Bikes and fashion (and me) meet in Blacksburg next week


The lady in this photo is Sheilanova Molina y Vedia, our host during our brief stay in Austin two weeks ago, looking chic as she headed out to her office, by bike of course. Though we stayed at her house, we only saw her for a few minutes; she was busy organizing a bicycling fashion show. Her philosophy, she told us, is that “Every woman can look beautiful riding her bike — and also sort of Mission Impossible. That’s my vision.”

Clothes and appearance have not often been at the top of my mind, and especially not in the last few years. But I have unexpectedly had a few opportunities to reflect on bicycling and fashion in the last month of tour.

Before we left on this tour, I asked my friend Ellee Thalheimer, who is from Little Rock, Arkansas, for tips on how to comport myself here in her native South. For starters, I needed to look nice, she said. It would put people at ease and make them more receptive to my message.

So we went through my closet, and she approved only a single item — a black denim dress with pockets. Shaking her head at my paucity of options, she told me I needed to go shopping, and then delivered one final piece of parting advice: “Do *not* smell bad.”

Those words have been ringing in my ears since, during long, hot drives, load-ins in 80+ degree weather, and even a mountain bike ride that involved clambering over an eight foot fence, from all of which the dress has emerged somewhat worse for the wear (though that hasn’t stopped me from wearing it anyway — sorry, Ellee).

As a result of her advice, though, I’ve done laundry a bit more often than I might otherwise have thought to. And maybe it’s my imagination, but it does seem like days I wear that dress people are a bit friendlier and chattier after our events than on the days that I give up on fashion and hygiene and just wear old jeans and a sweaty t-shirt.

It’s enough of a difference, though, that I’ve been thinking that when we get home I’ll consider taking a little more care with things like looking presentable. Perhaps looking sharp once in a while will bring out some friendly smiles and make Portland seem a little less grey this winter.

Sheilanova’s philosophy is similar to that of Pedal Chic, the bike shop that is sponsoring our Greenville, South Carolina event tomorrow. It’s one of only a few (or maybe the only) women-specific bike shops in the country, and I’m looking forward to visiting.

I have another good reason this week to think about fashion: on Tuesday, May 1st, we’ll be in Virginia for the Blacksburg Cycle Chic Commuter Celebration and Fashion Show. It’s put on by a super energetic Virginia Tech student and activist Lyndsay McKeever, who has in the midst of a semester has created and promoted what promises to be a really interesting and well-planned event. I’ll be giving the keynote address, speaking about the economics of bicycling and the gender gap. If you’re in the area, come by!

It’s fascinating to watch ways that the bicycling movement has integrated with fashion and how the conversation about gender has fit in to that. While I have some quarrels, I also have great admiration for anyone willing to get out and ride a bike at all, much less in an outfit that many might consider impractical or outlandish. I’m looking forward to reporting back from Blacksburg next week. Stay tuned!

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4 Responses to “Bikes and fashion (and me) meet in Blacksburg next week”

  1. Brian May 2, 2012 at 1:51 am #

    While I can’t comment on any particular smell, I will say that the denim dress worked very well. Thanks for coming to Blacksburg!

  2. Caroline May 4, 2012 at 8:00 am #

    Why, just the other day I was reading the other day about how Liv Tyler’s grandma taught her to “always smell nice.” I imagined her swimming in tubs full of bath bombs and taking showers of perfume, but I imagine it’s a bit more subtle than that. Her grandmother, Dorothea Johnson, founded a protocol and etiquette school in 1987 and it’s kinda fancy. I think she’s a Southerner, too, or at least she sounds like Scarlett O’Hara to me…

    There’s a lot to be said for good comportment. It just puts people at ease when you’re graceful (and look and smell clean). That’s important when you want to lure people in and keep their attention and leave them with a good impression. Great advice, Ellie!

    I personally love etiquette but gotta admit, I’m a total slob a lot of the time (on accident!) So I’m pretty excited that Johnson is coming out with an etiquette book, “Modern Manners,” soon, to sit on the shelf along with 30 other books titled “Modern Manners. Hopefully it’s better than the last etiquette book I read ( 0385413424 Blech, it’s over 50 years old! Though, the ones I read as a kid were much more pertinent. Maybe that’s just it – etiquette becomes less pertinent year by year. What a shame!

    Check out Ellen Degeneres getting schooled by Johnson:

    PS Your pinball etiquette is formidable, by the way.

    • Elly May 8, 2012 at 10:09 am #

      Putting people at ease is one thing, but what’s proper comportment & dress for lighting a fire under them? Time for a new etiquette book genre! (Or at least a new title.) That said, there is surely nothing wrong with a bit more grace, and it might even help my pinball game.

  3. cute puppy May 11, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    People judge you on appearances, not fair but true. I used to snicker at my older brother because they always checked him an extra time at airport security. It wasn’t funny when I turned his age and they started checking me, that was when I was about 17. Then when I was just over 20, boom. They stopped checking me. It was like being royalty. Nowadays it’s nice being a middle-aged, middle class white male but I still remember the way they treated me when I was 17.

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