Monday, June 30, 2008

Hand signals do not equal southern hospitality

Today, two strangers waved in response to my hand signals. They were not gestures of greeting, I was trying to make a turn at a stop sign. That's the third time this week. I hope our friendly culture doesn't get me into a traffic accident! I wonder if there's some more exotic way of signaling left and right. It's been a very long time since I learned bike hand signals at Safety Town, but I think if I bend my arm at the elbow and them straighten it out that might clarify things for drivers. We'll see.

I see london, I see france

It's not a good idea to wear anything resembling a handkerchief skirt while riding your bike; the asymmetrical bits seem to catch the wind. It's difficult to find something modest to wear underneath in case of wind gusts and not ruin the line of the skirt. If you have any ideas please let me know because this is one of my favorite skirts. I suppose I could also follow the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's sage advice on the best type of skirts/dresses to wear while cycling.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Movable Feast for The Eyes

I've been looking for attractive bicycle accoutrement all week and it hasn't been a very fruitful search. The few items I've fancied have turned out to be very expensive and that is a deal-breaker for me since cycling is so economical. However, I will reconsider my position when a bicycling component or accessory transcends attractiveness and actually qualifies as a work of art. For that reason, I think there'd be no harm in considering an art bike from Sopo Bicycle Co-op. Several of the frames are eye-catching and curious. For instance, I wonder how artist, Lisa Clark transferred those photos onto the bike and what significance do they have? I wonder if experience has shown Sarah Madden that rhinestones can last for a long time on a bicycle? If that's the case, I need a Bedazzler. Lastly, where is the bunny representation in the Lord of All Bunnies' bike? Was it painted by bunnies? And if painting bunnies do his bidding, are they insured and bonded and can he get them to paint my living room?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Where Do You Keep Your Bike?

As I mentioned earlier, I don't leave my bike out overnight. In an unusual act of theft, my previous bike was stolen from the carport just a few feet from the back door. I don't know if it was taken by a criminally-minded cousin or some kids who wanted to buy it at my family's yard sale. I don't know if it was sold or pawned or if some punk kid is riding it around town now. Oh, stolen bike I hardly knew ye! I don't have a picture of my swiped bike--it was a 2002(?) Schwinn Suburban and I can't find images of it anywhere. I'm not sure that Schwinn made any more after that.

Like the old saying goes, "you don't miss the water 'til the well runs dry." I didn't get out my old bike very much--I didn't feel like I was much of a cyclist since I didn't ride fast and I was somewhat ashamed of my bike's big box store origins. According to many cycling blogs I'd perused my vehicle was mere a bike shaped object. Still, my Suburban never did me wrong--no sore back or joints to report. The saddle was uncomfortable so I bought a Schwinn gel seat cover. I also bought Schwinn lights. Now it's all gone, kit and kaboodle without so much as a proper breaking- in or naming.

I refuse to let that happen again. I keep Praline in the sewing room. It's kind of inconvenient to have to roll her through the den and a land-mine of occasional furniture to get outside, but I won't be a victim again if I can help it. My mom is trying to make room for her out in our storage house so when I want to ride we can just roll outside.

Uncannily enough, Praline is also a bike shaped object! The man who sold her to me said that he and his wife bought their bicycles from a Rich's department store (now Macy's). Honestly, I doubt people generally bought their bikes from bike shops before the idea of cycling as a sport was widely promulgated. No wonder it seemed perfectly reasonable then to wear "normal" clothes while riding one's bike--they were purchased from the same store. Even if there were plenty of bikes shops, I bet there was no pervasive attitude that the only decent bikes were to be found there. I know that elite cyclists need special equipment to shave seconds off of their time trials and whatnot, but I've never heard of an elite commuter. I doubt most people riding to shops are timing themselves.

Like I've said before, let's leave the consumerism and the brand status to those in the market for a car. As far as bikes go, the rider is the only one who has to be satisfied with it and if he/she likes it then it's a good bike. Apparently, the same goes for bike thieves.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It's Going To Be a Beautiful Night

I wish every night this Summer could be like tonight. It was in the upper seventies and the breeze was only so cool as to be refreshing as I rolled downhill. The sun set at about ten to nine, but lent the sky a subtle light until well after the hour. I rode around town with no direction until I felt fatigue tugging at my legs. I took in all the sights I passed: people sitting on their porches, cats lying in the grass, pink sheets of clouds undulating in the sky. I hope the clouds are now tucked away somewhere convenient so I can see the solstice moon. I'll look for it as I bring my bike in from the driveway.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cleanliness Is Next To Chicness

1. I'm a sucker for cute product packaging.
2. I find packaging with foreign languages, especially foreign characters, utterly engaging.
3. These really work. They're strong, fragrance-free, and gentle.

One cannot be chic with offensive body odor and if you're going on a brief jaunt to meet friends you might want to pop into the restroom and wipe yourself down, particularly in this heat. Bringing some deodorant would serve you well also. A nice little trick is to bring along a spritzer or body splash that's been cooled in your refrigerator--very refreshing.

You might want to try making your own spritzer using essential oils so that you can control the strength of the fragrance. Whether you reek of parfum or funk, it's not courteous to others.

Updated: So that you can rest assured of my expertise on this subject, I'll share with you the opinion of the "man on the street." As I rolled by a guy today, he said that I smelled good.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

How I Came To Be Bicycle Chic

Once upon a time, I had the brilliant idea to ride my bike three miles from my apartment to campus. I had a bike friendly enough neighborhood, but I lacked a bike rack or basket and I had a gargantuan Dickies bookbag. I arrived at my destination sweaty and exhausted. I gave myself only enough time to make it to class promptly if I exerted the maximum physical effort to get there. I looked nothing like and felt nothing like the other cyclists I'd seen whizzing through my neighborhood streets. Yes, they were Lycra clad, self-hydration system wearing enthusiasts, but they were the only example I had. There was that one other guy who wore regular clothes, but he rode a BMX bike and had calves like Popeye the Sailor Man. I felt like a singular loser. I rode occasionally for pleasure, but I didn't stray far from my neighborhood or bike paths. I didn't have the confidence to face the Atlanta streets.

Then, I moved. I now live in the country, sorta. This once sleepy town has become a bedroom community of Atlanta. The transplants place more cars on the roads, but many shops and restaurants still close at 9PM or earlier. The streets are quiet when people are at work and, during the dinner hour(s), the streets are nearly empty. People here are family-minded I suppose and, when they see me on my bike, I believe they assume I'm a child and give me a wide berth. These conveniences have allowed me to get out and ride a lot more than I have in the past and build my confidence.

My move also coincided with an increase in the presence of bicycle chicness on the Web. I'd seen plenty about bike commuting; there seemed to be a lot of planning and long distances involved. Not what I was looking for. The first inkling I had of bicycle chic came from "The Diva's Guide to Biking," but the article didn't give me a sense that anyone other than divas were cycling while sexy. Now, there are a lot more blogs highlighting this phenomenon and they're not all written in Copenhagen! This blog is my humble contribution to the movement and, hopefully, a source of encouragement to those trying to ride in a place as hot as North Georgia.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

About My Bike

This is my '74 or '75 Ross Europa 3-speed. Her name is Praline Supreme because she's one sweet ride. I believe she's made entirely of steel which is a bit heavy, but I have to work off all of that sugar somehow. Moreover, I don't pedal very fast, but I do need to get up the occasional hill. So far I've only conquered slight inclines and I push my bike up the bigger hills--I'm not trying to be a hero. I'm supposed to be enjoying myself.

For my additional pleasure, I sought a bike with a chainguard and fenders. I rarely take pleasure in getting filthy, especially if I'm looking cute. And that is the end that Praline Supreme and I shall try to accomplish: to be bicycle chic. This requires us to be as graceful as possible about the town and country. Happily, this means we need accessories. Accessories for carrying things without causing me excessive perspiration. Accessories to make us fantastically visible in the event of darkness. Accessories to preserve my lovely brain in the event of some accident.

Cycling is a wonderful occasion for shopping, especially if you haven't exceeded your line of credit by buying a new, high-end bike. I don't say this to discredit those who spend hundreds of dollars on "Dutch" bikes, but I think you should have many miles behind you and a strong commitment to cycling before making such an investment. Besides, riding vintage is very green.

There's no "junker" or "clunker" in my parlance

Bicycles are wonderfully carefree vehicles. They don't require costly fuel or repairs and they have a low impact on the environment. So cycling makes for healthy, happy people. Let's keep it that way. I don't see the point of qualifying any bike as a "junker" or "clunker" if it gets you from point A to point B safely and you're satisfied with it. If the bike is so beneath you that you'd refer to it in such a negative way, why do you have it? If you're in the process of fixing it up, then fix it up and don't apologize for it. I'm sure its metamorphosis will be astounding and the end result beautiful. Apparently, we're sitting on a goldmine of vintage bikes that are economical and have great potential for commuting that isn't being utilized. This probably has something to do with the mindset that high expense is the most significant marker of good quality. Brand status is probably at work in there somewhere too. Let's leave that sort of baggage for cars, please.

I found Praline Supreme on Craigslist. She was a part of a his-and-her pair. Before I was even born, my bike was rolling steadily along with her mate facilitating the adventures of a young husband and wife. Then came children. She pulled them around in a trailer that I suspect was green from the paint on her rear fender. In full "mama bike" mode, I'm sure she made toddlers squeal with joy and helped to instill an affinity for cycling in the kids for years to come. The paint came off with a little elbow grease and aluminum foil. She only cost me $30.
© courtnee cycles chic
Maira Gall