Comfort Biking: When You Are a Beginner

Today’s Momentum Magazine email header was “Top 10 Tips for First-Time Bicycle Commuters,” and it made me think of a recent conversation at work with some women who are what I might call beginning bicycle riders. One was challenged to bike to work five days in a row, so that she might earn new bike accessories. Monday, I biked home with her; Tuesday, another woman who bikes everyday rode home with her (sadly, she had to bike home alone the last few days – sorry!). I was trying to coach her to get off the saddle at stop lights, rather than trying to balance on tiptoe while perched on her seat. She just felt more comfortable firmly on her saddle. I understand – I did it for ages too, until I met The Mechanic and he teased me about it. Escorting Pinky

The next day, we were chatting with another woman in our office, trying to get her to bike to work as well. She said she finally felt more confident about biking down the hill into Rosslyn, but she’s still really nervous about biking up the hill. When I asked why, she said, “Because of the buses.” I was confused, until she explained that she doesn’t want to have to stop going uphill (who can blame her?!), but she’s not comfortable going around a stopped bus (there’s a bus stop mid-hill on Wilson Blvd between Rosslyn and Courthouse), because that puts her into a traffic lane. So she’s trying to find a less hilly neighborhood street to take, so she doesn’t have to tangle with the buses.

See where the crosswalk is? That's about where the troublesome bus stop is located.

See where the crosswalk is? That’s about where the troublesome bus stop is located.

This got me thinking again about the things we tell beginning bike riders. I admit to being a chicken bicyclist, but I am less fearful about traffic than I was when I started. I’m not sure what made me more confident. Most likely, the bike lanes between Ballston and Rosslyn – even though there are cars in them on a daily basis (sigh – when will planners realize that parallel parking on the right side of the bike lane is a bad idea?), having my own space but still being around moving vehicles gave me the opportunity to work up the courage to mix with them. And although I want the most direct route, rather than the lovely yet out-of-my-way bike trail, I do pick routes that either have a bike lane or go through a neighborhood. As I mentioned in a blog post I wrote for The Discerning Cyclist, the biggest barrier to overcome is in our heads – we will always be our own worst enemies. It’s the gritting the teeth and saying, “I got this!” and then keep doing it, and sometimes that isn’t easy. Often it isn’t easy.

Biking between cars, even in a bike lane, isn't comfortable for some people. Cars trying to parallel park through the bike lane makes it more dangerous, and scarier.

Biking between cars, even in a bike lane, isn’t comfortable for some people. Cars trying to parallel park through the bike lane makes it scarier and more dangerous.

So I think that one of the best things to tell first-time bicycle commuters, in addition to practice cycling, plan ahead and go with a friend, is to remember to be brave. Be strong – act like you own it. And not to be ashamed if one day, you don’t own it. There will be other days. It’s just like dieting, or exercising, or starting any new habit: some days you won’t be your best, but that’s okay. The more you do it, the stronger you become. Repeat along with me: “I CAN do this.”

My lovely new holographic Old Navy kids' backpack is the carrot I'm following these days - of course, I can't stop staring at its lovely shimmer. Maybe I need more shine in my life to get me through the tough times.

My lovely new iridescent Old Navy kids’ backpack is the carrot I’m following these days – of course, I can’t stop staring at its lovely shimmer. Maybe I need more shine in my life to get me through the tough times.

And I totally need to take my own advice sometimes though….



ICYMI: April is Over?!

Um, where did April go?!

May is a good month, because it’s National Bike Month, and there are soooo many bikey things going on! But before we get to May, let’s wrap up the goings-ons in April.

I didn’t get much sewing done, and I didn’t do much biking either. I hope this isn’t a trend for the spring! So here’s what is going on with other people:


Philadelphia launched it’s new bikeshare system, Indego. Huzzah! Welcome to the bikeshare city club, Philly! And check out their snazzy bikes: not just a wire mesh basket in the front, but one on the back rack – and yes, I said rack! Those bikes have back racks! That means I could take my own pannier with me and just clip it on the bikeshare bike! Genius! What a difference that would make to me. As it is, I frequently don’t take Capital Bikeshare because my pannier doesn’t fit in the front basket, it smacks me in the knee when I hang it from the handle bar, or it’s just awkward to carry over my shoulder. #gamechanger I can’t wait to take a weekend trip to Philly now and check out these bikes.

Carniesha Kwashie of the Mayor's of Transportation and Utilities and Claudia Setubal of Bicycle Transit Systems on Indego bikes. Photo by Mitchell Leff, from

Carniesha Kwashie of the Mayor’s of Transportation and Utilities and Claudia Setubal of Bicycle Transit Systems on Indego bikes in Philadephia, PA. Photo by Mitchell Leff, from

Women BikeDC

Mary at Chasing Mailboxes, here in the Washington, DC, area, has started a blog series about women in the DC area who bike. It’s great because I’ve thought about doing the same thing, but never found the time, and she write much more frequently than I do, so you’ll actually get something often. Check it out and keep an eye on it, especially if you are in the DC area. I think it’s so great to know a bit more about the women I may pass in a bike lane (well actually, they are probably passing me).


Sam of Sam’s Signature Seams recently blogged that she uses Evernote as her pattern tracker. I think this is brilliant! I’ve tried Evernote before, but found that it always deleted my categories, so I eventually gave up on it. I’m inspired by her blog post to try it again, and not just patterns – maybe it’s a good way to track and categorize the things I actually make. I’m bad about remembering when I made things, so maybe this will help. Have you used Evernote before? What are your tricks and tips, if you have? I probably need the help. Evernote

Random Brushes With Fame

The Discerning Cyclist published a post I wrote about spring shoes, which reminded me of the shoes I had been lusting after, and now I’m lusting after them again. My feet hurt at the moment, which makes me really want the sneakersNeiman Marcus Rene Caovilla Metallic Floral Lace Up Sneakers

The League of American Bicyclists

I was innocently cruising through Twitter during work recently, trying to catch up on world news and industry news, when I found a ran across a photo of myself! The Bike League has used a photo of mine on one of their blog posts! It’s a photo from when some friends and I did a bike ride last year, something I’d Tweeted but haven’t thought about in ages. Therefore, it was a bit weird to see it staring at me on Twitter. I’m not opposed to it, I just had no idea they were going to use it. I think it’s a bit odd that they used a photo of us on a blurb about bicycle-friendly engineering, but whatever. I’m flattered to be a Bike League model! 2015_0430_Bike League TweetI’m looking forward to May because it’s a busy and important month. I hope you are ready for lots of sewing and the National Bike Challenge! Dust off those bikes and sewing machine and get ready for fun!

ICYMI January

How is January already over?! Or as good as – didn’t we just celebrate New Years?!

I was busy this month, despite my best efforts, and felt like I should share some non-bloggy things. You already know about our trip to NYC and my American Girl Doll adventure, but that’s not all I did this month. Here’s a breakdown:

The Mechanic and I also visited the Library of Congress, to see Magna Carta (one never says the Magna Carta, only Magna Carta, apparently). Not only was the 1215 Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta on display, the exhibit followed the different ways Magna Carta, and its ideals, evolved over time – including popular culture! I’m really glad we made time to see that.

I love my Walnut Studiolo “Little Lifter” so much that I wrote a review of it for The Discerning Cyclist. Seriously, if you have to carry a bike up and down stairs on a regular basis, this might be just the thing you want. It makes a huge difference to me.

Staircase of Doom - thanks to my Lifter to make this easier!

Staircase of Doom – thanks to my Lifter for making this easier!

We had our first snowfall, but thankfully have dodged a major storm. I dislike biking in the snow, or more specifically, anything slippery, so I haven’t biked much with these little snowstorms. Snow 2

Our guppies had baby guppies. Lots of them. And they all seem to have survived. I wasn’t really expecting that, and as much as I’m enjoying watching them grow, my teeny 2.5 gallon tank can’t hold 16 guppies and a snail. And the possibility of more. So I’m on a fish tank redesign hunt.

Some of the baby guppies - about twice their original size now!

Some of the baby guppies – about twice their original size now!

Spectre Upside Down

Seriously, Spectre the Mystery Snail is the best pet ever – yes, he was climbing (?) down the leaf upside down!

We saw “Diner” at Signature Theatre in Shirlington, and really enjoyed it. An actor friend said she’s heard rumors that the production is Broadway bound. That would be a true triumph for the Signature! I’ll be watching for that. Diner Signature Theatre

The 2015 National Bike Summit is in March, and I’m hoping to be able to go again. This year, the first day is the women-focused day, which is nice to have it as part of the event, rather than the day before. Two of the sessions that interest me the most are “Powerbrokering for Women in Transportation and Advocacy” and “The Future of the Women’s Market.” I am also amused that one of the sessions is “How to Talk to an Engineer… and Be Persuasive.” I know it’s about bike infrastructure, but maybe it will have tips for me and The Mechanic! They’ve released an initial list of vendors for the women’s pop up shop, too. I am excited to see that Tandem NY will be there with their skirt weight, and I hope that Bikie Girl Bloomers will have her bloomers in a print I want. (For some reason, I can’t find the list of vendors on their website; I got the list in an email. Inconvenient to share.)

Bikie Girl Bloomers in Crazy Daisy (image from Bikie Girl Bloomers website)

Bikie Girl Bloomers in Crazy Daisy (image from Bikie Girl Bloomers website)


I was pretty happy to see that one of my blog posts inspired another bike blogger to try the reflective yarn: check out Red Riding’s projects! I hope her knee problems heal up before the nice weather arrives. (Don’t you just love her all-yellow bike?!)I’ve got a few sewing projects lined up, to keep me busy while I’m hoping for warmer, drier weather. I am ready to get out and get biking, but the cold temps and slick bike lanes/roads don’t inspire me to leave my cozy warm apartment. Maybe in February.

Iladora, Head to Toe

It was a very exciting weekend, and not because of Halloween. The Mechanic and I went back to IKEA, my Bookman reflector clips arrived from Sweden, and I made my reflective sweatshirt (in one day!). Once I have proper photos of the sweatshirt and test out the Bookman reflectors, I’ll share more on them. But first, I want to share my Discerning Cyclist product reviews of the Iladora top and pants, now that the pants review is out. Bookman Clip on Reflectors_1I love that the Discerning Cyclist website titled my review, “Are These The Perfect Bike Pants for Ladies?” I wish they were! But is there really such a thing? Probably not. But these are pretty great – just not pants I’d wear to work. I’ve worn them a lot, on the weekends, to go out, to run errands, meeting friends, and, as I said in the review, I met The Mechanic for lunch one day wearing – but after doing yoga in them, just to see if I could (which I could). I confess, they are tight enough that I have realized how, shall we say, out of shape, I’ve gotten this year, since I haven’t been biking 30 miles or more every weekend, so I guess it’s time to ramp up the cardio and cut back a bit on the calories. But because the stretch holds me in, well, I do like how much skinnier I feel in them. The Mechanic likes them too!Iladora Pants 5I like the Iladora Lisa Top, but it is sort of a shame that I got it towards the end of the summer. The weather today was cold enough to make me dig out a hat and gloves, not wear my cute bike top. Very sad. I did get to wear it a few times when it was warm out, which was a great opportunity to test out the quick dry properties of the bamboo fabric. I was really impressed at how well it worked! I know that will be a go-to top next summer for that reason alone! It was extremely comfortable, and cute, and I love the color. Iladora Top 3So now I am outfitted head-to-toe in Iladora Apparel! You can read more about the pants and top on the two Discerning Cyclist website, and see more photos of me in the garments. Iladora also makes a skirt, but I guess two pieces from this line are enough. There are others out there that I want to try as well. I’m still hunting for the perfect bike pants, and there are many possibilities on my list. There are so many companies out there now, which I love. It’s nice to see women creatively solving our problems, and I wish I could support them all! I want to see these companies grow and thrive, and outfit more and more women who are looking for practical yet stylish clothing they can wear casually on their bikes. Eventually it will become as mainstream as going to the Gap or Ann Taylor Loft – at least, that is my dream. Head-to-toe bike fashion, everyday!

Bookman reflector on my jacket cuff - I couldn't wait until it was dark to try it out! Stay tuned for more info on this fun new product!

Bookman reflector on my jacket cuff – I couldn’t wait until it was dark to try it out! Stay tuned for more info on this fun new product!





Busy Bike Fashion Week

It’s been a busy week, but bike fashion hasn’t been far from my mind. I continued my reflective wear-to-work challenge, reviewed some bike accessories for The Discerning Cyclist, tested my new Iladora bike top, and got up today at 6am to order the Altuzarra for Target blouse I wanted. Oh, and pre-ordered the new iPhone 6!

I was only able to get in three days of my reflective wear-to-work bike fashion challenge. One day I had to wear the work polo, and I was off the last day of the week, so that meant only three days. On the plus side, it means I can probably do all this coming week! The weather has cooled off enough that I’m not sure about my sleeveless tops, but I’ll risk it!

I got some fun bike accessories from Bike Belle, to review for The Discerning Cyclist. I am very fussy particular about what I put on my bike, but I ended up loving these! Now my bike has a front basket from Denmark, skirt guards from Sweden, and a bike bell from Poland. What next?! I’ll share the review when it’s on the website, but I’ll give you a sneak peek.

Notice anything different about my bike? Think small accessories....

Notice anything different about my bike? Think small accessories….

I broke down and ordered The Lisa Top from Iladora, in pink. I was so excited that they came out with some colors, and it was a dilemma to decide between the blue and the pink, but pink won out. It’s a bit more mauve-y than I was expecting, but I am very happy with it. If you aren’t familiar with Iladora, it is a San Francisco company that also makes pants and a skirt. The top is bamboo jersey, cut with dolman sleeves for comfort, and that all important dropped hem for coverage. It’s super-comfy; the cut of the sleeves means that nothing binds or constricts the arms while biking. (I will say, however, that it is snug over the part of my waist that I’m currently most self-conscious about, and I’m not happy about that – but I know it is my fault, and not the top’s problem.) But overall, I’m happy with it!

For those of you who don’t know, Target teams up with haute couture designers occasionally, and these collaborations turn into big shopping frenzies on the day of the launch. So far I’ve gotten stuff from Liberty of London, Missoni, Jason Wu, and Proenza Schouler, all high-end designers I couldn’t normally afford. The launch of the Missoni collection crashed Target’s system; luckily I’d gotten up super early to order what I wanted online. I did go stand in line at the store for the Jason Wu collection, but also ordered online while standing there! Today was the launch of Altuzarra for Target, and I had planned on getting up at 6am to bike to Target to get in line, but when I checked the website on my phone at 6:12am, and the blouse I wanted was available, I opted to order online and go back to bed. I was tempted to go to the store later in the day, but considering I just pre-ordered the iPhone 6, well, I couldn’t risk being lured into buying something else.

The Altuzarra for Target blouse I ordered

The Altuzarra for Target blouse I ordered. No idea what to wear them with – now I need new pants!

So this week I need to buckle down and alter the pants pattern and get them cut out. I started making the reflective bias, but I think I need more! I’ve created a monster.



Blogging for The Discerning Cyclist

In amongst everything else I’ve been doing, I have written a few product reviews for the UK bicycle style website, The Discerning Cyclist. The first two product reviews I did for them were products I’ve written about here, the REI Novara Whittier Bike Dress, and the Natril Gear Handlebar Bag. But after my honeymoon, I wrote a product review just for the Discerning Cyclist – about the lovely NOMONRO Dress Clips I bought in Amsterdam. You can read it here. I enjoy seeing my writing elsewhere, and I’m happy to share my opinions on bike fashion!

NOMONRO Dress CLip 3

However, with the publication of this review, I am now faced with a quandary – what else can I review for them?! Although I have many bike-y fashion things, most of it has now either been reviewed already and/or is no longer available. My cool North Face reflective shirt? So last year. My Cole Haan reflective shoes? Awesome, comfortable, cool, sassy – except they are no longer in stores (although I heard a few months ago that they were still in the outlet store in Leesburg, VA, so check that out, if you are nearby). Everything else I’ve made myself, and since I’m not at a point where I want to consider sewing for other people, well, I don’t think it would make any sense to “review” that.

Four reflective fashion projects lined up, yippee!

Four reflective fashion projects lined up, yippee!


So what can I review next? What should I review next? What can I afford to buy so I can review it?! I really want one of the several bike skirts out there (Iva Jean, Iladora, etc.), but I just spent a fortune on fabric and patterns, so it will be a while before I can do that. Any other ideas? I need some suggestions – or maybe donations? Think of The Discerning Cyclists and their need for more reviews of women’s clothing…

British Blog, Wedding Bells, and Elly Blue

It’s hard to keep up with a blog when so much stuff is going on all at the same time! So many things I wanted to share, but don’t have time to create their own post, so I’m cramming three great things into one!

First, I am very pleased that one of my product reviews was published on The Discerning Cyclist! I had read an interview with founders Ste Johnson and Peter Reynolds in Momentum Magazine, which ended with a call for more people reviewing stylish bike fashion. So I sent a link to my website and offered my services. The end result is a custom review of the REI Novara Whittier Bike Dress! Be sure to check out the rest of their website. Their goal, as is mine, is stylish clothes you can bike in. (I just happen to like mine to have hidden reflectivity as well). I’m very excited to share this with you, and hope that it is, in the cliched words of Humphrey Bogart, the beginning of a beautiful friendship! And now I have an excuse to buy more stylish garments that just happen to be bike-friendly or bike-specific. Huzzah!

The Mechanic and I got married this past weekend. Yep, that was a pretty big deal! It was a four-day event, starting when we biked to Gerald Williams, one of the County suggested “civil celebrants” and a celebrity in his own right . We didn’t want a stranger conducting the actual wedding, so we opted to have a civil ceremony before the wedding. Initially we thought we’d make it casual and just bike there, but as it turns out, we had 6 other family members with us to capture it the entire way.

Our wedding took place at the Bavarian Inn, in Shepherdstown, WV, and couldn’t have been more perfect. The weather turned out to be perfect, the reception room looked perfect, the wedding cake was perfect, I loved my dress, and although I cried on and off the entire day, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am now Mrs. The Mechanic.

And to round out a few weeks of fun, last night I got to chat briefly with Elly Blue, famous bike author of Taking the Lane, who was in Arlington for a Dinner and Bikes event. We didn’t chat very long, but since we’ve communicated via Twitter, I wanted to say hi; she was, after all, in my office. I’ve worked with many celebrities in my life (ask me about my Hugh Jackman story the next time you see me), but I feel like Elly is a real celebrity – she is out there making a difference for everyday people, getting them on bikes, and getting them to think about bikes in different ways. I wish I had time to read all the publications she had with her, but I’ll have to wait until I have more free time.

I’m really still basking in the afterglow of the wedding weekend, and now I’m beginning to pack for the honeymoon, so this could be the last blog post for a while. I will try to blog from Europe but I can’t promise anything. However, I can promise lots of bike-themed blog posts when I get back!  Elizabet3580347