Archive for ‘Do You Need to Go Shopping?’

May 27, 2012

Intro to Bike Commuting (in Style) for Women: Talk & Shop Event at Two Wheel Transit May 30

Mark your calendar with an easy date to remember: 5/30 at 5:30. That’s when I’ll be at Two Wheel Transit at the invitation of owner Geoff Forshag to give an informal talk on how women can get started in bike commuting.

Two Wheel Transit, Spokane WA--logo

I’ve lost track of the number of times people–women in particular–have started a discussion with me along the lines of, “I would bike to work but [insert concern or perceived barrier here].”

Some people carry on this conversation in a quasi-confessional mode, feeling guilty for not riding because I’m standing there demonstrating that it’s possible to show up at a business meeting in professional clothing.

Others who start with this line are looking for the actual answers to the questions or barriers. These range from “I don’t actually remember those hand signals I learned when I was 10” to “What do you do about sweat or hair or carrying stuff?” to “How do I pick the best route?“.

I can whip out a few fast tips but in the middle of a business meeting or networking event I can’t really cover all the nuances. Hence this talk (and if you can’t be there but want me to give it again, let me know with an email to I love talking about riding and helping more people get started!).

Along with giving the talk I’ll be bringing the cuteness: some of the Nuu-Muus/Ruu-Muus, skirts, bags, gloves, lace-trimmed padded liners and knickers, Pedal Panties, and other adorableness I carry through Bike Style. It’s a great mix to add to all the bikes, gear, and other accessories available from Two Wheel, since my goal is to supplement rather than compete with any of the local bike shops. We all share a common goal: To get you rolling!

Since those of you reading this blog are presumably already riding to some extent, whether for recreation or transportation or the sheer joy of it, you may not need all the tips. Consider this an opportunity to bring your “bike-curious” friend along to get some encouragement.

Tomorrow I’ll post your assigned reading for the class, should you choose to do some prep work: A blogspedition round-up of some of the posts I’ve written so far about how I got started and the clothes I wear and guest blogger posts about their beginnings.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What questions do/did you have about starting out that I should be sure to answer in this type of talk?
March 22, 2012

Shop & Swap! Spokane Bike Swap Saturday-Sunday

Close-up of Nuu-Muu and Ruu-Muu fabricsC’mon down! Bike Style Spokane will hold our first shopping event of the season (it is the season, honest! Snow? What snow?) at this weekend’s Spokane Bike Swap.

The event offers plenty of reasons besides our bike stylin’ cuteness to head on out to the Spokane Fairgrounds, and with a forecast of 57 degrees for Saturday and 59 for Sunday you’ll be itching to think about bikes (and what you’ll wear riding, of course).

The deets–

Saturday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Sunday, 9 a.m.-noon

Spokane Fairgrounds, Annex A

Entrance fee: $5 (kids 12/under free)

Proceeds benefit the Friends of the Centennial Trail, who have worked for decades to provide this great community amenity.

Once upon a time I was a volunteer for the North Idaho Centennial Trail Committee as we worked to construct the trail segment on that side of the state line, before I moved back to Spokane to a location that lets me ride along the Spokane River pretty often (but never often enough).

If you’re in the market for a bike for yourself or a kidlet in the family, you’ll have an array to choose from, both new and used–everything from mountain bikes to recumbents. If you’re ready to trade up or get rid of a spare you can sell your bike too ($10 fee to sell).

You’ll find bikes and gear both new and used, the chance to practice getting your bike on and off the bike rack on a Spokane Transit bus, helmet fitting, bike tour info, and more–and of course, the chance to hang out with Spokane’s friendly bike community and talk shop.

Bike Style will be there with a sampling of some of the cute products we carry and a new item or two you haven’t seen yet, with special pricing on a few items just for you.

Pop quiz: What’s one of the distinguishing features of the Spokane Transit system as it relates to bikes? Post your guesses in the comment section below and I’ll post the answer later.

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. More than underwear, less than a bike short.

November 25, 2011

Shop Small, Shop Local: Small Business Saturday

When I was younger my shopping values focused with a laser beam on “cheap, cheaper, cheapest.” Some of this I attribute to my dear darling mother, raised during the Great Depression, and her clear message that if it hung on the sales rack it fit better, looked better, and was the right color for you, as compared with all those things that hadn’t yet been marked down. The rest I attribute to a severely constrained wallet and my desire to have more of everything than I could afford.

Things have and haven’t changed. The severely constrained wallet? Still there, really, although at a different level than what it was when I worked as a Kelly temp and walked or bused to work because I had no choice. Now I make more money and have more commitments and my relative purchasing ability may have actually declined.

My shopping values? Well, I read recently that we spend the first half of our lives acquiring things and the second half getting rid of things; I’m more in the getting-rid-of mode than in the acquiring mode. I appreciate the things my mother taught me to look for in order to recognize whether I was buying good quality (on sale). Today, I recognize that, as Benjamin Franklin said, “The bitterness of low quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

You do get what you pay for. You get it where you pay for it, too, meaning that if you ship your dollars away, tempted by the chance to save a buck or two, your money is exported to some other community. That’s where it circulates, buying legal and accounting services, paying taxes for schools and streets, and employing someone else—not you, not your kid, not your neighbor.

Consider that when you head out to shop, and support Small Business Saturday. If you need to buy online because getting out is difficult, are you able to buy from a business in your town, or at least in your state? (For those of us in Washington, Amazon is headquartered in our state’s economy.)

If you’re heading out in Spokane, check out the wonderful shops we explored in this year’s Bikespeditions along with other great local businesses:

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Do you still shop the same way you did when you were younger?
Tags: ,
November 23, 2011

Cranksgiving Ride, Relax, Reward

I’m anti-Black Friday. For days I’ve been posting things on Facebook about buying local or staying home instead of mobbing the big-box retailers at oh-dark-thirty for whatever this year’s “must-have” gift items are. The whole notion of storming the gates of retail to get all the holiday shopping over with in one mad blur leaves me puzzled.

That’s because when I shop, I like to enjoy shopping.

I want to linger. I want to talk to someone. I want to get a good look at what I’m buying, for heaven’s sake. And if it’s a gift, I want to spend some time thinking about whether it’s just right for the person who will receive it. None of that happens on Black Friday as it now takes place.

I recently took a survey put together by one of the Washington State University interior design students. Among other questions, she asked for a description of what makes for an ideal shopping event. I wish I had saved what I wrote there because I came up with quite the list. I’ll do what I can to recreate it—

  • I want to feel as if the owner and/or people engaged in the transaction know and love the products they sell.
  • I want to feel welcome whether or not I look as if I will buy anything.
  • I want it to smell nice (which for me means not full of plastic-y off-gassing or mustiness–better yet, a nice smell that makes me think of something delicious or something beautiful).
  • I want to stumble on some little unexpected find I wasn’t looking for that is just right.
  • I want to enjoy time with friends and drink some good coffee as part of the experience.
  • Ideally the shopping is part of a process of discovery on my bike—I’ve never had so much fun shopping as I have on the Bikespeditions I hatched this summer.

And guess what? Along with the lovely ladies of Belles and Baskets, I’ve put together a little event for this Friday that accomplishes quite a few items on the list.

I didn’t manage to get the “funky discovery of some new shop I’ve never heard of that I fall in love with” element that was also on my list. But with a bike ride mid-morning, coffee and conversation at The Shop on South Perry after, then some light shopping at my house with all the Bike Style goodies from this summer on display—plus new fabrics in Po Campo bags and Nuu-Muus/Ruu-Muus—I’ve come as close as I can get without mounting a full Bikespedition.

I’ll put some Green Bluff cider in the Crockpot, make some hot, tasty Roast House Coffee, and set out a goodie or two for snacking. You can try on a Nuu-Muu (two new fabrics just in!), see if the new helmet covers from Hub and Bespoke in Seattle (available in black or cranberry cotton velveteen) look awesome on your helmet, and talk bikes with whoever’s there.

If you do head out into the shopping madness and burn out–or if it’s the family madness at home you need to escape–I hope you’ll come have fun with us!

The forecast for Friday, Nov. 25, 2011, as of Wednesday night.

11 a.m.: Meet at The Shop. The Belles and Baskets ride assumes the weather will cooperate, and at this point it looks as if it will be cold but sunny.

We’ll do a short loop with a long-loop option for those who want more of a hill climb.

Officially 2-6 p.m.: Stop by my house* for a drop-in Bike Style shopping event. I’ll have the usual product assortment I had at the various bike events in Spokane over the summer (on sale) plus some new jewelry, helmet covers, and ear covers. (I say “officially” at 2 p.m. because whoever comes on the Belles and Baskets ride is welcome to head on over to my house whenever we start breaking up.)

If you’re thinking, “Oh, I shouldn’t buy things for myself this time of year—I’m shopping for others,” I’ll offer up a special Shopping Helper service. Come shop, make notes about what you want, and tell me who to email the list to. I’ll take care of it and you’ll know that at least one important gift recipient—you—has been taken care of in the manner you deserve.

*Where’s my house? Call or text 509-869-2949, email bikestylespokane at, become a Bike Style fan on Facebook, or DM @BikeStyleSpok on Twitter.

November 5, 2011

Grocery Run: Impossible!

The “impossible” quantity of groceries I can haul on my bike.

The media jumped all over recent findings about how easily the nation could lose a few pounds, save billions of dollars, live longer, and clean the air, by . . . wait for it . . . riding a bike. NPR, Huffington Post and more all covered this.

Benefits come not just from the light exercise achieved by biking but also from the reduction in air emissions, since your car dirties the air the most in the first few minutes of driving.

The kinds of short urban trips of 2.5 miles or less that they studied include the typical quick run to the grocery store for just a couple of things you forgot on your last trip. These are the very types of trips that a professional engineer pooh-poohed a year or so ago on a National Journal piece about transportation funding for bike and pedestrian infrastructure (which also included the laughably wrong statement that drivers primarily self-fund their infrastructure):

“Commuter bike trips are not realistic for people with kids in day care, who have a 10-15+ minute drive at 40-50 mph average speed, or who have to take things such as a laptop and files to/from work.  Bad weather also prevents commuter bike trips even for the most avid bicyclists.  People also cannot accomplish essential tasks such as grocery shopping via bikes.” — D.J. Hughes, a professional engineer from Delaware

Bad weather “prevents” trips? “. . . not realistic for people . . . who have to take things such as a laptop and files to/from work”? “Cannot accomplish” grocery shopping?

The idea that you can’t carry a laptop and some files in a pannier or messenger bag is so laughable I won’t even bother to address that point. Well, maybe just a little bit: If that were impossible we’d have no business air travel, because how could those poor little professionals haul their laptops and files all the way through the big old airport? That’s more work than letting my bike carry the load, I can tell you for sure.

As for his other barriers, I’m done with those daycare days, thank heavens, and chose a house close to work specifically so I could bike and take transit. (“Location, location, location.”) His distance barrier is pretty subjective–10 minutes at 40 mph is about 6-2/3 miles, which is a lovely ride of about 20-25 minutes without breaking a sweat.

So let’s go grocery shopping, which I particularly like as an example because you can plan your trip for times when traffic is quieter and you don’t have time pressure–a perfect starter trip for trying out bike transportation.

I keep a well-stocked pantry and feed anywhere from 3-5 or more people 7 days a week. We like fresh fruit and veggies, which generally means multiple trips a week.

I live 1.6 miles from Rosauers on 29th Avenue. Much of it is straight uphill so it’s not going to be everyone’s favorite ride. Since Spokane Transit‘s #45 and #46 run up the hill I could choose that option (did you know that we were the first city in Washington to have bike racks on every bus in the transit system?).

But there’s a bike lane on a new road surface for the majority of the ride and that uphill climb turns into a downhill “wheeeeee!” with my Donkey Boxx and pannier full of bananas, English muffins, and milk. Oh, and a Lindt orange/dark chocolate bar…. I earned it with that climb.

Another biking bonus: When you bike, as I’ve pointed out before, there’s no time wasted wondering where you parked the car—it’s always in the rack or hitched to a sign post in front of the building.

Believe me, at Rosauers (which has a bike rack near the front door) or any other grocery store I can be in and out much more quickly than someone who circles the parking lot for 10 minutes trying to find the spot closest to the door to minimize that exhausting walk.

Other easy options: I can stop by the URM Cash and Carry on Hamilton—less than half a mile from the Riverpoint Campus where I work and accessible via the Centennial Trail (some of that infrastructure that could get funding if transportation priorities explicitly included active transportation).

There’s the Main Market CoOp on Main—less than half a mile the other direction from work and with a bike rack out front, an awesome deli for lunch, and the amazing Pain de Levain from Bouzie’s Bakery, to which I am currently addicted.

On Thursdays I can stop at the South Perry Farmers’ Market on my way home; Saturday mornings I can ran down to the Spokane Farmers’ Market, load up, and ride home; and Thursday-Friday-Saturday I can easily hit the Spokane Public Market on my way home.

As a bonus, if you chose to ride to the grocery store for that gallon of milk, loaf of bread, and a dozen eggs you’d be getting your recommended 30-60 minutes of activity with no gym fees.

Mr. Professional Engineer’s assumption that we have to be cocooned safely away from a little bit of cold air or dampness doesn’t make sense when you think about all the people who pay good money to go out into recreational settings like ski resorts and outdoor ice rinks. Why we should be willing to bundle up to have fun but not to get ourselves to work I don’t know. And driving doesn’t protect you from wet and cold in any case–remember, you have that long walk from the parking lot while I take my bike to the rack near the door, or even inside. (Since I’m not the Wicked Witch of the West I don’t melt when I get wet, either.)

While you’re thinking about his sweeping generalizations, think about the mindset in public policy–and engineering–that created a world in which it seems “impossible” to someone that you could ride your bike to the grocery store.

Perhaps Mr. Professional Engineer didn’t mean “impossible.” Perhaps he really meant, “Inconceivable!” and it’s like what Inigo Montoya told the Sicilian: “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

Or perhaps Mr. Professional Engineer needs to be more like the White Queen and believe six impossible things before breakfast every day.

Wait—out of eggs for breakfast? I’ll just hop on my bike. 

Related Reading

October 23, 2011

Cutest Dress You’ll Ever Sweat In: I Heart Nuu-Muus & Ruu-Muus

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My product review of Nuu-Muus/Ruu-Muus is long overdue, given how many times I rave about them and show Betsy or myself in one on a bikespedition or at an event.

Some of the reasons I love them:

  • The silky, body-skimming fabric is wonderful on your skin and utterly forgiving of lumps, bumps, and bulges.
  • The fabric choices generally are “busy” patterns. Busy in a good way, that is. I tend toward pretty conservative solids and small patterns in my work clothing but have learned that their choices are great for distracting the eye and further disguising said lumps, bumps, and bulges.
  • They dry in a flash whether wet from sweat or from a quick swish in the sink while you’re traveling–always ready to wear the next day. Friends have taken them to Italy and The Netherlands and report that in humid weather when nothing else would dry, the Nuu or Ruu was ready to rock.
  • The Ruu-Muu pocket is especially handy. Not just for biking, when you might want to stash arm warmers or sunglasses for weather changes, but for tennis balls, golf balls, and other athletic stuff–or for your car keys if you’re wearing it to the grocery store. No more fishing in your purse!
  • They’re well-made, made in the US, and last a long time. Betsy and I each have one we purchased around five years ago and they’re still going strong with no signs of wear–and believe me, we wear them like crazy!
  • I’m thrilled that when I sell them I’m supporting a woman-owned business right here in my home state of Washington. So many great products I’ve found, like Po Campo bags and Pedal Panties, are the result of women who ride together, identify a gap in the existing bike products line-up, and create something made just for us. These aren’t the result of a focus group–they’re from the heart.

Betsy in a Bluebelle Ruu-Muu (size XS).

I’ve told a Nuu-Muu-inspired story about how body image can hold us back or we can free ourselves. They seriously, seriously, look good on women of all sizes. One woman who tried on a size XXL at a Summer Parkways event said wonderingly, “These make my legs look great.

Betsy and I were at the South Perry Street Fair and a woman said to size 00 Betsy, “Well, of course they look great on you. You’re a size nothing! What about someone who has some junk in the trunk?” Betsy called out, “Hey Barb! Turn around!”

I turned around (Exhibit A). She bought one. Unfortunately, so far they only go up to a size XXL but if you’re a size XXL and think you can’t wear cute little dresses, try on one of these.

Paired with Pedal Panties, they’re my standard summer riding wear. In fact, I have to confess that now if I ride in a “regular” bike outfit of jersey and shorts I feel a little . . . naked. Not fully dressed the way I would feel in a cute little dress that keeps my butt (AKA trunk junk) covered. If I get off the bike at a coffee shop or store I don’t feel out of place; I’m wearing a dress and ready to go anywhere.

Bottom line, they are cute-cute-CUTE. My Nuus and Ruus are my automatic go-to every weekend all summer long and into the fall. I throw on a jacket or arm warmers and some tights to keep wearing them as long as I can.

You want one.

Hint: They also make great gifts for your biking mom/daughter/niece/friend.

Barb Chamberlain on bike wearing Nuu-Muu, Sheila Moon knickers, Sheila Moon bolero

Rockin’ the Ruu-Muu with Sheila Moon black lace-trimmed lingerie knickers and a Sheila Moon white bolero.

October 6, 2011

Pants Management 101

This is the stuff they didn’t teach us in Home Ec back at Bowdish Junior High School in the Spokane Valley (go Rockets!): How to manage your pant leg so it doesn’t get caught in the bike chain.

While I’ve ranted before about the search for the perfect women’s pants for bike riding (stylish and comfortable) and have even compiled a shopping list or two, simpler answers exist that don’t involve spending (much) money.

1) Buy pants with narrow enough legs that they don’t flap and get caught.

More easily said than done, what with the changing winds of fashion and all that. Summer is fine—hello, capris—but my usual fall/winter pants have a little bit more going on in the fabric department.

Pants leg reined in with rubber band to enable bike riding.

Pants leg reined in with a rubber band. Choose fabrics that won't crinkle & crease when compressed; this polyester/rayon blend doesn't work that well, unfortunately. And yes, I ride in these shoes. Aren't they cute?

2) Fight the flap.

Sure, you can buy those uber-geeky reflective ankle straps with the Velcro fastenings, but have you ever checked out what Velcro can do to a nice fabric if it goes astray? Ugh.

I have two basic weapons in this battle, both of them straight from my desk: rubber bands and binder clips.

I slide rubber bands up over my shoes and around the ankle for the ride, then store them on my cyclometer when I park the bike.

Binder clips are a fallback because they can pop off under strain, but they don’t give in to weather the way the rubber bands do.

For wetter weather I have a great pair of North Face pants I picked up at Mountain Gear, my favorite local outdoor gear shop even though they don’t carry bike stuff.

The pants are water/wind resistant and work for most of Spokane’s weather, although I do note that “resistant” and “proof” are very different levels of protection in a really blustery downpour….

The feature that helps fight the flap is a Velcro tab at the ankle (not as risky to fabric finish as the geeky ankle strap, since there’s the extra pant leg there as protection).

Pants reined in by binder clip to enable bike riding.

The binder clip alternative can be a bit risky if you use too small a clip; it pops off under the strain.

I usually go ahead and rubber-band my office wear to make it easier to put the overpants on; otherwise I’ll spend five minutes hopping around on one leg trying to stuff the first pants leg down into the overpants leg and I end up with a lumpy, uncomfortable wad halfway down my calf.

You’ll see people who have only reined in the fabric on the right leg, where all the greasy messy mechanical stuff resides. I like to keep both legs under restraint; I’ve had at least one startled moment when a wider pant leg managed to slide over the entire pedal crank and stop its rotation completely in mid-pedal. This makes for a nasty surprise in an intersection and I’d rather be safe than sorry.

North Face pants from

Protected from road splatters in these North Face pants from Mountain Gear. I should have put my shoe covers on, though! These Ann Taylor ankle boots have been simply awesome for riding and they're easy to pop on and off for removal of the outer pair of pants.

I also found out the hard way that the tan pants I’m wearing in these photos wrinkle really easily. I left the rubber bands on through a one-hour meeting because I was just going to zip out the door and back to my office; that was enough time to leave me with pretty funny creases. I don’t buy linen any more but I thought this polyester/rayon blend (which is really smooth and doesn’t chafe) wouldn’t wrinkle. Wrong.

Turns out this is not rocket science—just some tricks you need to know to make it easier to bike in style.

P.S. For talented seamstresses like my friend Sandra, taking wide-legged pants in so they don’t flap is another option. I’m only giving you the quickies here because those tan pants in the pictures above? They’re still downstairs on my “need to take these in” pile. I put them there last fall.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What’s your secret to clothing management for riding?
October 5, 2011

The Quest for the Perfect Pants for Biking: Are We There Yet? I Need to Go.

Yep, still questing. I’m listing some additional options I found after my Phase I pants quest in all those Google search sessions while my family watches a movie and I multi-task (because really, how many movies these days can hold your full attention?).

Ibex Rio Pant: An activewear pants option for women who ride bikes

The Ibex Rio Pant has some definite possibilities. go look at them on the Ibex site, where you can zoom in and see more detail (and the back side!).

I’ve had to delete some that became unavailable after my initial search, like the Sugoi HOV (Human Operated Vehicle) urban cycling line of pants and matching jackets.

I did track down one pair of the Sugoi HOV pants through an outside vendor after they disappeared from the Sugoi site but don’t figure they’re worth reviewing since you can’t get them. (Sugoi, if you’re thinking of bringing them back, let me know and I’ll write a review–with just a couple of small tweaks these could be 100% awesome and I love being able to get pants with a matching jacket for more of an office look.)

Totally bums me out that what looked like a good option disappeared from the market, which tells me that if you find something that you think might work you should jump on it.

Real possibilities:

  • Outlier Women’s Daily Riding Pant. Unfortunately these only run sizes 0-12. Available in black, static gray, slate gray, marine blue, burgundy. $180. Scroll way down on the page to see a photo with some of the colors but not all (which really bugs me).
  • Ibex Global Wool Pant. Dings for the contrast stitching. Big patch pockets outlined with contrasting stitching Are. Not. Flattering. On. Any. Woman. The back pockets make these look more like jeans than like office wear. Only available in charcoal gray. $195. May as well bite the Outlier Tailored bullet, get more color choices and not have to look at the contrasting stitching and fattening pockets.
  • Icebreaker Rio Pant. They’re cute and made of wool (which I want for fall/winter). Only available in black. $100.

Too yoga/sporty for me, maybe okay for you (I’m only listing a few I spotted that look as if the legs aren’t too flared–you can find these kinds of pants everywhere):

  • SportHill Women’s Traverse Pant Plus: For plus-sized women 1X-4X. On the sporty side but some potential for a casual day, and wind resistant which is nice for riding as the temps cool down. May be swishy-sounding when you walk, though; no way to know what some of these technical fabrics are really like. $129.95
  • Columbia Anytime PantMajor points for having a little video clip with someone talking about the pants, holding them up and pointing out the hidden zipper pocket feature. Totally yoga though. $45.
  • Lolita Pant by PrAna. Only available in espresso. Totally yoga. On sale when I last looked for $37.49.
  • Patagonia Merino 3. These look too wide-legged and are definitely yoga. They show as sold out on some sites and aren’t listed on the Patagonia site any more so if you like the look, order them ASAP.

I should mention that I actually do yoga so saying pants are “totally yoga” isn’t meant as a bad thing–just not a boardroom thing.

Considered and rejected:

  • Columbia Just Right Pant: Honkin’ big zipper pocket on the left thigh, cinch things that raise and lower hem length. Not just right for my purposes.
  • Columbia Trail Twist Slim Pant: Looked great—straight legs won’t catch on pedals—until I zoomed in and caught the flashy little décor on the backs of the ankles. And I really don’t want my work pants to say “Omni-Dry” on the outside; doesn’t this suggest I’m in need of Depends? On sale last I looked, though, for $37.90.
Swrve bike knickers for women

Swrve's bike-specific knickers: Cute, but my calves get cold just looking at them as I contemplate fall/winter riding.

Not pants but so cute: Nau Confidant Short. Long enough to be considered a city or walking short, which might be fine for some workplaces and I could get away with it in summer. Made of fine merino wool which is a great fabric for active movement. Gray heather or brown heather.

Nau makes some cute pants for women that are supposed to be designed for active movement and I love their business values and design aesthetic. Organic or not, though, I just don’t like the chafe potential of denim or the failure to dry of cotton, their fabrics of choice.

Also not pants, also cute: Swrve Softshell Knickers. I just can’t figure out why anyone thinks knickers are cold-weather riding gear; do their calves not feel temperature or get wet? And for $120 (regular price–on sale right now for $90) couldn’t they use enough fabric to cover my ankles?

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Add to the list! Have you found pants designed for biking and for business?
October 4, 2011

The Quest for the Perfect Pants for Biking to Work: Phase I

Outlier Tailored Women's Riding Pant. Clearly, these pants make you look urban and cute. And forgetful, or she would be wearing a helmet.

The saga continues….

As I described in an earlier post, I’ve been searching for quite a while for a decent pair of pants that will work for professional settings and truly give me riding comfort.

I have purchased exactly one pair so far, and it happens to be one that’s no longer available so the quest has to continue. I’m hoping your feedback will help me narrow the choices I’ve found in my mousing around shopping online.

Here’s what I found in my first foray into the Interwebz, which took place fall 2010 (yes, I’ve really been searching that long) and which I updated recently.

(And yes, I searched high and low locally first because I believe in supporting the local economy. Everything I found fails the tests I outlined in yesterday’s post.)

The one nice-looking pair of cycling-specific women’s pants for office wear I’ve found, made by Outlier in New York City, costs $180. Gulp.

Call me cheap (I prefer “thrifty” in homage to my Depression-era parents), but I’ve never paid that much for a single pair of pants. I have a hard time paying that much for a whole suit when I know it will go on sale eventually.

I need to justify a clothing investment like that. Do I wear them every day? Back up to where I said I’m a woman and this is a fashion dilemma.

Same pair of pants every day ain’t gonna happen, although I know I’d wear a good pair of pants in a color like black or charcoal gray more than once a week during cold weather and they sound like well-made clothing that would last a long time. So actually, if I divide the price by the number of times I’d wear them, the cost per wearing comes down to something I can manage as long as I remember to think of it that way.

But then I’d have to buy online. How will I know whether I look good in these pants? A really narrow cut like this one mostly looks awesome on size 00 women, and I’ve got a bit more cush in my tush.

And did I mention they cost $180?

Also, hello again, Outlier? For me to know if I want Static Grey or Slate Grey you have to Show. The. Actual. Colors. What happened to the color swatches you showed for a brief time earlier in 2011? You show some of the colors but if you offer two shades of grey, you have to show both of them.

They do use my magic words–“comfort” and “style”–in the description…. And I wouldn’t criticize if I didn’t care so much about you ㋛.

Swrve makes knickers for women, but no trousers. (They make men’s pants, of course–biking being one of the few realms in which men have far more fashion choices and color options than women.)

And seriously, knickers? It’s nice to keep your knees warm when the temperature drops but I don’t want to look like a misplaced golfer once I’m in the office in my plus-fours. We have actual winters here. I have to wear boots. Can you say Dork Fest?

BikePortland had an article in the search results and I got all excited. It’s Portland, right? Should be plenty of bike-stylish options there, right?

They linked to the Sheila Moon site (“infuses cycling apparel with a twist of fashion”), which offers knickers in several fabrics. There’s that golfer thing again and it doesn’t change my mind just because they say knickerbockers are big with the velocouture crowd, whoever they are. I can also get stretchy yoga pants. Not so good with the suit/tie-couture crowd.

The BikePortland piece also points to Ibex, which has a slightly more promising line—at least there are the “global wool pants” that look more like trousers ($195, though–more than the Outlier and sportier in design). Icebreaker has some pants that might work too (for a mere $100).

The real test almost every product I’ve found fails is the “does it look like workout clothing?” test. Visible logos, great big seams, sizing that runs S/M/L instead of true women’s clothing sizes, descriptions that include “comfortable for yoga”—these aren’t going to pass for boardroom wear.

At least, I don’t think so when I can’t see the product clearly–often a problem with dark fabrics unless you’ve got really great photography and zoom.

Now I’d love to just head to Nordstrom’s, buy some great-looking slacks, and call it good. But let’s get real, ladies. As my friend Allyson said when I described this dilemma, “Nobody wants to divide the good china.”

Design and construction of certain seams are critical to stylish biking comfort. Compare a pair of cycling shorts to regular walking shorts and you’ll note a key difference mid-you.

That’s why great women’s professional clothing doesn’t equal “great women’s professional clothing I can wear comfortably riding a bike.”

And that’s why the quest continues.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • Do you own any of the pants I’ve listed here? What do you think of them for riding?
  • Do you have other brands/styles to suggest?
October 3, 2011

It’s Pants Week. Share My Obsession.

For someone who rides much of the year in skirts I have spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about pants. The next couple of posts will take you through my by-now-slightly-obsessive quest for the perfect pants, along with some tips for managing the imperfect pants I ride in now.

By “perfect” I mean perfect for biking and working: Cycle Chic in the very best sense of that now-trademarked term.

I’m seeking workplace wear that is office-appropriate. Your office may be cool with stretchy yoga pants every day but that doesn’t work for everyone.

My personal style is more tailored (and I prefer to feel more fully dressed in the office J). As Eldest Daughter said the day I wore some suspiciously yoga-y leggings with a big sweater, “Mom! Pants for your work need to have seams!”

Everyone’s criteria will be different. For me the pants fail if:

  • They look like I could go bouldering in them. I don’t need all those pockets and zippers and places to hang carabiners; I’m not bivouacking or climbing at Red Rocks. I’m walking into a five-story academic building with a latte stand on the first floor (praise be to the coffee gods) and later I’m going to a Chamber of Commerce meeting.
  • They make a swishy sound when I walk. If it’s so wet I need truly waterproof gear, I’m putting an outer layer over my work pants anyway.
  • The detailing screams “sportswear!” In this category: Big patch pockets, really contrasty stitching, and other design elements that don’t pass the boardroom test.
  • The legs flare too much at the bottom so I’m worried that they’ll get caught and rip if I don’t do something to rein them in; that’s an extra step I’d like to avoid if I can.

Notes to manufacturers:

  • Consider that women who wear larger sizes also want to look good and feel comfortable while biking without squeezing into Spandex. You’ll have their undying love and access to their credit limits if you design for them too. Too many of the pants I looked at top out at size 12 or XL. Have you looked at America lately?
  • I wish the sportswear folks who have a head start on performance fabrics and bike-suitable tailoring could get over the need to hang your reflective logos and feature descriptions on the outside of the clothes. Ann Taylor and Liz Claiborne do not do this. (I do want reflective elements–I just want them to be subtle–even hidden until I need them.)
  • I also wish you could disabuse yourself of the notion that large front pockets are somehow flattering for women’s bodies. Um, no. Not good on anyone. Really. Trust me.
  • The more you show us your product with photos front/back and the ability to zoom, the more we can imagine the pants on our own butts. This is a requirement when buying online since I don’t have a three-way mirror and my best friend to save me from a tragic mistake.
  • If you tell me I can bike in the pants you get Bonus Awesome Points if you have actually designed them with a waistband cut slightly higher in the back, lower in the front; a gusset that eliminates seams running straight up the tender girl parts; and a fabric that has a lovely soft non-chafing finish on the inside and some dirt-repelling qualities on the outside.

This is one of the few blog posts I’m hoping gets plenty of links at the bottom from people who want to sell me something–that is, if you are the designer of the perfect pair of bike riding/work pants.

Better yet, if you’re a woman who can match my pickiness and who has a favorite pair of pants you can tell us about, go for it. Please. I beg you.

Related Reading

Your Turn

  • What attributes make a pair of pants perfect for your biking?
  • Have you found those pants? WHERE?!
%d bloggers like this: