Gala Darling’s guide to cycle chic

Gala Darling

We asked fashion blogger-star Gala Darling to give us some advice about how to dress when you’re a winter biker – and hopefully avoid looking like a stuffed sausage. She has some awesome pointers, and digs out some pretty cool helmets, backpacks and other assorted bike accouterments. Head to her site for the full post, but here’s an excerpt:

When the temperatures start to drop, the temptation is to bundle up, hail a taxi & let your bicycle collect cobwebs. The truth is, you can ride your bike almost the whole year, if you’re dressed appropriately!

Here are some items I suggest in your keeping-warm-on-the-bike arsenal…

<3 Leather leggings

<3 A thick scarf you can pull up over your mouth

<3 Cashmere-lined leather gloves, or something equally decadent & cozy. P.S. I like to buy gloves from places like Century 21 or T.J. Maxx, they always have great deals!

<3 Cashmere leggings

<3 Merino wool layering pieces , like sweaters, turtlenecks & long tunics to keep your lower back covered!

<3 A cute blazer (love that one, so Willy Wonka!) or jacket

<3 A faux fur gilet

<3 Riyoko have fleece-lined leggings in cute patterns!

Really, the trick is to wear super-warm layers. They don’t have to be thick & bulky. I love merino wool & Uniqlo’s HeatTech pieces for this purpose — they’re the thickness of a regular t-shirt but keep you really toasty. If you can keep your torso warm, you won’t need to wear a trillion layers & look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man! Hooray!

You also don’t have to go out & buy all new things just to ride on your bike! One of my favourite blazers is an old velvet thing, it’s got tattered sleeves but I love it for topping off a cycling ensemble!

You might also want to check some of those shops for outdoorsy, adventure type people. I don’t really know what they’re called! However, they’re great for stocking up on thermal underthings, stuff made of Thinsulate, really warm hats, scarves, gloves, etc. They also often have “athletic” sections, so you might even find stuff made specifically for intrepid winter biking!

Transport your Christmas tree by bicycle

I’m giving props where props are due. When you see bikers not just riding, but riding with Christmas tree in tow, you begin to realise cycling has no limits. After seeing our favourite family on wheels A Simple Six taking their new tree home by bike, a quick image search online proved they’re not the first to do so.

A Simple Six take their Christmas Tree home

Image (c) A Simple Six

Long John Christmas Tradition in Copenhagen

Image (cc) Mikael Colville-Andersen

Copenhagen Yule

Image (cc) Mikael Colville-Andersen

You can transport anything by bicycle in Amsterdam

Image (cc) milknosugar

longtail Christmas tree recycling

Image (cc) Mark Stosberg

Tree on bike

Image (cc) Jeff Youngstrom


Image (cc) cleverchimp

There are more pics at Copenhagenize.

There’s even a Christmas tree company in Portland called “Trees By Bike” that, you guessed it, deliver their trees via bike (they’re already sold out for the year.)

Bike babes and boys: have a very Merry Christmas!

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights - Even The Bikes Are Lit

Barring the effects of climate change, winter should have now well and truly descended wherever you are in the world. We hope you’re keeping warm and brushing away any eyelash icicles.  And you’ll be glad to hear we’re almost up to 400 challengers now.

On my ride this morning I spotted a beautiful husky going for a jog – while his owner rode alongside on a bicycle. Not sure how safe it is, but these days I’ve seen it all in Beijing’s bicycle lanes!

Beijing biker and dog

Beijing biker and dog

(Also awesome? The guy on the scooter carrying what looks like an entire pink furniture set.)

Keep sending in your photos of your rides, and we’d love to see videos too if you have them.

And have a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays! Stay tuned for more from us on the other side of the New Year :)

Love, Emily and Monica.

Image (cc) Express Monorail

How extreme do Winter B-icicle challengers need to be?

Winter Biking. Image (cc) Porro

One of our Winter B-icicle Challengers sent in a mainly positive email, but also with this to say:

I love the idea behind your winter cycling drive. More people on more bikes more often! But what is the point of pledging to ride everyday in the winter if you aren’t prepared to ride in the conditions that winter provides?

The reason I feel its important to mention this is because as a winter commuter I get asked by car drivers constantly about the conditions during my ride. All the time they are talking to me they are trying to impose a subtext to their statements that it is too dangerous to be riding a bicycle in the winter and that I should be careful so that they don’t kill me with their 2000LB vehicle.

By saying there are conditions in which it’d be so icy you’d probably break your neck continues this tradition of poo-pooing bicycles as viable means of transportation.

For all bikers encouraging friends and family members to “make the switch”, it’s important never to exaggerate the dangers of biking or cycling. It’s something we hope we haven’t done in laying out conditions for the ‘Winter B-icicle Challenge’. And it does bring up an interesting question: how far should winter bikers go?

The answer is simple, as far as you choose. The point of this challenge is to encourage more bike riding and less car riding. The further you’re willing to go with that, the better, but we realise not all challengers will go as far as others. There will be some who will ride no matter what the weather – hail, gale force winds, roads so shiny you could skate on them, and furious snowstorms. There are others, however, who won’t ride through such hairy weather, but it can still mean they’re riding almost every day of winter and many, many more days than they usually would.

On the ‘Winter B-icicle Challenge’ event page challenger Martin Elwell wrote: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. And in the same way, often riding through snow and ice is only dangerous because your bike is under-equipped. Given you have the right equipment, and right attitude, biking can be safe most places in the world and periods of the year.

In short:

1. If you are riding through less than ideal conditions, here are a few words of advice to ensure your safety.

2. On any day you choose not to ride your bike, we implore you to consider walking or catching public transport. These are much more environmentally friendly options than cars or cabs.

Image (cc) Pörrö

One week in and we have 200+ challengers from around the world

Today we’ve kicked off week two of the ‘Winter B-icicle Challenge’ and Em and I are super delighted to see over 200 bikers from around the world have signed up. It’s amazing to think it was just two weeks ago I read Em’s blog and saw that she had set a personal winter biking challenge for herself in an effort to commit to a green lifestyle – all year round. And later that evening I met up with her in a Beijing bar and said, “Em, you have to go big with this.”

As luck would have it Emily agreed, and within a few days we had a name (Lane Change), a site up (the one you’re reading) and thanks to the contributions of one talented bike-lovin’ graphic designer, we also had some fantastic graphics for our challenge. As for the rest, we would have to wait and see.

Safe to say it’s been amazing to see that in the last week we’ve seen our challenge spread through blogs, twitter, and mainly through facebook to all parts of the globe. Challengers hailing from London, Miami, Seattle, Boston, Syracuse, Calgary, Alaska, The Hague, Gloucestershire, Shanghai, Beijing and other cities have been sending in photos and comments.

I don’t know about you guys, but there’s something really cool – actually make that really warming – knowing every time I stick on my beanie and gloves, hop on my bike and push off, you guys are out there doing the same. That there’s 200 of us (and growing) who every morning choose to take our bike and make earth-friendly tracks all through the snow.

And just remember, every ride you make, and every day you make it – you are a biking advert for a better, cleaner, more beautiful future. Ride on!

Image: Photos sent in from challengers via. the ‘Winter B-icicle Challenge’ Facebook page. Click to enlarge.

Biking in bad air? Only these face masks will protect you.

Beijing air pollution

While most of the Winter B-icicle Challengers around the world are facing the same difficulties: dodging snowflakes, slippery patches of ice, and the never ending battle with those pesky cars, only those of you in the bigger cities will have to deal with problems related to air pollution.

For those of you living in a Chinese city air pollution is a genuine hazard. Here in Beijing the US Embassy has a twitter (@BeijingAir) that every hour or so alerts followers of Beijing’s air pollution levels, and in November of last year pollution levels became so bad they showed up as ‘Crazy Bad’. Apparently someone in the embassy with a sense of humour had listed that as anything over 500 (which is beyond their testing limits).

Since then the embassy have changed ‘Crazy Bad’ to ‘Beyond Index’ and in the last few days it’s turned up far too often on @BeijingAir.

I snapped the above photo on my way to work. But, as luck would have it, today at work I published a neat-o infographic we’d been working on which details precautions you can take to protect yourself from air pollution. I’ve included an excerpt below but head here to see the whole thing.

One simple and affordable measure I would take is wearing an N95 mask. You can buy these from Taobao for only 17RMB (I’ve just bought two for Emily and I), and apparently can also be found at pharmacies. Be sure to buy the correct type however, as listed below. Surgical masks won’t do you any good.

Air pollution masks

A gang of six join the challenge

This weekend I wanted to profile a very inspiring gang of six that committed to the Winter B-icicle Challenge last week. This gang is a family of six (A Simple Six) from West Virginia in the US. In April 2011 Stacey and Brent (and their four kids) decided to sell their van and go ‘car lite‘ for a year. To do this they have taken to riding their bikes almost everywhere all year.

A Simple Six

A Simple Six have been great with their involvement in the Winter B-icicle Challenge and have sent in some great tips, including home made balaclavas two of the kids wore to school on the eve of the B-icicle Challenge.

The family’s website, A Simple Six, tracks the different modes of transport they use each week and it’s impressive how much detail is provided. When Stacey (the mom/mum of A Simple Six) decided to embark on the car-lite journey she knew it would involve:

Creating new habits, manifesting new routines, using new service providers, and shopping at different stores must be a part of the process. This family of six was going to have to change our ways.

The motivation to go car lite also stemmed from deeper desires about the kind of life she wanted for herself and her family:

 I want more experiences, greater health, wholeness and well-being. These were my desires for my family. Selling our van was one effort I could make in this process.

What I really like about A Simple Six, is the recognition that we need to shift the way we live and ‘create new habits’ in order for sustainable living to be achieved. This is a core motivation behind the Winter B-icicle Challenge. It may not be comfortable riding to work everyday in winter but it does push us to actively change our lifestyles.

Lane Change is delighted to have such an inspiring family join in on the Winter B-icicle Challenge. I know if I start to feel the cold and start dragging my feet I’ll only have to think of Stacey and Brent and their 4 children for a bit of inspiration.

All images are by A Simple Six

Tips for biking safely through snow, ice and bitter winds

Beijing snows

Winter B-icicle challengers in Beijing woke up to the sight of thick, fluffy snowflakes falling from the sky. I snapped the above photo on my way to work. Over the next three months the weather will most definitely throw a few hairy snowballs your way, so it’s important to know how to ride safely when temperatures begin to fall (and fall) below zero.

Luckily All Weather Sports (via Take Part) has some great advice:

  • Try to pedal smoothly and relax your upper body, especially on ice and soft snow.
  • Road ice can provide lots of traction or very little. Learn how the different types look and sound. Try not to brake hard on the slippery sort, or if you must, use only your rear brake. Watch for dry patches where you can do your braking or turning.
  • Wide tires with widely separated knobs work best on snow.
  • Use low pressure: start with 15-20 psi and experiment for yourself. Sometimes 5 psi feels great.
  • Studded tires and chains improve traction on ice, but will slow you down.

Along with that we’d add a few ‘common sense’ pointers for bad weather days:

  • Be overcautious: ride slower than usual and best not to have your headphones on.
  • With poor visibility try and use bike lights or wear reflective vests or stickers.
  • Dress warmly – even if it makes you look like a stuffed sausage. Thermals, beanies, thick socks, big scarves, gloves, vests and boots are all musts.

Head to All Weather Sports for a full rundown on tips and all-weather equipment, especially for those cycling out in the countryside or for long periods of time.

Have any other tips to add? Leave them in the comments section below!

Day 1 of the Winter B-icicle Challenge

Woop! Today our challenge kicks off. Hope you folks did or plan to hop on that bike to work and school this morning.

Em and I met up in -6 degree weather before heading to work so we could take some winter bike shots. We live less than 10 minutes bike ride from one another, in Beijing’s historic hutongs. Think twisty, narrow alleyways, and beautiful grey-blue brickwork.

Monica Tan and Emily D'Ath

Monica Tan Emily D'Ath

Too bad my beanie makes me look like a Super Mario Brothers mushroom. And then we were off!

Emily D'Ath and Monica Tan

This weekend I might make a short video of my ride to work, but in the mean time we want to see your photos and videos of your ride to work or school. Send them in to info.lanechange[at] or post it to our Facebook page.

I’m doing the ‘Winter B-icicle Challenge’ (and so should you)

Winter B-icicle Challenge

If you’ve already signed up to ride all throughout winter in our ‘Winter B-icicle Challenge‘ you can now post the above button to your blog, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter or the other gazillion social media sites out there. (And thanks to Georgia Perry for her beautiful graphics.)

If you haven’t signed up yet, head to our Facebook event page by clicking “join” in the right hard corner or use the form below.

Facebook join button

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And feel free to add why you love biking. Why do I love biking? Because it’s like having super long legs. As ridiculous as that sounds, that’s what it feels like – you can travel faster and for much longer than walking or running. The area you can cover suddenly expands tenfold. Walking feels now, weirdly enough, really slow. Like there are weights tied to my feet.

And if you were to put riding a bike somewhere between walking and driving a car, it’s actually more like “really fast walking” then “slow car driving”. Because unlike driving where you’re insulated in a little metal box, in riding you’re still out in the elements, and truly experiencing the city/countryside.