Saturday, August 28, 2010


Don't we all need more dinosaurs in our lives?

dinosaur horn

I'm curious about what these sound like, considering how reliably recognizable a bell is to pedestrians. Are these more like a horn of sorts or like a child's squeaky toy?

Friday, August 27, 2010

it has arrived

Here's a discovery that I am oh-so-very-happy to share...

There's now a Vancouver Cycle Chic blog!

Here's a vibrant example of their content:

Ever since I started following Copenhagen Cycle Chic over a year ago, I've been scouring the internet for like-minded Vancouver cycling blogs or communities that make chic-ness a priority. Found: not much at all.

Being neither exceptionally chic myself nor good with action photography of strangers, I didn't feel qualified to try and start one up myself. Besides, I'm more of the 'quirky personal blog with random photos and stories and opinions and junk' kind of girl. So I waited.

--and waited.

--and apparently wasn't looking in the right place, because Vancouver Cycle Chic started up in July and I didn't find out until now. There are already more stylish shots in 2 months there than I've taken in a year. (Higher quality, too. I think I'll start experimenting with close-ups instead.)

It's a mix of candid shots of strangers riding past unknowingly, mini-interviews of cycling citizens acquiesing to have their photo taken, and miscellaneous other bits of chic bike goodness. With its goal of "Spotlighting Vancouver, Canada's unique, fashionable, sensible, and graceful cyclists and the ground they share with all of us", I think this blog is a fantastic exhibit to raise the profile of the humble bicycle by focusing on possibility: real examples of real Vancouverites, riding what they ride, wearing what they wear.

Go see.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

making sexy

A post on Simply Bike today about stickers that read, "You'd look hotter in a helmet." with a website reference to Safety Is Sexy made me think about one of the few things that many pro-helmet and anti-helmet advocates have in common: they protray them as 'ugly'. Anti-helmet: well, obviously. Pro-helmet: "Who cares what they look like--think of your brain!"

Image is not truth.

Image can be manipulated, molded, can change (and can't be stopped). It's in the eye of the beholder and it varies from person to person. It's irrelevant to ask whether helmets are sexy. Ask: can we make them sexy?

I hypothesize: sure we can. Or at least improve the current state of affairs.

So what, in my mind, is most sexy about a helmet? A bicycle, motorcycle, scooter, or moped helmet?

Taking it off.

It's about that moment when somebody rolls up, kicks down the stand, swings their leg off their ride, and pulls off their helmet. The shake their head, run a hand through their unfussy hair, and saunter off for a beer in the dusty roadside pub or a glass of wine on a patio overlooking the mediterranean.

It's all about the reveal. Like sunglasses or leather gloves.

Or like they say about wearing unusual clothing? Own it, and that's sexy.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

bikes up close: blue sky amsterdam

amsterdam blue

Although pastels aren't something I'd choose for my own bicycle, this sky blue certainly did brighten up the streetscape.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

parlour bikes

Considering my frequency of certain postings on this blog, it wouldn't be a secret that I'm a fan of bicycles in music videos. Somehow, singing and riding just go hand in hand. (Or would that be ... foot in mouth?) In my world, breaking out into random song and dance is an entirely expected part of life.


(No, really-- it is. I spent my high school years hanging with a musical theatre crowd and university years with a dancing one. It's what we did.)

So here's a music video that hits more than one note (ha!) with me: from the local Vancouver band Parlour Steps (a favourite of mine) comes a home-made cycle-ful music video that satisfies a challenge for their participation in the Peak Performance Project.

And to make this chord complete, The Peak radio station itself (uh, themselves?) is onboard with cycling and the 'slow bike' way of travel: see their Peak Summer Cycle Crew.

Go Parlour Steps!
Go Peak!
So go peek at this video!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

why cycle chic is important, part 2

Subtitled: Why cycle chic was (is) important to me.

I've never been known for being extraordinary stylish nor fashionably adventurous. It was a combination of laziness and resentment at being told (by those fuzzy blobs of "our culture" and "the fashion industry") what I should wear. It's part of my character to reject "shoulds" that I'm unable to justify via my own logic. For example: At the end of grade 2, when they gave every single child an award for something, they gave me the "Different Drummer" award. Compliment? For years, I wasn't so sure. Now, at least, it makes sense.

My wardrobe was functional clothing and sensible shoes. When I started working downtown and the standards rose, I headed in the direction of the masculine: dress pants, collared dress shirts, vests, etc. A uniform of sorts. Outside of work, I was almost exclusively a jeans and t-shirts kind of girl. Anything more was tedious and impractical.

Enter cycle chic.

Um, you can look like that? On a bicycle? You can transport yourself around your city, avoiding cars (polluting, overkill for 1 person), walking (takes forever and requires sensible shoes), and public transit (stuffy, crowded, and requires 50 extra layers for use while waiting at bus stops) while looking gorgeous and wearing stunning heels? Really?

It redefined the possible.

1. I can cover half the city on a bicycle wearing heels that I could barely walk in for 15 minutes.
2. I can leave the extra layers at home, stop waiting around, and simply ride whatever speed brings my temperature up to an appropriate level.
3. Now that footwear is "anything goes", I'm not limited to dressing to match my sensible but boring loafers.

To reiterate a point: it was the shoes that sparked the change, really.

As I started to take in day after day of Copenhagen Cycle Chic and Girls and Bicycles and 416 Cycle Style (I think those were my first 3 cycle blogs) my interest in fashion bloomed and my definition widened. It's not about being a slave to the magazines at all, but making an effort -- and a choice -- to present yourself in a way that feels right to you. I'm a very visual person but had been stifling it, and my creativity and personal preferences, too.

It doesn't hurt that dressing up on a bike goes against a common "shouldn't" for many people which automatically feeds into my desire to poke holes in illogical "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts".

So I'm exploring and learning and enjoying and experimenting and growing -- both on and off bicycles -- all thanks to a catchy label and an idea that is spreading and gaining momentum mostly thanks to the sharing and distance-minimizing of the internet.

Cycle Chic, you changed my world. How powerful is that?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

why cycle chic is important, part 1

Sometimes, in order to change perspective, you must present an example that is as far away as possible from the status quo. As the two extremes start to become equally valid, everything in between them gets brought along for the ride.

Cycle Chic is important because it attempts to counteract two widely-held perceptions of cycling:
1) That cycling is a "sport".
2) That cycling is transportation only for people who can't afford cars or can't drive.

It shows cycling in the context of transportation by people who, by the effect of their clothing at the time of the photo, appear to be (a) not participating in "sport" at all, and (b) apparently making a choice to ride, and not doing so out of monetary, legal, or activism-related reasons. People who are not broke, "hippies", or stripped of their licenses.

I say "appear to be" and "apparently", because you of course can't actually tell these details from a photo. In many cases it's probably true; in some, it's not. It's not the actual facts that matter but the impression that forms in the viewer's mind.

This is the first of a series of posts in which I examine my opinions on this "cycle chic" movement (also known as bicycle 'style', 'vogue', 'fashion' and anything else related to non-sport cycling, especially by women). I need to know that my opinions are logically formed, consistent, and hold up well against my values, and that I can advocate for them based on a solid foundation.

Coming soon...
- How cycle chic made me more stylish all around, not just when riding
- Cycle chic and people who love high-end motor vehicles
- The trio: sport, recreation, and transportation

roll on along

August continues with all the heat, clear skies, and sunshine that people who tolerated a lousy winter (too warm) and lousy spring (too cold) deserve.

The bicycle remains one of the best ways to get to the beach.

Admittedly, these photos were all taken on a hazy evening. It was still hot, it was one of few, and isn't overcast more flattering for photography of people, anyway?

Just wear more pink to make up for it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

roll on up

On the north side of Vancouver City Hall there's a bicycle ramp leading up a flight of stairs.

bicycle ramp

Compared to a motor vehicle or even pedestrian ramp, that's a seriously small footprint!

I saw the sign a few seconds before I realized what it was talking about, such a subtle addition it is.

How much does it cost?
Is it hard to install?
Who makes them?
Does the city have plans to install any more?

I gave it a try. Swoop! Easy enough and far more appropriate than carrying your bicycle up the stairs, especially when it's made a of heavy steel or when you're wearing footwear inappropriate to carrying large loads. Now that I've noticed this, I'll keep my eye out for more.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

just bikes: classy raleigh

A few weekends ago I rolled up to lock my bike outside a store and discovered this beauty already parked there.

A vintage Raleigh in green. Classic Raleighs seem to come in such elegant colours! Modern manufacturers, please take note. Lime green should be left in the 80s.

The Brooks saddle (and I'm very tempted to put a sprung version similar to this one on my shock-less, at-the-complete-mercy-of-potholes bicycle) looked new.

Much to my delight, as I returned from shopping to unlock and leave, her owner turned up! You know how people and their dogs/partners/cars seem to "match"? I could say the same for this bicycle and her owner. Classy (but not 'vintage'-- probably late 20s/early 30s) and --ahem -- probably British. Apparently the bicycle had been in mint condition 2 years ago when she had aquired it, including with a skirt guard, but regular use (regular use? a good sign!) had left it less than pristine. To my eyes, that hardly mattered: this was one seriously good looking bike.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

save this for me

Yellow dress, green bicycle, fields and trails and a piano on the dock.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

round helmet roundup

It surprises me that people are still surprised by my helmet. Usually I get asked: "Is that a skateboard/snowboard helmet?" It's happened twice in two weeks: once was a coworker (male, used to have a bike but doesn't currently) and once was the girl at the bike rental shop where I recently rented some beach cruisers for my Mom and sister when they were visiting.

I think it's about visibility, because I would say that at least 30-40% of the helmets I see on cyclists these days are the round style. That's not inconsequential at all. And yet ... if you aren't looking, you don't seem to notice. Cyclists are invisible until they get in your way. They're generic "entities" on the road; no one looks close enough to see what kind of helmet or shoes they're wearing. I didn't.

The manufacturer with the most variety is the well-known, well-stocked Nutcase. My preference is for their subtle, classy "Super Solids" line.

I own the purple and have seen it around on a few other people, both women and men.

More stores, however, seem to stock their line of prints.

Another brand that carries an extensive selection of round helmets is Bern. Their Muse line comes with a short, formed brim as part of the shell.

There are more colours and patterns; these are just a few of my favourites. These shots also show the helmets with the snow-sport insert but apparently they come as a typical bicycle helmet as well. Sidenote: if you're in the market for a snow-sport helmet, most of these manufacturers I'm mentioning have options for that as well.

Alternatively, Bern offers a line called Berkeley with a soft brim.

And lastly, a brimless version called Brighton.

Bern divides their helmets into 'Mens' and 'Womens' so I've only shown the Women's lines here. There are comparable versions in their Men's sections which, depending on the size/shape of your head and colour preference, may easily be suitable for some women, too. These definitions are really just suggestions, anyway.

For brand #3, I looked at Mace.

I find that as a whole I like the patterns on their C4 line (above) and Trigger line (below) better than many of the ones by Nutcase. They feel more "grown-up", which, I'll admit, does sound a bit odd coming from me, considering how I'm always talking about how cycling makes me feel like a kid again. That said, there's a difference between feeling like a kid and looking like one, and when I'm going to work in heels and dress pants I just wouldn't feel right with polka dots on my head.

I guess there's just no accounting for taste.

There are a number of brands other than Nutcase, Mace, and Bern that produce round helmets and I hope to cover them in a future post. I have to admit that I've seen a few "sporty"-style helmets here and there that don't look too awful. Usually they've been in black or another subtle colour and suit the person who's wearing them. My preference is still for the rounder shape because (a) that's what our heads are shaped like, and (b) they remind me of scooter and motorcycle helmets, which have a certain romantic/sexy image.

Until our bicycle infrastructure gets considerably safer and the mandatory helmet law goes away, bicycle helmets could use all the positive association they can get. You might as well buy one in a colour/pattern/shape you like.

Monday, August 9, 2010

this video turned my head around

Riding a bicycle makes me want to sing, too. Crooning in place is so over.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

just bikes: step over for ladies

Occasionally, among the bike blogs and comments and forums and articles I read regularly, someone will imply that step-throughs are basically mandatory for wearing a skirt. It does make mounting easier and narrow skirts needn't be hiked up quite so far (though a certain segment of the population may consider that a positive, no?), but there's nothing stopping a true diamond frame from being a lady's bike.

Mine is a compact diamond frame, purchased because I didn't like the alternative presented by the bike shop at the time (one of those extra-low step-throughs where there's only one thick, curved piece instead of top and bottom tubes) and didn't know that anything else existed. Now I wish that I'd done more research and bought something a tad easier to mount, but in the end: it's an annoyance, not a deal-breaker, and it's not going to stop me.

Exhibit A:

Isn't that lovely? (No, this is not mine. Spotted outside the YWCA.) The flowers on the basket and the Nutcase helmet and that retro green of the bike even coordinate well together. The sad thing is that you'll rarely see this colour on step-through bikes because so many manufacturers don't consider it a "women's" colour. (Bah, humbug: like "mint" is? My brain associates 'mint' with little-old-ladies and/or hospital scrubs, not classy urban fashion.)

I have to regularly remind myself to obsess less about having the 'right' bike and focus more on just doing it. In nice clothes. For the right reasons. Whenever possible.

just bikes: red with white polka dots

red and white polka dots

Oh, my! A custom paint job -- including handlebars -- that matches the saddle cover. With red cable housing and a flag on the rack. If this isn't expressing your personality, I don't know what is.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

a new life

...for the old bicycle that has spent the past 30 years in my parents' basement(s).

It's a red diamond frame BRC Harrier. It has swept back handlebars with glittery red grips (with holes in the end for streamers!) but because of the similar level of saddle to handlebars it's not actually very upright.

Although it's a diamond frame, we think this bike was my mothers' because it's smaller than the other bike hanging around down there: a red Raleigh road bike with drop bars from approximately the same era. However, she doesn't seem to have many memories of actually riding it.

Last weekend I tackled the decades-old rust on the chrome of the handlebars and fenders. Here are some before and after shots.

I discovered that one of the pedals had lost a nut and was working its way off the crank. My Dad, who always seems to know just what to do in mechanically-related situations (whether cars, motorcycles, or -- now I know -- bikes), gave me a quick lesson on how exactly the pedal stayed on and how to fix it. Thank goodness he has a workshop full of miscellaneous pieces! Now the pedal is firmly attached once again.

Test ride!

My parents live on top of a hill so I rode back and forth a few times along the the few blocks that comprise the plateau, without descending too far. I passed a man walking his dog three times and he seemed a bit confused by the third time. I suppose it's expected to see kids just riding back and forth around the neighbourhood for fun but unusual to see an adult doing so.

Next up: we take it into the shop for a lookover and to replace any old parts that may have safety implications: brake cables, inner tube, etc. I visit my family for a weekend about once every 4-6 weeks and don't like being without a bicycle when I do, so this is going to be mine when I'm there. It also (somewhat) makes up for the fact that my primary bicycle is neither vintage nor well-crafted. There's just something so lovely about the lines of a lugged steel diamond frame.