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Tag: Cycle Chic

They Missed The Point Of Bicycle Chic

They Missed The Point Of Bicycle Chic

This evening I read a story entitled “Bicycle Chic Gains Speed” on the New York Times website.

Then I got very, very angry.

Here is what I tweeted:
Gee, NYT, sexist much? Trivializing rise in female ridership, bicycles as fad fashion accessory, ‘dangerous woman driver’ stereotypes? WTF.

I suppose I should be grateful that the fashion pages of the vaunted New York Times are taking note of, and I quote one of their interviewees, “that whole sort of blog style.” I should be delighted that they are bringing mainstream attention to practical urban bicyclists who are choosing to ride in the fashionable clothes they already own, at a pace of their choosing, and that they are celebrating that there are more women using bicycles in Manhattan. This should be wonderful news, especially since I am that whole sort of blogger they theoretically were talking about.

Let me take my highlighter to a few of the phrases that left me so irked by the end of only the third paragraph:

Ms. Page-Green, who runs a nonprofit group that provides meals to needy children, likes to charge around town on her bike. Sometimes she’s done up in sparkly necklaces and towering heels; other times she coasts to appointments, sans helmet, in a blazer and fresh-pressed jeans. “I get sweaty a little, but it doesn’t bother me,” she said. Her bike, after all, is a stylish appendage, “a kind of rustic enhancement,” she said.

The subtext: reckless woman, charging around town sans helmet. This is an article about  “style-obsessed” “women, mostly young,” “whooshing along the green-painted bike-lanes”. (I’m not cherry-picking to find those snippets to string together.). One interviewee laughs off “speeding around on the sidewalk” while “canes waved at me in the distance,” and a critic admonishes that, “Fixing your makeup or sending a text message could have catastrophic results.”

I object to the emphasis on verbs denoting speed, particularly when talking about vintage (read: heavy steel) bikes with a limited number of gears, and to the stress placed on how many of these riders are not wearing helmets (tsk).


I object to the emphasis on bicycles as no more than a stylish accessory, like this season’s must-have bag or shoe. Is Lela Rose’s custom-built bakfiets-tricycle-hybrid, which she uses for commuting safely around the city with her children and dog and likens to a popular SUV brand, really just an accessory to her? I doubt it. What about the female clients of Hudson Urban Bikes, who the owner says insist on fenders (for staying clean), baskets (for carrying their purses and groceries safely), bells (which should be a standard safety item, along with lights), and things for carrying their children and pets (in a city where otherwise taking your dog to the vet must be a colossal pain for the carless)? Are their bikes just accessories, merely because they wish to ride in their everyday (stylish) clothes? These sound like purely practical considerations to me, not things added just as whims of fashion.

I think the writer missed the point of three-quarters of what was said to her by her interviewees, and emphasized all the wrong things. The story here isn’t really about empty-headed young women who speed recklessly around town on bicycles because they’re this season’s accessory. The story here is the emergence of a new demographic of bicycle riders in North America who are choosing a style of bicycle, and a style of cycling, that is commonplace in other parts of the world – and that allows fashion and function to coexist. 

I think this is an incredibly tone-deaf article. What do you think? Am I overreacting?

Inspiration boards and practical cycle chic

Inspiration boards and practical cycle chic

Today I played with Polyvore, and tried to recover from my cold. (Please don’t ask how my #30daysofbiking is going. It’s not. At all.)

Polyvore is basically a site where teenaged girls can make collages of fashionable outfits using images from shopping websites, then follow links through to shop for the items – or create I LOVE YOU NONTHREATENING HEARTTHOB! posters. I ran across it because it has some interior decor products available that you can collage as well – but not enough for my taste. Luckily, cycle chic is having a moment, so there are lots of photos one can use to create inspiration boards for outfits to ride in, especially if you are willing to dig past all the studded leather jackets and boots also labelled with the search term “bike”.

The outfit above is essentially all from Anthropologie, with a skirt from the Gap and a Bern helmet. The bicycle is the first black loop-frame I found, which just happened to be the Hermes-branded one. The next collage was meant to be more of a vintage-style-girlbike-pron inspiration board, and the images also include some that came from various blogs:

Yes, that is a photo of Audrey Hepburn riding a bike while wearing a very shiny PVC suit – very practical for wet days. Heh. The eagle-eyed among you will notice the Yakkay helmets, Basil basket, Electra bell, and Brooks saddle, as well as cycles from Pashley, Electra, Republic Bike for Urban Outfitters, Gucci (in two colours) and Hermes. Oh, and three different vintage Schwinns.

The last thing I did was create this collection on Polyvore, which is basically meant as a quick visual guide to practical cycle chic to inspire the site’s users to ride. I’d love your feedback on it!

(Also, via a photo of a hot boy on bicycle I found on Polyvore: famous men on bicycles. Mmm, beefcake and bicycles. You’re welcome, ladies.)

Fun Bicycle Finds on Etsy

Fun Bicycle Finds on Etsy

One of these days, I’m going to get to put together an Etsy treasury of beautiful handmade and vintage bicycle things. Whenever I check, there are no openings – but still. Someday. In the meantime, may I share some links to the Etsy shops and listings I’d feature?

Let’s start with baskets and bags:

1. The wonderful liners for wire baskets that Angel and I have both mentioned previously by LuckyFindDesigns in California – who also, to my delight, does custom ones for wierd trapezoidal vintage baskets like mine – look what’s in the mail for Mary Poppins! There are other shops making basket liners too: BettyBasketLiners and CoutureCruiser.

UPDATE: here’s the liner installed on Mary Poppins! Yay!

2. Ottawa’s ShootFromCanada makes custom versions of the ubiquitous Brooks leather handlebar bag like the one in the photo below. Matching saddlebags please!

3. San Fran’s HamboneDesigns‘ VeloPockets would be perfect on a sweet mixte.

In the other bike accessories category:

1. Fun bicycle reflectors with peace symbols and other great designs in aluminum riveted onto them, from New Orleans’ Yabettasupadont (who also makes cute cocktail rings from reflectors)

2.  Maybe a top tube pad and U-lock cozy – although personally I’m itching to sew or crochet matching ones myself.

3. Yes, boys, you could get a leather U-lock holster and other custom leather bike accessories from Portland’s WalnutStudiolo instead, but this girly wish list wasn’t designed with you in mind. Or was it?

4. Union Jack or handmade bunting flags for special-occasion decorating – a search on ‘mini bunting’ will reveal dozens of options.

5. A tool roll from BikeCozy for in my saddlebag. Yes, please.

6. Montreal’s DringDring make fabulous handpainted bells. I’d love to see their Tropical bell with LuckyFindDesign’s Fiesta Skull basket liner on a black loop-frame.

In the vintage-and-antique category:

1. Are you jonesing for an American-made tank bicycle? Right now there’s an extremely gorgeous antique Murray bicycle for sale by emilyoutrageous, who’s trying to pay for art school. Buying it would make her day *and* yours.

2. & 3. There always seem to be a couple of battered Wald-style wire baskets and old cyclingthemed photos & postcards among the vintage listings.

4. Swiss Army panniers made of cotton twill canvas and saddle leather, yum yum.

5. How fun is a fuzzy seat cover?

In the clothes-I-covet category:

1-7. For an indie-artsy-I-ride-in-San-Fran look, ruched leggings from AlohaTRON or cotton-hemp blend dancers’ pants (I have these – so comfy) under a cute short skirt or dress (I love the Variations tunic from Montreal’s elysiumdesign, or   Clementiny’s fern dress) and maybe a belt-bag like all the fusion bellydancers wear to their afterparties (like the leather ones from ElvenForestCreations or Squamish’s JungleTribe or the ruffled bustle from Malaysia’s Kinies).

8. For a more classic look, Ottawa’s econica makes gorgeous organic-jersey wrap dresses (I’ll have it in every colour, please) along with many other beautiful clothes.

9. For tweedy fun, cycling knickers made from vintage mens’ slacks with a matching vest

10-13. To warm up in winter, a chunky cowl scarf to crochet yourself, and extra-long leg warmers or spats – and for under a helmet, a cycling cap from AutomaticCowboyJoy.

14. A beautiful cape or cloak for cool evenings.

15. For a finishing touch, ShizenDesigns’s bicycle pendant necklace made from recycled fine silver.

Let’s finish with some original art. (The ‘Keep Calm & Ride On’ poster is cute, but ripping off the UK’s Keep Calm Gallery is hardly original. Booo.)

1. Fine art bike-pron photography by Brooklyn’s DripStick. I’m wiping drool off my keyboard – follow the link to see why.

2. This gorgeous reclaimed-wood wall rack from Vancouver’s cantileverandpress would be perfect for displaying an antique men’s three-speed in your loft apartment (exposed brick, mix of industrial and midcentury modern finds, giant factory windows letting in tons of light… excuse me while I fantasize).

Antique Cycle Chic (1900s-1940s)

Antique Cycle Chic (1900s-1940s)

While I waited for a chance to bring Bert-the-Bike home and install my Christmas goodies on Mary Poppins, I creeped eBay looking for Objects Of Interest. It turns out that there are lots of wonderful early photographic portraits of stylish women with their rod-brake loop-frame lovelies available. Naturally I’m now a bit obsessed with them.

In the early 20th Century, getting a professional photographic portrait done was a Really Big Deal, and I imagine that having it done with your bicycle started as a declaration of independence, then as cameras became more common it gradually became more like a rite-of-passage (like teenagers getting a photo taken in the driver’s seat of their first car now). I love that they’re dressed in their finest suits and hats – oh, what hats! – and that they’re looking so serious and pensive for the camera. I also love the later, more candid shots, which show how practical loop-frame roadsters with fenders, chaincases, and skirtguards were for riding in everyday clothes – but the early studio photographs with carpets and curtains are awesomely incongruous. Sometimes you can learn details about the bikes themselves, like how the skirtguards attached or how high the seats were set (no way could these girls put a flat foot on the ground, like my parents taught me was necessary – that must be a cruiser-bike thing).

These real-photo picture-postcards all came from eBay sellers. I scanned them on grayscale (some are actually sepia) at high resolution, which is like having a magnifying glass, then cropped them a bit and adjusted the fill light, highlights, and shadows so they weren’t quite so dark.

This studio portrait was taken in about 1910 and is labelled R. Guilleminot, Boespflug et Cie. – Paris. Check out her elaborate hat! This is definitely a corseted dress, and when you zoom in you can see she’s wearing (lace?) gloves, as often seems to be the case in photos of Victorian and Edwardian ladies. There’s a tantalizing glimpse of chainwheel and a clear view of the headbadge’s shape, so maybe someone who knows the continental makers can identify her bicycle.

Also Edwardian, but taken in England (the back of the card says it was taken by Valentine of Canterbury and Guildford). Great gloves, and I love the way she’s tied her hat on with a long sheer scarf. The skirtguards attach both in front of and behind the fork, and seem to be tied in groups of three cords. I can’t read the mark on the chaincase, but perhaps a collector can tell us who made her sweet ride?

Another English card, with “Mother” handwritten on the back. Her straw boater and ribbon tie with pin are great, the blouse is polka-dotted, and she’s wearing dark (leather?) gloves. What looks like a smudge on her forehead is actually wispy bangs. The skirtguard looks like it might be made of wire instead of cord, and I think her rear fender is chromed. Look at that quadrant shifter – swoon.

This pretty lady has a gorgeous netted skirtguard. Divine pleats on her dress, and charming layering of necklaces, but what I’d most like are frameless glasses like hers. Notice that she’s not wearing gloves. The back of the postcard has a handwritten date of 23 Novembre 1918 and other markings in French:

If I’m reading the handwriting correctly, it translates as, “23 years old” (not shown) and “A souvenir of beautiful days passed (adverb?) in Veron – H. LaForge”. (Maybe someone whose French skills surpass mine can help me with that word?)

This is a 1920s portait of a ‘sportswoman’, according to the seller. I love her flapper bob with pearl teardrop earrings, and the slightly rumpled pinstriped jacket and matching cap – which look almost like they might be her boyfriend’s. Her dress might be seersucker, and has a couple of dirt smudges, probably acquired while riding to this destination. Is that a lucite bangle? The back of the card is unmarked except for CARTE POSTALE, Correspondance, and Adresse – so she must also be French.

Closeup of her netted skirtguard.

I covet these German girls’ cloche hats and swingy coats. Photograph (the only one that isn’t an RPPC) taken in the 1930s, according to the seller.

I love this young lady’s confident pose, the cardigan with mother-of-pearl buttons, matching hat, and long pearl drop earrings.

She seems to be wearing culottes, stockings, and ankle-high boots. Her bicycle has front-rod-brake handlebars, but where are the rods? Is that little flap between the front tire and the mudguard the braking surface? The logo on the chaincase says Brennabor, who were originally a prewar manufacturer of bicycles, motorcycles, and automobiles in Brandenburg, Germany, and at some point became a Dutch-based brand instead. I’d guess she’s from the 1930s-40s, based on what she’s wearing, but the American seller didn’t give any information to help date it. The postcard only has “Foto Bayer” (that’s German) printed on the back, and two handwritten words: Kaaza (I think?), Kaan (a town in Rheinland-Pfalz).


Closeup of the Brennabor chaincase and netted skirtguard.

You can find more such photos on eBay or on Flikr by using the search terms “vintage”, “bicycle”, and “lady” or “woman”. Sadly most of the Flikr ones are All Rights Reserved, so I can only link to my favorites: 1895Edwardian, Edwardian, 1911, 1927, 1930s-40s slacks, 1966 culottes. Do follow the links – all these ladies and their steeds are magnificent. One of the commenters on one of these suggests that the girl is just there as window-dressing, since she obviously couldn’t ride dressed like that. Isn’t it telling that nobody (to date) has challenged his assumption in the comments?

This has me fantasizing about having a girly lets-dress-up bike meetup, in the Spring or early Summer, before it gets too hot, with a photo booth so we can all have great photos taken of ourselves with our steeds…