Sartorial Bike-Friendly Sun Shade

Rain. Nothing but rain. One lovely day – Bike to Work Day, thank goodness. But it’s been nothing but rain all month. So making a sun hat might seem like a crazy weekend project!

We've had so much rain, the gardeners can't mow the lawns, so they are beginning to look like meadows!

We’ve had so much rain, the gardeners can’t mow the lawns, so they are beginning to look like meadows!

I’m headed to New Orleans soon, and the weather forecast says upper 80s and sunshine. I’m not really sure I know how to pack for hot weather, but I did decide that maybe it’s time for a new sunhat. A quick Google search came up with the perfect pattern from Worthy Goods, on Etsy. Sold! Click, download, print, and I was good to go. What better excuse to order fabric from Spoonflower, right?! It’s reversible, so blue chambray on one side, vintage postage stamp print on the other. Adorable. I even added a reflective ribbon tab at the back, because, reflective.

Our weekend plans changed last minute, so I didn’t have as much time to throw this hat together as I’d planned, so the fact that it turned out too small somehow means that I can fix it – but not any time soon. After the trip. Hopefully I can make it work. But look at how fun it is!!!

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Thinking of sunny days, and reading reports that suggest the summer will be hotter than normal (so what else is new?), I started thinking about bike helmets and sun protection. I wear sun screen year around, and am pretty religious about it. Although I’m no longer training for centuries and out for hours on my bike, even running errands means I sometimes sweat off sunscreen. A brim is an easy physical barrier when out and about, on and off the bike. But what are the bike options?

Not much, it turns out. There are two – Da Brim, a fabric ring that attaches to one’s bike helmet, and the super cute yet highly in-demand and not inexpensive straw hat helmet currently being sold by Bike Pretty (well, she’s taking pre-orders for a few more weeks). Bandbox Bicycle Helmets also has several really great sun protection styles that I wouldn’t mind trying – check out The Panama, The Palm Beach, and The Charleston. [Note: Bandbox Helmets can only be purchased through the Bandbox website; the Bike Pretty version is not a Bandbox product.}

Da Brim, a fabric brim that attaches to a bike helmet (other colors are available!) - Image from Da Brim website

Da Brim, a fabric brim that attaches to a bike helmet (other colors are available!) – Image from Da Brim website

Straw bike helmet currently being sold by Bike Pretty - summer itself! Image from the Bike Pretty website

Straw bike helmet currently being sold by Bike Pretty – summer itself! Image from the Bike Pretty website

Now you are probably wondering if I’m considering making my own visor thingy, and making it awesome and reflective. Tempting…. But I’m not sure how they would attach to a Nutcase helmet. By the time I get it figured out, this summer would be over. We do have some small biking vacations planned and in mind, so the “need” for a brimmed bike helmet does tempt me…

I would probably order one of the Da Brim brims and see how I like it before I invest the time into making my own. If I thought it worked, didn’t make me feel hugely dorky, and is something I could craft for Summer 2017, when The Mechanic and I are considering another European bike tour, well, maybe….

This brim doesn't offer much in the way of sun protection, but I still like it.

This brim doesn’t offer much in the way of sun protection, but I still like it.

What do you think? Would you considering wearing a sun hat bike helmet? What’s your best sun protection while biking?

Copenhagen Part 2: First Bike Impressions

Once The Mechanic and I got over our initial giddy shock at the sheer number of bikes we saw upon arrival in Copenhagen, we began to look a bit more closely. Here are some of the things we saw:

  • We saw very few bikes with drop handles; most were “hybrid,” “comfort” or “Cruiser” style bikes, “sit up and beg” bikes, and whatever else the men’s versions would be called. 100_8592100_8606100_8253
  • Most of the bikes had at least one basket, either in front or in back, of varying sorts of materials – wire, wood, wicker, plastic. Just about every bike had a back rack with bungees or that strong spring. Very few panniers. I mentioned to the saleswoman in one bike shop that I predominately use panniers and she seemed confused.100_9008
  • In the same theme, we saw maybe a handful of cyclists in Lycra the entire eight days we were there. And little hi-viz clothing: half of what we did see was on runners.
  • It seemed to me like most of the cyclists were women, but at least half of them were.100_8711
  • People of all ages were on bikes. I noticed several older people, including one older woman wearing a full-length fur coat. She looked extremely stylish.
  • There were plenty of children on bikes  and many bikes had baby seats. There were different styles of child seats on bikes too, like the bucket style on the top tube with foot rests mounted on the head tube. I only saw one dad with the bike attachment, and the boy was leaning at a frightening angle. Most kids rode in the Christiania cargo bike front bucket. 100_9326
  • Many people were wearing helmets, and the bike shops were full of helmets. Most were of the solid helmet style, like Nutcase or Yakkay.
  • Many of the bikes had skirt guards, either in plastic “mesh” or solid vinyl. I was very excited to buy a set when we were in Malmo, Sweden.100_8646
  • The Danish Postal service uses bikes for delivery, and they were e-bikes! Same thing spotted in Malmo. That makes a ton of sense. Actually, I saw some other e-bikes here and there.100_9240100_9075
  • Everyone used hand signals. It was pretty impressive to watch.
  • Everyone walked their bikes through crosswalks. I know we are supposed to, but really, who does? People in Copenhagen, apparently.
  • There were bike racks everywhere, and not just one rack, but several. I counted about 50 spaces in the bike racks in front of one grocery store.100_8822
  • But no one locks their bike to anything, they just push the bikes into the rack and lock the ring lock. We were continually amazed by this. Bikes just leaning against apartment buildings, standing in lines in bike parking spaces in streets… Even strollers were left out, and we saw a motorized wheelchair outside, charging to an outdoor outlet. Okay, occasionally we’d see locks, but not very often.100_8805
  • There were a ton of new brands, and remakes of old brands. More on that later.100_9171
  • Everyone seemed to pedal very leisurely, yet the days we were out in the bike lanes, we were constantly passed!

I love the huge variety of bikes, brands, colors, styles, and riders. People weren’t decked out as “cyclists,” or “sporty athletes,” just individuals going about their day on their bikes. This is the kind of cycling I want to do, the type of cyclist I want to be, the kind of cycling culture I want to see take root in this country. I want to get us to the point that everyone, regardless of sex or age or ability, is comfortable enough to bike wherever they need to go, wearing whatever they want, and not worrying about it. I’m still not sure what it will take to get there, but improved infrastructure will help. My next post will show different aspects of the bicycle infastructure of Copenhagen.


See also:

Copenhagen Part 1: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Copenhagen Part 3: Bicycle Infrastructure

Copenhagen Part 1: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Here it is New Year’s Eve and I should be busy thinking about this past year and what will happen in 2013, but I’m bursting to share my Copenhagen experiences! There is so much to tell, and so many pictures to share (yes, probably half my photos are of bikes, people on bikes, or bike infrastructure)! So I’ll start off with a summary of the trip, and expand in forthcoming blogs. 

The Good:

  • We had a lovely apartment in Norrebro (I wish I could type the o with the / through it but I couldn’t figure out how. So I apologize to the Danish.), found on Airbnb.  Ida, our “hostess,” (who used to work as a bike messenger) met us when we arrived, showed us around, pointed the direction to the closest grocery store, and left. She had decorated for Christmas, and left us some treats. The apartment was European-small but cozy, with two balconies that must be great in the summer. The apartment was close to several bus stops and two S-tog (metro) stations, and at least four different grocery stores. Oh, and two bike shops!
    One of the balconies in our Airbnb apartment.

    One of the balconies in our Airbnb apartment.

    The other balcony - how nice to have a corner apartment!

    The other balcony – how nice to have a corner apartment!

    The kitchen. Loved the electric kettle.

    The kitchen. Loved the electric kettle.

    I loved this little kitchen nook.

    I loved this little kitchen nook.

    So sweet of Ida to leave us Christmas treats! We loved the Pedernodder, which she said are a favorite Christmas treat, and we did see them everywhere. And brought some back...

    So sweet of Ida to leave us Christmas treats! We loved the Pedernodder, which she said are a favorite Christmas treat, and we did see them everywhere. And brought some back…

  • OMG there were bikes EVERYWHERE!!!!  Our eyes just about popped out of our heads when we walked out of Copenhagen’s Central Station to catch the bus for the first time – a sea of wheels, frames, seats, and baskets. Every bike had at least one basket, and many had both a front and back basket. And they were all “comfort” bike styles, very few with drop handle bars. And none of them were locked to anything! Yes, you heard me – the ring lock was all they used! Unbelievable!

    Just one of the bike lots around the Central Station!

    Just one of the bike lots around the Central Station!

  • Rosenborg Slot (castle) was a definite highlight beyond the bikes. The castle itself was a detailed museum, and the Royal Treasury was staggering. I’ve never been that close to a crown before, let alone three, let alone all those precious gems and all that gold. Oh my goodness, be sure to visit if you go to Copenhagen!
  • Just about everyone spoke flawless English, even in Sweden. The only person who did not was the older gentleman working in the gas station I wandered into on Christmas Day. I don’t know how they do it, although Danish sounded like a hard language to learn. Luckily, it looks a lot like German, so I was able to guess our way around based on that.
  • There were fireworks every night. Seriously – we could hear them, but not always see them. One night they were in the abandoned lot across from the apartment! But they are clearly private citizens, not anything organized by the city.

    Across the street from us!

    Across the street from us!

The Bad

  • The Mechanic had some minor health problems that unfortunately kept us from doing some of the stuff we had planned. On Christmas Day, I did the (unguided) walking tour we had wanted to do, to see the city highlights since everything was closed. We almost didn’t make it to Malmo, Sweden, either. He’s not 100% yet but got well enough to enjoy the rest of the trip.
  • The sun set at 3:45pm. Not only is that early, if you include the fact that several days were overcast, well, it truly was dark the entire day. It really confused our bodies at first!
  • The fireworks every night. I began to feel like I was living in a war zone.
  • There is soooo much to write about! I’m going to have to blog steadily for a week to share everything I want to!

The Ugly (stuff that isn’t bad, but wasn’t great, or was simply unexpected)

  • The shower in the apartment was not exactly what I’d expected. Basically, you shut the bathroom door, pull  a shower curtain over the door, then pick up the hand unit and shower over the sink and toilet. It wasn’t terrible, just unexpected. I’m sure it might have upset some, but I’ve done similar showers elsewhere in Europe. I had just forgotten, in the last 6 years, what European standards can be.

    Our shower

    Our shower

  • Everything really was closed for three days over Christmas – the 24th, 25th, and 26th. Yikes! Luckily there were a few places to find food (like the gas station and a coffee shop), but the city really did shut down to celebrate.
  • Bike helmets – contrary to what some would have us believe, Copenhagen cyclists DO wear helmets! At least a third of the cyclists I saw were wearing them. And every bike shop (and we saw many) sold dozens of them. Not what I was expecting at all!
  • There were open flames everywhere! This was actually pretty cool, but again, unexpected. This would never work in this country. Shops had small pots of fire on their stoops, there were fires in Tivoli and at the Zoo, and in other unexpected places. That’s a lawsuit waiting to happen in this country, yet the Danes calmly and safely went around their business. Ah Europe.100_8260

I really want to talk about bikes, so I’m saving that for another blog post or two or three. Then there is the great bus and metro system; that’s another blog. Then bike fashion, then European cars, then bike infrastructure…  I may have to set up a Flickr album with photos, if anyone is interested in seeing more than what I blog about. But to sum up, we had a great time, and I can’t wait to go back. But this time, when the weather is warmer!

While I continue to sort pictures of bikes, I want to wish you all the best for a joyous, healthy, and happy 2013! May your biking days be many and happy, and if you don’t bike, well, you should try it! (Have I taught you nothing this whole year?!)


See also:

Copenhagen Part 2: First Bike Impressions

Copenhagen Part 3: Bicycle Infrastructure

The Arrival

Today was a day of bike fashion!

It all started with an early birthday present from my parents (yay Mom and Dad!). I loved that my mom knew, without us ever discussing it, that I liked this necklace.

Bicycle Necklace from Etsy

Bicycle Necklace from Etsy

I was wearing it when I met with some colleagues and the designers from GiveLoveCycle, and the designers immediately zoomed in on it. These two ladies have designed some great tote bags with the express purpose of holding bike helmets in stylish and professional ways (two different sizes, and both can be worn as backpacks, as well as carried as totes).



One of the women is a huge fan of Capital Bikeshare, but realized the biggest problem of bike sharing systems: helmets. What do you do with a helmet after you get to a meeting, or what if you didn’t plan on biking yet find yourself needing a CaBi with no helmet? Voila, you have one in your super-stylish bag!  The quality of the sample bags they showed us is really lovely, nice materials and hardware, and you can tell alot of thought has gone into the design. I was pleased to hear that they are having the bags made in Manhattan, by a company that works for Coach and other high-end companies. Having worked in the Garment District when I work in theatrical wardrobe, I know how so many businesses went down because they couldn’t afford the rents. Keeping the work there is important. But I digress. GiveLoveCycle doesn’t have a website yet but you can check out their Facebook page. Stay tuned, I know there will be more from me on GiveLoveCycle in the future!

But the most exciting news from today was getting my Merrell Evera MJ shoes. Created by Merrell specifically for biking, these comfortable heels are cute but I’m not 100% sold on the “biking” specifics the company promotes.

Here is their list:

• Cement construction provides lightweight durability
• Full gain leather and Lycra® upper
• Perforated pigskin lining treated with Aegis® antimicrobial solution
• Reflective detailing for a safe ride
• Comfort padding at strategic areas of the upper

• Pigskin covered Merrell Remember Me Foam™ memory foam footbed treated with Aegis® antimicrobial solution
• Stability shank for efficient pedal push power
• Merrell CycleTread™ Technology offers rigid midfoot pedal power and flexible forefoot hiking performance
• Compression molded EVA footframe for stability and comfort
• Merrell Evera Sole / Sticky Rubber

Merrell Evera MJ

Merrell Evera MJ

Here is my list:

1. The reflective details “for a safe ride” are so minimal that you’d be lucky for anyone to see them. It’s just on the Velcro tab, that’s it. Not on the back of the shoe, nor anything bigger or more integrated into the design.

Reflective trim - the one small spot

2. The “stability shank” and Merrell CycleTread™ Technology which “offers rigid midfoot pedal power and flexible forefoot hiking performance,” means they expect you to hook your heel over the pedal.  This is a less efficient way of pedaling, because you simply aren’t using the full strength of your leg. At least I find that to be true. Besides, when your foot is in clip pedals, the straps I have on Fauntleroy, or clipless pedals, they all position the foot with the ball of the foot on the pedal.

Pedaling with the ball of the foot

3. Style-wise, I love this gray color, and ordered this style because the other style didn’t come in gray (or red either, not sure why). HOWEVER – the elastic on the top sort of screams “little old lady shoe”! Some of my colleagues gave me weird looks when I went to show off the shoes this afternoon, and I know why… I don’t know why Merrell went with this design, though.

Little old lady elastic

Okay, okay, I wore them home from work today and I really haven’t had a chance to play around with them more than that. I definitely appreciated the signature Merrell Sticky Sole, because my shoes stayed on the pedals properly; so many of my business shoes have slicker soles that slide right off the pedals, or would if I didn’t use the straps.

Love the Merrell Sticky Sole!

That being said, I’m pretty happy with them. I love the color, and they were very comfortable to walk around in. The heel is not too high, but still looks dressy/professional.  I’m sure I’ll get plenty of use out of them this summer. I may consider the Evera Band in black, too. But the jury is still out on how these as such great cycling heels.

I will be back in a few weeks with a report on how they’ve held up. In the meantime, I welcome other opinions on women’s heels and biking in them!

The Swan and The Secret Garden

In 2004, Fox TV aired a reality series called “The Swan,” in which women who were considered “ugly” were given extreme makeovers to come “beautiful.”  Each woman was teamed up with a dentist, a coach, therapist, trainer, and cosmetic surgeons to completely transform them, in the tradition of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale The Ugly Duckling. Although I personally have big issues with this short-lived TV show, The Mechanic and I performed our own “ugly duckling”-type transformation last night.

The transformation actually started a long time ago, when The Mechanic took a Specialized Hard Rock mountain bike frame

The Very Beginning

and repainted it before building a whole new bike out of it.

Lefty's Pale Blue Coat

He had intended it as a “campus bike,” to be left on campus, but decided he liked it too much to sacrifice it to the elements.  I expressed interest in a cool set of handlebars he’d acquired, and a plan was born to transform it into a commuter bike I could use. A taller bike and better gearing, plus cool handlebars and a nice light blue color?  Sure, why not?

Lefty the Campus Bike

The Cool Swept-Back Handlebars I Love

Lefty, as the bike was dubbed, rapidly lost its edginess as the girlie accessories from my bike were removed, and slowly added to its frame.  There were naturally a few bumps in the road, but easily solved by The Mechanic, who seemed to relish the challenges.  Well, at least to a certain point, as the project took longer and longer…  (You know how every project takes at least twice as long as you estimate – yep, no difference here!)

Bike Parts All Over the Floor

In the Middle of Surgery

At last, the transformation was completed!

Little Lord Fauntleroy

Lefty the Campus Bike has miraculously transformed! Lefty now looks like Little Lord Fauntleroy – Little Lord Fauntleroy was a serialized story, and later popular book, created in 1885 by English writer Frances Hodgson Burnett, who also wrote the classic book The Secret Garden (one of my favorite books).

Little Lord Fauntleroy, the Book

Little Lord Fauntleroy, a small American boy who ended up becoming heir to an English earl’s estate, was originally portrayed in a blue velvet suit with a frilly, lacy collar and curling, shoulder-length hair. Somehow  Lefty’s pale blue color doubled with silver fenders and front basket, and lacy white rear basket all add up to a very frilly little boy bike.  Not that Lefty is a sissy! Far from it – he’s just now a slightly cooler bike that toes the line between tough and fashionable.  I hate to put my pink accessories on Fauntleroy, and I will need a new helmet to match!  At the moment, the one I think I want is white with a design that mimics the white plastic basket.

I haven’t yet ridden Little Lord Fauntleroy, but that is what tomorrow is for.  I can’t wait to test out a taller frame, those cool swept-back handlebars, and most importantly, all those gears!  Look out Arlington hills, here I come!

A huge thanks to The Mechanic for his cosmetic surgery skills! This bike is now a graceful swan.