Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Riding My Bike to Work in a Skirt and Manolos actually pretty funny. I live just over a mile from work, and when the weather is fine I ride my bike.

I could walk--which I sometimes do. It's a lovely walk through my tree-shaded neighborhood and across campus, and if my timing's right I can walk in with my husband. But then I have to carry my shoes. (I made a couple of cute shoebags for this purpose.) I just won't walk a mile in my Manolos: instead, I wear red leather Born maryjanes (which are cool, I think, in an Olive Oyl sort of way), or red Wellies when it rains, or fluffy Lands End boots when it snows.

I could take public transportation--which I sometimes do. I do have to walk a few blocks to the bus stop but all-in-all it's a nice alternative. The problem is WAITING for the bus. Why is it always late when you're early and early when you're late? And waiting for the bus in the dead of winter on a wind-swept prairie is disheartening, to say the least.

I could drive. But then I would have to pay for parking and gas and wear-and-tear and it seems foolish when I have more economical and environmental options.

So I bike. My bike is a Trek 720 hybrid that I bought years ago when we lived in Monterey for riding through the hills of Fort Ord with my girlfriends. I never bothered to transition it to a city-appropriate bike until finally this summer when I added two folding baskets on the back and replaced the seat with a more comfortable lady-friendly one. It's still not perfect--the gears are such that I could never ride it on hills. And there are other issues:

It's a man's bike, with a horizontal center bar. I intentionally bought it this way because the bike guy said it would be sturdier this way and at the time that was my priority. Now, it just makes it more difficult to wear a skirt. First, it's hard to get on and off gracefully. I've become inured to embarrasment on this front and now I just hike up my skirt (wherever I am) and fling my leg over. (The Elegantologist probably just swallowed his tongue reading this--sorry.) Second, there's no chain cover. Although I wear dorky velcro tapes around my pant legs, all my light-colored pants have permanent oil smudges on the inner right shin (BTW, soaking in Oxy-clean helps...usually). Argh my poor white Goldschmieds! Finally, I feel a bit guilty jamming my beautiful leather handbags into the wire baskets. But I still do because it's, well, convenient.

Bad bike habits I have:
  1. I don't wear a helmet. I own one, from when my sons were small and I tried to set a good example, but I bagged that once they stopped listening to me (ie became teenagers).
  2. I wear inappropriate shoes. I could carry my shoes in my cute little shoe bags, but then, like a helmet, it interferes with the convenience of having a bike! So, yes, I wear my Manolos while biking. Not only does it probably look ridiculous, but it's dangerous. Especially mules, which tend to fall off at inappropriate times, like when one is crossing an intersection. This happened to me already twice today. I was heading back to work after lunching at home, and of course I was in a hurry. I pushed off and my right shoe clattered to the pavement! By the time I stopped, it was three yards behind me. Being lazy, I didn't get off the bike; instead I gingerly backed up on my bare tippy toes and wobbily retrieved my black mule. My mail-person, who was watching all this, hollered at me from her truck, "You're supposed to keep your shoes on when you ride, Cashmere!" Uh, yeah.
Then I lost a shoe again in the parking lot. You can see how this might be a problem when one is crossing a busy street.

Aside from my shoe problem, I've developed some techniques for riding a bike in a skirt. At first I attempted to devise a strap that connected to the middle bar and pinned to my skirt, to keep it from flying up as I zoomed across campus in front of all those undergrads. And if I ever do get it properly engineered, I plan to market it on this website and make a lot of money! But right now it's not quite right. There's not enough elastic in the strap to keep up with my vigorous pedaling, so inevitably the pin pulls loose from the dress (although I haven't ripped a skirt yet thank heavens). Plus it's awkward unpinning it before I get off the bike--I'm always afraid I'm going to lose my balance and fall over.

My new strategy is to wear Spanx under my dress and hope that everyone who might catch a glimpse of my "big panties" (Aka Bridget Jones) thinks it's a bike short. Or I tuck the bottom of the skirt into the bottom of the Spanx. Or I simply let my skirt fly up and figure that anyone who's interested in looking up a 43-year-old woman's dress can just have at it.

I know I need a new bike. Specifically, I want an Electra Amsterdam. But, as you know, lately all my disposable income (as it were) has been going to Hermès. So I'll wear my Hermès (I like to think I look pretty fab riding briskly with my gorgeous scarf trailing behind me) and continue to ride my crappy bike.


Bee said...

When my husband lived in Den Haag, I used to admire all of the elegantly dressed women on their bikes. I think you need a different bike, CL! You sound like well you are well-accessorized already. :)

Serg Riva said...

nice post

M.Lane said...

I am still laughing about this. What a great post! Unfortunately I have no advice at all for this dilemma. How about a nice pink Vespa?


Petunia said...

Love it! I want to see a picture of you biking in your heels--lol!

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Lol! This is hilarious... I can just picture you riding your bike in the chicest way possible. My bike has long rusted over and I am longing for a new one. Riding in a skirt is troublesome. I'm not sure if I would want people to know that I wear spanx, but I do get the idea! Maybe a skort? Those are becoming fashionable again I hear :)

Headbands and Hand Bags said...

I am a biker as well! Whenever I can be, I am cruising on my bike! Have a lovely weekend!

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Hmmm, a bit of a challenge riding a bike in a skirt. At least I imagine it would be. I do think a new model bike is called for. Or skorts. Bloomers were invented in response to the new popularity of the bicycle, after all.

How about a riding helmet instead of the bicycling version?

miss cavendish said...

I'm a strong believer in shoebags. My favorite is from Liberty of London--it's such a pretty to carry one's high heels to work!