Friday, August 7, 2009

Biking Style

my style
my style by pearl2164 featuring Old Navy

Before and since purchasing The Bike--which I still haven't named, obviously--I have become a passionate reader of sites about biking. Most recently, sites that combine my interest in commuter biking (what one friend calls non-spandex biking) and biking style.

Like Let's Go Ride A Bike and Bike Skirt and

Since my big plan is to ride The Bike to work daily and the heat in DFW will continue to be intense (picture Venutian) until late October, this is a concern. The commute is only .75 miles without major hills or road blocks, so that is not the problem. It is the heat. THE HEAT.

No matter that the commute will take 15-20 minutes, because in that time I can and will become a sweaty, bedraggled mess. Even with the panniers, I will be carrying a backpack. That is clear since necessary for every class meeting is my laptop, once the Powers That Be removed the convenient computer/AV towers in every classroom, decreeing that professors could utilize our university-provided laptops. Mine is analogous to the Tyrannosaurus Rex of laptops: big, heavy, unwieldy, with a too-small brain requiring electrical cords and a mouse. I keep everything on stix and discs after having had my desktop model stolen from my office (that was the T.R. of deskstops too--which seems to be my legacy from My U--I get the biggest, heaviest versions available... I do not know why, for the love of Bill Gates, but it is so). So the discs and stix I need for any given university day must also accompany me to and from My U, carrying lectures, power point material, iconography, current in-process paperwork, and my link to the wonderful worlds of email and Blackboard.

And the anthology, the textbook, the papers, the gradebook, the pens. The dry-erase markers and chalk (yeah, can't actually find them in a classroom any more, so I carry my own). And then of course the lunch, the water bottle, the cosmetics, the wallet, the phone, the iPod and buds, the daybook, the journal, the camera... The Stuff (is it necessary? No... not until you don't bring it!).

Oh, and the gym clothes and shoes. And a portable bike pump and repair kit. (Don't learn the hard way!)

So, uh, yes, panniers and backpack.

I do not teach physical classes, but theatre history, performance studies, playwriting. All read-and-write classes that enable me to indulge my personal style. Which is sort of classic casual (see above).

Soooooooooo... the question remains: carry clothes for changing (more stuff) after short but sweaty commute or keep clothes in the office for said change? And wait for (brief) fall. Probably carry face wipes and plan to wash/makeup at school. Just more planning.

This would not be on my mind if I was content to teach in sloppy sweats every day. For a jeans/T-shirt/boots day, little to no problem. But on hot days, to teach I wear dresses, linen shirts, skirts, boho cotton tops, linen pants and heeled sandals--not shorts or sweats. Better for teaching, better for meetings, better for running into dean, provost, or president at My U. Which I do, often.

And while academics know it is superficial to judge people by their outer packages... yeah, we do. A lot. Male administrators on my campus wear suits, shirts, and ties everyday. Many male professors do, too. Female administrators and professors wear pants suits, dresses with jackets, and skirted suits. And even though we are in the arts school, no one wants to see a professor wearing sloppy sweats, paint covered jeans, or shapeless Ts... unless they're in the classroom in the middle of an exercise. Parents, patrons, admnistrators and students react quite differently to these cues. I've seen it and felt it.

Beyond all that, I know I get better responses from students when I am dressed more formally: they speak up more, they test better, and they pay more attention. I know, that sounds ridiculous: but it is so. Maybe it is my attitude: I feel better, therefore the class goes better. Maybe it is because they need a prompt to see a middle-aged woman as someone to respect: in our culture, middle-aged women become invisible and unimportant easily and I might remind them more of their mom than of a professional authority. Maybe it is because it gives a bit of distance between us: most students call me by my first name and consider that means we're friends and equals, or they see themselves as customers in a department store talking to a clerk doing them a service (thanks, Edu-Speak!). Maybe it is all of the above... whatever, it works and I do not mess with success in the classroom.

In any case, while I am planning my syllabi and assignments for fall, I am also planning my commute, a little more closely than I did when I drove the car and simply threw whatever in the backseat. No backseat.

Oh, well. Despite all this fussing, I am pleased and excited to look forward to riding The Bike everyday. Happy to know that come December, I will be in better shape, my car will be less messy, and my wallet will be fat from gas savings. Or at least not as lean. And I will have all my answers about biking in style answered, whether I like the answers or not.


  1. Good luck starting out in the summer heat! Nashville is pretty hot, but this summer I've managed to wear my everyday clothes (usually dresses, which are actually best for staying cool), well, every day, without sweating too badly over the course of my semi-hilly 2.5-mile commute.

    I would, however, avoid a backpack at all costs. You'll sweat in the dead of winter with one of those things. . .

  2. Yes, Nashville is more humid and hilly than DFW--and your commute is much longer than mine. I appreciate the advice. I cannot wait to see how all this comes out, in fact.

  3. Dallas is a hot and sweaty place, as is Louisville. I would invest in some Patagonia and garment bag for the bike and keep in your office. Just a few things that you can switch out. In Flag there is almost no humidity so I dress for work (we are tres casual here). I will not wear sweats or exercise clothing unless actually engaged in exercise. Looking good on the bike is essential. I agree with your observations about how others relate to you depending on your dress.

  4. I don't know, I think TX has had a hotter summer this year than we have. I probably would have had a harder time getting started commuting if I'd taken my first ride to work in the heat of summer, so I admire your guts!

  5. Yes, I plan to leave a couple of clean t-shirts at least in the office, as well as a sweater or two. The gym on campus has showers, as well as lockers, so if it wasn't on the other side of campus... but on the way home...


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