Category Archives: advice

Cerebral Palsy Has Nothing on This Biking Kid

Today I’m honored to share this guest post by my friend Samantha, who blogs at Ding Ding Let’s Ride!  (This originally appeared there.)  She was profiled here as a Roll Model earlier this year, where the focus was on her personal bicycling history and encouragement of other women to start biking.  This post is an in-depth look at the bicycling history of her adorable stepson.

Besides writing about Dutch bikes and other city bikes, I also write about adaptive bikes for kids. We’ve gone through a number of bike variations over the last three to four years for my 8 year-old stepson, as he has grown and his abilities have changed. All the while we’ve tried to keep him on a bike that he can get on and off by himself and ride without our assistance.  His Cerebral Palsy has made that a bit of a challenge.

These days,  I don’t think twice about our family riding our bikes to meet up with the Kidical Mass families for a ride instead of driving there and unloading our bikes.  Actually though, it’s a big deal that he’s got the endurance and ability to ride those extra miles.   Thinking about that made me take a moment and look back over how far our young cyclist has come in the last few years.

Burley Bike Trailer

We started with a Burley bike-trailer as he grew too big for a regular stroller.  His mom went with a special-needs stroller – they are a little bigger and heavier-duty than typical strollers. We thought we’d try using the  Burley bike trailer with a stroller attachment instead, though we certainly had to borrow the stroller once in a while.  When LD was  4 and 5, trips to places like the zoo or a museum could not happen without something for him to ride in like a stroller or the Burley.  He began walking much later than most kids do, and his legs and energy didn’t last that long either- a typical challenge with CP.  With the Burley, we could ride our bikes to the zoo, neighborhood festival, or park, lock up the bikes,  un-hitch the Burley, flip down the front stroller wheel, slide on the stroller handlebar, and be ready to go.   He could walk around and play, and then climb back in when he got tired.

Red Kid’s Trike

The first bike we tried out with him was a regular kids tricycle –  a used red Radio Flyer even! But it didn’t work. He felt awkward, couldn’t really pedal, and almost fell off. We tried to entice him with a walk-bike, but he was almost too tall for one at that point, and it just wasn’t comfortable for him either.    Then, in 2010, his therapists presented him with a specially-adapted tricycle (as part of a program sponsored by The TelecomPioneers) That was a banner day.   He zoomed around the therapy room with it like nothing any of us had ever seen.  He was ecstatic and so were all his parents.

 

The trike really made us believe that he’d be able to ride a bike one day. We weren’t sure what kind of bike, but we knew there had to be one and that he’d be game for it.

Adapted Kids Bike with ‘Fat Wheels’

It didn’t take too many months for him to overpower that first trike.  As he grew more confident in his ability, like any kid he only wanted to ride harder and faster.  We started our research, and you can find more pictures and details about the first bike we got for him in this post.  We thought we would get a trail-a-bike for him to ride behind Andrew – but realized he would most likely be constantly leaning to one side or the other.  Instead, we bought a standard kids bike, and had it adapted with a larger seat,  weighted flat pedals with foot straps, a hand brake, and an extra set of tires, larger than traditional ‘training wheel’s attached via a sturdy bracket.

 

This bike has been powerfully successful.  He became just another kid on a bike.  He was able to ride it around the block,  ride it on vacation with other kids and family members, and so on. Tentative at times, but still a kid riding a bike.

(Riding with my brother)

Trike Conversion Kit

He took some spills, went through phases where he was too scared to ride much like many kids,  then got back on it again and took off.  Last spring though, he became really uncomfortable riding it as he had grown so tall that he was very top-heavy against the wobble of those extra wheels.   Which meant it was time to change up his bike again.  This time, we went with  a full trike-conversion kit, which you can read more about in this post.   He still rides the same bike frame, but now it’s been converted to the coolest, orangest-looking trike you’ve ever seen.

Both Andrew and I love the feeling we get when we’re out riding – for both of us, a bad day riding a bike is better than any other day not riding one.  We commute by bike and do as many of our errands and everyday trips by bike as possible.  We wanted to include the little guy in our rides and teach him how to ride so that he can share that great feeling and always have an independent means of transportation. Based on how much he loves to ride his bike these days, I think we’ve succeeded.  And most of the time I forget how far along he’s come from that first red trike.

If you want to catch a view of his trike in action, here’s  a video from a recent Chicago Kidical Mass ride (Jan 2013).  He pops up here and there the video, and again at the end of the ride.  I kept the video going for a bit as we rode on home with LD  in front of me, hamming it up, and riding along like a pro.

Thanks so much, Samantha!

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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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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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Winter Bicycling: Rational and Enjoyable

Happy February!

This morning, my friend Elizabeth posted a response on Bike Commuters to a dumb op-ed stating that winter bicyclists are “insane” and “suicidal.”  I love how her response is so reasonable.  Unfortunately, this particular poorly written op-ed is only a drop in the bucket of ridiculous stuff written and said about winter bicyclists.

My own personal response is: calm down and stop being so lame!  You sound silly.  Winter bicycling is perfectly rational and enjoyable.

So when I returned home from work this evening after bicycling 6 miles in 10 degree temps (-12 C), I made a quick video demonstrating how simple and normal the whole thing is.  Pretty dorky, but I’m embracing my inner Liz Lemon in remembrance of 30 Rock.

liz

My bike ride this evening could not have been better.  As I cycled along the lakefront, the setting sun turned the sky soft shades of blue and pink over the placid, icy blue lake.  Salt covered the trail, rendering the danger of ice moot.  I was not cold; I was happy. And here is what I wore.

What would you say to those anti-winter-bike goofballs?

{See also; video of cycling the lakefronthow to dress for winter cycling, and the LGRAB Winter Guide}

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Video: Cycling in a Long(ish) Skirt

As you may have noticed, I enjoy wearing skirts and dresses, which means that I often cycle in skirts and dresses.  Last summer, I posted about cycling in a long dress on a bike with a chainguard and soon made a  part II video on a “regular” bike with no chainguard.  In both cases, I was wearing ankle length dresses and had to be careful that the hem would not catch in the chain.

Recently, I found myself wanting to wear a new long(ish) skirt on my regular bike.  This skirt stops about 6 inches above my ankle.  I thought I would have to gather the skirt to keep it from the chain and back wheel, but discovered that the skirt hem stayed far from those danger zones once I’m up on the saddle.

I made a quick video to demonstrate how easy bicycling in this long skirt can be – no special accessories or preparation needed.

Bicycling in a Long(ish) Skirt from LGRAB on Vimeo.

Do you have long(ish) skirts that you can cycle in with no problem?

(p.s. I’ll be using Vimeo to post videos now; I’m tired of all the Creepy McCreepersons on YouTube. Visit our channel.)

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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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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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Gone With the Wind

Biking may make your skirt fly up, but if you want to keep it from becoming literal, here are some tips:

  • Attach an office binder clip to the hem of the skirt to weigh it down—or, if the skirt is long, try clipping the front and back of the hem together to create makeshift culottes.
  • Wear a garter belt on your thigh with a safety pin and then safety pin your skirt to the garter belt from the inside, or purchase a bike garter.
  • If your skirt has a pocket, put a cell phone or keychain in it and shift the pocket to the front while you ride to act as a skirt weight.
  • If the skirt is voluminous enough, tie it tight with a rubber band or hair tie (you’ll have to weigh your modesty against the possibility of wrinkles with this one).

What secrets do you have, readers? Share in the comments!

{ More on wearing a skirt on a bike—and how to wear a long skirt. }

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Just Glide

So I realized after posting about tips to beat the summer heat that  there was one thing I hadn’t mentioned: Coast when you can! This is probably because I often forget to do this myself. You know those small dogs who, when held above the water, automatically start paddling?

funny gifs

That’s me when my feet are placed above bike pedals.

But here in Nashville, the upside of all the hills are all the downhills! (Well, I guess technically the downhills are the downside, not the upside, but you know what I mean.) And when it’s hot, I try to remind myself to take a break from pedaling and glide down them.

The joys of having a step-through: resting your feet on the top tube!

Are you a phantom pedaler too? Make me feel less alone here. :)

 

{ gif pulled from gifbin.com }

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Making It Work

Sometimes an outfit comes along that is worth a little extra trouble to become bike-friendly.

I found this Burberry polo shirtdress at Salvation Army last week for the low, low, low price of $1.89.  I thought the casual dress would be great for summer, but it was shorter than I expected once I put it on.

I really did not want to be inappropriate, so I put on black spandex shorts underneath.  Then I layered a full-length opaque slip to prevent the black from showing through the white cotton.

A couple of people mentioned using slips for bicycling in the comments of this post, so I picked up a highly-recommended full slip from Gap Body.  The slip worked perfectly, although natural fibers would be more breathable and therefore better for bicycling.

These three layers helped me feel secure while biking 8 miles in this dress.  I think I could have gotten by without the shorts, but I prefer not to worry about my hemline and appreciate the extra coverage.

I’m sure this new slip will come in handy with many other outfits.

Do you have an outfit that you love so much, you go out of your way to make it work on your bike?

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How To: Leather U-Lock Holster

I heard so many great tips from commenters about u-lock schlepping last week.  The one that takes the cake is from Jessie of Bicitoro, who posted an excellent tutorial for creating a u-lock holster from a leather belt.

What a stylish, thrifty, and utilitarian solution!

Check out her step-by-step instructions.  If you create your own, please let us (and Jessie) know.

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Navigating Stairs with a Bike

Stairs are my biking nemesis.  (Well, after cars, train tracks, and black ice.)  My heavy Dutch and Danish bikes, Oma and Coco, are extremely difficult to navigate up and down stairs – or even impossible to navigate, depending on the number and steepness of the stairs.  My Betty Foy weighs much less but she’s also tough with stairs, since her handlebars and basket are unwieldy.  I deal with this simply by avoiding stairs, which is usually easy, since I park my bikes on the ground level at both home and work, plus there are ramps or elevators near almost all stairs, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A couple of times a year, though, I come across a small flight of stairs that presents the most convenient route by far.  For example, the stairs above in the Lurie Botanical Gardens are much faster to descend than the far-away ramp.  In those cases, I grab hold of the handlebars, squeeze the brakes, and make a spectacle of myself as I grunt my way up with a worried look in my eyes.  Not fun.

Too bad all stairs do not have convenient bike ramps alongside, as is common in Amsterdam.  Chicago has one that I know of, leading down a Lakefront Trail underpass.

The incline is so steep that the process is still a pain with a heavy bike, but it’s certainly much better than nothing.

I have a couple of friends who regularly carry their bikes up and down stairs and therefore could never buy a Dutch-style bike.  I wonder how many of you out there are in the same situation.

Do you encounter stairs regularly while with your bike and, if so, does that keep you from buying a heavier bike?

 

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Bike Lock Schlepping

A high-security bike lock is essential, but lugging around a heavy lock everywhere can be a hassle.

My Velorbis has a little detail that solves this problem: a hook that sticks out from the rear rack.  This is the perfect storage spot for my u-lock.  A rack clamp holds the lock in place and eliminates rattling.

Too bad this is not standard on all racks.  With my other bikes, I never figured out a great solution for carrying my u-lock.  I either throw the lock in my front basket or strap it to my rear rack with built-in bungies, but in both places the lock takes up valuable cargo space and rattles.

My huge Abus chain lock is actually more convenient to carry, because I can simply twist it around my front tube.

I’d love to know – how do you carry your bike lock?  Have you worked out a clever solution?  If so, please share with the rest of us!

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Simplicity

Although not directly bike-related, I am compelled to share with you this beautiful short film.  Created by Julia Warr, the film features Maia Helles, a 95 year old Russian ballet dancer, as she shares her secret for a long and happy life: simplicity.  The running time is only four minutes – please do watch it now; I’ll wait.

Beautiful.  I want to remember Maia and try to make little changes in life to foster the kind of happiness she displays.  If I could be assured of having half of her health and serenity in my later years (maybe even toodling around on my bike still), I would not fear growing older as much.

{I found this film via the always thoughtful and lovely blog Silent Storyteller.}

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Fail: spandex shorts under dress

We’ve been talking a lot about dealing with unruly skirts and dresses recently.  I shared my experiences of tying my skirt and stapling my dress.  To avoid such a faux pas in the future, I decided to wear my old Nike spandex shorts (no padding) under suspicious new dresses.

Such was the case with a dress I thrifted last week (ahem, new with Nordstrom tags, I gotta brag).  The skirt was full and the fabric light, making the dress a candidate for floating-up-with-the-wind syndrome, so I threw my spandex shorts underneath and thought I managed to be both clever and chic.

Um, nope!

I realized only when I got this film photo back from the lab that the outline of the shorts was totally visible under the dress fabric.

*sigh*  The dress never behaved inappropriately on the bike, anyway.  Such is life, I suppose.

At this point, the garter-belt-pinned-to-dress idea is looking like the best.  I’m noting that for the future.  :)

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Convert Your Skirt!

This morning, I met up with my friend Elizabeth at Heritage Bikes for a quick breakfast before continuing on to work.  Bikes and coffee and friends is a lovely way to start the day!

While there, I met Sarah, one of Elizabeth’s high school friends visiting from Berkeley.  She showed us her clever creation, a restrictive pencil skirt that she made bike-able by replacing the side seams with zippers and sewing in extra fabric.

The surprise pop of color is so fun!

At the office, you’re wearing a regular pencil skirt and then before getting on you bike at the end of the day, you unzip the sides and viola.  Here’s a short demonstration video.

Sarah has a website, Skirts on a Bike, where you can download instructions on how to convert your own skirt.  She plans to start selling kits complete with zippers and fabric in the future.

I have a few pencil skirts and dresses that I love but rarely wear due to not being able to ride my bike with them. I think it’s time to convert some skirts! :)

Has anyone else tried something like this?

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Wardrobe Malfunction: Tying my skirt

The other day, I wore a full pleated skirt to work, one I had worn while bicycling many times in the past with no problem.  I must have been riding Betty Foy and not Oma those previous times (like here), because this time the skirt kept ballooning up with wind and blowing back.  While the slightly leaned-forward positioning of Betty Foy causes the wind to push skirts down more securely against my thighs, Oma’s laid-back positioning can have the opposite effect.

For a while, I biked one-handed while using the other hand to hold down the skirt, but even that was not enough to tame it.  Eventually I pulled over, grabbed a ponytail holder from my bag, and tied up one side of my skirt, which worked, although it was wrinkled afterward.

Ta-da!

I was really annoyed by this situation at the time.  I know there are lots of people (both bicyclists and non-bicyclists) who think bicycling in a skirt is silly, and I probably looked like Exhibit No. 1 in support of their opinion out there, but I know that bicycling in a skirt is perfectly reasonable.   I do it all the time without incident and never have to worry about changing at my destination.

I should not care what others think, but I am cognizant of being a rarity out there and I want to represent well the idea of everyday bicycling.

In the end, the solution was easy enough – fast, effective and free – and I will simply make a mental note of this particular skirt’s limitations.

See also, Stapling my skirt.

P.S. Since we’ve been talking a lot about pricy specialty bicycling clothes lately, I’ll point out that this skirt, the pearl necklace, and the cashmere sweater all came from thrift stores.

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Pants on Bikes

I dislike bicycling in pants.  I was reminded of all the reasons why a couple of days ago.  Pants rub uncomfortably against my thighs, bunch up around my saddle, and drop low on my waist when I lean forward even slightly.  Plus, they force me to wear goofy ankle straps on both legs.  (Chain cases don’t help; the problematic part is the crank arm, which has ripped more than one cuff.)  Not a good look and annoying to fiddle with!

The only pants I’m comfortable cycling in are jeggings, but since I can’t wear them to work, they don’t come out often.

Therefore, I wear a lot of skirts and dresses, with tights and leggings to carry me through the winter.  This is 100% practical.

I think the concept of cycling in skirts may seem silly to outsiders or newbies, but once women experience cycling in different clothes, they must appreciate the comfort of skirts, right?  And since more women are riding bikes for everyday transportation,  perhaps skirts on bikes are slowly becoming the new normal.  A couple of days ago Lovely Bicycle posted about normal-clothes preferences while bicycling, starting with a conversation she overheard of women shopping for bike-friendly skirts, and several women in the comments mentioned that they like cycling in skirts.

Ladies, which do you prefer for cycling – skirts or pants?  How do you make pants comfortable??  Gentlemen, are you envious that society generally keeps you from wearing skirts (seriously, I wanna know)?

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Deck the Bike with Holiday Lights

Fa la la la la, la la la la!

Every year around the holidays, I think about how cool it would be to go all out with Christmas lights on my bike. And every year I punk out by throwing on ribbon and a couple of ornaments.

Not so this year!

I finally bought a string of battery-operated lights, one that’s colorful and blinks in fun patterns. Installing it on my bike was easy – I simply wrapped it around, starting from the handlebars, down along the top tube, and ending at the rack, where I tucked the battery pack under my cargo straps.

This set up makes me ridiculously happy. (It’s the little things that count.)

Plus, I’m the most visible bike out there by far! :)

Do you decorate your bike? I know several of you put lights on your bikes and encouraged me to do the same, so thanks!

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Ladies: “Don’t” scandalize yourselves on bikes!

Reader David Pertuz thought LGRAB readers would be particularly interested in a post on the Detroit blog m-bike.org written by Todd Scott, called 1895: Don’ts for women riders.  (Thanks, David!) That’s right – 41 “don’ts” to be exact, from an 1895 article in New York World.  The list is both hilarious and horrifying.  We are lucky to be looking at this from 115 years in the future.

A few of my favorites:

  • Don’t be a fright.
  • Don’t faint on the road.
  • Don’t boast of your long rides.
  • Don’t refuse assistance up a hill.
  • Don’t imagine everybody is looking at you.
  • Don’t ask, “What do you think of my bloomers?
  • Don’t go out after dark without a male escort.
  • Don’t appear in public until you have learned to ride well.
  • Don’t ignore the laws of the road because you are a woman.
  • Don’t scream if you meet a cow. If she sees you first, she will run.

In his post, Todd makes a good point:

For those who get nostalgic for that 1890s golden era of cycling, it’s important to realize it wasn’t golden for everyone.  Major Taylor can vouch for that.

Yeah, really. I enjoy Tweed Rides, but there’s no way men would have “let” me join them back in the day for a drinking ride from pub to pub, especially with all my fainting, screaming, and bloomer talk.

Full list of “don’ts” at the original m-bike post.

What’s your favorite “don’t”?

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