By Jodie Van Horn
Ask someone who doesn’t ride a bike what keeps them from making the bicycle their primary mode of transportation, and you will likely get one of five reasons: safety, laziness, hauling stuff, weather, or “having to change clothes at your destination.”
Most of these issues are easy to address. San Francisco streets are safe and becoming safer everyday thanks to the work of bicycle advocates; laziness is real, but self-inflicted; panniers and racks make it easy to haul stuff on bikes, and for moving day, there are trucks.
But the clothing issue—having to pack a second outfit, arrive sweaty, look frumpy or overly spandexed—now, that is a serious concern. Because appropriate dress and hygiene are inextricably linked to success in your job and love life, and essential for receiving good restaurant service.
If ending up a bedraggled and chafed social pariah is of particular concern to you, it’s time you get to know a few Bay Area designers who’ve got you covered… literally.
B. Spoke Tailors
Nan Eastep is the artist behind B. Spoke Tailors, a custom bike clothing company with a dapper line of haberdashery. Nan makes finely crafted, made-to-order bike knickers, raincoats, arm warmers and more, for fashion-first cycling with a whole lot of function.
Nan’s practically a one-woman show, an artisan who does most of her own cutting and sewing. She originally worked under the name “Joy Riders” but changed it to “B. Spoke Tailors” because the former is used by Schwinn Bikes, a move that also conveniently reduced the amount of pornographic spam she receives. It was in the Joy Riders days that bottoms became one of her strengths. (No off-color pun intended.)
Nan’s knickers, guaranteed for fit and wear, are a top-seller. She uses natural fibers (primarily wool) to stay away from fossil fuel-based synthetics. And while her customers are mostly bicycle riders, she admits that some are actually just wool enthusiasts. Wool, she says, is really the best fabric for riding.
Her threads come from an L.A. tailor supply company that stocks designer overruns, where Nan can buy small quantities for her small business. The fabric is so awesome that people often don’t believe her when she tells them it’s wool. “It’s just impossibly soft and beautiful,” she says.
You can find Nan at the Temescal Farmer’s Market in North Oakland on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month. You will recognize her by her swatches and tape measurer.
What to buy:
Custom-made knickers ($150-200)
Recycled merino wool arm-warmers ($40)
Wax cotton raincoat ($400)
Drool over pictures at B. Spoke Tailors
Sheila Moon Athletic Apparel
Sheila Moon is both a fashion designer and a real deal biker. A racer and enthusiast, she thought up a line of bike clothing for women like herself, who she saw increasingly joining the cycling community.
Early on, people told Sheila that lifestyle cycling wear was a terrible idea. And she admits that the concept was slow to catch on. But she keeps on injecting fashion into the bike scene with funky patterns, bright colors, and thoughtful design, putting the ‘fun’ in functional.
Her designs help women enjoy how they look and feel on a bike so that they ride more often. Instead of uncomfortable gripper elastic around the legs and waistband (you know, the kind that creates rolls where you didn’t know you had any), she uses felt bands and a low yoga waist.
Sheila started sewing when she was five, so it’s no surprise that she knows how to experiment with fit and form, like putting gussets in the knees and elbows to add movement to her clothing. She loves to invent new patterns.
“We need to get out of the black gloom of this recession,” she says. “People respond to clothes, they respond to color.” Sheila’s inspiration for the Spring line is feminine and flirty.
She paints a picture for me over the phone of being six years old and learning to ride a bike — the incredible sense of freedom — of wearing a little dress with Mary Jane’s, and just feeling really thrilled.
“I think of this photo I have of myself on a tricycle. My mom made a hat for me. The hat was a paper plate with petals made of tissue paper,” Sheila tells me. Well, now we know where she gets it from.
Sheila Moon Apparel is sold by more than 400 dealers across the U.S., England and Japan. Locally, her cycling garb can be found at the Sports Basement, A Bicycel Odyssey in Sausalito, and Missing Link, in Berkeley. Her Streetwear is best ordered online, or visit her upcoming warehouse sale on Friday, June 18, from 2:00 – 8:00 p.m., or Saturday, June 19, from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. at 4701 San Leandro Street, Unit 102J, Oakland CA.
What to Buy:
8-inch Cycling Shorts ($89)
Lingerie Liner ($55)
Get outfitted for Spring at Sheila Moon.
Now that you’re primped for pedaling, add some undergarments from yet another pair of local lady designers. Jenn and Mary, owners of Pedal Panties, describe their bicycle lingerie as both “sexy” and “highly engineered.” Sounds like a good combination.