Last night I swung by a Chainlink Biking Semester class on biking tips for women, “The Lady and the Bike,” taught by Let’s Go Ride a Bike blogger Dottie Brackett at next Door Café, 659 W. Diversey in Lincoln Park. The Chainlink, a social networking site for Chicago cyclists, is hosting the bike ed series at the café all summer.
Vanessa Buccella, who we interviewed last winter, is teaching “Racing 101” on Tuesday, June 19, from 6:30-7:30 pm. Future Chainlink classes include “Basics To Keep Your Bike Riding Through Summer” on July 10 and “How To Not Get Your Bike Stolen and What You Can Do to Get It Back” on July 24.
Steven and I are fans of Dottie’s blog, co-written with Trisha Ping, a great source of info, especially for women, about getting around by bike without sacrificing your personal style, including great photography and fun stories of the ladies’ two-wheeled adventures. Last year I interviewed Dottie for Newcity magazine and dubbed her “The Martha Stewart of Chicago Cycling.” She didn’t seem to mind.
At yesterday’s seminar Dottie discussed types of bikes, useful accessories like lights, bells, locks and helmets and bags, plus tips on what to wear and how to decorate your bike. She opened the session by showing an old photo of herself with an American-style hybrid bike, wearing sandals, shorts, a t-shirt and a backpack, before she figured out that it was practical to bike to work wearing office clothes. After checking out women’s cycling blogs like Girls and Bicycles, she eventually learned, “you don’t have to dress in any sporty or weird clothes you wouldn’t normally wear” to ride a bike.
She recommended Dutch-style bikes with upright bars, racks, baskets, fenders, chain guards and skirt guards as being practical for commuting in nice clothes. “I can wear any kind of skirt on this and be fine, except for a pencil skirt,” she said. “So I don’t wear pencil skirts.”
As for accessories, she mentioned she’s a fan of springy Brooks leather saddles, rather than the big, cushy seats often sold on women’s cruisers. She also recommended Po Campo bags [a Grid Chicago sponsor], stylish, bike-friendly purses, handbags and panniers designed in Chicago by attendee Maria Boustead.
When the discussion turned to bike security, one woman present said she had just had her bike stolen that day by the Chase Tower, locked with a cable and combo lock. Chainlink owner Julie Hochstadter suggested she report the theft on the Chicago Stolen Bike Registry in hopes that readers might recognize the cycle if it turns up at a bike shop or flea market.
Photo courtesy of Let’s Go Ride a Bike.
Dottie discussed the so-called “Mary Poppins Effect” theory that motorists are more courteous to women who ride upright bikes while wearing dresses. “Maybe subconsciously when drivers see someone dressed like a biker they treat them like an impediment, whereas if you’re dressed nicely they treat you like a person,” she said.
She also mentioned that she decorated the basket of her Dutch bike with silk flowers from bought at a thrift store. “Maybe drivers are a little bit nicer because I have flowers on my basket,” she said. “Who knows? But it makes me happy.”