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The Quest for Skirt Guards and a Stylish Bike Commute

March 20, 2011 by lolkitty: Kaela

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 wanted this exact Skirt Guard (standard issue, Electra Amsterdam series)

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.

Crochet Bike Guard

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!

Oil cloth is water resistant polyester with a plastic-like glaze on it.  It always comes in adorable patterns and bright colors, and it is inexpensive, $6/yard or so depending on where you go. 

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!

=^.^=

 


13 Comments »

  1. Sue says:

    Came across your blog researching dress guards. Hope you found the bike skirt you were looking for and that your bike has arrived :).

  2. Judie says:

    Great ideas! Just wondering if you’ve attached it, and if so, how did you do it?
    Thanks,
    Judie

  3. [...] A post I found with links to other great skirt guard posts. [...]

  4. Nancy says:

    Very much would like to see your attached skirt guard!

  5. A. M. THro says:

    I’m trying to explain the concept of skirt guards on a military base in Afghanistan. Thank you for this article, it helped a lot–now everyone wants one!

  6. Kat says:

    Yes! How did this project go? I would love to attempt this myself! beauty of a fabric choice!

  7. taht’s genius! i have exactly the same problem, i cannot seem to find (even though i live in scandinavia!) a pretty skirt guard for my nice new cream-and-red coloured pilen-bike. but the idea to use oilcloth is truly fantastic. thanks!

  8. wim says:

    the museum in staphorst town, the netherlands, where these skirt gards are traditional.. has paterns

    Staphorst Farm Museum

    Gemeenteweg 67, 7951 CE Staphorst – Netherlands

    i giess if you write and ask… they can probably help you

    good luck with it!

  9. wim says:

    Dress guards work descriptionThis you need:• 4 polka dot red crochet cotton• leftovers white, yellow and green crochet cotton for the flowers• crochet hook number 3So are you going to work:The following stitches are used in this project:Unloading, chopsticks, groups, half-fasting, fasting.After each round times.-Hook 81 intent resolve.-1st row: 1 stick in the fourth loose. 1 stick in each of the following 2 design resolve.* 2 resolve, 2 skip, 1 stick design resolve in each of the following 3 Design resolve. From * becomingrepeat. End with 2 resolve, 1 stick in the last design loose (a total of 16 groups of 3 sticks).-2nd row: 3 resolve for the first stick, 2 sticks to the first 2 solve.* 2 resolve, 3 3 chopsticks to chopsticks skip, the following 2 solve. Repeat from * ever. Finishwith 2 resolve, 1 stick in the third beginning loose of previous row.-3rd row: 5 unloading (of which 3 resolve for the first stick), 3 sticks to the first 2 solve.* 2 resolve, 3 3 chopsticks to chopsticks skip, the following 2 solve. Repeat from * ever.End with 2 resolve, 1 stick in the third beginning loose of previous row.-4th row: same as third drive, but end up with 2, 3 sticks to the last 2 resolve resolve (in total17 groups of 3 sticks).-5th row: 3 resolve for the first stick, 1 stick, 1 loose and 2 chopsticks at first stick.2* 2 sticks, 1 loose and 2 solve, 2 sticks to the following 2 solve. Repeat from * ever (18groups).-6th row: 5 unloading (of which 3 resolve for the first stick).* 2 sticks, 1 loose and 2 sticks to the loose between a group of previous row, 2 solve. From *always repeat. On the last repetition the last 2 resolve let expire.-7th row: 5 resolve, 1 stick in the fourth loose, 1 stick in these loose, 2 resolve, 2 sticks, 1loose and 2 sticks to the loose between a group.* 1 loose with 1 fixed. The 2 unloading of the underlying 2 revs, 2 chopsticks together hooks, 2 resolve, 1loose and 2 sticks to the unloading between the following group. Repeat from * ever. End with 1fixed unloading of the 2 previous row, 2 resolve, 2 chopsticks, 1 loose and 2 chopsticks in the third beginning looseof previous row (19 groups).-8th row: 3 resolve for the first stick. 1 stick, 1 loose and 2 sticks to the loose of the firstbunch.* 2 sticks, 1 loose and 2 solve, 2 sticks to the loose of the following group. From * becomingrepeat. End with 2 resolve, 2 sticks, 1 loose and 2 sticks to the third beginning loose.-9th row: as 8th row.-10th row: as 7th drive, expire after the last repetition section.-11th row: 5 resolve, 1 stick in fourth loose, 1 stick in these loose, 2 resolve, 2 chopsticks, 2 resolveand 2 sticks to the loose between the first group.* 3 solve, 2 chopsticks, 2 resolve and 2 sticks to the unloading between the following group. From * becomingrepeat. End with 3 solve, 2 chopsticks, 2 resolve and 2 sticks to the third beginning loose from the previousdrive.-12th row: As 11th drive.-13th row: as 7th drive, but now between 2 chopsticks 2 resolve hooks instead of 1 loose. Even after theGroup 2 resolve instead of 1 loose hooks.-14th row: 7 resolve, 1 stick in the fourth loose, 1 stick in these loose, 2 resolve, 1 stick ofprevious row skip.* 1 stick for the next stick, 1 stick on the following loose, 1 stick for the next stick, 2resolve, 1 loose skip, 1 stick on the following loose, 1 stick on the following fixed, 1 stick on thefollowing loose, 2 resolve, 1 stick of the next group of skip. Repeat from * ever. Finishwith 1 stick for the next stick, 1 stick on the following loose, 1 stick for the next stick, 2resolve, 1 stick on each of the following 2 sticks, 1 stick in the third beginning loose (47 groups of 3chopsticks).-15th row: 4 resolve, 1 stick in the fourth loose, 1 stick in the first stick of previous row, 2resolve, 3 sticks to the following 2 solve.* 2 sticks to the following 2 resolve resolve, 3. Repeat from * ever. End with 2 resolve, 2 stickson the third beginning loose of previous row (47 groups of 3 sticks and 1 group of 2 sticks).-16th row: 5, 3 sticks to the following 2 resolve resolve. Repeat. End with 2 resolve, 1 pod in thethird beginning loose of previous row.-17th row: 3 resolve for the first stick, 1 stick on each subsequent loose and each stick. Regularlydivided 6 sticks Inc (total 246 chopsticks).18th row: 2 solve for the first fixed, 1 fixed on each subsequent stick.-19th row: 3 resolve for the first stick.3* 1 stick on each of the following 3 fasting. Repeat from * ever. End with 1 stick on thefollowing fixed, 1 stick loose in the second beginning of previous row.-20th row: If 18th drive.-21st row: 3 resolve for the first stick, 1 stick in each subsequent fixed.-22nd row: 3 resolve for the first stick, 1 stick sticks on each of the following 2.* 3 solve, 4 sticks skip, 1 stick

  10. Abby says:

    Hey! I’ve been looking for one of these skirt guards too. I don’t know why they are so hard to find in the United States. Well, good news, I’ve finally found a solution that is reasonably priced . . .it only took years. Anyway, http://www.theurbanbicycle.com has them!

  11. Pageturners says:

    Pattern, please!

  12. @Pageturners it looks like I neglected to approve the comment containing the pattern! My apologies, and thank you @wim for translating for us!
    I hope to post soon with a better update on how this all went but part of what happened was I ended up having to change my riding style from the Amsterdam/European upright and relaxed to a more maneuverable and agile vintage road bike. This was mostly due to the speed of traffic where I had to ride. In Orange County and LA, especially more so now than before, cars don’t slow down or give the full three feet of clearance that you would have in a more bike-friendly area. After riding on my 7-speed cruiser (that I absolutely loved riding to farmer’s markets or to grab groceries) I realized that I was actually maxing out my gears in traffic and because it wasn’t meant for that speed, it was very cumbersome to avoid obstacles.
    I wish that I could ride a more casual bike, one that allows me to wear my usual skirts or dresses but I have to live in an area where that is practical and safe. Now I live in a small town where riding anywhere at night and being dressed up in vintage ensemble is not going to draw attention – everyone knows me and has seen me around town that way. Being female out at night is not entirely safe in Orange County and LA and I have had my fill of that battle.
    Though my next bike will certainly be one of those adorable city bikes, I have fallen madly in love with vintage roadbike Trek’s, in my case a Trek 400. I’ve owned three of them since this post and put them together from spare and donated parts, bikes are a delight to resurrect!

    I will have to update on the oil cloth skirt guard soon as well, I ended up selling my bike before making the matching one but my new bike needs a skirt guard just the same! I might be riding road bikes now – but I have every intention to figure out how I can still wear a skirt!

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