Monthly Archives: June 2009

Mind the Gender Gap

Dottie and I make no secret of the fact that the number one mission of our blog is to show that city cycling can be a part of any woman’s everyday life—no special equipment or clothing, or even a special type of bike required (though after a few months of riding, you’ll probably want one — or two!). Over the past six months, we’ve talked about our own obstacles to commuting and given our personal experiences as examples of how women might fit cycling into their lives.

Lately the media has been obsessed with women on bikes—or, more accurately, the women who are NOT on bikes. Apparently, we
Picture 3need more women cyclists to pretty up the place. Why aren’t they riding?!? Is it the helmet head? Are women too scared to share the road with cars? Maybe they are afraid to sweat? The latest to join the discussion is the New York Times’ City Room blog. The article presents research from a professor at Rutgers that says men commute by bike at 3 times the frequency of women, and the percentage is even worse in New York City. Having never cycled in NYC myself, I can’t say whether his description of riding its streets as “like going into battle” is accurate. And I certainly don’t want to discount concerns about safety and fashion, which were issues for me when starting out and two things Dottie and I are trying to help others overcome.

What annoys me is that none of the articles I’ve read on this topic lately go any deeper into why those things present serious obstacles for women but not men, even though men have the same concerns (no one wants to show up for work disheveled and stinky after all). Why bother, when it’s so obvious that men are just much less self-absorbed and a million times braver? It couldn’t be that there are higher expectations for women’s appearances in the workplace, or that the burden of transporting children or household errands like grocery shopping more often falls to them—the first reasons that came to my mind. These are not insurmountable, of course (just ask these cycling superparents, both moms and dads, or the other stylish women bike commuters we know), but they require some thought, negotiation and planning that your average male might not have to overcome in his quest to bicycle commute.

But instead of giving weight to these concerns, or looking into others, these articles stay on the surface. Women are dismissed as frivolous and their absence is mourned not because of the missed opportunity to allow them to discover an activity that can improve their quality of life, but because their presence would improve the scenery. As a girl who likes to look good on her bike, I can’t argue with that statement, but I can argue with it being the number one reason we should get women on bikes—sorry, Treehugger.

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A Chic and Rainy Night on Bikes

The inaugural Summer Babes and Elegant Bachelors Ride was a chic and fun success, despite the 90 degree temps that quickly devolved to rain. Everybody looked fabulous and we fit in everywhere we went, especially the swanky Nomi lounge. We’ll have to plan another one soon for later in the summer!

Let's Go Ride a Bike and BikeCommuters.com Together

Let's Go Ride a Bike and Elizabeth from BikeCommuters.com - luckily she lives only two blocks away!

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Oma’s Operation

Just before the mixer on Thursday, Mr. D and I discovered that Dottie’s 53-cm Oma could not be adjusted to fit me. The seat post was a bit too long for the tube, so the seat wouldn’t go down to the top of the seat post. That left those last two crucial inches that meant the difference between my toes grazing the ground and my toes having to stretch to complete the revolution of the pedal — not the safest method of riding in city traffic.

Contrary to what Friday’s post might imply, Dottie is more than willing to go the extra mile to share her bikes with friends. Once we got back to the condo, she gave the go-ahead for those crucial inches to be amputated the next morning. Ten minutes and visit with the handsaw later, and the extra seat post length was history.

Dr. Greg: "The patient is recovering nicely and will be ready to ride later this morning."

Dr. Greg: "The patient is recovering nicely and will be ready to ride later this morning."

And I was able to spend the weekend on two wheels.

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The Best Skirts for Cycling

People are surprised that we cycle in skirts and dresses so often, but it’s not rocket science. Over the past year, we’ve learned that almost every type of outfit works fine on bikes. Skirts offer freedom of movement and are much cooler than pants or shorts, making them especially good for summer cycling. There are some skirts and dresses that are not ideal for cycling, but those are few and far between, easy to work around or avoid. If you find yourself in a problematic skirt, be prepared to either hitch it up or hold it down with one hand. Three factors determine whether a skirt or dress is easy for cycling: structure, fabric and length.

A good dress: short but not too short, narrow but stretchy and not skin tight

A good dress: short but not too short, narrow but stretchy

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Chicago’s Bike Share Program

There wasn’t enough time for me to scare up a bike between my arrival in Chicago and the start of the Active Trans mixer. I thought I was OK taking the El, until I met the gorgeous Betty Foy and bike withdrawal hit hard.

two women, one bike

one bike, two women

Apparently Dottie’s support of a bike-share program only goes so far! Can’t say I blame her.

Stay tuned for more Chicago adventures!

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Nashville Goes Green

Last week, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean announced a “Going Green” initiative for our city. Dean ran on an environmental platform and has said he’s committed to making Nashville the “greenest city in the Southeast”—so far, he’s done a decent job of getting money and resources dedicated to improving the city’s infrastructure and public transportation. I clicked on the link and was a little disappointed to find that most of the things he wanted us to commit to do were things I’d learned in third grade during the good old “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” campaign. News flash: Don’t run the water while brushing your teeth!

One item of the pledge was a little more exciting.

Best part of the pledge!

Best part of the pledge.

If you live in Nashville and haven’t signed already, what’s stopping you? Anyone else seeing similar initiatives in your city? I know the South is a bit behind when it comes to the green bandwagon.

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Summer Cocktail Party Ride This Saturday!

How does this sound for a night on the town: chic ladies and gents, slow-moving bikes, jazz from a rolling sound system, and sophisticated cocktails?

6-24 critics pick

Fabulous, you say? Then the Summer Babes and Elegant Bachelors ride was made for you. Join us this Saturday for a tour of Chicago’s best retro cocktail patios. All the cool kids will be there, including Trisha all the way from Nashville! The temperature may even fall below 90 degrees, if we’re lucky.

Time Out Chicago validated our existence by listing us as a Critics’ Pick in the magazine and Freebie of the Week online. We’re up there with Taste of Chicago – not too shabby!

If you’re in Chicago, I hope to see you there! Never ridden in a dress and heels? New to city cycling? This is the perfect opportunity to get comfortable. Don’t know anyone who will be there? No problem, we’ll all get to know each other as we bond over our love of bikes. Worried that you and/or your bike isn’t stylish enough? Don’t be silly. Think you’re too cool for us geeks? You’re probably right!

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Separated at Birth?

As I’ve mentioned before, Vanderbilt’s campus is THE place to go to spot bikes in Nashville. (A hot second: the Belmont Blvd. bike rack.) Unfortunately Le Peug was not with me when I spotted this guy:

Long-lost relative

Le Peug's long-lost relative?

Nice to see another Peugeot on the road — or, well, on the rail, anyway.

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Separated at Birth?

As I’ve mentioned before, Vanderbilt’s campus is THE place to go to spot bikes in Nashville. (A hot second: the Belmont Blvd. bike rack.) Unfortunately Le Peug was not with me when I spotted this guy:

Long-lost relative

Le Peug's long-lost relative?

Nice to see another Peugeot on the road — or, well, on the rail, anyway.

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Emily and Maria: Making Fab Bike Bags in Chicago

6-23 emily maria

On my morning commute last Thursday, stopping at a bike-to-work week station, I met two cool girls doing a lot for stylish cycling. Emily and Maria are friends who got inspired to create bicycle bags that reflect their personal styles. The result is Po Campo, a line of made in Chicago rack and handlebar bags that look just as good off the bike as on. They are impeccably designed and constructed – hands down the best stylish bike bags I have ever seen. I was so impressed that I wanted to learn more about their history with design and cycling. Read on for that, plus tips for new cyclists and the joy of riding a bike.

What inspired you to create these bags?

Maria and I have been biking for years and never really felt like we fit into the demographics. We saw Po Campo as a great opportunity to use our design background to come out with products that were functional for biking, but still fit our style.

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Famke Janssen Rides My Bike!

That beauty there is definitely an Azor Oma.  I’m such a trendsetter. First Ellen, now Famke.

Famke Janssen rolls like Dottie

Famke Janssen rolls like Dottie

Spotted at Copenhagen Cycle Chic.

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Me and the Bike and the Morning

Here’s a short video from my morning ride last Thursday. In summer my ride takes place much earlier, and I love the sounds of the birds and the quiet of the street when I am on the road before anyone else (at least, that’s what it feels like). Of course, it all seems much nicer when you can’t feel the humidity!

Other than the sweat factor, does your commute change in the summer?

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Beautiful Bicycles: Sweetpea JJ Fantastic Mixte

JJ sure looks happy, with good reason! She is the proud owner of the first Sweetpea Mixte, which has taken its place in Sweetpea’s Love Line as the JJ Fantastic. What a gorgeous bicycle! And how fabulous to have a badass bike like this handmade in Portland by a woman! Natalie Ramsland, the builder, and her husband Austin operate Sweetpea Bicycles to “build bikes for women” with the idea that “Every woman is different. Every bike should be too.” By the look of their finished products, that line easily could be “Every woman is beautiful. Every bike should be too.” Check out JJ’s mixte and then check out Sweetpea Bicycles if you are considering a custom bike and have been squirreling away the cash for a long while.

JJ and Her Sweetpea!

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“Sorry, I didn’t see you”

Those were the words of the SUV driver who cut me off on Thursday. Really?? And whales speak French at the bottom of the sea, I’m sure.

I was riding Oma in broad daylight with no sun glare. The narrow one-way street was ending and I was preparing to take a right. While I was moving over to take the lane, an old SUV started to pull around and squeeze by. I did the “back off” signal that Adrienne mentioned in an earlier comment – left hand out and pushing back with fingers splayed. Completely ignored. After he immediately swung in front of me and took a right, I called out, “Thanks a lot, buddy!”

We were soon stopped in a line of cars turning left and he said something out his window that I could not hear, so I said, “You cut me off back there.” Then he rolled down his window all the way and stuck his head out. I would have bet money that he was going to call me the B word and peel off. Instead he said, “Sorry, I didn’t see you,” smiled, and looked at me a bit too long. He was flirting with me. At this point I really had nothing to say except, “O…kay” and waved him on. Did he actually expect me to reciprocate? In the wise words of Lily Allen: “Not in a million years, you’re nasty, please leave me alone.”

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“Sorry, I didn’t see you.”

Those were the words of the SUV driver who cut me off on Thursday. Really?? And whales speak French at the bottom of the sea, I’m sure.

I was riding Oma in broad daylight with no sun glare. The narrow one-way street was ending and I was preparing to take a right. While I was moving over to take the lane, an old SUV started to pull around and squeeze by. I did the “back off” signal that Adrienne mentioned in an earlier comment – left hand out and pushing back with fingers splayed. Completely ignored. After he immediately swung in front of me and took a right, I called out, “Thanks a lot, buddy!”

We were soon stopped in a line of cars turning left and he said something out his window that I could not hear, so I said, “You cut me off back there.” Then he rolled down his window all the way and stuck his head out. I would have bet money that he was going to call me the B word and peel off. Instead he said, “Sorry, I didn’t see you,” smiled, and looked at me a bit too long. He was flirting with me. At this point I really had nothing to say except, “O…kay” and waved him on. Did he actually expect me to reciprocate? In the wise words of Lily Allen: “Not in a million years, you’re nasty, please leave me alone.”

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Hot Legs

Somehow I’d missed seeing this movie until last year—this is one of my favorite scenes. It’s amazing how effortless the puppeteers make this look. If Kermit were a regular bike rider, his legs would have been even more drool-worthy for Charles Durning and his customers. And then there’s the bike’s geometry, which looks a little off. Perhaps Schwinn designed a special “frog” model?

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Cycling Abroad

Jess and her bike in Gottingen

I’ve long believed that if everyone spent some time living in a country other than their own, the world would be a much better place. But I never thought about the fact that it could also get people on bikes.

My friend Jessica has been studying in Germany for the past few months. Though she sometimes rode a bike to the university here in Nashville, living there has given her a different perspective on city cycling that she shared in a blog post today. As always, Jessica provides interesting insights on German culture as she sees it—and the pictures of Gottingen’s bike lots on weekends vs. on weekdays are great illustrations of the prominence of cycling in Europe.

So head on over and check out her post. I have a feeling there will be some more pictures of Jessica on two wheels once she makes it back to Nashville.

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It’s Not Electric (boogie woogie woogie)

Yesterday morning I was stopped at a red light downtown behind a couple of cars. A police car stopped next to me in the left lane. This may seem like a foreboding beginning, but my experiences with the police while on my bike have always been pleasant (as opposed to when I drove a car and never interacted with the police unless I was getting a ticket for expired plates). Three police guys were in the car and one called out, “Hey, how many miles do you get per…” I thought he was going to say “gallon,” making a bikes-are-superior joke, but then he said “per charge.” It took me a couple of seconds to understand that he thought dear, sweet Oma was an electric bike. I answered, “Oh, this is not an electric bike – it’s all me!”

Sadly, that was not the first time Oma has been mistaken for an electric bike. I have no problem with electric bikes and think they present a fantastic solution for lots of people. That said, Oma being electric would definitely detract from her coolness. Plus, I don’t want people I pass (granted, not a huge number on Oma) to think that I’m passing because of electric assist.

Schwinn Tailwind

Schwinn Tailwind

I thought that the culprit was the wheel lock with key, looking like an ignition. Then I saw pictures of the Schwinn Tailwind electric bike and realized that – unlike any other “American” bike – it has all the practical accessories of a Dutch bike.

With the electric bikes being so practical, will they, along with folding bikes, usher in the new era of widespread utility cycling in America? I was hoping city bikes like my Dutch bike would lead the way, but people seem more familiar with these new electric bikes.

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With the gales my little boat was tossed

Chicago’s bike-to-work week is turning into a soggy mess, but I was out there as usual. Riding through the pouring and chilly rain on my way home, wearing a short skirt and sandals, I was miffed about my circumstance until I saw this guy out on Lake Michigan. Good to remember that there’s always someone else who has it worse than you.

Look at the upper left hand corner

Look at the upper left hand corner

Who knows, he could have been having a grand ol’ time, but I have no evidence of such. This is probably what I look like to drivers as I cycle by in rain and snow storms!

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With the gales my little boat was tossed

Chicago’s bike-to-work week is turning into a soggy mess, but I was out there as usual. Riding through the pouring and chilly rain on my way home, wearing a short skirt and sandals, I was miffed about my circumstance until I saw this guy out on Lake Michigan. Good to remember that there’s always someone else who has it worse than you.

Look at the upper left hand corner

Look at the upper left hand corner

Who knows, he could have been having a grand ol’ time, but I have no evidence of such. This is probably what I look like to drivers as I cycle by in rain and snow storms!

Continue reading

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