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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Folding Bike Date Night

Last Friday night, The Mechanic and I visited friends for dinner – friends who live in Fairfax County. We examined all the options, and finally decided that we would take Metro to East Falls Church Metro Station and bike the rest of the way. But because we needed to arrive at 7pm, and bikes are not allowed on Metro until after 7pm, we took… the folding bikes!

This turned into a fun and naturally well-photographed trip, and it was so much easier than we expected (thankfully we had no problems with Metro, either). The Mechanic made convenient carrying straps for the bikes in their folded position, so of course now I’m considering making reflective straps, especially one to hold the wheels of my Tern together. The magnets aren’t really strong enough to hold. This was an easy way to carry them and not have to worry about a giant bag once unfolded.

Folded up  and on the Metro platform around 6:30pm.

Folded up and on the Metro platform around 6:30pm.

On our way home, we again biked to the Metro, but since it was after 10pm, didn’t bother to fold the bikes up. We were both thrilled to discover how easily the tiny bikes fit in the Metro elevators! Normally, with a full sized bike, this is a Tetris-like challenge. Folding Bike in ElevatorAnother bonus of the small size of the folding bikes is that they more or less fit on the landing in front of our apartment door. With my commuter bike, I end up with it hanging off the top ledge onto the steps below, angled and still banging into the stair railing and doorway. Big win for this! Folding Bike on StairsAlthough the bikes are larger than we anticipated while folded up, and don’t easily fit into a smaller suitcase, this date night proved that even if we don’t travel with them as we’d planned, we will still get plenty of use out of them. I purchased inexpensive bike lights for mine – I still am not sure I’ll use mine enough to justify expensive lights. But these worked great in the evening on our way home. Folding Bike LIghtsKnowing that we can take the folding bikes on the Metro before 7pm with little hassle opens up a wider range of date night destinations, allowing us to get near a location and bike the rest of the way. I’m all for these sorts of multi-modal adventures!

Mmmmm.... grilled pizza! Our folding bike date night reward (thanks for suburban friends with a huge outdoor grill!)

Mmmmm…. grilled pizza! Our folding bike date night reward (thanks for suburban friends with a huge outdoor grill!)

 

Culottes Again! And Folding Bikes!

Almost a year after I made reflective culottes, I made another pair! Culottes 9

This time, I made this Vogue 9091 pattern out of navy blue tropical suiting and used some of my aurora borealis reflective ribbon from Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics for a tux stripe. I love how comfortable they are, and how surprisingly well they fit, considering I stayed with the only alteration I made last time, dropping the crotch depth. However, the construction process did not go as smoothly as I had last time. And I really hate the way the hem looks. It looks like high school theater. Culottes 1I am also considering shortening them – I like the midi length, but maybe it’s too long? I’ll have to ask the women at work and get their thoughts.

The fabric pressed the front inverted pleat nicely, so we’ll see how long that lasts. Based on experience with the previous pair, I stitched the pleats down more, to make them easier to press. I still don’t understand the instructions on stitching the inside pleat, but whatever.

Edge stitched the front pleats - totally visible but I think it will keep the pleat better.

Edge stitched the front pleats – totally visible but I think it will keep the pleat better.

I can’t get a good photo of how the reflective ribbon looks like aurora borealis colors when it’s not reflecting – it glows purple and green, it’s really cool! You’ll have to trust me… But it reflects really well, yay!

You may have noticed that I’m riding a different bike in these photos. Good eye! The Mechanic and I now have both a Tern folding bike, and a Dahon folding bike! I’m SO EXCITED! And they both look nearly identical; what are the chances that Craigslist would work out so well?!?Culottes 3After riding the Tern (named Amsel; persona possibly Goth but I haven’t decided yet) around a bit Sunday, I’m even more excited to take these bikes on trips. They are so much lighter than our standard commuter bikes, and I love the easy step-through.

The Dahon is too new to even have a name, let alone a personality.

The Dahon is too new to even have a name, let alone a personality.

Between warmer, sunny weather, a successful-ish (just don’t look inside…) sewing project, and new bikes, it was a pretty great weekend. Too bad they can’t all be as bike-y and sew-y!

Dahon to the left of me, Tern to the right, here I am....

Dahon to the left of me, Tern to the right, here I am….