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, 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 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


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!


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!


Looking backwards while looking forwards!




Step Through Bike Frames: Girlie or Nah?

The unexpected happened the other day – I wondered if I would like a step-through bike frame. My stomach dropped and my palms started to sweat. What was I thinking?!

I love my bicycle, Fauntleroy. I wouldn’t change a thing about him. In fact, even though he desperately needs a new paint job, I can’t bring myself to decide on actually doing it, picking a color, where would I take him, and how long would we be parted?! From the Danish front basket to the rear rack that is slowly putting a hole in my pannier, there isn’t anything I want to add or subtract. Except…. I’m making another cute A-line skirt…. and although I always wear something modest under my skirts, hitching the narrower ones up enough to swing over the back of my bike is sometimes an annoyance. Except…. I do love riding Capital Bikeshare bikes and casually swinging my right foot in front of me as I pull up to a station to hop off and dock the bike. Except…. hm…..

Nope, wouldn't change a thing!

Nope, wouldn’t change a thing!

See, nice low frame, easy to step through

See, nice low frame, easy to step through

Here’s the problem. I think step-through frames are too girlie. They always are painted in pastel colors and decorated with wicker front baskets, and are often shown with women in skirts or dresses riding them. Well, I wear skirts and dresses often on my bike, but I’ve always appreciated that I’m still badass because I’m riding a men’s mountain bike that was converted by The Mechanic into my commuter bike. Skirt, yes – girlie bike, no. What’s badass about a curvy, swoopy bike frame? Nothing that I can see.

Classic girlie step-through bike, the Pashley Princess. I mean, it's called "the Princess"! At least it isn't pink.

Classic girlie step-through bike, the Pashley Princess. I mean, it’s called “the Princess”! At least it isn’t pink.

When I mentioned my secret thoughts to a colleague, she had the same reaction – a wrinkling of the nose while saying, “But they are all so girlie!” Her thought was, “Can I ride a step-through bike and still be a feminist?” (She’s a bike mechanic and sews, so she’s more badass than I am.)  A women’s bike frame, to us, just seem too cutesy, pink and ruffles, neither of which we are. We both strive to be strong, independent women, and although we both wear skirt and dresses often, I don’t think either of us would describe ourselves, or each other, as being girlie.


Part of the reason why I like riding bikes is because it makes me feel powerful. Okay, some days I ride home too slowly to be even remotely powerful, but some days I enjoy the feeling of powering myself through the streets, dodging pot holes and bad drivers, and enjoying the weather and street scenes as I breeze past, and I feel powerful. These dainty, curvy bikes in their sweet colors and perky baskets don’t scream “powerful” to me. Actually, they probably don’t scream at all. Too well-bred. Too pre-Title IX.

But my colleague and I talked it through, and agreed that it was important to be open-minded, so I did some research online. After looking at a range of styles, from the super-low Biria step-through “Easy Boarding” bikes (try going over any bump in the road on that!), to the fun, customizable Republic Plato Step-Thru, I stumbled across an old photo of me on my first grown-up bike.

Biria Easy Boarding Balloon 7

Biria Easy Boarding Balloon 7

The custom colors I chose on the Republic Plato Step-Thru

The custom colors I chose on the Republic Plato Step-Thru

In the old, fading, square photo of me, in my purple quilted vest and cool purple leg warmers, I realized that I still love that bike. It’s a shiny burgundy, it has fenders and a chain guard, easy handle bars, and look – a step-through frame! But not a curvy one – ah ha!

When Tin Lizzie first rode!

When Tin Lizzie first rode!

I started looking at frames more closely. There’s something about the straight tube that makes them seem a bit less girlie. I really like the Breezer bikes, but there are other brands that are similar.

Looking at the old photo, The Mechanic said, “Why don’t we look for those old Raleighs that you love so much?” He did some research to discover that they might not be quite that bad to modernize (I really don’t want a 3 speed bike. That’s what Capital Bikeshare is for), then poked around the internet a bit for reviews and blogs and the like. Made solidly enough to last until now, apparently they are pretty easy to get ahold of on eBay, Craigslist and the like. We’ve seen several for sale in the area already. The late 60s women’s Raleighs look pretty much like my first bike, with the concave chrome detail on the fork crown that I love so much (it’s just an interesting detail many bikes don’t have). If I can find one I like, in decent shape, for fairly cheap, it might turn into a winter project. It might. I still haven’t decided if it they are too girlie for me or not. I need to test ride one to decide. But it would make it easier to wear, and bike in, pencil skirts!

What are your thoughts on bike frames?