Since I have moved to Orange County, my bike has become my favorite means of transportation. Except for one thing, my bike has no sense of style. For me, this is a sin.
After investigating the idea of putting an electric motor on my current bike, I realized that my problem with my bike is that it is overly sporty (mountain bike) for what I do and I don’t have the freedom to wear what I want when riding it (I get dirty). American attitudes toward bike riding are very different than in Europe. In America, cyclists tend to be very athletic and wear skin-tight neon lycra outfits topped with ridiculous aerodynamic helmets, presumably with a shower waiting for them at their destination. Then there’s super elitist hipster biking, where people tend to be just as stereotyped in their own class as a bunch of hipster kitties. In America, we’re cliquey, trendy, and snobbish about a sport that should be for everyone. I only noticed this huge difference in attitudes when I learned that everything I was looking for in a bike was standard issue in European bikes and their bike culture. A catchy phrase I saw in an ad for ‘antbikemike‘ was “Not sport… Transport!” and his shop features some jaw-droppingly gorgeous bikes.
I needed something with some style. I decided to buy a new bike, one that fits my riding lifestyle and sense of aesthetic. I considered vintage Schwinn’s with 3 speed hubs that I could use with an electric bike. Just like with my vintage dresses, I don’t have it in my heart to modify a vintage piece in any way. I decided to go with something modern that I could swap out parts to my heart’s content without feeling like I was dismantling a piece of history, or wear out it’s parts in the many commuting miles I would put on it. (Though if my finances would allow I would love a vintage bike for casual riding).
I went with the Diamondback Della Cruz 2, the 7-speed version.
It has that cute beach cruiser style but is more medium weight, like a vintage bicycle. Plus, I think I’ll need all 7 speeds until I make it electric, and the extra gears will be nice to have even when it is electric too, because I can do more peddling myself and save battery. Since it’s a Diamondback it’s of good quality considering I only spent $330 on it. Another reason I opted for this model is because it has front and back brakes, unlike most vintage-looking bikes which have a coaster brake. I’ll need these brakes when I make it electric, and I might even upgrade one to disc brakes.
I still have yet to receive my new toy in the mail and assemble it though, so I’ll post again on how it feels to actually ride the thing. I’m mostly looking forward to having a bike with an upright-sitting position so I can ride long distances comfortably, with a lady-like posture, and a nice ensemble of a skirt and dress shoe flats.
I started looking for some luggage racks and baskets because that will also be one of the advantages of this bike, I can use it for going to grab groceries, instead of taking the bus. And I can throw my purse, coffee cup, etc. in the front basket and not be bothered by annoying backpacks or messenger bags.
I stumbled across various bike blogs and saw one post about a “skirt guard” or “coat guard” that goes over the back wheel to protect the rider’s clothing from getting caught in the wheel. It’s such a practical and useful accessory, I decided to hunt it down as my first accessory for my bike. This blog has a few great posts on the practical use of skirt guards, in fact it’s a really great blog about biking in a commuter sense without letting your fashion go.
Electra makes really amazing bikes, and the skirt guard that comes on the bikes in their “Amsterdam” collection are exactly the style I had in mind. (They sell the guards separately but only in black, and claim they don’t work with any other kind of bike.) So I kept looking for skirt guards to see what other kinds I could find. Also note, after looking at many varieties of skirt guards, I noticed the Electra one doesn’t seem to cover as much of the wheel as others.
I found this lovely crocheted bicycle skirt guard:
You can see the skirt guard pattern is in Dutch but I imagine someone skilled enough with crochet could figure it out with google translate (my glance at the translated version told me I didn’t know enough about crochet to get past the translation barrier).
I was so enamored with the idea of this crocheted bike dress guard that I looked all over the internet to find something similar. It has that great ‘vintage’ style that I always crave, and is practical too. There are commercial versions, but I just didn’t think they were quite my style.
An Etsy shop, JustDo, has these pre-made crocheted skirt guards and this pattern if you have the skills to make it yourself. There are also a lot of very unattractive skirt guard solutions that I have seen (wire or mesh), but since they’re not pretty there’s no sense in detailing them here.
In any event, all this was pretty difficult to find, and I didn’t feel like shelling out $65 for pre-made one, or attempting to do it myself anytime soon. (I have a bad habit of over estimating my skills as a do-it-yourselfer and I don’t want to take on some extra random talent for a one-time need). I started googling ‘beginner’ crochet patterns that were round, like baby afghans, to see if I could get away with an easier pattern and a similar effect. Then I had a ‘eureka’ moment and remembered the fabulous material: oil cloth!
I happened to be on fashionfabricsclub.com to look up crocheted patterns and I am always trying to think of a good excuse to use oilcloth, so I browsed through their large selection and found some cute ‘Dutch’ looking floral prints that I think will match my bike perfectly.
Now all I have to do is measure and make a pattern for this and I’ll have a waterproof, and stylish skirt guard for about $6 worth of materials and maybe an hour of work. I’ll also make a liner for my basket, either in the same oilcloth as the skirt guards or I got some cherry-print oil cloth as well that I might use for that (but I bought it for a re-usable lunch bag that won’t leak, and I will definitely be making that!)
In a few days I’ll have my bike and my oilcloth skirt guards, so I’ll take some photos to post soon! I’m so excited to see it put together!! I gathered a lot of information on the subject (at least what’s relevant to America and the difficulties of finding such a useful item!) so I hope this was useful to someone out there!