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!).
John Greenfield posted an article last week in his Newcity column Checkerboard City, partially inspired by my recent post on beauty videos. I’m reprinting here with permission, as we both are interested in hearing readers’ thoughts on the issue.
Last week Dottie Brackett, co-author of the excellent Chicago cycle-chic blog LetsGoRideABike.com, put up a post that was completely unrelated to bicycling. While spending several days at home sick, too exhausted to even read books, let alone ride a bike, she found herself watching instructional beauty videos online for hours on end. “I’m not that into makeup,” she wrote. “But listening to these women’s voices was oddly comforting and I felt like I was learning something while using very minimal mental energy.” She linked to videos by some of her favorite beauty experts, like Lisa Eldridge and Sali Hughes.
Dottie’s post jogged my memory about a makeup-centric article that I never got around to writing up, so here it is. Last year I got in a debate with my roommate Meagan, a non-cycling Texan who’s a bit of a Southern belle. She spends about an hour on her hair, makeup and grooming each day, and I was ribbing her about it.
Meagan said that her beauty routine was pretty much the norm for women. I argued that my female friends, especially the ones who bike-commute regularly, tend to be lower-maintenance, wearing minimal or no cosmetics, spending little on haircuts and waxing, and only getting manicures and pedicures on an occasional lark. “Oh, they wear plenty of makeup,” she said with a grin. “You’re just not aware of it because you’re a guy.” Meagan was confident, for example, that most of my female bike buddies wear foundation, but it’s subtle enough that I don’t notice.
I emailed a bunch of my longtime pals from the Critical Mass ride for backup, explaining that I planned to write up their responses, and found out that my theory was pretty much correct. “These are my confessions,” responded my friend Gin. “I move up and down the ‘putting on a face’ continuum. Some days I don’t wear any makeup. Many days I do not even shower. I wash my hair about once a week.”
However, Gin said she does spend between three seconds and three minutes a day on cosmetics. She usually applies lip gloss and occasionally wears face powder or a lightweight foundation to even her skin out. Every few months she “tames” her eyebrows. When she feels like doing more, she’ll put on mascara, eye shadow, lipstick and possibly blush. “And I do like a good mani/pedi,” she added.
My neighbor Lisa wrote that her maintenance routine is similar to Gin’s except that she uses a lightly tinted combination moisturizer/sunscreen nearly every day, only applying foundation for dressier occasions or photo shoots. She uses a similar selection of cosmetics as Gin when she wants to get dolled up, with lipstick being a priority. “I’ve always believed (and had drummed into me by the super models and my mother) that if you can only wear one thing it should be some color on your lips,” she said.
“Sometimes I comb my hair,” my friend Ash responded dryly. “Would your roommate be horrified to see our collective armpits?”
Ash and Gin
“I am your gal,” my neighbor Julie wrote. “I don’t own any foundation. Eye shadow is for kid makeovers only. On rare occasions I wear lipstick.” She doesn’t maintain her eyebrows and tries to get haircuts for free. She’s had a pedicure three times, but never a manicure. “I don’t shave,” she added. “I tweeze hairs that appear in odd places. But I have to say I’m surprised that Gin and Lisa sometimes wear foundation—I wouldn’t have guessed that.”
Karen and her husband Kevin, the owner of a bike shop where I used to wrench, are two of the crunchier people I know in Chicago, so I wasn’t shocked to hear she possesses zero makeup. “I owned some eyeliner in high school,” she emailed. “And I know that [our friend] Lauren wears it sometime because I used some of hers in the women’s bathroom at a Chicagoland Bicycle Federation gala years ago when I was drunk. Haven’t worn it since.”
Karen dislikes mascara, but she tried foundation once in school. She stopped using it after a friend pointed out that her face and neck were two different colors. “Lipstick looks good on a lot of women, but not me,” she said. She showers two or three times a week and has never had a mani or pedi. Although most of her haircuts cost $12 or less, she occasionally splurges on a salon cut and partial color. “I am not so unconcerned with appearances that I don’t find hiding a few gray hairs and having a cut with some style to be rewarding.”
“Sometimes I wished I looked different—somehow ‘prettier,’ I suppose,” she wrote. Actually, Karen and all of our friends who responded to my query are quite attractive—all of that pedal pushing certainly doesn’t hurt. “But I’m not convinced that the pursuit of that look would necessarily pay off for me,” she added. “Maybe for your roommate it does. But I’m looking forward to reading your article when it comes out. You could call it ‘Cycling: The Only Foundation Beautiful Gals Need.’”
Personally, I am not a high-maintenance type of person, but I wear at least some makeup almost every day. Sometimes I go through phases when I wear less or none at all, but generally I feel more professional with makeup on. Plus, I have quite bad skin with scars that I prefer to cover. Lately, I’ve been wearing more than usual: foundation, concealer, blush, lipgloss, eye shadow, mascara. In the summer, I tend to pare down to tinted moisturizer, concealer, and lipgloss. I’m always in a rush in the morning, so all of this happens in a slapdash 5-10 minutes.
When I started biking to work, my makeup routine stayed the same, except in hot or cold weather I began carrying my makeup bag with me to apply after arriving at work. If anything, makeup became more important to my daily “look,” because my hair was more often thrown in a sweaty bun. A nice, bright lip takes attention away from messy hair.
Thinking of the women I know, biking and non-biking, (which includes some of those John interviewed) there seems to be an even mix of those who do and don’t wear makeup. The one difference is that the women I know who consistently make themselves up highly do not bike.
What do you think: are women who bike less likely to wear makeup? Do you wear makeup? If so, do you change your routine or products based on your bike commuting?
P.S. After I posted about my favorite online beauty videos, reader Marsha commented, “I tried looking up make-up bike tutorials and came up empty. So I made one.” Love it!
On Sunday, I biked 20 miles in a Zac Posen dress and four-inch high-heeled ankle boots. My day was full, including a trip downtown for a Joffrey Ballet performance and to the Logan Square neighborhood for my friend Sara’s Oscar party. Getting ready in the morning, I considered throwing on jeans, flat boots and a wool sweater, but decided to stay strong and dress appropriately for the occasions.
The (second-hand) dress conveniently zips all the way down the back from both ends, allowing me to create more leeway from the bottom while on my bike.
The weather was sunny and 30 degrees. For the ride, I threw on a cardigan, trench, cashmere scarf, gloves, and winter helmet. The trench coverage was helpful because the dress did ride up a bit while biking.
Once I got downtown, I was able to take the Dearborn protected bike lane for the final mile and a half. The city has a special snow plow to use for protected lanes and the lane was plowed, but sloppily and some areas were more clear than others.
And look! An SUV parked in the lane. This was the second one I saw. The city needs to: 1) create better signage; 2) build real barriers; and 3) ticket these drivers.
Okay, back to my happy place…
The ballet, American Legends, was beautiful and thought-provoking as always, as was the view from my first-row-balcony season ticket seat. (Thanks, Groupon!)
Leaving the ballet, I mounted my camera on Betty Foy’s handlebars and made a video of my ride on the Dearnborn protected lane and the connected Kinzie protected lane. I’ll post the video soon.
The Oscar party was fun (despite the host’s lame “jokes”) and I enjoyed biking home on empty streets at the end of the night, 12 hours after I left. My dress and heels were fun for the day, but I was happy to change into flannel pajamas. :-)
On Saturday, I visited the Art Institute in downtown Chicago for a lecture on the museum’s new Picasso exhibit. The outing involved a total of 14 miles of bicycling in 15-20 degree temps. No big deal. ;-) I set out on Betty Foy wearing my new Wolford tights with a dress, trench coat and suede knee boots.
Unfortunately, once I got going, I realized that I was quite underdressed for the weather, with freezing toes and thighs.
But there was no turning back – all I could do was make the best of the situation, which was not difficult, considering the beautiful surroundings.
Despite the chill, I felt great after the 7 mile ride and happy to spend time with my friends Sara, Chika and Glenn.
The Art Institute is one of my favorite places in the city. I really should go more often, since I have a membership this year that allows for free admission.
The indoor sculpture courtyard is a must-see during every visit.
Another favorite sight is Chagall’s American Windows.
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.
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?
(OK – so that’s 4 words, but I wanted to convey that I often wear dresses when I ride, but I’m
not a total cycle chic girly-girl and often wear pants and cowboy boots. ;-) )
How long have you been riding a bike?
I’ve been riding a bike since I was a kid. I had a lime-green banana-seat kid’s bike, followed by
a 3-speed upright bike with a basket that I rode into my early teens. I didn’t ride much until grad
school when I started up again with a mountain bike. I haven’t stopped for the last 20+ years.
How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?
My bike is my primary form of transportation. I commute via bike to work year-round, run
errands and grocery shop on my bike, go on evenings out by bike, and ride to events and
activities with my family on my bike.
What inspires you to keep bicycling?
I love the city of Chicago, and riding a bike is the best way to experience it. I feel better
mentally and physically when I ride, even on cold, dreary, blustery days and I don’t ever want to
give up that feeling.
In your experience, does the general bicycling world – shops, outreach, group rides, etc. - feel welcoming for you as a woman?
I think the overall attitude in the bicycling world these days is fairly welcoming to women. There
are certain shops or groups that feel a bit like a boys club sometime, but there are also so many
different kinds of bikes, riders, and events these days that I think you can find the place that is
right for you. I’ve never felt excluded from cycling businesses or events because I was a woman.
What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?
The way to get more women riding is to make cycling safer and it has to truly be perceived
as safer too. I’m not the first one to say that – but I’ll be glad to repeat it. And “Safer” to me
means more truly separated bike lanes with lights, and more education/public awareness of
how motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians should interact on public ways. I really do think that
the next thing the city of Chicago should do is develop a long-term bike awareness campaign
that demonstrates how one should approach an intersection with a cyclist on either side, make
a turn, handle protected bike lanes, door zones, etc. I’m happy about the bike infrastructure
improvements we’re seeing, but now we need to teach people how to use this new infrastructure
and how to walk/bike/drive in conjunction with it.
If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?
I would make all the buffered or ‘protected’ bike lanes in this city into truly separated bike lanes
with real dividers – perhaps like the curbs and planters I’ve seen in Long Beach CA.
Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?
I feel very optimistic about the future of bicycling. I see more people cycling all the time. Each
winter here in Chicago I see more people continue to ride through the cold months than the year
before. That’s a great thing.
Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?
Start out in your comfort zone. If you haven’t been riding at all, you may want to start out riding
on recreational paths or side streets – don’t expect to ride in downtown traffic the first time you
get on a bike. If you’re looking for a bike, research a few different bike shops – find one that
carries the type of bike you think you’ll be interested in, and one with a staff that is welcoming
and helpful to you and not just trying to push you into any ole bike purchase.
There are a lot of women who are biking in Chicago and writing about it so don’t be afraid to contact any of us and ask questions. We all ride for different reasons and with different styles, on different bikes, but we all share the same desire to get more cyclists out there and we are always willing to share our own experiences and knowledge to further that goal.
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.