This morning when I awoke next to my window, bathed in hues of pink and peach and radiative heat loss, I knew my ride was going to be gorgeous, clear, and frozen.
In winter, the normally celebrated lack of cloud cover and/or presence of sunshine is a meteorological announcement of the frigid conditions outside my door. Planning my commuting garb ahead of time proves about as useful as preparing a meal for unconfirmed guests: the variability of Winter weather means decisions are made day-of lest I be left broiling in rainpants on an abnormally warm day or thawing in wet, frozen jeans.
Based on the chill and beautiful views, I started gathering necessary supplies: warm socks, scarf, hat, warm gloves (thanks, Mom & Dad!), down coat. I decided that on a day like this, cuteness need not be abandoned for spandex, goretex, nor any other highly engineered “-tex” you can think of. This Lady was braving the frozen dawn in a skirt.
I used to think through my layering, but at this point it feels relatively routine. Underwear (which, outside of added warmth in winter, are unnecessary in my opinion), leggings, wool socks, pencil skirt (practicality note: be prepared to expose a lot of thigh, or in this case, legging). On top: tank top, t-shirt, wool hoodie (Icebreaker has amazing layering that is well worth the expense), down coat, rain shell. Layering gives you a dial on your internal thermostat: stop and take shit off when you’re over heating or when you arrive, add more when sweat starts to evaporate and you begin to feel chilled. The flexibility of layering allows me to dress in lovely attire rather than spandex and “cycling” garb.
Next to-do: basic component check. The precise “not-too-squishy” squeeze of my tires to assess adequate inflation, a look at my brakes to ensure brake pads are not entirely worn (also effective: the equally precise “metal-on-metal” sound check that tells you pads need replacing), and a squirt of lube across the length of my chain (which is essential this time of year. Every month or so you should also clean your chain of winter build-up using a wet cloth, then re-lube it.). All checks out? I’m on my way.
With the weather so gorgeous, I left home early this morning just so I could relax and enjoy my ride. Occasionally taking time to savor sunshine and beautiful scenery is essential to my happiness, and this was a perfect day to do so. Riding on a bike boulevard, a glorified low-traffic road in Portland, means seeing other cyclists, especially at rush hour. Two Lady-lovers in front of me, a Lady or two behind me, occasional spandex-clad racey-types speeding past me, the obligatory tight-pantsed helmet-less rider on a fixie (which reminds me: have any of you seen Premium Rush? I had the pleasure of experiencing this gem of modern cinema with friends. If you appreciate bikes and absurdity, it’s a must watch.)… we create a temporary community. I smile at people passing and just generally appreciate the blessing of a working body and people to share the ride with.
My 5-mile-each-way commute includes a categorized climb about 3/4ths of the way in. That means my legs are burning, my heart is pumping, and some days I feel incredibly strong and empowered, other days it means incessant cursing and huffing. Today as I sat stopped at a light preparing for The Climb, a cyclist behind me grabbed my attention to compliment my blue tires. It was so sweet, and I thanked her and wished her a lovely day. This exchange exemplifies one of my favorite parts of commuting on two-wheels: how often do we have genuine interactions with strangers in our daily lives? Well, I can tell you, not often enough!
Despite the traffic, I had a relatively uneventful, beautiful commute. Just a few days ago on the stretch of my ride I refer to as “the gauntlet” (look for a post on this next week), a Lady I recognized as my regular waitress at a local diner was felled by a car cutting into the bike lane. She was in a lot of pain, but luckily OK. Cycling is far safer than most would have you believe, but incidences like that remind me to appreciate every day and every pedal I have the opportunity to experience.
Today was a beautiful ride. Ladies (and Lady-lovers), I hope yours was as well
Keep riding, smiling, and rocking pencil skirts, Ladies!
PS- What’s the best part of your commute in the winter? Leave comments and share advice below!
All the bikey Lady-porn you could ever desire! All in one place. Home decor, beautiful bicycles & accessories, essential gear, photos taken commuting around Portland, and sentiments to ride by. Check out Two Wheels & A Lady on Pinterest!
Today’s commute was a rainy one, Ladies. Fun fact: You can measure the moisture content in the air by how much my eye liner streaks post-commute (see below). But I arrived home refreshed and happy.
On Making Smart Investments in Gear
I know a lot of Ladies are hesitant to ride because they don’t have the “right” gear for a Winter commute. Although I’d like to dismiss that as silly, I just recently made the switch from riding in frigid weather while wearing yoga pants (often calf-length) to more appropriate alternatives, and I would say there’s really something to investing in some “luxury” pieces (read: full-length pants) before subjecting yourself to the elements.
Had I known at the time that I’d soon begin blogging, I’d include here a Frametastic photo compilation of my splotchy, reddened calves and me frowning as a probably unnecessary bit of encouragement for some savvy cold-weather shopping – too late for that, though, because This Lady shelled out for stylish cycling-optimized pants and warm fortified leggings.
I prioritized my limited shopping budget towards gear purchases that were the most important for safety first, then comfort items; in hindsight, striking a balance between those priorities would have made for a far more pleasant transition into Winter riding. You don’t have to be totally decked out in Gore-tex, but you’ll be able to enjoy the ride without an iron will if you do something more than wear a garbage bag as a poncho.
All Things Safety-Oriented on dark days and while riding on slick roads:
A bright front light, a blinky red back light, any add-on you like that’s reflective, and a helmet. I’ll assume that if you live in the Pacific Northwest you already have a good raincoat.
I have an ugly sporty helmet that I keep hoping will get stolen (so I can replace it without feeling wasteful). If that ever happens, I’ll replace it with this one in black:
Gloves: You may actually want two pairs to switch back and forth between while one is drying. Dry hands are a great way to start a cold, wet, ride, and wet gloves are miserable to put on. They can also help ensure a secure grip on handles.
Also Worth Buying
Fenders: Most Ladies prefer not having mud splattered across their backside. Fenders are trusty add-ons that not only reduce the likelihood of that happening to you on a rainy-weather commute, but also help you avoid being a jerk by reducing the mud-splattering on cyclists riding behind you. I didn’t know that last bit until very recently…
Water-Proof Bag or Pannier (likely also a Rack to hook it to): For work-commuting Ladies on a rainy day, a waterproof bag is the perfect vessel to bring a change of clothes and shoes in
I’ve been really pleased with the design of my Ortlieb Shopper Pannier, which has a reflective side patch for increased visibility as an added bonus.
Wool Clothes: Honestly, you’re probably going to get wet out there. Clothes made of wool are warm and dry really quickly. There’s no need to spring for bike-specific clothes, although it’s nice when clothes have been designed with the Lady cyclist in mind.
Huge Scarf: Great for keeping your neck and face warm during the initial freezing leg of the commute.
Loyal Lady (and Lady-lover) readers of TWAAL – thank you for reading and riding! As I mark my 100th post as a blogging Lady, the blog will be expanding and improving.
Annette, a fellow Lady, will be joining the blog on a regular basis, and in upcoming weeks check-in with us for practical tips and discussion about living life joyfully atop two-wheels. We’ll also be adding a regular feature, “The Commuting Chronicles”, exploring the experiences and contemplations involved in daily bike commutes. Our stories, your stories, and the stories cities and streets help create. We’re building a community of Ladies (and Lady-lovers), and all of us are helping build happier, healthier communities of our own. One ride at a time. Keep it up, Ladies! And thanks for being a part of making our streets what we know they can be.
Lisa Marie – XOXO
And now, for Annette’s first post on the blog we introduce
The Cycle Chic-ish Manifesto: A Happy Medium
Why isn’t there a distinct cycling niche of ladies I can relate to?
As Lisa Marie put it, almost every bicycling subgroup fits into some type of EXTREME: “FIXIES!; cycling in outfits that cost more than the bike itself; speeding past life at 30 mph in spandex; drowning in neon yellow seated in a recumbant for commuting only.” Certainly, I value each of those subgroups; I only wish there was an additional one. I’m not an extreme fashionista who puts style above all else, but I’m also not an extreme athlete who puts performance above all else including style. You’re just not going to find me decked out in neon yellow or exposing designer clothes to a rainy commute.
I’m not riding to be seen, but I also know that while I’m riding I will be seen. I’m not riding just because it’s physically demanding, but I recognize that it is physically demanding and I like that. I ride because it’s super fun, efficient, and a healthy thing to do. With the existing subgroups, it’s difficult to fit cleanly in one group without compromising these values. And without an identifiable group, it’s no wonder more ladies like me don’t make cycling a staple mode of transportation year-round.
The Cycle Chic© Manifesto is everywhere – have you seen it? I can’t get over the disparity between what it promotes and what I value about cycling, the reality of the city I live in, and — more fundamentally — what I aspire to be. I present an alternative manifesto below hoping to represent a growing niche of chic-ish lady cyclists in Portland and beyond:
- I ride at a pace that strikes a balance between getting where I’m going and enjoying the ride.
- My style will contribute to feeling confident and finding joy in riding for transportation, fun, and wellness. In every season.
- I am aware that my presence on a bike contributes to safer and better bicycle infrastructure. I appreciate the contribution that all other cyclists make to bicycle-friendly city planning and will seek additional ways to further that cause, including supporting a sense of community with other cyclists.
- I will learn to properly care for my bicycle, including how to make basic repairs.
- I will acquire, where possible, fenders and a basket or bag that is aesthetically pleasing and appropriate for my cargo needs and the weather from a small, local business.
- I will respect the traffic laws.
- I will plan routes ahead of time for safety and pay careful attention to my surroundings. I acknowledge that not even Portland is as safe or seamless to ride in (yet) as Copenhagen, so I will ride defensively and mindfully.
From lovely Lady Nicole Heckman:
I ride because I can. I ride to feel the wind in my hair and the sun on my face. I ride to take in the scenery and find new shops I’ve never noticed in the car. I ride to be social and spend time with my husband. I ride to keep the car sitting in the driveway. I ride to make people stare and to wonder why I don’t drive. I ride to get the blood pumping in my legs and coursing through my veins. I ride to feel alive. I ride because I can.
Well said, Lady! And check out Nicole’s shop of bikey goodness, urban-spoke.com. Best item on her site? The shimmering blossom reflective pins! Handmade in NYC, these fabulous flowers add loveliness AND visibility. A great gift for any Ladies in your life.
Thanks for sharing and riding, Nicole!
The days are shorter. The breezes less refreshing, more chill-enducing. The trees lining our Lady (and Lady-lover) rides are increasing bespeckled with chromatic variation.
It is officially Fall, and as my dear readers know: A Lady is always prepared.
In several upcoming posts I will be detailing some fabulous Lady gear for the chilled eves and showers-of-the-non-hygenic-kind that accompany the transitional season of Autumn.
Most important tenants for a Lady this time of year? Visibility and layering.
Check out these lovely-meets-functional bow reflectors for helmets from OneTwoSpeed, a Lady-run company operating out of Brooklyn, NY. As I’ve mentioned before, reflectors > neon fabric, so add an accessory and another visual cue for our steel-enclosed counterparts.
A great, waterproof coat is a must, but what is a Lady to do about her shoes? The traditionally obnoxious and often-useless “booties” sold in outdoors stores and cycle shops quite frankly blow, but a soggy sole is entirely unfabulous. Problem solved! Leggits from Georgia in Dublin, a small company in the UK, protect your shoes, look stylish, and actually stay in place well enough to keep out the Fall rain and street schmutz.
With the right gear, the joys of riding can extend into all four seasons. Huzzah!
Check back in the upcoming weeks for more info on how to chicly layer your bike and your wardrobe (including cost-friendly coats and skirts) for Fall and Winter.
Keep riding stylishly, Ladies!
Google has a Lady (and Lady-lover) commuter’s back.
No more need to slow and squint in the darkness of back roads to search for street names. Google maps now offers audible, turn-by-turn directions for cyclists! You can use their GPS or your smartphone, both mountable to your handlebars.
More on this excellent option:
According to Google, not only are such handy bike-route maps available for desktop and mobile users, cyclists using Google Maps Navigation (beta) can now mount their Android phones to their handlebars to receive turn-by-turn directions and navigation, as well as voice-guided directions.
This comes on the heels of Google Map’s recent expansion of its cycling route maps to an additional 10 countries — Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.
“We know there are lots of ways to get from here to there, which is why in 2010, we added biking directions to Google Maps in the U.S. and Canada, and continue to work to bring more biking features to more places,” writes Google’s Larry Powelson, in a blog post. “Today, there are more than 330,000 miles (equal to more than 530,000 kilometers, or half a gigameter) of green biking lines in Google Maps.”
The future of transportation meets the future of navigation. How lovely!
I still prefer paper maps and getting a little lost, but for two-wheel trips in foreign lands, this could be a life-saver. Not to mention the potential-Lady-commuters who may be anxious about riding in traffic that may now be encouraged to try, knowing they wont be forced to make hurried maneuvers in an attempt to re-direct a misrouted trip!
Enjoy your fabulous, worry-free ride, Ladies!