Monday, 31 March 2014

Moments of Happiness in Times of Chaos

The perfect night for a walk along
the water
Raising kids is tough, any parent can tell you that. Finding the time to spend enjoying life together can be challenging, with school, work, after school programs, and whatever else is thrown into our already packed schedules. For the month of March, I had been exceptionally busy with travel and a demanding work schedule, meaning that by the time i got home, made dinner and sat down to eat with my family, I was pretty much drained, wishing to do nothing more that get on my PJ's and flop onto the couch. 

Thankfully, I can always count on my husband to find easy things to do in the evening that require nothing more than catching a sky train and going for a little walk. Admittedly, there are times when I would appreciate less enthusiasm, but truth be told, even when I go begrudgingly, I'm usually treated to something special. Just such a time was had a little over a week ago. With TED2014 in town, and beautiful installation art piece popped up right between Canada Place and the Vancouver Convention Centre. Called Unnumbered Sparks, the art project, created by Janet Echelman and Aaron Koblin, is an interactive community art project dangling above the heads of tourists and locals who have come to marvel at the spectacle.

As the sky darkened the light show began to take shape
Chris and Etienne playing with the light
from his phone
Not only was it a gorgeous night after many days of rain, but my eyes were definitely treated to something unique. Projections hit the mesh installation creating beautiful light that dances not only to the accompanying music, but also to the touch of onlookers. After downloading the interactive app, both our kids spent a good amount of time tapping Chris' phone and making splashes and sparks amongst the lights. I truly appreciate art that appeals to any age, as too often kids can feel awkward and uncomfortable amongst artwork they so desperately want to touch. The look of wonder and amazement on their faces was certainly a highlight after weeks of feeling too tired to spend quality time with my kids.
Once night arrived the colours clearly danced across the sky

My silly munchkins can always
make me smile
Sadly, I think this spectacle has left Vancouver. I hope that if you live in Vancouver you had a chance to go and see it. Some have referred to it as a flying jellyfish. I myself found it to resemble what I imagine the Northern Lights would be like, since I have yet to see them in person. Either way, it was one of those moments of happiness that I will cherish among the chaos of the ever-busy work/life/child rearing balance.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Having Fun With Fashion

Vancouver Fashion Week wrapped up today after another successful season. While I haven't attended the shows regularly myself, yesterday I, or at least my lovely bicycle, got to take part in this exciting time for fashion. Our friend David, founder of Vancouver Cycle Chic, was lucky enough to help Danish designer Emma Jorn organize the show for her rainwear collection, Takaokami. Part of his role was helping wrangle up some pretty city bikes for the show, and so contacted me to borrow my red Pappillionaire. Little did he know, I had also just procured a white Pure City bike for a review I'm working on for Momentum Magazine. Once the designer found out she could use bikes in the colours of the Danish flag, the request went from one bike to two! As the proud owner of these bikes, I was lucky enough to get VIP access to the show, and was so excited to see my pretty bikes being ridden down the runway. It was a fun little evening, and I also was able to view some other great fashions from local designers, which, with my fashion design roots, is always a fun night. Here are some snapshots of the show and be sure to check out Emma's fun and functional collection at!
The lovely model that took my bike for a spin down the runway,
wearing a very cute rain skirt
I'm not usually one for bike specific gear, but these are some pretty innovative designs! 
A Rain dress so cute you could get away with wearing it all day!
Who needs a rain coat when you have this awesome wide-brimmed hat paired
with a waterproof skirt?
Sharing rainwear can be a fun way to get closer with your besties
Funnest show of the night created by the beautiful and super sweet Emma Jorn,
taking her bow in the most fitting way

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Heels, Skirts and Bicycles

More and more women are starting to get out on bicycles, creating a women's bike movement I'm proud to be a part of. As a result, we are seeing marketing and products geared towards the female rider, as well as an increased number of women bloggers. Each such woman offers a different perspective and insight on how to support and encourage women in their two-wheeled adventures. In a recent post by my new friend Melissa, of Bike Pretty, she responded to another female blogger's rather heated piece about how writers out there need to stop focusing on what women wear when they ride and empowering them to learn how to care for and repair their bikes, stating that this knowledge was more important in increasing female cycling numbers. In Melissa's rebuttal, she discusses how it is important to look at ALL possible characteristics of a female rider, noting most importantly that: 

"There is a point to demonstrating how easy it is to bike in heels. It’s a direct counter to all the ways that cycling is presented as a sporty inconvenience. If I can bike comfortably–in heels even–I’m sharing the message that riding a bike for transportation is an easy part of a fashion-conscious lifestyle."

I couldn't agree with Melissa more. Riding a bike does make you a card carrying member of the "Bike Mechanics Union", if there is one. Nor is it mandatory to know how to change a flat, grease a chain or replace brake pads. What riding a bike provides is so much bigger than that; it offers freedom, individuality and pure joy. Part of that freedom is that you can LITERALLY ride a bike wearing whatever you feel comfortable in on whatever bike makes you happy.

They may not be heels, but I certainly
love being able to bike in even my
fanciest flats (and look, they match my bike)!
It's no secret I dress in whatever I like when I ride. Many times that includes dresses, long skirts and most certainly heels, because that's what fills my closet. It truly is important to present the image that cycling is not a specialist sport and that anyone from 8 to 80 and beyond can do it. By riding in my every day clothing, I am showing that riding a bike is accessible to anyone. When my daughter wears her sundresses and sandals, she reminds the average person that riding a bike is something any child can do, and it doesn't require a huge expense to do it.

Beyond the topic of heels though, there's a bigger point. Sure, it's very handy to know how to fix a flat, and, conversely, to present images of average women riding a bike in their every day clothing. When it really comes down to it, though, we need to celebrate each and every female cyclist out there, regardless of their biking style or knowledge. With women being the key demographic that will indicate a greater acceptance of cycling around the world, by acknowledging that there are women of all ages, abilities, cultures, etcetera riding bikes, we will be appealing to a broader range of women. We are all individuals with different interests, and all that is accomplished by pressuring women to learn the intricate ins and outs of bicycle repair, or to purchase the "necessary gear" before they dream of sitting on the saddle and pedalling will only work to deter many women who just don't have the time or interest in all the fuss. All they want to do is get on a bike and start riding, and that should be supported and celebrated each and every time.

Here's a future rider exemplifying making riding
simple for women
Admittedly, yes, not only do I ride in heels and my Sunday best from time to time, but I also know how to perform general maintenance on my bike from time to time. I like to feel handy and use tools, but I also like handing my bike off to a professional to give my bike the TLC it needs. That does not make me less of a rider, just one who accepts my limitations and appreciates other people's expert knowledge. As I see more and more women on bikes, it indicates that there is a growing appeal. This means that what we are doing, all us women out there, is demonstrating that riding a bike can be easy, fun and safe, and that there is something out there for each and every female rider and her tastes. So let's continue this positive trend, supporting each and every lady rider out there, whether she rides in heels or runners, because both play an important role in creating a welcoming place for the women of today and those of tomorrow.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

It Gets Better ~ An Open Letter to the "Bike-Curious"

Somewhere along the way I forgot how much
fun riding was!
I know how you feel. I know because I was once just like you, and not all that long ago either. As a child, I rode a bike every where and loved every minute of it. But something happened. I got older, and moved away from home. Sure I tried riding my bike in University, but living on campus didn't give me much reason to. Then I became an "adult", with a job, kids and responsibilities, and suddenly I just didn't have time to ride my bike anymore. My poor bicycle got old and neglected, and eventually fell into memories of days gone by. But then I moved to a city where I saw people just like me riding bikes all the time, and I thought, maybe I could do that, too. But with the hope of something new came lots of questions and fears about trying something new, or at least new-ish.

Just like you, I worried about getting around on a bike. Is it safe? Which roads do I take? How many hills are there and can I ever dream of getting up them on a bike? What kind of bicycle do I need? What about days with bad weather? There are so many ways I would second guess myself that's it a wonder I ever actually got back "in the saddle". What it took for me was starting a job a short bike ride from my house. It was just easier to get there by bike instead of bus, and since I started the job at the end of the Spring, the weather was very inviting. But I was still daunted, especially since my ride would include a high grade hill. It was enough to turn the less enthusiastic away from riding a bike.

So I spoke to friends of mine who rode a bike regularly for commuting, and quickly realized that I was making it more complicated than it needed to be. I can't remember who said it to me, or if it was just something I told myself, but when it came to hills, I would say to myself, there is no shame in walking a bike uphill. Each day I would challenge myself to get a little further up, and then one day, I did it, I rode from the bottom to the top, and the feeling of accomplishment had me grinning from ear to ear. I realized that getting accustomed to two-wheeled travel required nothing more that small, measurable goals.

Learning to navigate the city by bike can definitely be over-whelming. Riding on busy streets is not for the faint of heart, so learning the quieter routes takes time. Thankfully, most bike-friendly cities offer maps listing all the bike routes, and even indicate steep grades. Also, with cycling becoming more and more popular throughout the world, Google maps even offers the bicycle as a selected mode of transport, recognizing bike routes and the easiest way to get from point A to point B. The crucial thing I found is that after riding a bike regularly, two things happened. One, I quickly learnt the routes to get where I needed to safely by bike, developing my favourites, and two, most surprisingly, is that I discovered that many times things that seemed so far away were actually a shorter and more manageable bike ride away than I had imagined. As I grew more more accustomed to two wheeled travel, my city and those around me opened up, and I was even eager to discover new routes throughout to travel. Over time, many of those routes have been improved with infrastructure, whether a painted lane or, more favourably, separated bikeways, and now it seems that there are very few places I can't get to without having to rub shoulders with automobiles.

In just four years I went from worrying about having all the proper gear to
simply stepping out my door and onto my bike in whatever I felt best in
The biggest lesson, though, was simplifying the act of riding a bike. Living in a city where most cyclists seem to have specialized gear is very intimidating. Not only did I have to get used to the idea of riding a bike around town, but now I had to get all sorts of expensive, bike-specific gear? I can imagine what the average bike-curious person thinks when they see this, because I was one of them. Admittedly, I did get some of the "gear", like rain pants and a jacket, but when you really start looking at everything out there, it's enough to make the average person say "forget it!" Thankfully, I realized before I had invested too much money that riding a bike is no more complicated than it was when I was a child riding in my sundress and Mary Janes. Sure, you can get all the fancy clothing, shoes and accessories, but at the end of the day, all you need is the desire to ride and a bike. And it doesn't matter what kind of bike! Whether it's a mountain bike, road bike, step-through or a hybrid - if getting on the saddle and pedalling makes you happy, that's what's important.

So, to all the bike-curious people out there who find yourself thinking, "I'd like to ride a bike, but I'm not sure I can", I'm proof that it gets better. Distances become easier, hills more manageable, and worries start to melt away. Just like when you were a kid learning to ride a bike, over time, you find balance and confidence. And just like children, you begin to challenge yourself, and learn that you are capable of doing everything you though you could but were unsure of. With Spring just around the corner, instead of letting your lonely bike sit for another season in storage collecting dust, give it a little TLC by taking it out for a ride. You'll soon learn, just like me, that navigating the city and getting from point A to B can be, well, as easy as riding a bike!