Tag Archives: advice

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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Icicle Bicycle

The morning temperatures this week have varied from 0 degrees to 10 degrees, plus some snow has been falling.  For a good idea of how bitterly cold Chicago is, check out this photo below of a warehouse fire in the city.

Photo by Jose M. Osorio

Photo by Jose M. Osorio

Yeah, that’s cold!

I spent part of the week riding public transportation and part of the week bicycling.  Although I have biked in sub-zero weather before, the convenience of the L train lures me to the easy option when I’m feeling lazy.  Which is often.  A couple friends have been bicycling on days I took the L, so I give my hardcore title up to them.  :-)

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These photos are in an alley.  The streets are much clearer, so biking in snow and ice has not really been an issue.

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When I ride my bike on super cold days, there are some key pieces I rely on, as I’ve mentioned before.

Wool leggings over my tights to allow me to wear skirts and dresses.

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Hand and toe warmers.

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Snow boots that have been serving me well since 2001 (or the brown ones shown above).

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Ta-da!

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I hope everyone is staying warm, whether on the bike or not.

Now how many weeks until spring?  ;-)

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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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Bike pump advice?

I need a new bike pump. It shouldn’t take 10 mins to top off two tires, right? But my cheap Bell pump needs a converter to work with Kermit Allegra’s presta valves, and it’s so poorly constructed that the hose keeps disconnecting from the valve in mid-pump. It would also be nice to have a pump with a pressure gauge.

Proof of the pain the lack of a bike pump can bring. (click image for source)

Can anyone suggest a quality double-header pump that won’t break the bank? I suppose this is a question more properly posed on Twitter, but it’s easier to refer to the comments section than pore through @replies.

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Out of Line

While I continue with yoga class every morning to improve my alignment, Oma’s alignment has gotten way out of whack.

No, it has nothing to do with stuffing her pannier full of Chipotle and wine.  One unfortunate event caused her current crooked state.  On Sunday, I stood Oma up on a grassy area in the park.  Due to rain the night before, the ground was saturated and soon Oma toppled and fell on her side with a crash.  I think this was the first time she has ever fallen like that, since her double-footed kickstand is super heavy-duty.

I picked her up, dusted her off, and went on with my business.  But later while biking home, I noticed a problem after about a mile.  (Obviously, I am not very observant.)

See how the handlebars are squared to the front, but the wheel is tilted to the right?

And how the wheel is pointing straight to the front, but the handlebars are off to the side?

Yeah, that’s not good.

And this morning I noticed that my pedals are out of alignment.  The right side is pushed way in and the left side is sticking way out.

Funny enough, Oma continues to ride pretty normally.  Knowing me, I could continue riding her like this for at least a year or two, but I’m determined to fix this problem in a respectable timeframe.

But this is not like when Betty Foy falls and knocks her fenders out of line – that’s a problem I can fix easily and quickly. Oma’s solidness is a double-edged sword.  She refuses to budge from this new position.  I attempted in vain today to kick the pedals and push the handlebars back in line.  I suppose I will enlist Mr. Dottie’s help in the morning or just drop Oma off at the bike doctor in the afternoon.

Has your bike ever gotten out of line?   If so, how did you fix it?

{Please pardon the puns and gratuitous use of my camera’s tilt-shift feature.  A nerdy girl’s gotta have her fun.}

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Yoga and Bicycling: Pedal, Stretch, Breathe

A wink and a smile.  Peanut butter and jelly.  Gin and tonic.  Some things just go well together.

Such is the case with yoga and bicycling.  Trisha and I discussed this lovely combination in 2009, and I mentioned recently that I’ve begun practicing yoga every weekday morning.

So when I read about Pedal, Stretch, Breathe: The Yoga of Bicycling, a new ‘zine written by Kelli Refer of the blog Yoga for Bikers and published by Elly Blue of Taking the Lane, I decided to order a copy.

While the 44 page booklet is not a comprehensive guide, it outlines interesting links between bicycling and yoga, beginning with the importance of breathing fresh air and ending with the ability “to invite meaningful change into our communities.”  In between is practical information with action steps for integrating the practice of yoga with bicycling.  While some of the information is aimed at those taking long, sporty rides, much is applicable for those – like me – who simply ride for transportation.

The first half of the booklet provides several different yoga poses that either integrate a bicycle into the pose or are especially helpful for bodies subject to the repetitive motion of cycling.  Each pose is presented with a sketch and a description.  The poses can be performed either directly on the bike while waiting at a stop light or with more space pre or post-ride.

My friends Chika and Sara were cool enough to experiment with and demonstrate the poses when we met up for a free yoga class on Lake Michigan.  Below are their thoughts on a few of the poses.

They started with Dancer’s Pose: Natarajasana:  a little hard to balance while standing over a bike, but otherwise easy to do while waiting at a stoplight.  Good for the thigh and ankle, which both get a lot of strain from bicycling.

Heart Opener:  feels good! especially after leaning over handlebars.

Turn Around Twist: not much of a twist feeling…

…but they achieved more leverage by putting the front hand in the middle of the handlebars, allowing for a fuller twist.

Down Dog with your Bike:  feels good, would work as a pre or post-ride stretch, but obviously not at a stoplight.

Down Dog Twist: even better!

The booklet offers several different flow variations for these and other poses.  After completing this series of poses, Chika and Sara said they felt warmed up and ready to go and could see themselves enjoying these poses on their own.  Two thumbs up from my testers.  :-)

The second part of the booklet contains a basic guide to chakras “for you and your bike.”  Some of this I’m not really into, such as “true your wheels and repack your hubs to feel more freewheeling in life.”  But some is inspiring, such as bicycling as a moving meditation.

Consider your bike ride to be a moving mediation.  Notice all the sensations: Air on skin, steady breath, sweat rolling down your brow.  Move with keen awareness of your body and surroundings.

I need a recording of those words read in a calm, yoga-teacher voice to play whenever I get frustrated by heat, cold, potholes, or drivers.

Overall, Pedal, Stretch, Breathe is a unique and thoughtful read for those interested in both bicycling and yoga.  Definitely worth $5, especially considering the money supports cool, entrepreneurial women.  You can buy the ‘zine HERE and read more about the topic at Yoga for Bikers.

Now that I find myself doing heart openers at stoplights, I’m curious: do any of you incorporate yoga into your bicycling routine?

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Pedal Pushers

Before I started cycling, I never thought about the name “pedal pusher” for pants in a literal way. But now it comes to me – duh, this style is named pedal pushers because they are made for pushing pedals!  The cuffs are short enough that there is no risk the getting caught in the chain or crank while bicycling.

Since I started bicycling daily, I almost entirely stopped wearing pants in favor of skirts and dresses to avoid having to secure pants cuffs, but lately I’ve been wanting to wear outfits built around pants.  Pedal pushers are a good solution.

This is the only pair of pedal pushers I have, tending to avoid them as not the most flattering length, but I think I’ll keep my eyes out for more.  They are just too convenient and fun for bicycling.  I really don’t know why I never thought of them much before.  :-)

What do you think – are you a fan of pedal pushers?

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Unsolicited “Advice”

Occasionally when bicycling, a random guy gives me unsolicited advice.  For illustration, here are two scenes from the past month.

Warning: Competent Woman on the Loose

Scene 1:  I am bicycling home at night, equipped with a helmet, blinking lights and reflectors.  I stop behind a city bus at a red light.  A motorcyclist pulls up very close to me in the same lane.

Motorcyclist Guy:  [lecturing tone] You gotta be safe out here.

Me:  [unsure, attempting friendliness] Yeah, we all have to.

MG:  But be careful, you don’t want to be knocked over.  You just need to be safe out here.

Me:  I am safe.  I do not need your advice.

MG: [revs engine and jets off]

Me: [???]

Scene 2:  I’m bicycling to work in the morning, stopping at a stop sign to allow a pedestrian to cross.  The temp is 90 degrees, so I take my helmet off and hang it on my handlebars.  To compensate, I bicycle extra slowly and cautiously.  Bicyclist guy squeezes between me and the SUV on my left.

Bicyclist Guy: You need to wear a helmet.  Your helmet is not going to protect your handlebars. [passing me at twice my speed]

Me: I do not need to hear this from you.

BG: [in a singsong tone] Just some friendly advice!

Me: I’m a big girl.

BG: [yelling over his shoulder] We all are!

Me: Ha! [wondering how long until he realizes what he said and goes, "Doh!"]

In both situations, the guys seemed to assume that I would benefit from their “advice.”  In fact, I act deliberately and do not need to hear the opinion of a random man on the street, whether it’s about my “safety,” my helmet, or my looks (that’s a different topic).

If anyone is tempted to offer this kind of advice, please think twice, and unless someone’s actions directly affect you, hold back.

Ladies and gentlemen, do random people give you unsolicited “advice” while bicycling?  If so, does it make you want to inform the advice-giver where to shove it?

:)

{Photo above by Martha Williams of Bike Fancy}

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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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Fashion Friday: Biking to Yoga

Who else is obsessed with the Olympics?  Watching the US women’s gymnastics team (go Gabby!) was the push I needed to get my butt back to yoga, after years of saying, “I need to get back to yoga.”

I’m finishing week two of near-daily 6 a.m. classes and I love it.  I am not a morning person, but I discovered that if I get up as soon as the alarm goes off, throw on my yoga clothes, and head straight out the door – no snooze button, coffee, twitter, or other procrastination – the morning is not so bad.

This routine requires extra preparation, especially combined with biking to work.  I bike to the studio on the way to work wearing my yoga outfit (Lululemon’s yoga clothes are so expensive, but soooo perfect!).  After class, I shower at the studio and change into regular shorts and a t-shirt, since my yoga clothes are too sweaty to put back on and I get too sweaty on my bike right now to wear work clothes.  Finally, I bike the rest of the way to work and change into my work clothes.  I swear, this is not as complicated as it sounds.  Totally worth the extra effort for the wonderful feeling I get from yoga class.

Do you have a yoga or other exercise routine that you combine with your bike commute?  I’m interested to hear how others handle the logistics.

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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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Colorful Bungie Straps for Betty

Betty Foy has brand new, beautiful, red bungie straps!  For years, Betty has had navy blue striped ones that did not match her aesthetic well.  I’ve always wanted pretty straps for her, but found only boring colors in the past.  The old straps were slowly becoming more slack, so when I saw these new bungie straps in a rainbow selection of colors, I knew it was time for a change.

This red color matches her heart lugs – a subtle detail that is important to me!

These straps snapped on in a matter of seconds, since I already had a base for them on my rear wheel.

For now, I’m using the bungie strap to hold only my lock, but these bad boys are stretchy and strong enough to hold big boxes on the rear rack.  I’ve used simple straps to carry cases of 24 bottles of beer!

Sorry, I do not know the brand (no markings on the product), all I know is they are from Holland and locals can pick them up at J.C. Lind Bikes, where I got mine.  I’ll update this with the brand name when I figure it out.

With a front basket, plus a rear rack with bungie cords and panniers, a regular bike can hold a lot of cargo.

Who else loves bungie straps as much as me?

:)

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Smelly

The worst part of my bike commute today in 96 degrees and high humidity?  The pungent smell coming from trash bins as I rode down my alley and by others.  Oh, the humanity!  The smell wrapped itself around me in a most unpleasing manner.  The trash was not messing around.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to avoid breathing while bicycling.

The smelly did not stop there.  Although not nearly as bad (seriously, not anywhere close!), the gym clothes that I wore and sweated in during my morning ride were a little rank when I pulled them out of my cabinet at the end of the day.  Not fun to have to put them back on.  Darn polyester.

As for myself, I stayed fresh as a daisy with the help of my beloved office fan, a change of clothes, Burts Bees towelettes (pleasing scent), and awesome Soapwalla deodorant cream.

The forecast for Chicago tomorrow is as high as 99 degrees, with a heat index of 105 – and I know other areas are even hotter!

I will be on my bike with sunscreen, a change of clothes, a positive attitude and a travel size perfume.  :)

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Bicycling in a Long Dress, Part II

Last month, I posted about bicycling in a long dress.  I demonstrated using an upright Danish bike with a full chain case.  Today I wore a long dress and I wanted to ride my Rivendell, which has an exposed chain and no skirt guard.  I assume this is the type of bike that most readers have, so I’m posting Bicycling in a Long Dress: Part II – no chain guard edition.

This is almost as simple as Part I.  The only difference is that I pinned up the bottom of my skirt.

Here is a quick video to show how quick and easy making a long skirt bike-friendly is.

Has anyone else tried this with a long dress? I know a few of you commented about similar strategies in the previous post.

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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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