Today was a brow-droplet warm, wonderfully rain jacket free morning commute via bicycle in Portland, OR. Off hours on the Broadway Bridge.
I’ve discovered over the past several years some repurposing, rethinking, reusing, and DIY-able loveliness for the daily Lady (& Lady-lover) commuter.
I’ll be sharing these tidbits and tips in my new segment “LadyGyver”. And if you think you have a tip worth sharing, contact us through the “why I ride” section of the website and we’ll share you’re ingenuity with the world!
LADYGYVER TIP #1: The Essential Hairtie
A Lady is always prepared. And a hair tie can prove one of the most useful preparation tools to carry atop two-wheels! I just leave it around my wrist when not in use, but you can also leave one or two lassoed to your handlebars, just incase. In a pinch, a rubber band can also do the trick!
-HAIRTIE AS LEG STRAP: In the Fall and Winter, I leave my hair down to cover my ears (if it’s long enough) so I don’t need ear warmers, and use the hairtie as a leg-strap to keep my pant leg out of my chain. I can then pull my hair back upon arrival at my destination. Lovely :)
-HAIRTIE AS LIGHT HOLSTER: No place to attach your rear light when you’re wearing a dress/borrowing a bike/some-other-reason-it-won’t-stay-on-your-bike? Use your hair tie to tie your hair low on your scalp, and clip your rear light to the elastic band . Voila! Instant visibility.
-HAIRTIE AS BUNGEE CORD: Need to attach, well, anything to your rack/basket/person? Hairties are great, flexible lassoing tools in a pinch.
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!
Anti-depressants, Ritalin, drugs for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s? Obsolete. Looks like the only remedy one needs is comprised of two-wheels, a frame, and some physical exertion!
A wonderful article over at The Independent discusses what us Ladies (and Lady-lovers) already know: that riding a bike makes you happier, healthier, smarter, and wittier*.
The combination of physical exertion and almost meditative rhythmic motion included in life atop two-wheels have been shown to impart a multitude of benefits to the rider. From the article:
Several studies have shown that exercises including cycling make us smarter. Danish scientists who set out to measure the benefits of breakfast and lunch among children found diet helped but that the way pupils travelled to school was far more significant. Those who cycled or walked performed better in tests than those who had travelled by car or public transport, the scientists reported last month. Another study by the University of California in Los Angeles showed that old people who were most active had 5 per cent more grey matter than those who were least active, reducing their risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
In addition to physical health – mental wellness, cognitive functioning, and ability to focus are also greatly impacted by riding a bike on a regular basis.
[John Ratey, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School] has seen patients whose severe depression has all but disappeared after they started to cycle.
Rhythm may explain some of the effects. “Think about it evolutionarily for a minute,” he says. “When we had to perform physically, those who could find an altered state and not experience the pain or a drag on endurance would have been at an advantage. Cycling is also increasing a lot of the chemistry in your brain that make you feel peaceful and calm.“
At the same time, the focus required to operate a bicycle, and for example, to negotiate a junction or jostle for space in a race, can be a powerful medicine. Dr Ratey cites a study his department is currently conducting. More than 20 pupils with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are expected to show improved symptoms after a course of cycling.
And an unexpected benefit? Parkinson’s patients have shown improvement following the addition of cycling to their treatment plans. You can see a video here showing a patient with a freezing gait who struggles to walk, but when placed upon a bicycle, is able to ride without tremor or difficulty. More on cycling and Parkinson’s:
Dr Alberts conducted an experiment, the results of which were reported last month. He scanned the brains of 26 Parkinson’s patients during and a month after an eight-week exercise programme using stationary bikes.
Half the patients were allowed to ride at their own pace, while the others were pushed incrementally harder, just as the scientist’s tandem companion had been. All patients improved and the “tandem” group showed significant increases in connectivity between areas of grey matter responsible for motor ability. Cycling, and cycling harder, was helping to heal their brains.
Ladies (and Lady-lovers): these are just the personal benefits to the rider. Additionally, communities benefit from increased human connection, decreased air pollution, decreased noise pollution, decreased road maintenance costs, decreased healthcare costs, and improved local economies.
The reasons for adopting life atop two-wheels are endless. What’s yours?
Keep riding, smiling, and loving life, Ladies!
*Note: wittiness dependent upon the cognitive benefits of cycling, reading books and blogs like this, and the mindless enjoyment of occasional pop-culture atrocities.
This “Why I Ride” comes from Annette, a lovely Lady in Portland, OR.
Long one: The question of why I ride struck me as especially difficult to explain while being soaked during this morning’s freezing commute. I’ll preface my answer by saying I’m not what people imagine when they think of Portland’s bicycle subculture: I’m really troubled by most descriptions of Cyclocross (that much bruising can’t be good for you), and accordingly I try not to appear like I do, so spandex is out. I didn’t know what fixies were until six months ago, and initially I didn’t believe the description because there’s no way a person would seriously want to ride one. It took me a while to not feel intimidated by having to figure out a safe route and the logistics required to be dry and civilized once reaching work. And I just got fenders installed yesterday. The thoughts crucial to getting me out of the apartment at six a.m. for my commute are that it’s actually faster than the bus, and it’s a legit reason not to go to the gym. I repeat that over and over to myself while I put my shoes on. What really surprises me is how much I love it once I’m on my way – after the first hill, when I’ve exerted myself enough to no longer be freezing. At that point the rain is refreshing and the air is the cleanest I’ve ever breathed. I cross the Hawthorne Bridge along with a surprising number of other cyclists (even on a morning like this I was 175th!) and runners. It’s wonderful to feel a part of something like that – a feeling I’ve never experienced in a public space anywhere else I’ve lived (FL, MA, NY, DC, AZ, Colombia). Once I get to work, there’s a startling difference in the level of vibrancy in the morning between those who arrive by bicycle versus car or bus. And that, paired with coffee, feeds in to my alertness and ability to perform at work. All of that combined is why I ride.
What an eloquent and authentic response, Annette! The time after that first hill, when your body takes to the experience of being in motion, and the feeling of connection to your surroundings and community are exactly what keep this Lady and so many others getting up early, facing a plethora of weather anomalies (along with expected seasonal changes), and living life atop two wheels every. single. day.
And her description of fumbling through the logistics of commuting when you’re just starting out? Spot on! This Lady didn’t even know what “clips” or “fenders” were when starting out.
Thanks for the story and photo, Annette!
Keep riding, smiling, and rediscovering your commute and community each day!