A couple of Sundays ago, my Women-Who-Bike and Brunch group met up for a lovely picnic at the Logan Square Farmer’s Market. Summer picnics are the best – I love sampling all the delicious food everyone brings.
My friend Ash, who writes about some of her bike adventures at One Less Minivan, was there with her two daughters and badass bike set up. She has a Joe Bike bakfiets fitted with a baby carseat in the front and a child’s seat in the back.
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.
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.
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!
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. :-)
(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.
On Sunday morning, our group of awesome women got together for some brunching. :-)
I must give a special “thank you!” to the new restaurant, Southport and Irving, which was especially welcoming (see that looong table below? that’s all us on a busy morning) and served delicious food (duck confit with caramelized onions, scallions, duck fat potatoes, poached eggs and mustard sauce – I had to hold myself back from licking the plate).
(The duck confit was gone before I got to my camera, so here is a photo of my tea bag.)
I was so distracted by eating, I failed to get photos documenting everyone who was there. I managed to capture only a few stragglers. :-)
Chika! looking so fab in orange.
Sara with her sparkly gold helmet, blue Pashley, and orange Chika.
Sarah rocking the fur hat.
Her front rack is conveniently equipped with a bottle opener!
Rachel just moved to Chicago from Atlanta and brought this amazing cat helmet with her (kids’ section at Target!).
I threw on jeans, boots, and a trench. Forgot my earmuffs but lucky for my poor ears, I did not have far to bike.
Interested in joining our brunch group? You should be! We’re friendly, smart, and fun – if I may ring our own bell. We love new people. Email me at LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com to be included on the evites.
Call the Midwife, a BBC show now broadcasting on PBS, is the story of independent young women working as midwives in 1950′s London. The portrayal of these women (the opposite of something like Grey’s Anatomy) is refreshing and I’m especially charmed by the shots of them bicycling around the city to and from jobs.
Love the bikes, love the outfits. :-)
There is even a storyline about one of the midwives learning how to ride a bike as part of the job.
Here is a fun behind the scenes look at the role of bicycling in the show.
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]
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?