Monthly Archives: July 2012

Chic or Geek: Fashion, Feminism and Female Cyclists

A simple announcement for the upcoming National Women’s Bicycling Summit on Twitter set off the conflict. A male blogger claimed there was no gender gap in bicycling, which led to swift and sharp responses. But the most heated and lasting discussion began with a tweet by a woman who was disgusted that the summit will feature a fashion show with a male host. Especially since that male host is the founder of Cycle Chic®.

For those who aren’t familiar, Cycle Chic is ever-growing series of web sites from all over the world with a theme of “style over speed”. The sites feature photos from people riding bike in non-cycle-specific clothes, with a particular emphasis on fashionably dressed, attractive women. Women like my sister Patty, who wears cute little dresses and sandals on her bike in the resort town of Watercolor, Florida.

The man behind the Cycle Chic web site, Mikael Coleville-Anderson, is outspoken in his view that you don’t need an expensive bike or special cycling clothes to be a cyclist. You should just hop on the bike and ride in regular clothes and regular shoes for everyday trips. No lycra, clip-in shoes or helmets required. He’s famously and rabidly anti-helmet, leading the crusade against mandatory helmet laws.

But this time the controversy centered around the Cycle Chic Manifesto, which implores cyclists to be “aesthetically pleasing” and “ride with grace, elegance and dignity.” It uses gender-neutral language, but since the Cycle Chic site features women in skirts and heels more than men in suits, many felt it was imposing a beauty standard on women, not men. You can read the lively debate on Elly Blue’s Taking the Lane blog.

Stepping back from the fray, my take is that dressing up on the bike is culturally disruptive, like in the 1960s when men started growing their hair long or in the 1970s when married women started keeping their maiden names. It challenges what people think is appropriate so there’s criticism as well as wonderment.

When I wear skirts and heels on the bike I get a wide range of reactions, from surprise to appreciation to annoyance. Strangers have told me they love my heels, and strangers have told me that riding in heels is dangerous. That makes me chuckle since I’m in more danger carving down mountain roads or riding steep rocky trails. Riding in heels is easier than walking in them and I’ve yet to be scolded for walking in heels.

I hope the time will come where we will all look back at this and think this controversy was silly. Of course some people ride in regular clothes to work or for errands or to visit friends. Of course some people put on lycra when they want to ride far or hard and get a workout. We’re all just riding along, who cares what we’re wearing?

What are you most comfortable riding in: full lycra, baggy shorts, t-shirt and jeans? Do you ever ride in dressy clothes? Why or why not?

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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Cycle Fashions, Women & Bikes


Bike Commute Diaries: Shady Southern Lane

When the heat and humidity rise to tropical proportions, choosing a shady route can help you keep your cool. Southerners know the secret: take your time, make your own breeze and stay underneath the big oak trees.


About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve learned about bicycling for transportation.


Posted by on July 29, 2012 in Commute Diaries


Fashion Friday: Sugar ‘n Sass and Everything Fast

In their breezy cotton knit sundresses and sassy sandals, my little nieces know how to beat the Louisiana heat as they cruise the neighborhood. Hurry up, Aunt Janet! It’s about to rain!

Don’t be fooled, sweet Caroline is a bundle of energy.

Maggie wasn’t so sure about taking pictures, but she’s sure about her bike.


Posted by on July 27, 2012 in Cycle Fashions


A Closer Look: 1972 Bottecchia Road Bike

“Collecting is much like a quest, a lifelong pursuit which can never be complete. Collections allow people to relive their childhood, connect themselves to a period in history or time they feel strongly about, … and to keep the past present.” So says Wikipedia on the psychology of collecting. I agree, especially for bike collectors.

When Cindy and I stopped in at La Dolce Velo last week, I was quickly drawn to this classic steel road bike with a little tool pack mounted on the seat stays. Rob the shop owner quickly filled in details: it’s a Bottecchia road bike circa 1972 loaned to the shop for display. His friend bought it in the late 1970s as a museum piece for his personal collection. It’s never been ridden. It’s never even had its sew-up tires glued on the rims.

Despite my growing stable of bikes, I don’t consider myself a collector. But I do appreciate the elegant lines of a well-made bike so I shot these for my bike photo collection. Meanwhile, Rob told me more about the Bottecchia heritage: how Greg Lemond rode to his first Tour de France victory in 1986 on a Bottecchia and how he chose Bottecchia as the first builder of his LeMond brand bicycles before switching to Calfee and finally Trek.

Do you notice anything unusual about this bike, a part of its history that Rob didn’t mention?

Location: La Dolce Velo Bicycles, San Jose, California, USA.


Posted by on July 25, 2012 in Bike Gallery


Fashion Friday: Everyone Knows It’s Cindy

Who’s riding down the streets of the city smiling at everybody she sees? Who’s reaching out to capture a moment? Everyone knows it’s Cindy. A summer weight jacket over a sleeveless top and cropped pants take Cindy from chilly morning to warm afternoon. And the scarf? It flashes with her stormy eyes.


Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Cycle Fashions


Cindy Finds Her Way Around San Jose

A new home, a new neighborhood. My friend Cindy took the mortgage plunge on a house in sunny San Jose, a far cry from her rental in windy San Mateo. She’s lovin’ it all, from the little old ladies next door who brought her cornbread, to the the mailman she calls by name, to lounging on new patio furniture in her very own backyard.

She’s mostly moved in, so she was ready explore more of San Jose last Saturday. I jumped at the chance to join her. Now that I work in San Jose, I’ve discovered some interesting places and I knew there was much more to uncover. We used a local Farmers’ Market as our excuse to head out on our city bikes and explore.

We crossed the freeway from her modest 1950s neighborhood and rolled into what was the most prestigious neighborhood earlier in that century, the Rose Garden. From there it was stop after stop: shopping, eating, strolling in gardens and admiring historic buildings all the way from The Alameda to San Pedro Square.

Our 12 mile ride lasted five hours. That’s how cool Cindy’s new extended neighborhood is. Everyone slows down when there’s something interesting to see and do. (Even drivers, by the way)

Have you explored a new neighborhood lately? What were your surprising finds?

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For people interested in exploring the old neighborhoods on the west side of downtown San Jose, here’s an annotated map of our route. You can also click on this image to get a higher resolution image of this map.


Posted by on July 19, 2012 in Around Town


Bike Commute Diaries: Why I Ride in Heels

I love heels. They make me feel stylish, dressed up and tres feminine. When I started riding to work I wore sensible flats and carried my heels in my bag. Then one day at lunch I wheeled my bike out of the building in my heels. Too lazy to go back upstairs to change shoes, I rode off. The flats stayed home the next day.


About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve learned about bicycling for transportation.


Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Commute Diaries, Cycle Fashions


Bike Spotting: ElliptiGO Everywhere

A couple of hot Saturdays ago as I struggled to turn the pedals on the climb up Old La Honda Road, I heard a strange whirring sound behind me. I looked back and saw two men in matching t-shirts pumping away on matching machines. As they passed I thought: “What are those things?” and “Man, I’m really dragging today.”

Fortunately, they were still at the top when I arrived so I got a closer look. The ElliptiGO is what happens when exercise equipment escapes the gym and hits the open road. The riders said it gives then the intense workout of running without the impact on the knees. Given my struggle on the hill that day, I’m sticking with my bike.

If you want to try an ElliptiGO for yourself, Sports Basement in the Presidio in San Francisco rents them for $25 for three hours. And there are plenty of hills and a famous bridge nearby to challenge yourself.

Location: Top of Old La Honda Road, Woodside, California, USA


Posted by on July 15, 2012 in Bike Gallery, Bike Spotting


Fashion Friday: Turning Up the Heat

When the temperature soars and you’re stuck at work instead of at the beach, it’s time to bring a little summer sass into the office. A bold print dress and bright white accessories go from the resort to the city with style.


About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.


Posted by on July 13, 2012 in Cycle Fashions


Bike Commute Diaries: Urban Trail Poacher?

The gravel section of the Guadalupe River Trail that I use every morning is now closed for paving. The official detour is a busy, unpleasant city street, but there’s a perfect alternate path that’s closed for flimsy legal reasons. A massive hole in the fence beckons, but I ignore it. This goody-two-shoes can’t take the stress.


About the Bike Commute Diaries: Launched in May 2012 for National Bike Month, this series explores the unexpected and surprising things I’ve learned about bicycling for transportation.


Posted by on July 13, 2012 in Commute Diaries

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