Monthly Archives: August 2013

Hats On for a Rolling Ladies Tea Party

What happens when you invite ladies who love bikes to a garden party on a warm summer day? Laughter, stories, advice and new friends. Cucumber sandwiches, macaroons, cookies and fruit. Nicely hot tea poured from real tea pots in tea cups of all shapes, sizes and styles, just like the women who rode to the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto for the Ladies Tea & Bike Social I hosted Saturday with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition.

Did I mention hats? From floppy cloth to prim straw, plus gloves and even a parasol for dramatic flair.

Monica Portrait Fun

I was a little nervous before the event. Would the 15 women who RSVP’d show up? Since few knew each other did we need a game to get the party started? Would the tea, prepared at home, stay hot in the insulated pitcher I MacGyvered? And would I be able to squeeze it all in my little trailer and ride without dumping it over? I didn’t weigh the load but I’m guessing 60-70 pounds. Eleven quarts of tea and water is not light!

My fears were for naught. Twenty women arrived for the tea and a few more stopped in for a quick visit. Nine women rode to the garden with me and my little trailer and escorted me back home afterward. Cheryl kept riding past her house. I guess she wasn’t ready for the party to end. The happy faces are evident in the bike portraits.

Tea Table

My great-aunt always said that food tastes better when you eat with a sterling silver fork. Maybe that’s why I don’t like paper plates and cups, especially at parties. I didn’t plan for the party to be low waste per se, but since we used cloth tablecloths, ceramic tea pots and cups, and leftover reusable plates, the waste was little more than paper napkins and some packaging from the snacks. The party’s “green-ness” went beyond the fact that almost all of us arrived by bike, transit and walking. All because ladies prefer real tea cups and linens.

The number one question at the end of the event was the same one I got from women who couldn’t attend: when will you do it again? I can’t say today when exactly it will be, but this party is sure to be the first in a series of grand affairs. Hang tight, sign up on the SVBC mailing list and follow this blog for the next party invitation.

Ladies, are there group rides or other activities for women in your area? What kinds of themes or other special focuses do they have? What makes them fun (or not)?

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Posted by on August 18, 2013 in Around Town, Women & Bikes


Fashion Friday: Jennifer Races for the Train

How does time just slip away? You’re hard at work and suddenly realize your train leaves in 10 minutes. No time for a clothing change, time for accidental cycle chic. Jennifer races her road bike across downtown San Jose in a pencil slim sheath dress and cycling shoes, and hops on the train with seconds to spare.

Jennifer Kicks

About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.


Posted by on August 16, 2013 in Cycle Fashions


Part 3: Five Things I Knew About Women & Bikes*

*But was afraid to write about without data to back me up. The is the third post in the series.

Last week the League of American Bicyclists released their Women on a Roll research report on women and bicycling. The report breaks down results into five key areas: comfort, convenience, consumer products, confidence and community. Here’s my take on consumer products based on my personal experience.

What I knew about CONSUMER PRODUCTS: Women are willing to spend when retailers sell what they want.

Steph Buys a Bike

Some Statistics from the Women on a Roll report:

  • Women accounted for 37% of the bicycle market in 2011, spending $2.3 billion.
  • Just 1/3 of women said it’s “no problem” to find clothing and gear that fits their personal style.
  • 89% of bike shop owners are male, but 33% of shops are run by a husband/wife team.
  • 57% of women bicycle owners reported not visiting a bike shop in the past year.

My Personal Experience: I really should love bike shops. They’re filled with beautiful bikes (which I love) and handsome fellas (including the one I married). But with a few notable exceptions I don’t have much in common with shop staff, and I don’t expect them to understand what I want or need. Probably because 95% of them are men and the few women who work in shops often have more in common with the guys than with me.

It’s experiences like my friend Steph had when she asked about lower gearing and the sales guy said “just ride more and you’ll get stronger” even though she had been riding for years. All that was available at the time were standard doubles with a 39×23 low gear. No fun for climbing the long steep hills that ring the Bay Area.

The good news is that in the past 10 years the bike industry has made enormous strides in offering road and mountain bikes designed and marketed for women. Big brands like Trek, Specialized and Giant now do extensive research that goes beyond simply fitting women’s bodies to include exploring the riding experience women desire. The bad news is that the local shops don’t always get the message.

YMK Jerseys

For me, the lack of appropriate gear hit hardest in the clothing department. I was going on road bike dates every Sunday with my now-husband and wanted to look my best. Even at race weight, my curves don’t look good in jerseys that aren’t designed for women. So I was walking past racks of men’s jerseys in shops to find a single rack for women and flipping through 35 pages of men’s clothing in catalogs to find five pages for women in the back. Only when I found women-run online retailers like Team Estrogen and Terry did I find what I wanted.

Women’s taste in clothing ranges far wider than men’s, whether it’s bike wear or street clothes. What’s fun and cute to one woman is something another woman wouldn’t be caught dead wearing. And we want our clothes to look good AND be fully functional, say with pockets that can hold a jacket, arm warmers, wallet, phone and sports bar, even in a size XS. That makes it a lot harder for manufacturers and retailers to please us.

Stuffed Pockets

The Impact: While it’s great that we now have more bikes and jerseys designed to fit women better, it means women are treated as a niche market. The big bike brands have women’s sections on their web sites, but women rarely make the home page except in images labeled “women’s products” that lead to the women’s section. That’s better than being ignored, but it says that women aren’t mainstream cyclists.

The result is that the cycling is defined by masculine values of riding harder, faster and longer. So we get stories and images of sweat, dirt, and suffering, and slogans like “too hard to die” instead of the more universally appealing “the adventure begins here.” That’s hardly a way to attract new female riders to the sport, nor to sell new bikes and equipment to the existing riders. Georgena Terry wrote about it on her blog and I agree 100%.

The good news for retailers is that women rely on word of mouth more than men. Shops that hire or train staff to be responsive to women’s preferences sell more. Sometimes all it takes are small things like putting women’s clothing out in front of the men’s (and not because you’re having a Breast Cancer Month promotion). It makes women feel instantly welcome. One little-recognized upside for retailers is that women who ride not only buy gear themselves, they’re more likely to approve expensive bike purchases of husbands and significant others.

Ladies, are you finding the gear that works for you? Was it hard to find a shop that had what you need? What would you like to see changed in the bicycle industry to suit your needs better?



Posted by on August 14, 2013 in Issues & Infrastructure, Women & Bikes


Part 2: Five Things I Knew About Women & Bikes*

*But was afraid to write about without data to back me up. The is the second post in the series.

Last week the League of American Bicyclists released their Women on a Roll research report on women and bicycling. The report breaks down results into five key areas: comfort, convenience, consumer products, confidence and community. Here’s my take on convenience based on my personal experience.

What I knew about CONVENIENCE: Female cyclists shop and run errands by bike more than male cyclists.

Grocery Shopping

Some Statistics from the Women on a Roll report:
Women are far more likely than men to report the following as barriers to bicycling:

  • “Lack of time” (29% vs 21%)
  • “Inability to carry children and other passengers” (19% vs 7%)
  • “Inability to carry more stuff ” (32% vs 20%)

My Personal Experience: If I couldn’t carry things on my bike except what I could fit in a messenger bag I wouldn’t be a daily cyclist. Period. I need to carry a laptop to work every day, I like to pick up groceries and shop for random things after work, and I don’t like how my sweaty I get when I wear a bag on my back.

It wasn’t easy to find equipment I have now. To start, bikes you find at most shops don’t come with racks or baskets and putting them on anything except a touring bike or cruiser is discouraged. When I bought my ’97 Lemond Tourmalet the guy at the shop flat out told me “you can’t put a rack on this bike” when I asked about it. Six years later I did it anyway and it works and looks great.

I now ride a city bike to work because it means I can dress professionally which eliminates the second change of clothing. It also leaves room in my panniers for shopping after work and holding extra layers of outerwear for all sorts of weather. My city bikes are also more practical for big shopping loads on the weekends. Three bags of groceries? No problem. Throwing down the plastic for a new dress coat at Macy’s? No problem. Too bad it took bike industry outsiders like Public Bikes and Linus Bikes to build a bike that lets me do that.

Macys After Work

And that’s for me, a woman who’s not a mom with kids to take to day care, to school, to soccer or dance or to the doctor. How easy is it for mothers to find proper equipment locally? Are these places close enough to home or work to have time to zip between them, especially if they were originally chosen based on driving times?


The Impact: In addition to the gear issues mentioned above, traditional programs like Bike to Work Day promote commuting to work (often the longest trips people make all week) and neglect the shorter and often simpler shopping, errand and kid ferrying trips. Often there’s a competition that only measures mileage instead of number of trips which could be just as effective at reducing congestion, pollution and traffic noise.

The emphasis on work commutes also means that routes are planned with office parks and city centers in mind more than short cross-town destinations. So cities create neighborhood greenways that avoid busy retail corridors and then people scratch their heads when they still see bikes riding busy roads. They don’t realize that cyclists are doing the same errands to the grocery, the drug store, the hardware store that they do by car.

I’ve heard people at meetings discourage putting bike lanes on retail streets because of all the driveways, but I’m guessing they don’t shop that much. I don’t love watching out for cars entering or leaving parking lots, but if that’s your destination, you need a comfortable way to get there even if that means you ride a little slower.

For mothers bicycling with children the bike infrastructure discussion from yesterday is even more important. It’s one thing to accept risk for yourself and respond to others’ concerns. Riding with your kids requires a much higher level of confidence that the route will be safe for both of you and your little sweeties.

How often do you shop or do errands by bike? Do you ride with your kids to school or after-school activities? What were the biggest barriers you faced doing so?

Elly Ciaran 2


Posted by on August 13, 2013 in Issues & Infrastructure, Women & Bikes


Five Things I Already Knew About Women & Bikes*

*But was afraid to write about without data to back me up. This is first post in the series.

The League of American Bicyclists released their research on women and bicycling last week in a brief report titled Women on a Roll. The report compiles survey and other data from a variety of sources throughout the United States on when, where, why, and how women are riding bicycles (or not). The good news is that women overwhelmingly like bicycling and more women are riding, with evidence from the report like:

  • Bicycle riding ranked #9 of 47 popular sports for female participation, surpassing yoga, tennis and softball.
  • The overall number of women who bike commute grew 56% from 2007 to 2011.

The report then breaks down results into five key areas: Comfort, Convenience, Consumer Products, Confidence and Community. As a woman who has bicycled for daily transportation for three years, for sport for 12 years, and for fun her whole life, there was little in the report that surprised me. But I’m so grateful that they put hard data behind what I already knew was true, but often hesitate saying for fear of offending people.

The problem is that people are individuals, not demographics. Many women bristle at statements like “women are afraid of car traffic” or “women aren’t competitive” which carry a value judgment more than stating a fact. A significant number of female cyclists have preferences similar to typical male cyclists, and a significant number of male cyclists have preferences similar to typical female cyclists. So that’s my disclaimer before I begin…

What I knew about COMFORT: Women will go out of their way for better bike lanes and low-stress routes.

Bike Path

Some statistics from the Women on a Roll Report:

  • Women will ride an additional 5 minutes further than men to access a bike facility, like a bike lane or path.
  • 47% of potential cyclists in Portland, OR, who are “Interested but Concerned” about bicycling are women.
  • In another Portland survey, 94% of women agreed that separated lanes made their ride safer vs 64% of men.
  • A 2011 bike count in New York City showed that 15% of the cyclists on a street without a bike lane were women, compared to 32% on a nearby streets with a bike lane.

My Personal Experience: Although my friends and I will ride on the shoulder of highways with 45+ mph traffic like Highway 1 along the California coast, we avoid it if there’s any alternative. It’s true for commuting too, where time is more critical. When I ride the whole way to work I have three options: 11 miles on the shoulder of a 45 mph expressway, 12 miles on 35 mph 4-lane office park arterial roads with bike lanes or 14 miles where half is on arterials and half on off-road bike paths. Guess which one I choose.

My friend Cindy C commutes on busy Central Expressway when she’s pinched for time because it’s faster, but my other female roadie friends won’t. And I’ve never heard a woman say she enjoys the thrill of riding an expressway. Yes, I’ve had men say that, usually in the context of why they don’t enjoy it anymore: the thrill is gone. There’s a reason car insurance companies charge men under 25 higher rates. They’re risk takers.

Riding on Central Expressway

Not that women always choose streets with bike lanes. When I turn off of a faster street with door zone bike lanes and take its parallel neighborhood street suddenly I see women and girls, despite there being stop signs every 500 feet. It’s not a matter of experience either. I know an experienced couple that disagrees over which of these two routes to choose. She likes to leave five minutes early and take the lower-stress route, he doesn’t understand why. No names on this one, but you can guess.

The Impact: When a city installs bike lanes it says that bikes belong. Despite long-standing laws giving bikes full rights to the street, the public is more accepting of bikes on high-speed roads where there are bike lanes. Social acceptance is more important to women who often have a harder time ignoring the safety concerns of others. “You ride there? That’s dangerous. Are you crazy?” has greater negative impact when it’s said to a woman than a man. Especially when it’s her husband, mother or best friend saying it.


Having only male cyclists weigh in on bicycle infrastructure can skew it toward designs that fewer women will choose. In particular, the preferences of “vehicular cyclists” who believe bikes should be “driven” like cars in standard travel lanes instead of ridden in bike lanes are far less appealing to women. Given that 94% of women prefer separated bike lanes, I’d say that people who fight against them are being unintentionally sexist.

Is it that women are too nervous to learn to ride in car traffic? Nope. Over half of the participants in classes offered by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition are women. My take: women are willing to learn to ride confidently and safely, but they’d rather not have to ride in fast traffic that doesn’t think they belong there.

Do the results in the Women on a Roll report surprise you? Does it match what you see in your area? How do you think the preferences of women riders impacts bicycling in your city?



Posted by on August 12, 2013 in Issues & Infrastructure, Women & Bikes


Fashion Friday: Back to School for Brian

A midlife shift from tech to teaching has Brian rolling onto campus as a student teacher. His wardrobe has shifted as well: jeans to trousers, t-shirt to dress shirt, and a brand new tie for making an impression on the first day of class. What’s not changed is his transportation, a eye-catching belt-driven Trek District single speed.

Prof Brian

About Fashion Friday: Inspired by a 2011 Bike to Work Day challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, this series highlights the broad range of “dress for the destination” bicycling fashions.


Posted by on August 10, 2013 in Cycle Fashions


You’re Invited: A Ladies Tea & Bike Social

You are cordially invited to a Ladies Tea & Bike Social on Saturday the seventeenth of August, two thousand and thirteen at eleven o’clock in the morning at the Elizabeth Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, California.

When I started daily bike commuting three years ago, Dottie and Trisha of Let’s Go Ride a Bike became a major influence on how I ride. I stumbled upon their blog one Saturday and ended up reading for hours. Coming from a sport-oriented bike background, their how-tos and stories of how they ride around town in dresses and heels and arrive looking great in all sorts of weather were eye-opening to say the least. I owe them a world of thanks.

Their influence doesn’t stop with dressing for the destination. For over two years Dottie has been hosting monthly Women-Who-Bike and Brunch gatherings in Chicago. The women ride to a cafe for brunch or a park for a picnic to chat and share their experiences. It’s just the kind of kinship women often seek out in an activity that’s predominantly male. Now it’s my turn to follow Dottie’s lead and play host out here on the West Coast.

Tea in Garden

So, for all you women who bike in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m hosting a Ladies Tea & Bike Social at the lovely and historic Elizabeth Gamble Garden in Palo Alto with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition on Saturday, August 17. It’s the perfect season for a garden party: the dahlias and zinnias are in bloom, the apples are ripening in the orchard, and the weather is ideal for morning tea under the old oak tree.

We’ll bring the tea, you bring your favorite tea cup and cookies or a tea time snack to share. Hats and gloves are encouraged, but not required. What’s really important is bringing your desire to meet other women who ride in our area to share stories, share advice and just relax in the company of other bicycle-loving ladies. Word on the street is that Corinne Winter, executive director of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition will be joining us too.

For those riding up from the south or arriving by Caltrain, I’ll also be leading a pre-party ride starting at Caltrain’s San Antonio Station in Mountain View at 10:25, timed for the #427 train from San Jose & #448 train from San Francisco. The route is about four miles one way along low traffic, mostly shady neighborhood streets. I’ll be pulling a trailer full of teapots and tablecloths so the pace at the back of the group will be easy.

Will you join us? Please RSVP to so we’ll know to bring enough tea for everyone, and don’t forget your tea cup. I’d love to meet some of you ladies that I only know in the virtual world.

Ladies Tea & Bike Social at the Elizabeth Gamble Garden, 1431 Waverly Street, Palo Alto, California
Saturday, August 17, 2013, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. RSVP


Posted by on August 7, 2013 in Around Town

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