have wheels that can take most terrain (although the Santos has fat tyres which can take all terrain and I have extreme discomfort riding the Belleville on non-paved surfaces as it seems she handles them badly but it is probably the case that I was spoiled by the Santos’ excellent handling of unpaved surfaces.)  Actually, the Santos spoiled me for every other bicycle: she handles beautifully, she was fitted to shorty-pants me and she’s blue.  I bought the Belleville because I could rarely lock up the Santos and leave her.  I know she’s just a bike but I’d be devastated if someone stole her.  So now I have a bike that I can ride most places, lock up and leave and be philosophical about if anyone steals her.

I live in Melbourne in Australia, which is probably the most bike-friendly city in Australia, but that’s not saying much.  Australia is a very car-oriented culture.(see reference 1)  Unlike the UK, most adults in Australia have a driving license and probably own a car.(reference 2 and 3)  All of our infrastructure is made with driving in mind, and the distances between places, when one is not in the inner city, can be vast.  I’ve never been to the United States, but I suspect we are similar in that respect.  Where I live in Melbourne – its inner northern suburbs – is probably among Melbourne’s most bikey areas and the route that I travel to work is along a creek trail and along Melbourne’s ‘bicycle highway’ – Canning Street.

I looked it up, and lots of bike shops popped up too. I've been to Melbourne, but ages ago, and long before I was interested in bikes.

I looked it up, and lots of bike shops popped up too. I’ve been to Melbourne, but ages ago, and long before I was interested in bikes. Of course I’d love to go back! – TinLizzie

The cyclists that I see when I’m riding run the full gamut of bicycling fashion, from full lycra riding kits (some of them are even wearing bibs, for which I do hope they have a nice long ride) to lovely looking lasses in dresses and heels, and dapper lads in suits.  Each rides to their own ability, their bike and their dress, although I’ve seen any number of well-dressed-in-normal-clothes women overtake huffing and puffing lycra-clad men.

I myself tend towards a halfway house of lycra plus normal.  I’d love to wear whatever I would wear for work that day on my bike but a couple of things stop me.  Australia is often hot and I always arrive at work sweaty.  Slowing down doesn’t work for me – I ride at my pace and I like riding fast if I can (which is not to say I’m a fast rider; but the fun of a bicycle is the feeling of speed, and I’m not going to slow down to preserve my prettiness because that’s fairly low down on my priorities).  I don’t really want to ruin my work clothes because I don’t have a lot – nor do I want a lot – of clothes.  I’m notoriously good at getting fabric caught in chains, rubbing my calf against exposed metal bits and greasy bike chains and just generally getting dirty.  I cannot stand it when my clothes restrict me, so the trousers that I can happily wear at work give me knee resistance and I don’t like it.  It’s just easier if I wear bike shorts (summer) or leggings (winter*).  I need bike leggings, and I intend to make myself some but I just haven’t got around to it yet.

* We do not get truly cold in Melbourne, Aus.  As in,there is rarely frost on the ground. Cycling in winter is my favourite.  Australia’s danger is our hot summers and Melbourne has hot, dry, and extremely windy, summers.  I cycle much less in our hot season than in our cold season.

Reference 1: In 2012, “approximately 7 in 10 people (71%) aged 18 years and over travelled to work or full time study primarily by passenger vehicle, similar to 2009 (72%). This could have been either as a passenger or a driver. Only 16% of Australians used public transport, while 4% walked and 2% cycled.” See Australian Bureau of Statistics ‘CarNation’  http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features40July+2013 

Reference 2: At the time of the 2014 Motor Vehicle Census (MVC), there were 17.6 million motor vehicles, including Motor cycles, registered in Australia. (ABS)

 Reference 3: 30 June 2010, Australia’s population increased by 377,100 people, reaching 22,342,000. (ABS)


My Name in Lights?!?

Bike-friendly Arlingtonians are all a-buzz these days, ever since BikeArlington announced an open casting call in partnership with Modacity and Vancouver Cycle Chic. Modacity will be doing a series of videos on everyday Arlington residents who just so happen to bike for transportation. They are taking applications through the end of the month, and then the lucky winners will be filmed in May. The whole goal of the campaign is to show biking as a normal activity, something people of all ages, ethnicity and socioeconomic backgrounds do. Check out this video as an example:


Of course I plan on applying! I think I’m perfect for this! What shall I wear? What photo should I pick showing me and my bike? What can I say about myself that will make them choose me as representative of Arlington bike riders?! Then there is a bigger question – I need to have my bike repainted, but what color?! I mean, if there is a chance it could be on film, it can’t just be any color! But I don’t see any reason to pick a different color, so do I ask to have it redone in the same paint? (The Mechanic, by the way, is the one who first painted it that color, before we even met.) And then I might need to make a new reflective dress to coordinate!

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But I think that I might be getting ahead of myself. First of all, BikeArlington is in my office, so is this one of those things where “employees not permitted to participate in contest” rules apply? I’m assured not, but I don’t know what Modacity might think. And I work in TDM, so maybe that disqualifies me. I’m not exactly a “normal” bike rider, although I started biking to work long before I even knew about BikeArlington and got my job. And then, making my own bike friendly clothes is different, not normal. Not everyone makes their own clothes that they can bike in and wear in the office.

How "normal" is this?!

How “normal” is this?!

The whole point of “normal” biking is that it doesn’t take any special gear to do it, just a bike and a desire. My bike is an extension of my style, and I choose to dress around it, as well as dress it up, but I have to say, I don’t see other women biking around like this. More so in DC, but not in Arlington. So I’m not sure how normal that makes me! And frankly, I’d like to see a good mix of bike riders chosen, people who represent all the differences that make up daily Arlington life – families, older people, people biking to the farmer’s market and to their jobs, in all the different neighborhoods, including Columbia Pike.

I still plan on applying and definitely want to be chosen to star in a video. But I will be okay with not being chosen, with not representing “normal” Arlington. I’ve never been “normal” my whole life, so I guess, why start now?

And if you or anyone else you know would be good for this cool project, be sure to apply or pass along the link above! Good luck, Normal Arlingtonians!

Edgar probably makes me not normal either.....

Edgar probably makes me not normal either…..


Lighting Up the Night with Monkey Lights

That’s right, I said Monkey Lights! If you aren’t already familiar with the company MonkeyLectric, the onset of winter and early sunsets is the perfect time to become so. Founded in 2008 just outside of San Francisco, CA, the company focuses on making bike lights fun. Not intended to replace the front and back lights of bicycles, their “cutting edge digital art platform” has fancy electronic components with designs and patterns created by their designers to make bikes more visible, and to put a smile on everyone’s face. The lights are made in California, and were thoroughly tested by the company themselves, who are all avid bike riders and involved in the Bay Area bike community.

When I was offered the chance to review the MonkeyLectric M204 Monkey Light, I jumped at the chance. Adding a touch more visibility in creative and colorful ways?! Yes please! I’ve seen these lights before, and love all the fun designs you can create in lights on your bike wheel. I’m not sure I’d go for pink elephants, eyeballs, flames, or skull-and-crossbones, but I still think they are really fun.

All the different patterns for the M232 MonkeyLights

All the different patterns for the M232 MonkeyLights (fancier than what I have!)

Okay, I admit it – I was a bit intimidated when the set arrived and I unpacked everything. The key piece, the light board, looks much more high tech than anything I normally deal with, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to figure it out on my own. I read the instructions and watched the installation video a few times, but had The Mechanic on stand-by, just in case.

All the gadgetry that came with the light, including the anxiety-provoking light, center.

All the gadgetry that came with the light, including the anxiety-provoking light, center.

Turns out, I managed fine on my own. It was a bit tricky trying to get my pliers between the spokes, and I did need The Mechanic to help me cut the zip ties, but other than that, I did it on my own!

Not patient enough to go outside and see how it works, I had to test it out immediately. But naturally, I did go outside with it.MonkeyLectric 4

I really can’t tell when I’m on the bike how well it reads, but during one evening commute, a gentleman rolled up next to me on his bike and said, “Love your lamp! That makes you really visible!” The Mechanic also said how bright the light is from the side (he was taking video, so he’d know!), so I guess it works better than I can see. I have used it during my morning commutes, especially if it is overcast, but at night it is obviously more visible – and the most useful. I have been testing all the different light combinations, to see which I like best, but haven’t quite decided. I think it would be fun to color-coordinate the light to whatever I’m wearing. Be sure to watch to the end of the video below, because that’s when the lights start to do some crazy things!

I haven’t installed the metal “anti-theft strap” yet, because I was waiting to see if the light would slide on the spokes, but it hasn’t. I now feel pretty confident that I won’t need to adjust the placement of either the light or the batter pack, so I’ll probably add that strap soon. I’ve biked in the rain and light snow so far, with no negative impact, which is good, since the company says it is waterproof and can be used in all weather.

Overall, I am pretty happy with this light. The potential is there for this to be a gateway light to the bigger, fancier set up, but I will see how we get through the winter first, then decide. Bunnies on my bike wheels would make me pretty happy…

And It Got Cold…

And Lo! It was Winter.

That is certainly what it felt like – so gradual slide into below freezing temperatures, just Bam! Freezing! Of course, the DC Metro region isn’t the only place prepared to shiver, as most of the US is dealing with snow, ice, and these super cold numbers. Yes, I know many places regularly see numbers much lower than ours have been, but this is still unusual for here, and I’m experiencing some, I don’t know, PTSD? from last winter’s Polar Vortex.

Last week I wrote a guest post for Bike Pretty about winter gear, and although I have been thinking about what I’d like to get for this winter, I wasn’t fast enough and had to dig out my old stuff.

Last year's winter gear - red down coat, scarf, the "chaps" I made, pink winter bike gloves, black Land's End boots

Last year’s winter gear – red down coat, scarf, the “chaps” I made, pink winter bike gloves, black Land’s End boots

I layered up and had four trips back and forth to work to unscientifically determine what needed the most help. Tuesday I wore my one set of poly thermals (byJockey, but it doesn’t seem like they make the same ones anymore); dress/work pants; my cool new Boden shirt; a cotton V-neck sweater; added the winter layers, and changed shoes at work. I was pretty comfortable wearing the thermals all day, since our office isn’t overly heated at the moment. Wednesday I wore my thermals again (don’t judge!); corduroy pants; my reflective sweatshirt; the winter layers, and changed shoes and scarves at work (for a cuter cotton one). Since the high on both days hovered around 32*F, with the mornings and evenings about 10* cooler, I had a good chance to test everything.

I love pretty much anything Boden, and am really happy with this shirt.

I love pretty much anything Boden, and am really happy with this shirt. (photo from Boden website. Mine is in the dirty laundry pile and I didn’t want to share that….)

Here is what I determined:

  • Fingers first! By the time I got home last night, my fingers were bright red and going numb. They hurt as they warmed up! I was a bit worried. And I was wearing the “winter” gloves I bought last year. I promptly ordered new gloves, and hope they do better. I went partial-lobster; not ready to fully commit.
  • Toes survived. I have been worried about my toes, and honestly, they managed fine, so I will continue to look for nice warm boots, wear these, and drag work shoes back and forth with me.
  • Neck might be tricky. My neck is the first thing to get cold or overheat. I am very happy that turtlenecks are so “in” this winter, because I love them, but I think that wearing them whilst biking makes me overheat. What’s a delicate girl to do?! I think I may trade in my big fun scarves for something a bit more, well, machine-washable. I’m currently lusting after these “Bandit” neck warmers by Choucas. I need to be able to pull it over my nose, then pull it down mid-ride, adjust as needed, so I prefer this option over the traditional bike balaclava.
  • Thermal underwear. I want to stock up on thermals, but they need to be cute, they need to be sleek, and they need to be NOT wool. I know, I know – everyone loves wool. Not me. I cannot stand it on my body, it is too scratchy and itchy and I simply can’t have it on me. And before you start asking, yes, I have tried everything, and yes, it all still bothers me. No SmartWool tights for me! This means silk or some sort of poly fabric, and I am obsessed with the Land’s End Thermaskins collection. (I’m sort of a Land’s End fan, in case you couldn’t guess!) The cute prints mean that I can let them show in the office, and not feel dorky. Or wear the bottoms under skirts. With those super warm boots I’ll eventually buy.

The bike-related Facebook groups I belong to have been full of people looking for advice on what to wear in the cold, and basically it boils down to – whatever you would wear to take a walk in the winter! For some people this means super technical gear: I’ve seen crazy lists of Pearl Izumi tights this and that, with many layers of wool thrown in. For others it means ski gloves and goggles! Glad I don’t live where they live. Not everyone wants specialized gear, even for winter, and I totally agree with that. I still want to look professional, or at least not “bikey.” Because I try not to have to change clothes when I get to work, I want to find ways to layer under and over, but even I give up being cute at some point. Usually around 15*F.

Here is where I gave up and just layered on everything! (March 2014)

Here is where I gave up and just layered on everything! (during a blizzard in March 2014)



Let’s Talk #Reflective Fashion

Although I am always happy to talk about reflective bike fashion, a few things converged recently to prompt a post about reflective-ness. A New York Times article, new reflective clips from Bookman, and the Fall time change all mean more ways and reasons to be reflective!

The recent New York Times article, “Go Glam into the Night: For the Bike-to-Work Generation, a Move to Fashionable High Tech Clothing,” explored how bike clothing “grew up” and became “fashionable” by making office-friendly clothing reflective. The article called out a few companies I already adore, like Vespertine NYC and LFlect, others I am familiar with, including Fik:Reflectives and Betabrand, and introduced me to a fun new one, Henrichs (these capes are so adorable! And limited edition pink and glitter reflective ones? Where is my credit card?!).

The Henrichs Cape (Photo courtesy of the Henrichs website)

The Henrichs Cape (Photo courtesy of the Henrichs website)

Women’s fashion sports clothing companies such as Athleta and Lululemon are also adding reflective clothing to their lines. These pieces are made for runners, not cyclists, but there are obvious ways these can crossover. Look at how cool the “Light It Up” reflective skirt from Lululemon is, and the “Scuba Hoodie,” with it’s reflective hood! I love the idea of pulling this skirt over pants or leggings or jeans – not entirely work appropriate, but definitely for biking home from the gym, or a casual evening out. The “In a Flash” sweatshirt I can see wearing to work. Athleta offers a few pairs of running leggings with respectable amounts of reflective trim down the leg, and I can see pulling these on under skirts or dresses to bike home after dark. When we turn our clocks back this weekend, it will be darker earlier, but still not too cold to rule out the skirts, and then these would be perfect.

Lululemon Light It Up Skirt (photo courtesy of Lululemon website)

Lululemon Light It Up Skirt (photo courtesy of Lululemon website)

What I like about these garments is that these designers are finally realizing that gear worn outside, especially in the darker hours, should have a bit more reflectivity than just the token logo on a corner, or on the ankle. Here is an example of what I consider bad reflective trim – this adorable “Cyclocape” from Terry Bicycles has a single line of reflective trim down the center of the back. Although the unbroken line isn’t a bad idea, it doesn’t give any sense of how wide the wearer is, so how much room to give the cyclist, and what if if was covered by a backpack or bag strap?  (Don’t get me wrong, if someone wants to gift this to me, I’d happily test it out!) These black Terry “Metro Crop” pants have reflective trim inside the side slits, so they don’t offer much reflective-ness at all.

Terry Bicycles Cyclocape (photo courtesy of Terry Bicycles website)

Terry Bicycles Cyclocape (photo courtesy of Terry Bicycles website)

Title Nine has a decent collect of clothes with reflective trim, and although this “Slip’n Ride” commuter skirt is another example of questionable print choices, I like that the reflective trim is on the outside hem, right where you want to be visible to a vehicle.  REI’s Novara winter cycling pants have reflective stripes down the entire leg as well – just like my reflective pants!

I love the latest pants I made!

I love the latest pants I made!

I also point all of this out because Time is “falling back” this weekend, and it will be darker longer. Although I don’t believe that us wearing reflective clothing gives drivers license to NOT pay attention to cyclists (and pedestrians) on the road, I don’t think it hurts to be defensive about what we wear either. I wear a bright red coat partially because it shows up better in headlights than a solid black jacket would – the reflective Vespertine belt I wear with it simply helps.

Red coat, reflective trim on skirt, purse - hugging an owl in Copenhagen

Red coat, reflective trim on skirt, purse – hugging an owl in Copenhagen

It is easy to add reflective accessories, less expensive, and perhaps a bit more versatile to have something that can be moved from jacket to shirt to skirt, like the Bookman clips or the options from REI. Or there is always another route – Glimling is a Swedish-American company selling Scandinavian style reflectors that can be attached to purses, backpacks, coat zippers, or panniers. I have several and love them. They are so cute on my purses! Elisabeth, the owner, totally gets the importance of reflective-ness, and loves to share this somewhat staggering statistic – 70% of American pedestrian accidents happen after dark, while in Sweden, the number is much lower, 40%. Adults and children alike in that country wear reflectors – we saw them for sale in bookstores and dollar stores and in the airport when The Mechanic and I were in Denmark and Sweden, too. Check out her blog post with visibility tests.

Assorted reflectors on assorted bags - some I bought in Sweden, some are from Glimling

Assorted reflectors on assorted bags – some I bought in Sweden, some are from Glimling

So what am I saying here? Reflective clothing is going fashionable and mainstream for biking and running, yay! Designers are beginning to figure it out, and maybe by next winter, we’ll see even more. If buying reflective blazers and dresses is not your thing, or you can’t afford to (I know, the cool stuff is always so expensive!), consider accessories with a good amount of reflective coverage, and attach reflectors on strategic points.  The least it can do is make you a bit more visible!



Talking with a Bike Clothing Designer – Part 1

Lauren Steinhardt came to my attention when she commented on my review of the REI Novara Whittier Dress – she was the designer! How cool to get feedback! I looked her up on LinkedIn (I’m such an internet stalker) and her background sounded really interesting – she has a Master’s Degree in Apparel Design from Oregon State University, and her thesis was on Women’s Commuter Cycling Apparel!  So I took a chance and asked if I could ask her some questions about her background and experiences with bikes and designing clothing. Luckily for us all, she agreed!

This part of the interview lets Lauren explain a bit about herself and her experiences and influences. The second part, to come next week, focuses on the retail and sports clothing industry, and how it relates to what we wear on our bikes.

Which came first? Bikes or fashion?

Well, I don’t really consider myself a “fashion” designer. I design clothing, but it isn’t always fashionable, depending on its end use and the needs of the company. In fact, I can’t say I endorse the “fashion industry” in regards to fast fashion and stuff, but it is important to make a nice looking product that makes people feel good when they wear it or engage with it.

Novara Whittier Bike Dress

Novara Whittier Bike Dress

Starting from about age five, I always knew that my future vocation would be to design clothing. I had bikes growing up and as an adult, but my relationship with them has always been a utilitarian one – how can I use this device to get me from point A to point B, and why is my clothing not made for bike riding when it seems like guys’ clothing is? I didn’t start riding recreationally until I moved to Portland in 2002, mostly because there is such amazing bike infrastructure here and it’s so easy to get around.

What is your favorite type of biking?

My favorite type of biking is everyday biking. I commute by bike and use it to get around town. This is mostly my personal area of interest for designing bike-friendly clothing too. I think it would help more women get out there on their bikes. I’d like to try some bike camping or bike-packing – sounds like it would be fun!

Me wearing Lauren's dress (on a Capital Bikeshare bike, of course)!

Me wearing Lauren’s dress!

How many bikes do you own?

Just one, it’s an 80s Nishiki road bike frame that has commuter rack and fenders. My favorite bike ever was a vintage Roadmaster Cape Cod 3-speed that I got at the thrift store in Olympia 🙂

What is your favorite biking destination?

I like to ride my bike around the city; I never take my car downtown so that is a frequent bike destination for me. Some of my other favorite spots are Mount Tabor, Sellwood Park, and Blue Lake.

What would your dream vacation be?

Probably a long backpacking trip – maybe into the Olympic rainforest? I want to be Mick Dodge when I grow up.

Mick Dodge - I didn't realize he was a National Geographic star! (Image taken from National Geographic website)

Mick Dodge – I didn’t realize he was a National Geographic star! (Image taken from National Geographic website)

What are your favorite bike accessories and fashion companies? What do you use and why?

I don’t do a lot of clothing shopping myself, and when I do I tend to stick to the basics. But there are a few companies that have been making really exciting products that I want to give a shout out to. Iva Jean started out making rain capes and now they have expanded their line with some really cute pieces. And BetaBrand is a fantastically inventive company that accepts design submissions from the public.

The Iva Jean Reveal Skirt (Image taken from Iva Jean website) - I really want to try this skirt

The Iva Jean Reveal Skirt (Image taken from Iva Jean website) – I really want to try this skirt

Where do you look for inspiration?

My #1 source of inspiration is my own experience. What feels good, what’s easy to use, what do I feel comfortable in? Ultimately, wearing clothing is about the way we experience the world. We might spend a few minutes looking in the mirror, but we spend all day in our clothing. So it’s got to work and it can’t impede us from living our lives. How can clothing help us live our lives more gracefully? That’s my main inspiration.

Thank you, Lauren, for sharing your story with us!

Next week, I will post the second half of her interview, in which Lauren gives some insights into the industry that makes cycling (and all sports) clothing. Stay tuned! 


My Name in Print

Two days this week I again resigned myself to the miserable temperatures and bused to work. As annoying as it is to be on someone else’s time, I have enjoyed all the reading I have been able to do.

Reading at the Bus Stop

But yesterday was a bit warmer, and since I had three errands to run after work, all with time frames close to each other that meant biking to each one would be easier, I bundled up and biked. Despite the cold, I was pretty warm by the time I got to work  well, heck it was 17*F by then!

Balmy 17

Then I saw a RT of a RT on Twitter – other bike friends were sharing a Tweet that a Washington Post reporter wanted to talk to people who had biked to work that morning. Even though I hadn’t biked Tuesday or Wednesday, I figured, what the heck, and emailed. A short phone conversation followed, and the suggestion that a photographer might meet me to take a picture of me and my bike, and I didn’t think much more of it.

The Mechanic met me after work for dinner at Silver Diner, then we biked to pick up my first ever Relay Foods order, and then voted in a special county election. It was a short, civic- and community-minded bike date. I meant to take pictures of our bikes but didn’t.

Later that evening, I checked my phone, and discovered that other Twitter bike friends had found the article online and Tweeted it to me! Here I am: “Frigid temps are no barrier to the growing number of bicycle riders.” A friend emailed me a picture of the paper this morning, too. I do wish they could have gotten a picture of me on my bike, wearing normal street clothes, to show an even more normal “new normal,” but that’s okay.

My name is in the paper! (For good reasons...)

Not keen on seeing my age right next to my name, though…

I am excited to be able to represent our bicycle community, and all the people I know who have longer commutes, or bike more consistently on colder and/or snowier days. I consider myself a reluctant activist – I’m more comfortable just doing what I believe in, on my own, than jumping whole hog into a group that does it (although I’m slowly warming up to that idea) – but this gives me warm fuzzies to know that this makes us all look good, and helps promote “the cause” better than some other actions could.

So while I’m reveling in my celebrity status (ha!), I’d like to give a shout out to all of you who bike more than I do. You are the hard-core ones. I just do it to get around town. But I’ll be sure to wave as we pass each other in the bike lanes! Bike on!