Monthly Archives: May 2013

Fashion Friday: Scandalous Style

This week I burned my way through season one of Scandal on Netflix.  Love!  The best part of the show is the main character Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington.  She’s uber-capable, confident, loyal and smart as hell – and also an amazing dresser.

As much as I love her style, I found myself thinking about the difficulty of wearing her outfits on a bike.  She favors crisp white suits, sky high platform heels and wide leg pants.

So I put together my own interpretation of bike-friendly Olivia Popeness.  I swapped out her wide-legged trousers for slim pants or a skirt to avoid chain disasters, her towering stilettos for pedal-friendly wedges, and her Prada bag for a Po Campo bag.  I had to keep the white trench coat, so watch out for grease!

Now she’s good to go on the Capital Bikeshare!

Or even better – a WorkCycles Secret Service.  :-)

 

I hope everyone enjoys the (long for some) weekend.  You can find me on the couch, binge-watching season two of Scandal.

{P.S. Here’s an interesting interview with Scandal’s costumer Kristine Haag, including her tips on how to get the look on a budget.}

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This is why I buy stuff online

The scene: Local bike and outdoor supply shop, Nashville, Tennessee, on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon. The perfect day to test ride a bicycle.

The players: Two experienced cyclists who happen to be female. One bike shop employee who happens to be male. Two Trek FX 7.2s. Le Peug.

I express interest in test-riding a Trek FX 7.2. Employee (to be called “LBS Guy” going forward) kindly takes it to the back room to top off the tires and check that everything is working properly. He leads me into the back parking lot. The conversation that follows is of course slightly paraphrased (I don’t have perfect recall) but not exaggerated.

LBS Guy: Do you know how the shifters work?

Me: [not having taken a close look at the lever setup] Well, not on this particular bike, no.

LBS Guy: What type of bike do you usually ride?

Me: [List my four bikes.]

LBS Guy: Oh. So you’re just looking for an everyday runaround, then? [Proceeds to give me not only a tutorial on how the shifters work, which was slightly different from my current setup, but also an exhaustive explanation of what the front chainrings do and how the rear cassette works despite my having told him that I rode a 10-speed here.]

Me: [after listening patiently] Is there a hill nearby where I can try this out?

LBS Guy: Oh, you don’t have to worry about that. The parking lot goes way back and you don’t have to think about cars at all.

Me: Well, I rode here on the street, so that doesn’t bother me. I’m interested in seeing how this takes a hill compared to my bikes.

At this point, Whitney comes out of the shop. I ask her if she wants to ride along with me. We make a couple of loops through the parking lot while I get a feel for the bike, and it is obvious that the saddle is too low. I stop, but the seat adjustment requires an allen wrench. I notice LBS Guy is standing in the lot watching us, so I decide to ride back and ask him to raise it slightly.

Me: Would you mind making a quick adjustment? The seat is too low.

LBS Guy: Well, you don’t want to raise it too much. It looked fine to me. If you’re see-sawing back and forth on the bike [which I was nowhere close to doing] the seat is too high. If you’d just point your toes a little when you pedal…

Me: I’d prefer to get closer to full leg extension. I’m not getting enough power.

LBS Guy: [reluctantly raising the seat about a quarter of an inch] Try that. I’ll watch your position when you ride away.

I ride away, with the seat still slightly low but not bad enough to go back and receive more patronizing advice. We get on the street and find a hill, ride up and down it, circle around for a few more minutes and return to the shop. The whole ride takes maybe 10 minutes. LBS Guy is opening the door as we start to bring the bikes back in.

LBS Guy: [somewhat aggressively] There you are! I was just about to go out looking for you. You aren’t supposed to leave my sight on a test ride. You could have just ridden off. I didn’t have anything to guarantee you were coming back.

Me: [puzzled] What do you mean? My bike is here [gesturing to Le Peug, which was parked in the store the whole time].

LBS Guy: [scornful glance at Le Peug] Well, that’s not collateral for a bike like this one. We don’t let people take bikes on the street without leaving a driver’s license or a credit card. [Neither of which he asked me for.]

Me: [a bit stunned] Well, I didn’t realize that. And I’m not sure how people can be expected to get a feel for a bike without taking it outside of a parking lot.

LBS Guy, clearly not really listening: I’ll come back and put the bike up later. I have other customers now.

He walks away. I lean the Trek against a shelf and go to get Le Peug as the insult to me and my bike registers. Another employee comes up as we are leaving the store and wishes us a good day—not sure if he heard the conversation and was trying to apologize or was just being polite. An angrily energetic ride home ensues.

***END SCENE***

I had been planning to browse for some items for the Clarksville Century ride (this shop carries a larger amount of sporty accessories than any other in town) but needless to say that didn’t—and probably won’t—happen. A certain amount of mansplaining, I can put up with (unfortunately, being short and female, I have a lot of practice doing so), but diss my bike and basically accuse me of being a thief and you’ve lost my business forever. Say what you will about Amazon.com, but that’s something you don’t have to put up with online. (Of course, they do already have my credit card number on file!)

I value the contributions to the community that local businesses can make, and try to support them when possible. But if local shops don’t deliver on customer service, I have no qualms about firing up Chrome and clicking straight to what I want, without the BS (and usually with a considerable discount).

I guess every good experience has to be balanced by a bad one. But why is it so hard for bike shops to learn how to treat female customers?

 

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Spring Joy Ride

On Sunday, I enjoyed a joy ride with my friend Maria, since we were both far from our mothers.  The weather was a bit chilly – in the mid 40’s – but the sun was shining and it’s mid-May, for goodness sake, so I wore a happy spring outfit and threw on hose to keep my legs warm.

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We biked down the lakefront trail and stopped to watch a sailboat race and enjoy some mimosas.  You can see our location on the tip of the harbor from my iPhone GPS below.

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After drinks, we decided to bike to the theater to see The Great Gatsby in 3D (two thumbs up!).  We wanted to avoid weekend traffic, so we chose to weave our way through the inner lakefront trail and neighborhood streets to get there.  I don’t think I’ve ever talked about the inner lakefront trail before.  The inner trail is a path that runs parallel to the lakefront trail for a couple miles through Lincoln Park.  The inner path is unpaved in many areas and is not plowed in the winter, but it’s generally a good option to escape the crowds or the winds by the lake, as long as you are not in a rush.

I filmed a bit of the joy ride to share here.  Enjoy!

Spring Joy Ride from LGRAB on Vimeo.

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My first flat (yes, it’s true!)

Well, it had to happen one day: On Tuesday, I left work to discover that I had my first-ever flat. Poor Le Peug!

womp womp

I considered going inside to ask my coworkers for a ride home. I considered calling a friend. But it was a beautiful spring day—the first we’d had in a while—and I had some time before I had to be at the farmer’s market in Sevier Park, so I decided to lock Le Peug back up and walk.

Once I was three blocks away, I remembered that my shoes, while not the least comfortable heels I owned, were not really the best for this sort of activity.

I was jealous of ALL OF THE BIKES that went by. And even one skateboarder, at whom I would have ordinarily scoffed. (Since when has that become a legit form of transportation?)

 

But I made it to the market, albeit a bit footsore, and partook of an Izzy’s Ice as a reward.

The next day, I drove to work. Afterwards, Le Peug and Minnie got to know each other on the way to Halcyon.

When we got there, Andrew offered to show me how to fix a flat myself. Never one to say no to the pursuit of knowledge, I agreed. I’ve always been a little embarrassed that I have never changed a bike tube, because when I first started driving, my dad made sure I knew how change a car tire, change and check the oil, replace the fluids, etc—it was part of being a responsible vehicle operator. Maybe I should be a more responsible bicycle operator? After all, they’re much simpler, right?

Well, changing a tire might be a simple task, but it’s not necessarily easy. It took me a good 30 minutes at least, and there was a lot of awkward fumbling and possibly some moderate swearing. Andrew would demonstrate a 10-second task (like separating the bead of the tire from the rim) and then I would struggle for 10 minutes. My long nails and short dress made it a challenge, and I felt especially inept since there was an appropriately dressed and extremely skilled female bike repairer working at the station next to mine…but eventually I had a new tube in a new tire and that new tire was on my old bike.

While I’m glad I have given changing a flat a shot, I don’t plan to start carrying tools with me on my bike. In an urban environment, when I’m biking short distances, there are too many other options for me if something goes wrong with a bike—calling a friend, taking the bus home and yes, walking, are all preferable to me than changing a flat in my office parking lot. That said, I really appreciated that my LBS offered me the chance to learn something even though I was a woman in business attire—a lot of people would have taken one look and automatically assumed I wouldn’t be interested. Maybe I’ll at least keep a tire lever and some extra tubes at home…although if it takes me four years to get another flat I will have forgotten everything I learned on Wednesday!

Anyone else have a flat tire story? Do you carry tools with you on your bike? Why or why not?

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National Bike Month rolls on in Nashville

Earlier this week, Dottie mentioned all the awesome events going on in Chicago for National Bike Month. We’ve got lots going on here in Nashville, too! Last Sunday, I led a Bike Brunch + MetroCenter Ride, which miraculously was rain-free. Also a miracle: That another cyclist came by, the first we’d seen all day, just in time to take this photo.

MetroCenter Ride crew

MetroCenter Ride crew

Next week is the biggest week yet: Wednesday is the Ride of Silence, Friday is Bike to Work Day, and Saturday is the Tour de Nash! We just found out that Mike Wolfe from “American Pickers” will be leading the Family Ride. I’m hoping he’ll be on some sort of awesome vintage machine…

Check out the calendar for more details on those and other events.
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What’s happening in your city for bike month?

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Fashion Friday: The Best Site for Pre-Owned Fashion

A few readers have asked me to discuss my favorite places to shop for pre-owned clothing.  I estimate that approximately 75% of my wardrobe is pre-owned, as in secondhand/used/thrifted.  I love pre-owned clothes for two main reasons: I can buy a lot more/better quality for less and I can minimize my contribution to the fast fashion system, the one that causes stuff like THE DEATH OF 1,000 HUMANS.  (Please think about that for a few moments and consider how important cheap new fashion is to your lifestyle.)

Locally, I prefer Salvation Army on Grand Avenue.  The goods are grimey, but if you sift through the racks long enough, you’re guaranteed to find some gems, like the $4 Burberry dress shown below.  (Remember, “God made dirt; dirt don’t hurt.”  Am I the only one who heard that a hundred times in my childhood?)

But since most of you do not live in Chicago, I’m sharing my favorite online shop.

And my choice is The Real Real, a site with daily flash sales of pre-owned designer items.  When I say designer, I mean designer, with oodles of options among Chanel, Prada, Stella McCartney, Chloe, Givenchy, et al.  (Thanks, rich people who wear a dress twice and then consign it!)  This is not just about fancy labels.  In my experience, these clothes are generally better made with higher quality materials, resulting in superior fit and longer lifespan.  BUT if designer is not your thing, scroll past the flash sales to the “Contemporary Designer Sales” section – that’s where the real deals are: Diane von Furstenberg, Trina Turk, Nanette Lepore, Kate Spade, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Steve Alan, and a crap load more.  Of course, these are not Salvation Army-level bargains, but that’s the price you pay for well-edited and dry-cleaned goods.

Through this site, I’ve found that I can buy used, high-quality designer items for the same price as new clothes at stores like Zara and J.Crew.  And unlike with eBay, I never have to worry about authenticity and returns are accepted.  Here are all of my purchases from the site to date:

(Oh my gosh, suddenly I wish I had my long hair back.  Don’t you hate that?  Too late now!)

Trust me, on my non-profit salary, there is no way I could ever afford all these beautiful clothes new.

As a caveat, the site can be addicting.  Under no circumstances should you subscribe to their daily email – that’s a great way to get sucked into constantly browsing for clothes that you don’t need.

Currently, everything is on sale for 20% off.  Woo-hoo!  I myself snapped up two Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses and a silk wrap top, along with a silk See by Chloe skirt.  Now I’m ready for spring.  :-)

A similar site I’ve been eying – but from which I’ve not yet purchased anything – is Vaunte.  They also sell pre-owned designer stuff, but their prices are a bit higher and they do not accept returns.  Womp-womp.

Do you have a favorite online shop for pre-owned clothes?  Please share!

{If you follow the link to The Real Real or Vaunte and buy something, the site gives me a $10-$20 credit.  Not a rigged blogger thing, just the reward they give anyone who refers another shopper.  And credits are great because I already spent my clothing budget for Spring 2013!}

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Perfect Bicycling Days

As I tweeted earlier, today was absolutely the most beautiful day of the year so far to bike in Chicago.  Simply perfect.  Light wind, warm air, calm water, blue skies, gentle sun, and a hint of a chill to prevent sweating.  It doesn’t get better than this.  On such days, I am super grateful for my bike, which allows me to spend a lot of time outside just going to and from work.

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In addition to biking, fishing is a popular activity on a day like today, as demonstrated above.

I wish all of you similarly perfect bicycling days.  :-)

 

 

 

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A How-To Guide and Bike Events

~For people seeking tips on bike commuting~

My friend, Maria, of PoCampo put together a nifty guide for National Bike Month on how to bike to work safely and arrive looking presentable.

I recommend that you check it out and – most importantly! – forward it on to anyone who may be interested in bike commuting.  Spread the bike love!  :-)

~For Chicagoans looking for fun ways to connect with other bicyclists in the area~

This Thursday, in collaboration with local bike advocacy brewers Spiteful Brewing and local bike-coffee shop Heritage Bicycles, Chicago’s Ride of Silence (organized by my friend Elizabeth) is hosting a pre-Ride Tribute Event to raise awareness of the Ride of Silence and bike safety.  Come to Heritage Bikes on Thursday to chat and enjoy beer from 6-9 pm.   The Ride of Silence is on May 15 this year.

On Sunday, PoCampo is leading a leisurely Mother’s Day ride along the lakefront in Chicago.  I’ll be there!  The ride will start at 11 a.m. with mimosas & juice at Cricket Hill (Montrose & Lakefront) and continue south to the free Spring Flower Show at Lincoln Park Conservatory. Feel free to bring the whole family!

Hope to see some of you there!

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Bicycling to the Ballet

Yesterday I had the pleasure of bicycling downtown to see the Joffrey Ballet’s Othello.  The ride was about 7 miles each way, along the lakefront trail.  The theatre is close to south Grant Park, which looked very nice on this beautiful day.

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And at my destination, here is the view from my regular seat in the front row of the balcony.

What these photos fail to show is the wind.  It was really, really windy – even by Chicago standards.  This resulted in a super fast bike ride down the lakefront trail on the way to the show (I arrived 10 minutes earlier than I expected) and a strenuous bike ride back home with the wind in my face.  I popped Betty into an easy gear and focused on spinning.  I got quite a workout!

Also, the photos don’t show the black spandex shorts I wore under my dress – necessary, as the wind blew the light silk around like crazy.  :-)

Did anyone else have a fun ride this weekend?

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Fashion Friday: Spring Scarves

I have a fun new accessory for spring: a beautiful vintage silk scarf that Trisha brought me from her recent trip to Italy.

I used to associate silk scarves with my elderly Sunday school teacher from childhood, but Trisha wears scarves with such effortless chic, I realize now how stylish they can be.  I drew inspiration from Trisha yesterday morning when deciding what to wear.  The Italian scarf called out to me and allowed me to wear an all-black ensemble without veering into Lydia territory.

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The 80 degree weather from Wednesday dropped dramatically to the 40’s, so it was back to tights and long sleeves for me.  A silk scarf is lovely for warmer weather with a chill in the air.  It’s also fun for bicycling, I learned.  With the bright scarf whipping in the wind behind me, I felt a bit ooh la la.

Like a toned-down version of this.  :-)

When I got to work, I pulled myself together by slicking back my hair, taming my scarf and throwing on heels that live under my desk.  As demonstrated with this very classy bathroom photo.

Now I want to seek out more silk scarves.  Lucky for me, they can be found a dime a dozen (almost) at thrift stores.  Highly recommended for the civilized transportation bicyclist!  (Just be sure the scarf is not too long – don’t want it catching on anything while cycling.)

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Warm Weather Excitement!

After a very long winter/early spring, truly warm weather has finally come to Chicago.  Yesterday was a whopping 85 degrees!

Bicycling in warm weather feels so different from bicycling in the freezing or even chilly weather.  Over the past 6 (7…8…?) months, I’d forgotten how it felt.  And there are lots and lots of other bicyclists out there, all of a sudden.  Love it!

I picked out my lightest silk skirt and blouse to celebrate the occasion.  I retired my black, winter Bern helmet for my happy, pale pink Nutcase helmet.  (Unfortunately, I had a sweaty helmet hair situation by the time I returned home in the evening, as shown above.)  I also pulled out my fingerless gloves, which I wear in warm weather to prevent discomfort from sweaty palms rubbing against cork grips, as well as to absorb some of the road shock.

That’s about it!  Just happy to share my warm weather excitement.  :-)

P.S.  I’m really enjoying reading everyone’s personal take on the issue in the comments of yesterday’s post, Women, Bicycling and Makeup.  Reader Bettina in Germany posted her perspective on her blog, Books, Bikes, and Food (hey, three of my favorite things!).

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