Archive for June, 2011

June 25, 2011

Losing Weight

No, this isn’t the grapefruit diet, or the all-you-can-eat diet, or the “use this one silly trick to blast stomach flab” diet. It’s the purse diet.

As in, when was the last time you took everything out of your purse and then decided what to put back in? Or—brace yourself—switched to a smaller purse?

That’s essentially what I did to move into panniers for bike commuting, and I took it a step further when I recently switched to my cute Po Campo pannier and Logan tote instead of the Black Ninja Fingernail-Breaking Monsters.

This cleansing process illustrates yet another of my life lessons learned from biking: If you can’t carry it, you don’t need it.

If you’ve ever ridden a heavy bike load up a steep hill, you know that you don’t want to carry excess weight (whether it’s on you or on the bike). I’m not talking about the crazy roadies who obsess over shaving 10 grams off the weight of their pedals—just your average concern for not working any harder than you have to.

When I started commuting, I’m reasonably sure I hauled a lot of extra weight because my instinct was simply to transfer my purse straight into my pannier. That way you get to carry not only the weight of the stuff, but the weight of the purse too.

But honestly, how much of that stuff that you carry do you ever really need? You’re carrying it “just in case.” Just in case what—you find yourself stranded 85 miles from the nearest Rite-Aid or 7-11 and you don’t have an emery board? (My mother always carried at least three.)

Honestly, how long will it be until you can get to a source of whatever it is you’re not carrying right this very second? And can you survive that long? Unless you’re a diabetic and looking at your insulin, I bet you’ll be okay.

Every so often I find that the little detritus has started to creep back in and the pouch of essentials I carry is inching upward. (And if I do carry an actual purse, as I do on the days I ride the bus, all bets are off. I rarely bother to clean out my purses because I use them so seldom.)

The basics? I fit everything into my adorable new Six-Corner Wristlet from Po Campo with the bike fabric (available at Bike Style shopping events). I especially like that I can clip it not only to my handlebars, but also to the D rings on one of my other Po Campo bags.

I carry some “me” stuff:

  • Bike wallet (a small waterproof hard-shell case I got from BicycleGifts.com) with ID, debit card, folding money, and a couple of essential cards (bus pass, insurance, library card, Rocket Bakery preloaded card for coffee)
  • Checkbook only on days I actually know I need to write a check
  • Lip balm or lipstick, although I keep those in my desk at work so technically I don’t “need” to carry them
  • Nail clippers (because I obsess about my fingernails in a highly unhealthy fashion and can’t stand it if I can’t immediately deal with a broken nail—and because they make a good emergency pair of scissors)
  • Keys (to get into my house and my office, silly–did you think I meant car keys?!)
  • True confession: Right now I also have wetting drops for my contact lenses and a little travel tube of Aleve, both of which I technically could get at the nearest Rite-Aid or 7-11.

And a little “tech” that I usually put in my Po Campo pannier with my laptop:

  • Smartphone
  • Extra battery for my phone (a work necessity)
  • Patch cable so I can use my phone as a tethered modem if need be
  • Flash drive
  • A couple of my business cards and a couple for Belles and Baskets in case I see a woman riding a bike and can tell her about this fun group
  • Pen

That’s it for the basics. On work days I also carry my lunch, a water bottle, and a laptop with power cable (I bought an ultralight so this only represents about 3-4 pounds total).

Play Our Home Version

  • What excess baggage do you carry?
  • What would it tell me about you if I looked in your purse?
  • What are you afraid of if you don’t carry this stuff?
  • When was the last time you actually used most of the things in your purse?
  • What’s the worst thing that could happen? (In my case, if I’m not carrying the nail clippers I will chew on the rough edge in a most unladylike way. This is not a terminal disease but I prefer not to.)

Feel free to extend the meaning of “if you can’t carry it, you don’t need it” metaphorically. I’ve had thoughts that weighed me down and when I finally set them down and rolled away without looking back, I felt light as a feather.

Post inspired by “Instead of Driving . . . I Won a Pack!” on Kent’s Bike Blog. He won a pack and could have received a larger size, but said, “If I have too much space, I tend to take too much stuff.” This piece first appeared on my personal blog, Bike to Work Barb; I’m updating and posting a few items here that fit with Bike Style.

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June 21, 2011

More Treats! More Shopping! And Panties! Bike Style Event June 29

OK, I’m asking for trouble (or a whole lot of really random and inappropriate blog comments, which I will moderate) with the word “panties” in this post….

Panties are just one of the reasons you’ll want to swing by the LaunchPadINW space and Nectar Tasting Room next Wednesday, June 29, from 4-7pm ( so share this post, the EventBrite invitation, and/or the Facebook event with all your friends!). Here are some more reasons (and more explanation of the panties):

Poster for Pedal Panties: Underwear for extra comfort on your bike saddle that fits under regular clothes. Made in US.

Pedal Panties. You know you want 'em. Or need 'em.

Participating creators/curators of cool things (I will keep updating the list; be aware that several can accept only checks/cash):

Wine: Taste great Washington wines from Nectar Tasting Room & take some home!

The perfect pairing for wine: Local goat’s-milk cheese—feta & flavored chevres—from Chattaroy Cheese Co.

MassageRobby Eldenburg, LMP: Get in line! Neck/back/shoulder work ($1/minute or $10/15 minutes).

Jewelry: Local jewelry designer Cindy Morris, Gogoshebogo, will have bike-themed jewelry & more.

Paper arts: Journals, cards, and fine art photographic prints from 40 Candles.

Inspiration and information: Sistahpedia co-founders/sisters Angela Brown & Deborah Norris will be there with their wonderful website to meet more Women Who Know.

Complete Streets Bike Zine: $3 donation supports Futurewise.

Cool custom stickers: Bike images & much, much more from Hydra Creations.

And from Bike Style Spokane, ride with style with these cute & practical products!

Carry On

Donkey Boxx: Perfect for trips to the farmers’ market! Each box can hold a full grocery bag.
Practical box-like bicycle panniers made of 80% recycled corrugated plastic fasten to your bike with zip ties. Manufactured by Minnesota Diversified Industries, which employs people with disabilities.

Po Campo Bike Bags and Panniers: No one will ever guess that pretty purse is actually designed to strap onto your handlebars–until you show them. Not just for biking–great to strap onto strollers too! Made in Chicago by a woman-owned company.

They’ll Know You’re There

Spoke N Wheel Bike Bells: Customized by a mom in Los Angeles with fun phrases and 3D features like flowers and animals.

Bike Wrappers: Like reflective clothing for your bike–style & safety both. Made by a small California company.

Sensible Style for Women who Move

Nuu-Muus & Ruu-Muus: The cutest dress you’ll ever sweat in! Great for biking, tennis, yoga, running and other active movement. Made by a women-owned company based in Bellingham, Nuu-Muu is a member of 1% for the Planet, a business organization that donates 1% of all sales to environmental organizations.

At last, the panties! Pedal Panties: Equally perfect under those Nuu-Muus or your buttoned-down office look. Sexy and sleek quick-dry performance fabric with a thin, breathable cushion for comfort on the saddle without that sensation that you’re wearing a Depends. Made in California by a women-owned company.

In Case You’re Wondering

You can find more on the purchasing philosophy I apply when choosing Bike Style Spokane products in these posts.

June 19, 2011

Women’s Clothing for Biking that Doesn’t Look Like It’s for Biking: What to Wear, What to Wear

The post that started it all…. The weeks and months of accumulated frustration that led to this post (which originally appeared on my personal blog in September 2010) also led, fairly directly, to the launch of this blog and my idea for bike fashion shopping events to bring some products to Spokane that aren’t otherwise available here.

Barb Chamberlain with bicycle at bike rack

You'd never know I'm wearing "bike clothes." That's the idea.

So in a nostalgic flashback with a few updates:

I have nothing to wear.

As in, there are very few choices if you’re a woman looking for professional clothing that’s made for cycling. This has two dimensions:

Comfort: No ill-placed seams in the crotch, no fabric that irritates, no flappy wide-legged trousers or long full skirts that get caught in the chain.

Style: You are appropriately dressed to walk into a meeting in which all the men wear ties and jackets and you’re the only person taking off a helmet and gloves.

Once upon a time I used to drive to work and hang clothes there. I now bike almost year-round so I really don’t want to drive (and was never very happy with having to decide a day or two in advance what I’d feel like wearing on a given day–what woman is?).

In my next phase I tried riding in bike clothes, rolling everything and packing it into panniers, changing when I arrived, and changing again to ride home.

But that’s a bit of a hassle and one of the major things I like about riding my bike is the hassle-free nature: no paying for gas, no looking for a parking place, and the feeling of freedom I get with every ride.

Mostly, I’ve changed my shopping habits to get to where I am now: If I can’t bike in it, I don’t buy it. Which, coincidentally, both saves me money and prevents a lot of buyer’s remorse over the guilt I feel when I look at an article of clothing I almost never wear.

I do a lot more moving and contorting in dressing rooms than I used to so I’m sure I can throw a leg over my bike and take off. I use a road bike as my commuter so there’s the potential for some serious flashing of random passers-by if I don’t remember my mother’s efforts to raise me to be ladylike.

What I really want—what I’ve started dreaming about—is good-looking clothing that no one will guess is made specifically for cycling.

Only I will know about the extra comfort elements and careful tailoring, the fabrics chosen not only for their non-chafe chamois-like interior finish but also for their water-resistant and dirt-repelling exterior qualities (with no swishing when I walk! That means most technical fabrics are off the list).

Fashion-forward options with secret gussets will get us beyond the Spandex Dork image from which cycling suffers and will help encourage more women to bike, I’m just sure of it.

Bike Shop Girl blogged about this same dilemma. I found out because I asked her via Twitter, after a semi-fruitless Google search, if she knew of anyplace to get good-looking pants. (My search, in case you’re curious: women’s tailored clothing urban biking—terms I arrived at after realizing that “professional” and “cycling” in the same search would yield nothing but Spandex and race results).

For now I’m making do with regular clothes. You’ll see posts here about how I manage some of the clothing issues and I have a whole series on pants shopping to come. Skirts and dresses are relatively easy, as you’ll be able to see from the pictures in my post on a week’s worth of clothing choices. I’ve learned quite a bit about the best shoe choices for biking in style, too.

The real answer, though, is for clothing manufacturers from the fashion and cycling industries to recognize they’re missing the opportunity that lies at their intersection. Thus my quest continues.

Your Turn

  • What are your clever accommodations if you’re a bike rider who needs to look polished at work?
  • What’s your biggest frustration with “regular” clothing?
  • What’s your biggest frustration with “cyclist” clothing?
  • And have you found the perfect pants?
June 16, 2011

Shopping for a Better World

Text: Made in the USAThe longer I live and the more I learn about how the world works, the more important it becomes to me to pay attention to the impacts my personal decisions have and how those represent my values.

Once upon a time I carried around a little booklet, Shopping for a Better World. It ranked companies on a variety of factors, for example, whether they hired and promoted women and members of underrepresented racial/ethnic groups or produced tobacco products.  (I’ve now found the online version, the Better World Shopper, but it isn’t going to rate the tiny companies with which I’m connecting; I don’t agree 100% with their issues in any case.)

On my personal blog I’ve noted the importance of eating local food as another example of how our dollars reflect our values.

Today we have Google to give us more information than we can make sense of and everyone brings individual priorities and filters. As I’ve gone in search of products that bring together style, comfort, and utility I’m also looking at the values expressed by the companies with which I choose to do business.

Some of those values are outlined in my Thoughts on Shopping page. Inspired by a post on Pedaler Clothing about buying clothing made in the US, I’m listing more of my values here so you know the decision-making filters that factor in when I’m bringing products in for a Bike Style Treats & Shopping Event. They’re very much in line with the new Sustainable Business Network forming in Spokane, which Bike Style Spokane is joining.

  • I constrain the geographic/fuel footprint as much as possible with this hierarchy: Buy locally, in Washington, in the West, in the US.
  • In trying to buy as locally as possible I am looking both at the cost of energy to bring goods to me and at the wages and working conditions of the people who make the product.
  • I look for products that have a lower environmental and health impact vs. a higher impact wherever possible. I’m not able to do a sophisticated cradle-to-cradle analysis to make sure everything is 100% recycled/recyclable, as one example, but will share whatever I’m able to find out about the product ingredients.
  • What are the trade-offs between environmental impact and functionality for cycling? As one example, organic cotton sounds nice but when it gets wet it stays wet and you end up chilled, and you should be aware of the exorbitant amount of water it takes to grow any cotton crop, organic or not.
  • Does the company use some of its profits to support nonprofits, the biking industry, and/or their own local communities?
  • Given the nature of the products I am seeking they are made by very small start-ups, specifically because they are filling niches ignored by the major manufacturers. I’m not anti-big-business but I do like dealing directly with the real owner/manufacturer/Chief Everything Officer.

As a result of all of these factors I know I will pay more and I do so willingly.

Cottage industries and really small businesses cost “more” per item as suppliers–when you’re not doing real full-cost accounting from the standpoint of public policy and societal benefit.

That “cheap” shirt you bought doesn’t have a family-wage job or the cost of benefits embedded in its seams, making it very expensive indeed if you factor in the quality of the lives involved. When you buy another offshore shirt, you export another job that used to support people here.

I’m not the least bit xenophobic or bigoted; I just want the country I love to thrive and to be able to provide people with decent jobs.

As you can see, a checklist doesn’t really cover all the nuances. I will do the best I can to vote with my wallet.

Since issues emerge every day and our understanding continues to expand, I appreciate anything you can tell me about the values you bring to your shopping and what can help me do an even better job of living the values I bring to mine.

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June 11, 2011

A Typical Week, in Outfits & Mileage

Monday: 7.8 miles. Gray skirt (a $4 steal at Goodwill, and it's lined!) with cute kick pleats this photo doesn't really show, cream sleeveless sweater top, light peachy/pink cardigan, gray Aerosole pumps. Some errands out of the office midday. I was going to wear white pants but the sky threatened clouds so I opted for the skirt; my legs are easier to get clean than white denim! And it never really rained--more of a light spitting at one point was all I encountered.

Tuesday: 7.19 miles. Tan capris, black lace top, leopard-print light cardigan borrowed from my almost-17-year-old daughter who is always stealing MY clothes, brown summer sandals. This is also further evidence that I am not a great fashion photographer.

Barb on a bike June 8, 2011, Spokane

Wednesday: 6.49 miles. Green jersey dress (a total score at Macy's 6th floor where they hide the bargains and so comfy for riding), black pumps. Photo by the lovely ladies of Design Spike.

Barb in her Thursday bike-riding outfit.

Thursday: 16.10 miles. Lots of meetings, including a round trip to Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute (about 4 miles outside downtown on a lovely route with rolling hills and a tree-lined bike path for much of the trip) for the Leadership Spokane graduation of a colleague. My Po Campo bags sure accessorize well with the two shades of turquoise--greenish capris, light blue jacket--with a white tank and white strappy summer sandals (which triggered at least four instances of the shoe/tone of voice phenomenon I wrote about on a Blogspedition post).

Barb Chamberlain on a bike in dress and high heels.

Friday. 5.79 miles. Started off early with a 6:45 a.m. ride to a breakfast meeting. Unfortunate impact with a sharp lip on a street construction project gave me a nice flat tire midday ("psssssh!") but other than that it was a great day for a ride. Periwinkle dress was another $4 find from Goodwill. Same strappy sandals, same "You didn't ride in THOSE" comments.

Saturday. 9.1 miles. A wonderful day: Breakfast with friends, the Farmers' Market for a bag full of veggie goodness, Pride Parade in downtown, a stop by the office, and home. Wearing my new Ruu-Muu, world's cutest exercise dress. Only day all week that I clipped in and wore the padded-butt look.

Total mileage for 6 days: 52.47

Total expended on gym membership, gas, and parking: $0.00

Total expended on being stupid and thinking I could hop a 2″ cement lip: $17.32 (took my bike to the shop instead of patching the tube myself–didn’t want chain grease on Friday’s periwinkle dress so this was my biking contribution to the local economy)

That last part was not typical. I usually don’t get flats and when I do, I know how to repair them–one of the things I love about biking since I feel more empowered and capable dealing with a bike than with a car.

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June 9, 2011

Nice Rack, Lady

A common question I get is what I do with my bike at a destination that doesn’t have bike racks. Since this may come up a lot when we go on our Bikespeditions I thought I’d share my work-arounds.

#1—Vote with your wallet! Take your dollars to places with bike parking and TELL THEM that’s why you did it

My closest grocery store (Rosauers on 29th) has a rack so I like going there. When I set a meeting at a coffee shop I choose one with a bike rack whenever possible (and it’s usually possible).

You’ll find racks next to TasteMadeleine’s, the Rocket Bakery on Main, Main Market Co-op, Santé, and Chairs Coffee for starters. Other spots like Rocket Bakery at 1st and Cedar or Rockwood Bakery on 18th have railings that work for bike rack improv.

Building owners/managers might want to look at this issue to make their facilities more attractive in a tough economy for commercial real estate.

The bonus points for awesomesauce go to the Davenport Hotel, where you can check your bike in at the bell desk and they’ll stash it in the side room they use for luggage. Tip the nice bell staff when you leave!

More bonus points for the Steam Plant Grill, a bike-friendly restaurant that has a rack in their covered parking area and that sponsors Spokane Bikes every year by hosting the Bike to Work Week Wrap-up Bike from Work Party.

#2—Improvise

Street signs, trees, hand rails, fences, benches (heavy or attached to the ground), external piping (look at the back of the building), and other fixed items enable you to use your lock. Spokane Transit stops have nice tall poles.

Parking meters are a last resort since you could just lift the bike, lock and all, right off the meter so it’s a defense in name only unless it’s one of those funny meter poles you’ll see in a few spots in downtown Spokane that has a little handle on the side through which you can thread your cable.

Think about a couple of things in choosing your lock-up spot:

  • Will you and others be able to see your bike? “Eyes on the street” provide security, so a spot right in front of an establishment is safer than an out of sight, out of mind spot at the back.
  • Will you block the sidewalk at all with your choice of location? Don’t.

#3—Impose, but Nicely

Sometimes I impose just a tad depending on the destination. This is one of those things I find much easier when I’m wearing a skirt and heels than when I’m all kitted out in Spandex and clicky shoes. People just treat me more nicely when I don’t fit their cyclist stereotypes.

I have taken my bike into a couple of grocery stores and asked someone at the closest courtesy desk or checkstand if I can stash it against the wall near them and if they’ll keep an eye on it, explaining that I have to do this since they don’t have a rack (and generally don’t have any signage on handy tall poles out front). So far no one has ever turned me down.

“Would you mind if I just brought my bike in since you don’t have a rack?” with a sweet smile gets me pretty far at an event facility. Every time I’ve asked, staff have let me put it in a side room, a hallway, near the coat rack or somewhere that doesn’t inconvenience others but gives me more peace of mind that my transportation will be there a couple of hours later when I need it.

The key for me is two sides of the same coin:

  • “Entitlement”–I am a customer and they need to make it possible for me to deal with my transportation the way they did for drivers when they paved all those parking spaces.
  • Lack of “entitlement”–I ask politely if they can help me solve this problem and they always do. I think I’d get different (worse) treatment if I got self-righteous or huffy about it.

I also bear in mind that I am almost never dealing with anyone who made a deliberate decision not to put in a bike rack, and they probably can’t make one appear later either.

It’s like dealing with customer service on the phone: they didn’t design the problem so they don’t really own either problem or solution. They’re just there to make you feel better so you’ll keep bringing them your business.

And you’re there to remind them that if they want to continue getting your business and that of other people on bikes, they might want to suggest to management that a bike rack should be installed.

A version of this post first appeared on my personal blog, Bike to Work Barb, in Dec. 2010: No Rack?! Now What?

June 4, 2011

Time to Embark! Whither Bikespedition #1?

Seldom do I need much excuse to ride my bike. Or to get something yummy to eat. Or to shop. (Should I ever have any hesitation about the latter, there’s always my dear friend Betsy the Enabler: “How about a quick run to Froyo and Nordie’s? Atticus and Auntie’s?”)

But how perfect is it to put it all together! Hence Bikespeditions: jaunts to selected destinations in and around Spokane (and elsewhere if I travel with my bike) in search of the perfect combination:

  • Interesting shops, preferably one-of-a-kind local finds, and other destinations worth hanging out at (galleries, museums, libraries, people-watching)
  • Tasty treats, again preferably not a chain but with the occasional exception
  • Bike parking that feels reasonably secure
  • A pleasant bike ride to and from the destination, which will always be dictated in part by your starting point but you know right now that nothing on North Division (where bikes are actually banned from the street) is going to fit this criterion
  • Bonus points and a triple back flip with a half twist if any of the merchants give a discount to bike-riding customers (if you know a business that deserves a shout-out for rewarding biking, name-drop in the comments!)

Your Turn

I have several candidates in mind for the first outing. Where should we start? The poll below is multiple choice and lets you add your own destination ideas (remember the combo: biking + food + things to do/look at/admire/want/buy).

This is a Spokane-centric list for now, which I’d love to expand. Hello, Spokane Valley? Liberty Lake? Cheney? Coeur d’Alene? Post Falls?

Want to ride with me some sunny Saturday coming up soon? If you do, sign up to receive the blog feeds by email via the link in the right-hand column; I’ll do a quick post to set up the ride details.

Each Bikespedition will get a write-up here that covers the criteria. And who knows? Maybe there’s a “Best Bikespedition Reader/Rider Poll” come fall if enough of you come along.

Bikespeditions Explained

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