Monthly Archives: November 2012

Fashion Friday: Heels on Wheels

“Heels on Wheels” is a phrase that makes me cringe when used in the media to describe women riding bikes.  Since, you know, women should not be defined by a shoe type.   Yet here I go, using the phrase.  In my defense, this is only one post in a blog filled with varied topics about women and bicycling.  Also, the rhyming is irresistible.  :-)

Moving along to the point, a couple of Sundays ago the weather was unseasonably warm and as I headed out the door to a baby shower, I threw on an old pair of heels instead of my usual flats.  I rarely wear heals, preferring to tromp around the city with the steadiness of a mountain goat.  But I’m going through a wardrobe purge/overhaul of sorts and figured I should give these heels one more chance before throwing them in the ebay pile.

Turns out they are actually quite comfortable, provided I don’t stand for a long time.  And biking in them felt pretty bad ass.  The shoes created no logistical problems; as you can see in the photo below, there is plenty of contact between the pedal and the sole.  So these survive the purge, even though I probably won’t wear them often.

Now I’m drawn to the idea of stiletto heels in theory and what better way to play with this idea – sans wasted money and sore paw pads – than incorporating it into my Fashion Friday collage of imaginary outfits.  :-)  Now that the weather is straight-up cold, I winterized the concept.

{collage details}

I like this outfit because of the overall librarian feel (carried through to the Bowery Lane bike with its leather, cork, and wood), but with a kick of awesomeness from the heeled suede boots.  (Manolos are supposed to be the most comfortable heels, right?  Anyone have $600 I can borrow?  No?  Jerks.)  Of course, the stylish leather gloves would have to serve merely as the lining under my ski mittens with warmers.

So what say you: are you a heels on wheels type of person?

p.s. I really want that Everlane tote, made in Texas of Illinois canvas, priced at only $35!  (Everlane is my new style love, borne of a very cool concept.)

 

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Warm woolen mittens…stuffed with Grabbers

I love warm woolen mittens.  They are cozy and perfect for crisp fall weather.

(and whiskers on kittens! because why not.)

But woolen mittens are not cutting it any longer, as December approaches.   My fingers and toes are extremely sensitive.  While other cyclists seem to get by fine with a regular pair of gloves, my fingers and toes start to freeze/burn after ten minutes in 30 degree temps, even wearing wool glove liners with down-filled ski mittens (fingers) and wool socks with leather snow boots (toes).

The only solution for me – I’ve tried everything over the years – is warmers.  I buy Grabber brand (made in the USA and non-toxic) by the caseload from Amazon, making them 50 cents a pair.  A fair price to avoid daily misery and still much less expensive than the L train.

A pair lasts long enough to use for the morning and evening commutes, if stored in a ziplock bag during the day.  Grabber also makes toe warmers, but they are pricier and not as warm, so I save them for my regular shoes and  stuff hand warmers in my roomy snow boots.

Now if only I could get Amazon to deliver them in brown paper packages tied up with string…

How do you keep your fingers and toes warm during winter?

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Kerri Russell Rides a Bike!

Check out Kerri Russell casually riding a Gazelle in NYC.  I was so excited to see these photos on Pinterest!  I love seeing people in the public eye who bike to get around.  Her relaxed but chic style goes perfectly with bicycling around town.

Anyone know what panniers those are?  Very classy!

See also,

Rachel McAdams Rides a Bike!

Adele Rides a Bike!

Famke Janssen Rides a Bike!

Ellen Page Rides a Bike!

 

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Made in the USA

Deciding to ride a bicycle for transportation in a place like the US, after years of driving a car everywhere like everyone else, required that I step back and really question the system that I’d accepted all my life.  Through this, I realized the absurdity of using a ton of metal to carry myself a couple of miles.   This one change has naturally led to reconsidering other aspects of modern society.

Fresh on my mind, following Black Friday, is consumerism.  I love a good sale and I am far from a minimalist, with my collections of tchotchkes and overflowing bookshelves, but I feel that objects I bring into my home should have meaning and reflect my beliefs.  I do not always live up to this standard, but I’ve been making a conscious effort to buy clothing that was made in the USA or another country known for craftsmanship and decent working conditions, like the UK, France, Italy and Canada.  I know this is a complicated issue and many lives are improved by factory jobs overseas, but I personally feel better spending my money in a way that does not support corporations’ race to the bottom.  (See “Garment Workers Stage Angry Protest After Bangladesh Fire” and the Clean Clothes Campaign.)  Of course, I am lucky enough to have the time and resources for this, but so do most Americans.  No one is perfect (I’m typing this on an Apple computer, with its Foxconn manufacturing issues, after all) but that should not stop us from thinking about the issue and making small changes where we can.

Finding products that fit my criteria is, unfortunately, harder than it sounds, but prevents me from buying a lot of crap – avoiding fast fashion and focusing on quality over quantity.  And over time, I’ve built quite a nice collection.  Last Friday, I realized that everything I was wearing was made in the USA.  This made me happy.  :-)

My silk blouse and wool skirt are by Steven Alan, boots by Samantha Pleet for Wolverine (a birthday present), tights by Commando (the most comfortable ever), underthings by All USA Clothing, and earrings by Chic Gems.

(Hint on Steven Alan: twice a year he has online sample sales.  The fall sale just ended, unfortunately.  My skirt was $30 marked down from $225!)

As Mr. Dottie pointed out, the only exception to the outfit above is me: made in Germany.  And here is my wonderful mother who made me, visiting Chicago for Thanksgiving.  :-)

In regards to bicycles, I have one made in the Netherlands, one in Germany, and one in Taiwan.  As much as I absolutely love my Betty Foy in every way, part of me wishes that I saved my money longer to buy a made in the USA frame, like a Sweetpea or ANT.

How do you feel about this issue?  Do you have any shopping rules to counter thoughtless consumerism?

If you have tips on favorite businesses that manufacture in the USA, please share in the comments!

{p.s. another good way to shop – and cut down on waste – is to go for vintage style with secondhand savvy.}

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Sunday Ride

Good morning!  To all Americans, I hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving.  :-)  And now we have to go back to work.  :-(

Traffic was light in the city during the holiday, making it the perfect time to ride a bike – as long as you manage to avoid the drunk drivers.  But I have not been on my bike in 5 days because my mom was visiting from North Carolina.  She enjoyed taking the L train.

The previous Sunday was my most recent joy ride.  My friends Sara and Glenn and I biked down the Lakefront Trail to see a movie, then back up the Trail to meet Mr. Dottie at a cozy Scottish pub – a great way to warm up after a chilly ride.

Saw the first outdoor holiday lights.

Enjoyed warm coffee drinks.

Coco and Poppy spent some quality time together.

Did you enjoy a holiday joy ride?

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Lite (not) Brite

Early nightfall claimed another victim last week.

I had planned to ride to the Walk/Bike Nashville social last Wednesday night after work. Though in a part of town I don’t visit often, the venue was only 4.5 miles away from my office, the night was relatively mild, and I had prepared by wearing the right clothes.

I considered taking the Bat, with its generator light in front, but it starts feeling heavy if I ride more than 10 miles or so. I decided to take Kermit Allegra, since the Mini Monkey Light is impossible to miss and I also have a great fender taillight that I installed over the summer. And I’d just replaced the batteries on my headlamp, which had been burnt out for a while.


Unfortunately, my headlamp was not up to snuff on the dark side streets I’d mapped out (to avoid busy roads at rush hour). At worst it was as above; at best it was as below, when the inadequate streetlight was broken by individual house lights.

 

I rode this bike most of last winter without an issue, but I think this was the first time I’ve ridden it in the dark, alone, on side streets that I was not familiar with. On my route home, and on the routes I use for most places I go regularly, there might be a few dim blocks, but I am so familiar with them that I know whether a shadow is a pothole or a branch or a crack in the concrete. In those circumstances, light that functions mostly to let me be seen is workable, if not ideal. Not so on these roads. When I realized I had passed two miles braking for obstacles (imagined or real), I decided it was time to turn around, go home and get my car.

West End traffic on the horizon

 

Lights that illuminate the street well have been elusive for me. I find that handlebar lights don’t have a wide enough beam, and front fork lights are often diffused by the fender, as displayed above. Again, these issues are workable if I keep to familiar and/or busier routes, but it’s frustrating to have my rides limited in this way. What front light do you use that allows you to both see and be seen? I’m thinking of trying a side wheel mount light like the one on Dottie’s Oma, which works on the dark sections of the Lakefront Path.  If anyone can recommend an aftermarket front light worth considering, I’m all ears. Money is…well, it’s an object, but I’d rather spend $50 on a light that works than get five crappy ones that don’t end up helping the situation.

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Lost and Found

I’ve had the worst luck losing stuff lately – and the best luck finding it again.  Last Wednesday, I arrived at work and went to lock my bike as usual.  I reached for my u-lock…

…but instead of hanging on the rack as shown above, the lock was simply gone.  Yeesh!  I reasoned that the lock must have popped off the rack at some point during my commute and  wheeled the bike into my office for safe-keeping.  On my way home that evening, I stopped at J.C. Lind Bike Shop for a new lock.  I needed one ASAP, since I was meeting my friend Sara for dinner and a movie, and I’ve been wanting to upgrade to an Abus chain lock.

While at Jon’s shop, I also picked up a new Cat Eye front blinkie light.  My old Cat Eye also popped off my bike a couple of days ago and shattered.

Am I the only one with stuff popping off my bike left and right?  Maybe I need to secure stuff better, but part of the problem is the awful conditions of Chicago’s streets.  Potholes galore.  Well, would this … thing … pictured below even count as a pothole?

This has been there for years and I can never go around it because traffic’s always whizzing by on my left.  Right next to this monstrosity is where I found my u-lock the next morning.  A kind bicyclist, I assume, moved my lock from the street to the sidewalk – or maybe it really popped that far??

So now I am the proud owner of one bike lock too many, but I’m sure it will come in handy one day.

My u-lock is not the only thing that I lost and found that day.  I also forgot my helmet under my chair at the restaurant where I met my friend for dinner.  I didn’t realize I was missing my helmet until hours later, after a movie and drinks.  By 11 p.m., the restaurant was dark.  But as I unlocked my bike, the owner, who was about to drive away, popped out of his car and said, “You forgot your helmet, right?”   He unlocked the restaurant, went in, and appeared a couple of minutes later with my helmet.  Very kind of him!

Now let’s see if I can go a few weeks without losing anything else.  :-)

 

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A Day in the Urban Outdoors

This time of year, lots of people spend their weekends hiking or taking drives to look at autumn colors. Which is all well and good, but you don’t have to leave the city to spend an active day out of doors.

On Sunday, we had a bicycle brunch at West End Café.  It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the high 50s.

Lauren, Stephanie, Jonathan, Whitney, Sten & Jessica

Newlyweds! Jess & Sten got married on November 3.

 

Lauren knitted her sweater.

I pulled the Bat out for the day.

Afterwards, most of us went downtown to check out the Mayor’s 5K. Stephanie and Jonathan left before the start, but Whitney had registered and Lauren and I decided to walk along with her.

Walking a 5K in boots while carrying a purse? Why not?

We felt a tad out of place, not being clad in sweats, tennis shoes or t-shirts, but walking such a short distance in city clothes is really no big deal. Besides, who could miss out on the chance to enjoy city streets closed off to car traffic? Not this trio.

After the 5K, we ate some free snacks and checked out the Bcycle terminal…bikes TK next month.

Finally, pricing is revealed!

Then we went to get our bikes for the ride home, stopping to admire the picture they made in front of the red trees and new courthouse shining in the late afternoon light. Who says you can’t enjoy fall color in the city?

Whitney and I took the long way home to check out the new 28th Ave Connector, which has a protected bike lane. I was too busy enjoying the ride/huffing on the uphills to take a picture of my own, not that you get much of a chance for photos on a ride that’s only just over a quarter of a mile, but here’s one from WSMV (click for more details on the connector, if you’re curious).

Image courtesy of WSMV, obviously!

When I got home after my 5-hour outdoor day, I headed directly to the couch. Where I’m fairly certain someone else had been for the entire day.

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A Week of Fall Outfits

Here’s an overview of my outfits last week, before setting off to bike to work in temps of 30-40 degrees.  I expect to wear these same outfits over and over again during the upcoming months.

Tuesday: Chloe trench, cashmere sweater, Celine pants, boots.

Wednesday: trench, Chloe dress, tights, boots.

Thursday: trench, cashmere sweater, wool skirt, tights, boots.

Friday: red trench, cashmere sweater, Burberry skirt, tights, flats.

(Most everything I bought used, some on clearance.)

The photos reveal a consistency in my fall dressing: cashmere, wool, tights, and leather boots.  I know I’ve said this many times before, but these materials are excellent for cold-weather cycling.  There is no reason for me to wear technical clothing.

Do you have a cold weather cycling uniform?

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Fashion Friday: Cozy Sparkles & Nashville Bike Brunch annoucement

I’ll be spending part of this weekend leafing through my new Smitten Kitchen cookbook (courtesy of Dottie, who gives the best hostess gifts ever) and roasting squash to prepare for making a homemade pumpkin pie next week. But I do have some evening plans, and since we’re supposed to have pretty mild weather, I love the idea of setting out for them wearing a big ol’ bulky, cozy sweater over something just a little bit glittery. Ankle boots and solid tights tie the whole thing together, and would work great on a white Felt Verza Regency bicycle.

Cozy sparkles

Anyone else doing Thanksgiving prep work or recipe research this weekend? I’m so excited that I actually get to COOK this year—I’m going to visit my parents and my family is having our first Thanksgiving ever as just the four of us.

p.s. Forgot to mention that Nashville, we’re having a bike brunch on Sunday! Meet at West End Café at 11, optional ride downtown for the mayor’s 5K afterward.

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Neighborhood Discoveries

On the way home from voting last week, Kermit Allegra and I made a quick stop at Halcyon to get a hand with replacing the batteries for her front headlight. I was glad I’d veered a bit from my usual route because I stumbled upon this in the old Halcyon space.

A brilliant idea: craft beers to go from The Filling Station. It’s not open yet, but a quick Google search points to “soon.” Which means they still have time to add a bike rack (seriously, between this place and Edley’s we need one around that area!) so I can come by and fill my growlers by bike!

When people ask me how I know so much about what’s going on in the neighborhood, I tell them it’s because I bike it. It probably would have taken me longer to discover this place otherwise. Have you stumbled across any local gems during your bike rides lately?

Step-through bike frames for tall women

Two years ago, Kara of Knitting Lemonade wrote a guest post for LGRAB, describing her search for a chic bike that would fit her 6 foot frame.  Today, jamonwheels, a reader taller than Kara, asked:

I am finding it impossible to find a step through bike frame comfortably large enough from my large frame. I am 76 inches tall [ed. note: over 6'3], very tall for a woman, with a 36 inch inseam. Help! Are there really no frames for women larger than 19 inches?

I do not know much about taller bikes, so I checked out a few models that came to mind.  The WorkCycles Secret Service and WorkCycles Oma come as large as 24 inches (61 cm).  The WorkCycles Gr8 and WorkCycles Fr8 have a seat tube adjustable for riders up to 6’4.  The Rivendell Betty Foy comes in 24 inches (60 cm).  Note that the Betty Foy no longer is made in the 62 cm size.  The Pashley Princess comes in 22.5 inches (57 cm).  The Velorbis Victoria comes as large as 22 inches (56 cm).

A few brands I checked that do not have step-throughs tall enough for someone over 6 feet: Civia Twin City, Heritage Daisy, Public, Linus.

I’m sure there are other bikes out there.  Please share any and all suggestions in the comments!

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Colorful Fall Beauty

I woke up this morning to a dusting of snow!  Nothing serious, so I’ll bike to work as usual, but only last week I was enjoying the beautiful colors of a fall commute.

Always surprising how quickly fall fades into winter in Chicago.

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Chicago’s Tweed Ride

A fun and friendly group gathered for Chicago’s Tweed Ride on Saturday.  After an unexpected thunderstorm, the weather was sunny and exceptionally warm for November.

 

After the second pub stop, I broke off the ride with a group of girlfriends for dinner at Bangers and Lace.  I love that going on a Tweed Ride naturally means hanging out with so many of my friends.  Good times.

I know Des Moines had a Tweed Ride on Saturday (looking forward to the pictures!).  Anyone else?

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Fashion Friday: Wool Boucle Suit for Bicycling

The outfit above is chic – there is no doubt about it in my mind.  But at some point stuff gets ridiculously expensive.  This week, I saw a gorgeous Chanel boucle suit at a consignment store…in my size…for almost $2,000.  Holy mother of god.  That is a lot of money for one second-hand outfit.  The shop lady kindly informed me that they have layaway – ha!  Luckily, the timeless Chanel designs have filtered down to the level where ordinary people like you and me can enjoy clothes that look kinda sorta the same.

The day after I left the consignment store, a friend at work randomly gave me a Chanel-esque wool boucle suit that no longer fits her.  So I ended up with a similar outfit for free!  Sure, it’s no Chanel, but it is a quality suit made in Canada.

Once I got to work, I traded  my winter boots for heels, removed my gloves and scarf, and viola: ready for the office.  Except I realize now that my bow was askew.  :-)

A co-worker said to me, “You biked in that?!”  Really, wool boucle and tweed are excellent for bicycling because the fabric has some give, never wrinkles, and is super cozy for fall and winter.  I’m going on the record now to say that a wool boucle skirt suit – in addition to being timelessly chic – is the best outfit for cold-weather cycling.  Who’s with me?  :-)

 

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Janet’s Black Faux Fur Helmet

On my ride home from work yesterday evening, I ran into my friends Janet and Dan on the Lakefront Trail.  I love unexpectedly seeing friendly faces in Chicago; it always brightens my day and makes the city seem more and more like home.

As you can see, Dan and Janet have WorkCycle Omas, which they bought after visiting Amsterdam a few years ago.

Janet had on a new helmet by Yakkay, called the Luzern Faux, that she bought locally from Heritage Bikes.  The Yakkay helmet can be mixed and matched with different style covers and this is one option (it also comes in white).  So stylish!

At first I thought it was an actual shapka, not a helmet.  These are very on trend right now (and I do love my Anna Karenina).  :-)

Janet’s whole outfit was perfect for a chilly November night: fur hat, tweed coat, scarf, jeans, leather mittens, and high boots.  Perfection.

I want one now, but alas I already own a black winter helmet.

You can see another Yakkay helmet cover modeled by Martha, one of the lovely women-who-brunch, in this post from last year.  Has anyone else given this a try?

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A Great Day

Despite the grey skies, today was a beautiful day in America.  I took my good mood to the Lakefront Trail and enjoyed a leisurely ride to work.

While waiting at a red light downtown, a guy in a truck rolled down his window and said, “I like your bumper sticker.  You go, girl!  Have a great day.”  And I did.  :-)

P.S. Check out my Oma/Obama post from way back in the day.

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Bonfire Tweed Ride – This Saturday

This Saturday is the 4th Annual Bonfire Tweed Ride in Chicago, starting at Four Moon Tavern at 1 p.m.  I haven’t made it to a tweed ride in a couple of years, so I’m looking forward to this one.

 

{beautiful Scottish tweed from Brora: outfit 1outfit 2}

If you’re in Chicago, come on out!  Not sure what a tweed ride outfit would be?  Check out this Tweed Time fashion inspiration.  Trisha’s last Fashion Friday outfit would work well, too!

More info on the ride here.

Anyone else tweed riding this fall?

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Heritage Bicycle’s The Chief – Legacy Edition

Eye candy alert!  Today Heritage Bicycles announced a new creation, the Chief Legacy Edition.

What a beauty!  The basic Chief is also available at a much lower price point.

This bicycle is made even more alluring by the story of how it’s made.

Here at Heritage Bicycles we take pride in creating locally handcrafted bicycle frames. Using local steel from the mills of Chicago, we use top grade american high-tensile steel, welded into smooth riding and looking bicycles built to take on the rigors of city life. We do all of our handiwork in-house. From design to welding, painting, and assembly, we employ hard working american craftsmen, right here in Chicago, IL.

Very cool to see this work going on in Chicago.

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Fashion Friday: Country Casual

For today’s Fashion Friday, I decided to make it easy and share more or less what I am actually wearing.

Country casual

 

There are two—well, maybe two and a half?—small exceptions: My jacket actually has a black windowpane check, which I think ties the skirt in a bit better; the hairstyle is what I would have done to my hair if I hadn’t had an early eye doctor appointment; and my tights are opaque all the way up. I chose these particular tights to highlight this odd faux-garter style, which I noticed in all the UK stores, and ask if any of you would wear it. Seems kinda like a sexy fail to me…

Oh! And I almost forgot to mention the Biria bike in a perfect fall color.  Has anyone ridden one of these? They’re quite affordable. Digging all the under-$500 city bike options that seem to be popping up in the States at long last.

What are you wearing this fall Friday?

p.s. Dottie is coming to Nashville tonight! She’s shooting a wedding (congrats, Jess and Sten!) so I don’t know how much time we’ll have for bike-related shenanigans, but if we get up to any there will be a full report.

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