Retroreflective Manicure

2 09 2012

You  know those moments when you think of something so awesome but also so obvious and wonder “how did I not think of this before?” I had one of those last week – retroreflective nail polish!

Retroreflective means that a material reflects light directly back at its source. For night time cyclists, this means that the light from a car’s headlights is reflected back at the driver, making you look far brighter and more visible from a longer distance. Retroreflective materials are used in things like street signs and markings, high visibility safety wear, and to improve visibility of trailers & train cars.

Last year, I procured some traffic grade retroreflective glass spheres (spheres so small they’re almost a powder). I used them to turn bracelets and silk flowers high-vis in Retroreflective Goodness and to make the magnets in Bike Art Galore. The technique is easy: pour the glass powder over wet paint, let it dry & shake off the excess so there’s a single layer of glass spheres on the surface.

To apply to nails, simply embed the spheres in the final coat of wet nail polish! I did a blue stripe over a purple base coat and then just gently laid my nail down in the powder.

I only did the pinky and ring finger with the retroreflective material because this is still an experiment. The camera flash replicates the effect of headlights.

Hand signals just got way more awesome! Like with paint, the lighter the colour, the brighter it will be, and metallic colours look amazing.

So far, the retroreflective nails have worn better than just the regular polish, leaving me with another problem: how to remove it. I usually rub polish off with an acetone soaked rag but I don’t dare rub the retroreflective glass. Remember the Mohs hardness scale – glass scratches fingernail. I figure I’m going to have to invest in the type of nail polish remover where you dip the whole finger in if I’m going to have any chance of getting it off without damaging my nails. Another issue I’m having is keeping it clean. If I do up my whole left hand I’ll have to start wearing a glove (which I’m not a fan of) while I’m wrenching to prevent any bike grease from taking up permanent residence. At least one thing that I was worried about, the glass spheres detaching and getting into everything, hasn’t happened though.





Retroreflective Goodness

15 02 2011

Cyclists constantly hear complaints from drivers about how difficult we are to see (or more accurately, how easy it is not to see us). In response, some cyclists will feed an endless supply of batteries to a Xmas tree’s worth of blinkies while others repurpose dayglo highway worker vests into everyday riding garb. And that’s fine, it’s just not the way I roll.

My hoodie with a retroreflective owl in a tree and stars, plus a floral design on my calf. Being seen doesn't mean having to wear stripes. Photo by Chris Chan.

Geneva put a little bird on her hoodie.

The retroreflective silver returns the flash right back to the camera.

When I ride, I hope to encourage other folks to ride, too, and I think that presenting bicycle commuting as something you need an ugly uniform to do safely is contrary to that goal. “Cycling clothes” need not be discernible from street clothes, they’re just street clothes that happen to be suitable for cycling (which includes  everything but the trench coat).

Haydn put some subtle stripes on his parka.

Under headlights, though, not so subtle.

Still, some of the technology being developed for safety and athletic applications, such as retroreflective treatments are pretty cool, and I am very interested in applying it to apparel without it reading as safety wear.

As well as a pennyfarthing motif on his sleeve...

... Ian also created a turn signal effect on his gloves.

Perhaps I should begin with what retroreflective is, besides a cumbersome word that spell check won’t recognize. A retroreflective surface reflects light back to the source, no matter what angle the light hits the material. This is important for cyclists because at night it reflects the light from car headlights back to the driver, often allowing them to see a cyclist earlier than without a retroreflective sumtin sumtin. It’s no substitute for a good set of lights, but every little bit can help. In the photos throughout this post, the camera flash simulates the effect of headlights.

Orange is good color for daytime visibility.

With the addition of some retroreflective motifs, it's a good choice for night riding, too.

Over the last year or two, I’ve facilitated several workshops for folks to add retroreflective accents to their own clothes. The material we use is scrap from industrial production, the process is pretty simple, and the imagination is the only limit. All the pictures you see in this blog post taken in the red room (the upstairs lounge at EBC) are of folks who spent an evening with me brightening their wardrobes with this silver film.

Brendan's strategy for choosing his motif was one of my favorite.

"Eyes" like a moth to activate the "flight" response in the most primitive parts of the human brain.

This week I’m holding another workshop (Thursday, 7pm at EBC - register by emailing courses (at) edmontonbikes (dot) ca ) for anyone who’d like to increase their visibility without increasing their geekiness (unless you want to up the geek factor, and I’d be glad to help you if that’s your steez).

As well as using the retroreflective silver film for clothing, this workshop will have another exciting aspect (hey, I get excited by stuff like this). Inspired by a really cool tutorial on Giver’s Log, I’ve got my paws on some raw, traffic grade, tiny retroreflective glass spheres – think of it as high visibility glitter.

The retroreflective glass beads I added to this orchid for my bike look like a layer of sugar.

Outside, in the dark, this lovely orchid sends more light back to its source than the red rear reflector.

Having access to the raw material means we can now retroreflectivize a greater variety of stuff (specifically, anything that can be painted with acrylic craft paint) in almost any color.

These bracelets don't look like safety wear.

But in headlights no one will miss a turn signal when you're wearing safety bling.

I’ve barely begun exploring the possibilities of this stuff, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what the workshop participants will create on Thursday. If you’re in E-town this week, come check it out! The workshop will be fun, it’s cheap and there’s still space left for last minute registrants.





Another Winter Night

3 12 2010

Last weekend, I finally admitted to myself that all attempts at fixing the zipper on my warm winter boots had failed, and that I couldn’t go all winter trying to keep them closed with reflective ankle straps, so I decided to go shopping. Understand that I’m on a really tight budget right now, so tight that there’s no room for groceries and new boots to coexist. Thankfully, I have some staples in my pantry and a good sense of where to find good food for free, so living without groceries won’t mean going hungry.

These are not the boots I bought.

Snow, porta bike, and new boots.

Later that night, I went dumpstering with some friends (hey, it’s more fun than spending Saturday night at the bar, and end of the month is always rich pickings), and all of us came home with good hauls of stuff. My prize was this pair of leather boots in excellent condition, the perfect size for my feet (plus two pairs of wool socks). They aren’t as warm as the boots I bought, so I think I’ll keep those for when it gets colder again instead of returning them, but what are the odds?

In the picture above, you see a bike that was saved from the scrap heap with a basket pulled from a dumpster as well as the dumpstered boots on a freegan fueled bod. Most people overlook the overwhelming ocean of waste we’re creating, but it’s amazing how much sustenance can be found in other people’s trash. If only there was a way to scavenge gas to heat my house.





Fall Critical Lass

6 10 2010

Last weekend, on a beautiful sunny day that may be the warmest we see until spring, a group of lovely ladies donned their most summery fall frocks and went for a little ride.

Wheee! There was hardly a car on the street.

Critical Lass is the brainchild of the ladies from Loop Frame Love. In a bicycle culture where the boys make the most noise, this ride is a time where the ladies can get together and do cycling our style: pretty, relaxed, elegant, fun!

A golden moment.

Stopping for pictures near the Faculty Club.

Monie & Selene

I was so happy to see Selene’s vintage Raleigh back on the road. She was hit by a car a few weeks ago and has since spent many hours at EBC bringing that bike back to life.

Micah throws leaves up into the air!

Corby strikes a pose.

Hitting the road again.

We rode down Saskatchewan Drive around Belgravia and Windsor Park (one of my favorite routes in the city for a leisurely ride), ending at bicycle bottleneck, where we checked out the latest accessories at Red Bike, and refueled at the Sugarbowl.

Lasses on the move.

After the ride, some of us went to a sunny stoop nearby, where vegan corn dogs were being fried up. They were ridiculously awesome, stuffed with Daiya vegan cheese and bacon bits, then generously battered & deep fried. I ate two.

Megan and a vegan corn dog, fried on the stoop.

Be sure to check out more (and better) photos from the ride, including the group pictures, from Deborah at Loop Frame Love and Judy at the Penner Chronicles! Thanks everybody for a great way to spend a Saturday! I’m already looking forward to the next Critical Lass.





Tweed on the Block

29 09 2010

The tweed ride last weekend was a smashing good time. The only thing I could complain about was the spectacular fall weather was actually too hot for tweed, but that’s a stupid thing to complain about, so I won’t. (And, for all the ladies who haven’t got enough style riding in for the fall, there’s a Critical Lass ride this Saturday!)

Here’s some snapshots from the 3rd Edmonton Tweed Ride, Ink on a Block.

Darren and Nathaniel looking dapper.

Tweed riders take Whyte Ave.

Bernadette and the shiny red cruiser.

I rode Poplar and wore plaid. It was too hot for the jacket.

Sorry about the weird photo, Selene, I didn't get any better ones of your lovely outfit.

Micah rocks the blazer.

More super stylin' riders.

B. looks on from his favorite perch.

After the sun went down we rolled into the river valley. Unfortunately for my 60 year old coaster brake, we went one of the steepest ways down possible. By the time we got to the LRT bridge, you could fry tofu on my coaster hub.

Checking out the action below the LRT bridge.

Keely and a wineskin, caught on film.

Riding into the tweed hours of the night.

I would like to add that on our way out of the valley, even though it was really difficult, I made it up Connors hill on the old cruiser, without stopping or walking. I think there were folks on multi-speed bikes who couldn’t say that.

Kevin demonstrates the required panache to pull off tweed in style.

And then there was a soapstone bear...

We finished off at a small “Irish Pub” that wasn’t prepared for 30 thirsty woolen clad cyclists looking to take over the bar for the night. One of the regulars, who was standing outside when we arrived and asked what we were doing commented “Well, I guess you can’t ride around looking like that alone.” Thanks for the reminder that we’re still in Alberta, dude.





Summer, We Hardly Knew You

19 09 2010

With relatively early hard frost the last couple of nights, there’s no denying the slightly cheated feeling of the end of a lackluster summer. To put things in perspective, (or at least quantify the crappiness of the weather) the last spring snowfall was on May 30th, leaving E-ville with 98 frost free days in between. Hey summer, you better have a great encore, or I’m demanding a refund!

But I won’t stop riding, I’ll just wear more clothes. Fall has always been one of my favorite times of year, perhaps because of the need to get out and enjoy every fair, sunny day, because it could be the last.

Fall - changing leaves, pants, scarf & sweaters.

This was also my first pictures with the (probably stolen but whoever lost it hasn’t filed a police report) bike I recently found near my house. If you (or someone you know) is missing most of a Transend Ex, you should either contact me directly or put up a notice on Stolen Bikes in Edmonton (and do it soon, before I become more attached to this beauty, and name her or something). Even if you don’t have the serial number, a detailed description of its unique modifications (some of which I’ve already changed in case anyone was getting any ideas) should suffice. I’d love to keep this bike, I’ve already built a sweet new wheel for it, but I do want to exhaust all avenues to find its proper owner. I’ve spoken with a cop about this, who informed me that there wasn’t much else I could do, and that if I turned it over to the police, it would just end up being auctioned off as the serial number is not in the system. The cops only keep found bikes for thirty days. I’ve had this bike for more than half that amount of time already. How long do I keep searching for the person who lost it?





Haze

6 08 2010

Air quality warnings are pretty rare in prairie cities. Where there aren’t hills to trap the pollution of daily city life and it all just disperses over the plains, it takes fairly specific meteorologic circumstances for enough to build up to cause a problem. This past week featured the first warnings I remember in ages, and today was the haziest day yet.

Hot, humid & so hazy you can't see the downtown skyline.

Rather than last week’s temperature inversion, today’s haze was blamed on forest fires, and Environment Canada says that it’s not bad enough to issue an advisory. I wonder how much my throat and eyes would hurt if it were warning-worthy. Alas, I can’t do any more than complain, and wish that the haze will subside so that I can see the stars and enjoy the northern lights (biggest solar storm in a decade and I can’t see ‘em for the brown haze) during the last hot nights of summer, and ride home from work under a blue sky instead of a brownish glare.





Critical Lass!

17 06 2010

I had a plan for last weekend. The idea was to work all day Saturday to finish planting my garden, then head to EBC in the evening for the 24 hour Repair-A-Thon (details coming up in a future post), where I’d help people fix up their bikes and then, once things had quieted down, work on doing the final repairs to the 1950′s loop-frame CCM I had been previously working on (and blogging about). This plan, if executed properly, would allow me enough time to sleep & get dressed up for the first ever Critical Lass ride on Sunday.

Critical Lass riders roll through Old Strathcona

In reality, things never really quieted down overnight at EBC, and I didn’t get out of there until 8:30 Sunday morning.  Still enough time for a nap, shower & change of clothes before heading back to EBC for the ride, right? I sure don’t recover from allnighters like I used to (hence a 3 day late blog post). Pure stokedness (Is that a word? It should be a word, a three syllable word.)  kept me lucid & chipper throughout the afternoon.

Megan tries out the newly rideable CCM.

Critical Lass was conceived by the ladies of Loop Frame Love as a sort of girls-ride-out: pretty bikes, stylish clothes, and leave the machismo at home, please.

Hot midday sun = skirt weather! Note that there are pics of Megan riding three different bikes in this post.

It was also an opportunity to meet some of the other writers whose bike blogs I’ve been following, and as it turns out a few who’ve been reading mine.

Bringing the cool into the summer heat. Shooting from the hip while riding, I failed to capture Selene's equally cool vintage bike.

The best parts of the ride were just hanging out and getting to know so many different women who were all interested in important things like bikes and cupcakes and kids and having a laugh on a gorgeous summer afternoon.

Stylin' at a stoplight.

Our first stop was to pop by bike polo to check out a special Bike Month match (though it was slow to get started so early on a Sunday afternoon).

Polo grrrlz! Megan plays in a skirt, blouse & sandals, while Micah rocks the court in more typical polo style.

Our next stop was a short, relaxed ride through tree-lined boulevards and bike paths away. We’d get coffee before finding somewhere shady to hang out some more & take pictures.

Walking our bikes across Whyte Avenue en mass. Oh, yeah, we stop traffic.

Sweet ride + cool summer outfit = made in the shade.

Bike pile near the cafe.

Note to self: construct pretty tool roll to affix under saddle so I don't feel compelled to lug around the "utility purse" on future fashion rides.

I loved how everyone brought their own unique styles but the real beauties of the day were the conversations, the supportive atmosphere and the all-round-warm-fuzzy-confidence-enhancing-goodness of being your fabulous self rolling with a group of different, but equally fabulous ladies.

Final stop - cupcakes!

Loop frames all in a row! I love the colours of these bikes, they kinda even remind me of cupcakes.

Kudos to the organizers for getting us all together for a fantastic day! I had such a wonderful time I hardly noticed the sleep deprivation (though I do blame sleep dep for nearly escalating the little incident with the dude who moved my bike in front of Fuss). When the majority of riders on the road are dudes focused on speed and performance, it’s a huge breath of fresh air to be with folks who take style over speed, and companionship over competition.

Edit:  Check out more Critical Lass photos at Loop-Frame Love and Girls and Bicycles. If anyone else has pics they’d like me to link to (or if I spelled your name wrong or you rather I hadn’t put your name up at all, etc.) let me know!





Rainy Daze

23 05 2010

A little rain won’t stop the riding, just like several days straight of rain won’t stop the riding. Add fleece-lined tights, a hood,  gloves and gore-tex (not pictured) and it’s not so bad (at least until losing feeling in the fingers after stopping to take pictures).

Ducking out of the rain but not wind for a quick documentation of foul weather fashion.

The chilly rain refreshes and soothes the skin better than anything from a cosmetics counter, and the ride makes the whole body glow from within.

Then a friend calls up and asks for help making a film of people riding in unusual places, so why not?

Another one for the "it seemed like a good idea at the time" file. The video better be epic.

Aaahh, E-town’s characteristic light coloured mud-clay, still clinging after a long ride through tall wet grass in an attempt to get it off. So not looking forward to cleaning this up.





A Spring Wardrobe Self Portrait Sampler

6 04 2010

It’s been an unusually warm week, the snow is mostly gone, and the wind is whipping up the remaining sand on the roads and driving it into every exposed orifice. It’s a gritty grey and brown season, possibly my least favorite. It’s only saving grace is the temperature, and I feel lighter than air having shed many layers of clothing, riding my new zippy bike with slick tires.

An early spring boomer on the horizon, and the socks that got me more attention than I could handle.

Spring fever seems to have hit drivers hard, ’cause I don’t think it’s the socks that are causing them to hang out their windows yelling various objectionable and objectifying remarks (with the possible exception of the one that yelled something like “yaaah! sexy tights! sexy bike!). Still, being honked at, no matter what the reason, takes a little zip out of my ride.

Behold my upright bike ninja impression. This bike needs some lights (and a name).

Liftoff on a bike so light it feels like it defies gravity. I've been regularly passing fair weather full lycra roadies on multi-thousand dollar bikes.

But how much can one really complain about spring? It means I’m not a lone cyclist anymore. When I ask friends if they want to go on a ride, they respond enthusiastically instead of with the old stink eye. It’s hard to stay in a bad mood when you arrive at a house party to be greeted by a backyard full of bikes and a house full of contagiously exuberant  bike polo players. And it’s impossible to be dour after an easter sunday that included a bike collective jammed full of fascinating women fixing up their rides, followed by a fire & dance party with good friends, on the edge of cliff under the northern lights. Methinks this is just the beginning of a fabulous season.

Welcome back, spring. I’ve missed your gritty glory!








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