No School Like the Old School – DIY Leg Warmers

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Leg warmers are the secret ingredient to my biking wardrobe that laughs at freezing temperatures, and yet allows me to pedal freely under my rain/mud pants. I rarely venture out without them. Grown up since their 80′s Flashdance roots, fluorescent pink giving way to mellow earth-toned leg warmers and interesting textures and fibers. Coupled with wool socks my feet and ankles want for nothing, even while pedaling me through freezing rain.

As a family, our rule of thumb is “nothing new” which usually means buying used, but in this case it meant repurposing a thrifted wool sweater vest. I love the nubby texture of the fabric, the brown has little blue highlights in it. I prefer 100% wool, natural fiber over synthetic, but I HATE factory farming… so buying used removes the animal-product guilt from my conscious. The vest cost me less than a dollar. Homey covered buttons on the sweater worked great for trimming the leg warmers.

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Supplies: Old sweater or sweatshirt. Fleece and wool work well.

                 1 yard 1/2″ wide elastic (optional)

                  Buttons for trim (optional)

                 Measuring tape

Measure: Hold the sweater up to your leg, with the waist ribbing at your ankle. I like mine to cover the top of my shoe and stretch over my heel in length and either thigh high or calf high depending on how much fabric I have. Wherever it reaches, measure your leg’s girth.

Make the Tube: Turn the sweater inside out, keeping the right sides together. Match the ribbings at the bottom and stitch up from the bottom closing off the arm holes.

Use 1/2 your leg measurement plus two inches for seam allowance and ease to measure the top width. Pin or chalk a line down to the ankle. You can either taper slightly if you want them fitted at the ankle or flare for a more generous fit. Match the ribbed edge again and stitch.

Cut: Cut off the sleeves and excess material, leaving about an inch seam allowance. (Keep the sleeves if you want to make some gauntlet style texting gloves later!) Cut the top of the tube open (along the shoulders)

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Stay stitch along the cut edges to prevent unravelling. I zig zag, but if you have an overlock machine that would be awesome. If hand stitching, whip stitch around the edges.  (If you are using fleece skip this step as you will not have any unravelling issues).

Finishing: Turn the leg warmers right side out and try on. Depending on the weave and fit you may need to turn the top edge over 1″ to the inside and topstitch 3/4″ from the fold to make a casing for an elastic band. Leave a 2″ opening to insert the elastic (thread thru with a safety pin). Try the leg warmer on again and adjust the fit and elastic length as needed. Stitch the elastic ends together and stitch the casing closed. I skipped the elastic step and just hemmed the edge as mine were snug and stretchy enough to stay up on their own but have another pair that are loose enough that renders the elastic vital.

Trim: I stitched the little buttons on at the ankle but there is really no end to the ways you can embellish; embroidered whimsy and crochet trim are both on my to-do list. If you wanted extra warm you could line with flannel or fleece – just allow for extra bulk when you measure and cut.

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So there you have it! If you make these please let me know, comment and share!

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If you have any other great ideas for keeping warm on the bike or cutting up old stuff and making it new, please comment below and let me know!

About Biking: in which our 12 year old son serves up fresh car free perspective.

This post and pictures are by the 12 year old cyclist from the iBikeuBike family. Many days he logs up to 20 miles for transportation and recreation. He is home-schooled with an intense interest in theoretical physics, literature and all things living.

About Biking

I love biking for so many reasons. I feel a sense of freedom that I cannot have in a car. Bike speed is directly connected to my own power and my own limits, not to the cars themselves or the speed limits. On a bike, I can observe the world directly. For example, in the last few months, I’ve seen snakes, rabbits, ducks and falcons. I’ve picked wild morels, a rare and delicious delicacy, which we spotted near the road. We would have never seen from a car in fact, most people riding in cars have no clue what they are missing.

I know I will never buy a car, and I don’t know why anyone would. So many children and teens ride bikes. I would think that after that biking experience they would not want to be constrained in expensive metal boxes. There are so many pedal-powered options, such as bicycles, tricycles, tandems and surrys. There are even pedal-boats and pedal-planes!

I seem to remember every ride, short and long. Each ride has something memorable. Once, on our way to a berry farm, over the highway, my tire started to go flat. In the boiling heat, my mother and I quickly rode to the farm, along side which my mother changed her first flat tire. Unfortunately, by the time she was done, the farm was closed, and we had to go back home. Another time, during the cooler days, we biked the five miles to our favorite grocery store. We took a test ride on an unpaved trail, which took us two miles out of our way. It turns out that two miles is a long way, when the sunny sky bursts into tears and soaks through your “waterproof” rain jacket. The bags on the back of our bikes, which we had sprayed with a waterproofer, proved unreliable and filled with water. But still, bicycle riding, I think, is one of my favorite things in the world to do, especially before bed.

There are so many reasons, biking is healthy for the environment, healthy for me, if I can bike, really, so can you.

I have written a bicycle song for your pleasure. (hopefully – it’s my first)

I bike o’er roads through lively wood
Beauty unsurpassed by all
Yet as I pass through a glade
The forest, she fades
And ere long wither to scrub

O’re the scrub and thorn I bike
With but my family beside
The scrub withers to mead
If we survive the century
My dog walks himself

O’re the mead and fallow I bike
A phalanx of neighbors beside
The mead withers to fen
If we survive the decade
I sunder the mountains

O’re the fen and tussock I bike
My townsfolk peddling beside
The fen withers to stone
If we survive the next year
I fly through the air

I glance round at the barren waste
And the faithful bikers beside
The earth she rejoices
And be wholly assuaged
The forests shall flourish once more

I bike o’re roads through lively wood
Beauty surpassed by but one
For the wood wrought to glory
By the simplest deeds
Whose beauty surpasses the wood

Thinking Out Loud

Many moons ago, before The Wiggles and Yo Gabba Gabba became the mainstays of my family’s playlist, Public Radio was our go-to station for diverse, thought provoking and often humorous programming. Oregon Public Radio show Think Out Loud ran a show last month about biking in non-urban areas. City cyclists receive much attention in terms of safety, infrastructure and funding but developing safe roads for cyclists in non-urban areas is a relatively novel concept. TOL asked me a few questions about our experience competing for road space in rural washington. You can check out the entire broadcast here. My segment only lasted a couple of minutes but it was a fun to touch on these issues from a family perspective.

Recording the broadcast itself was exciting. My twelve year old son had babysitting duty while I ran to the garage for quiet. Live radio doesn’t yield much forgiveness for a wailing “Momeeeeeeee”. Worrying about the children interrupting or burning down the house did wonders for my nerves, in general, as I didn’t really have much time to worry about what I was going to say. As short as my segment was it got me thinking about family biking, the concept of the weakest link and grassroots advocacy.

For us, as a car-free family biking is much more than recreation or a hobby. It’s about function and practicality. Getting groceries, getting to school and meeting our transportation needs without turning a key. As a result we are exposed, to the elements, the public and most critically to a constant stream of 2,000 plus pound vehicles zooming by next to our children. Our town has a lovely multi-use trail for recreation however there is no infrastructure to connect us to stores and services. As a result we are forced on sidewalks, across grassy/ muddy areas where there is no shoulder and in some places into the streets.

The idea of building streets and communities to service pedestrians and cyclists seems like a no-brainer. A hundred years ago the auto was viewed as a dangerous intruder to streets in which pedestrians, bikes, women, men, children were the dominant force. In our “modern” culture cyclists and pedestrians are fighting for safe ways to commute.

While I believe cycling to be one of the safest and most affordable means of transportation; we bike defensively. With my twelve year old on two wheels and five year old and one year sheltered only by a fabric and aluminum frame trailer it’s not enough to assume a motorist will stop or check the bike lane before turning. I take full responsibility for the failure of motorists to stop, yield or give enough room. I have to assume that every car is playing a deadly game of Russian roulette and keep the barrel aimed away from my family.

Buffered bike lanes and infrastructure certainly offer some measure of protection but they must be built with the smallest, or most vulnerable user in mind. The wheelchair, the stroller, the child are the weakest links. If our streets fail them. They have failed entirely. One casualty is too many.

I believe the path to change is going to be cut by a change in consciousness. It was not until my family got on bikes that my scope of vision widened. Now I notice cyclists and pedestrians. I pay attention to legislation and bicycle advocacy. I seek opportunities to encourage and educate everyone and anyone about the freedom and possibilities that using a bike as transportation offers.

There is no overestimating the strength of families, mothers and fathers for providing and protecting their children. As more families and individuals experience the myriad of wonderful benefits of biking, their consciousness will expand too. Collectively we can raise awareness, be a force for change and build a better future.

What do you think? How can cyclists and family cyclists protect themselves? What are the solutions to keeping families and individuals safe while commuting? Are cities inherently more safe because of biking infrastructure ie: bike lanes, sharrows etc?

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It Means So Much !!

Over the past few weeks, our iBikeuBike family has been following, supporting and cheering for Ride to Read cyclist, Kasia, on our twitter feed. Kasia is traversing Europe, solo, on a bike, in an effort to raise $10,000 and to raise awareness for World Literacy Canada, which supports literacy education for women and children in India. Her travel blog is a pleasure to read and gives lots of details about the project. Or better yet click here for the official Ride to Read video!

Currently Kasia is half way through her $10 for 10 days promotion to help boost fundraising efforts as she nears her destination. Today we need YOU to donate $10.

Here are a few compelling reasons why:

Literacy  Take a moment to reflect on how reading has changed your life… or how your life would be if you could NOT read! Pretty amazing, huh? Spreading the gift of literacy is the thrust of this fundraiser!
Cycling  It is just so cool. Supporting two-wheeled locomotion is awesome!
Women  For women’s cycling, for women’s literacy… it’s about solidarity. Women understand that our daughters’ future will be built upon the accomplishment of women today!
Comfort  Kasia is pulling her weight (literally and figuratively!) Let’s all skip one comfort today, whether it is that latte or a rental movie, and donate those bucks to the cause. Be a Rock Star! Make the donation!
Meaning  Magic happens when people from different communities join together for a singular cause. $10 will not matter much to your budget 10 days from now… but being a part of the greater cause will resonate because “It just means so much.”

While pregnant with our firstborn, we spent a family vacation (husband, brother, mother and father) running the Honolulu Marathon for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, as part of Team in Training. Training for and running your first 26.2 mile race is challenging and sometimes downright grueling. Shin splints, sore knees, blisters, chaffing in spots that are never supposed to chafe were second only to the joys of pregnancy, including morning sickness 24 hours a day, and stopping to pee for every sip of water…I’ll spare you any more details!

There were plenty of moments I wanted to quit, but our commitment to the fundraiser kept me going. After a while, I was driven by a sense of power, accomplishment and a high that came from pushing my body and mind past its comfort zone to the next level of possibility. It was as if I had awoken a giant, the sleeping one that lives inside my 5’3” frame, and lies dormant in all of us.

Fundraising from a grass roots level like Kasia’s Ride to Read is a completely different endurance sport. It’s really challenging, and she needs our help!

We suffered through Arizona heat hosting yard sale after yard sale; we sweated through concession sales at football games and car washes; anything to raise a buck and raise awareness for our cause. The fundraising effort made our 20-mile training runs look easy!

But oh, the people who reached out and touched our lives!

There was the elderly man who donated $20 at a yard sale, buying nothing. He shook my hand, crystal blue eyes tearing as he thanked us for inspiring him. There was the 25-year-old widow who didn’t run, but volunteered anyways. She had married the love of her life… after he had found out his diagnosis was terminal, just so they could be husband and wife before he died. Our special “honor patient.” We ran in honor of five-year-old Patrick. I remember him, his little head bald from the trauma of chemotherapy, which didn’t damper the most beautiful, infectious smile or those eyes that twinkled with mischief.

Through the heartache and the tragedy of others, so deeply scarred by Leukemia or Lymphoma, we were gifted with deep and meaningful purpose for our efforts. One teammate explained it to me best, with tearful eyes, why he ran marathon after marathon: “It just means so much.”

The Ride to Read cause of literacy for women and children in India reminds me of our past efforts because it…means so much. I know the joy and pride I felt upon finishing the marathon. It was a shared victory for myself, my family, all of those special individuals who had supported us along the way.

Let’s join together to make this finish line experience a reality for Kasia on her Ride to Read. Head over to the Ride to Read website with me right now and pledge at least ten bucks. You will be glad you did.

Talk about it, tweet about it, and infuse your day with meaning from this simple act of kindness.

Thank you so much!

Today the worst happened

Dark clouds loom over our small town.

The pounding on the door shook the house. Our next-door neighbor appeared at our door, sweating and frantic. Had we seen his daughter? Maybe she had come to play with ours? His faced twisted in agony as it registered that she wasn’t at our house. My husband and he hurried outside as a trio of police cars, sirens blaring, converged on our street. I gathered that Dad had fallen asleep on couch watching a movie with his six-year-old daughter. When he woke up, she was gone.

Strapping my one year old to my back, I grabbed my other two children and hurried out the door. Out of doors our small town suddenly looked vast and unsecured. Fence-less yards connect alleyways and streets; she could have gone any direction. Methodically I began to canvass the neighborhood, knocking on doors and stopping bewildered passersby. Choking back dread, the lump in my throat made it hard to breathe. I remembered hearing that each minute a child is missing, the chances for recovery plummet.

My husband and I met a street over. Coordinating our efforts I headed down the hill on foot, toward the businesses while he combed the neighborhood calling out for the little girl. My grip tightened on my own five-year-old daughter’s hand as I described her six-year-old friend’s long brown hair and big black eyes to anybody we met, door by door, business by business. The further we ventured down our little Main Street, the greater the feeling of hopelessness. Where could she have gone and why? It had been so long already…

Looking at my phone for the fiftieth time, hoping for an update, when it actually rang I dropped it. It was my husband. FOUND! Tears sprang from my eyes as a wave of relief flooded over me. She had been sleeping underneath the bed, just out of sight, a heavy sleeper she woke bewildered and confused. My children and I shared hugs and laughter as we retraced our steps, sharing the good news with those who had joined the search. As we approached each one, their faces, creased in concern, broke into smiles of relief.

I couldn’t believe so many people had mobilized and formed an impromptu search party! We stopped to thank and reassure each one. The Hardware store that had broadcast over walkie-talkies, the mother at the park that had scooped up her infant and searched, the art gallery owner who left her shop to search the park; the smoke shop ladies who had stopped pedestrians on the street as well as many customers and others. The caring and overwhelming concern was deeply moving.

Trekking up the hill to our house the adrenaline finally receded. I couldn’t help feeling a pride in the bonds that we, as a family, have unwittingly forged with our car-free, lifestyle. We are a novelty of sorts, the family waiting in the rain at the bus stop in front of city hall, or walking our, frequenting local businesses and picking through our small farmers market. Outside the confines of a car even a trip to the grocery store we look more like a traveling circus than a family on bikes. We get waves and smiles from those we meet, turning strangers into familiar faces. We used to live in a small, rural farming town. We now live in a caring community. A community that turned “the worst thing” of a would be tragedy into a great day, a victory.

“The ultimate measure of a (hu)man is not where (s)he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where (s)he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Pardon the parenthesis, but Martin Luther King, Jr, in all of his civil rights brilliance completely overlooked the female segment of our population, but that’s another blog all together…

What do you think? Does the walking; biking, the car-light, car-free lifestyle strengthens physical communities? What’s your experience? How can you join in the revolution?

My Revolution

Revolution. The word itself elicits an emotional response. Change, unease, fear, excitement – and maybe hope – all conjure up expectations for the future. The Latin root of revolution means to turn; to turn back. This is my revolution.

I was five when I got my first serious bike. By serious, I mean without training wheels, but with glitter streamers exploding out the end of the handgrips, a white basket securely fastened to the handlebars, and best of all, a banana seat. Ohhh yeah. Living smack-dab in the middle of the city, the 70′s-style bubble font on my bike proclaimed I was now a “Country Girl.” It was my bike, and the love I felt for it was not dampened by the fact I didn’t know how to ride a two wheeler.

My brother, three years older and infinitely wiser, saw to my bikeducation. The first time around the block, he ran beside me, holding onto the seat while I wobbled and shook on two wheels. The second time around he let go, bit by bit. Each time, I would get stuck, until he push-started me again. I remember looking down at my pedals, frustrated. My brother pushed a pedal to the top of the sprocket and told me to start from that position. I pushed down. The magic happened, and I was pedaling. The third time around that block he just ran along beside me as I pedaled, both of us grinning like Cheshire cats. My heart felt like it would burst with pride.

My bike represented independence and freedom in my young life. We rode through the Arizona heat to cool off at the public pool; we shunned the bus to ride to school; we got out of school to bike to orthodontist appointments; we escaped to the movie theater on our bikes.

At sixteen, I hung up my bike for a set of four wheels, only to get back on my bike, after a serious car crash left me too shaken to drive. But the complexity of the rat race captured me  with a new job, a new house and a new car in the driveway, my bike was demoted from transportation to recreation. I sold it at a yard sale. I can’t remember when or why. Maybe I had grown up.

And then last year, it happened. Strolling through the local department store we turned down the bike isle.  A quick look at the members of my family, five strong, and back at the bikes and there was a glimmer there, a playfulness waiting to be explored. These were the value-version of the better bikes sold in bike stores. But for the price of one good bike, we outfitted everyone in our family with a set of two wheels. Not only did I have my own bike to love, so did my husband, my eleven year old and four year old. The baby got a double bike trailer that would also serve as a sag wagon for the four year old. We figured if we “stuck with it” we could always upgrade later.

Week by week, opportunities arose where we could take our bikes and leave the car parked. It was quicker to hop on the bikes and pedal the mile to the grocery than strap the kids in their car seats and try to find a parking space. My daughter asked to take the “mini-car” (aka the bike trailer) instead of the car. My inner tree-hugger happily calculated each mile pedaled as one less gas-burning mile in the car. The time between petrol fill-ups stretched from every five days to every two weeks. And then one day we turned back; we began our revolution in earnest. We sold the SUV… with intentions of replacing with a smaller, more fuel-efficient car…only we didn’t…

Sometimes I feel it: that uneasiness that “revolution” conjures up… but mostly I feel excitement and hope, fresh possibilities. I relish that our wee family is a band of rebels, joined together on this car-free adventure. Each time I set one pedal to the top, I turn back to simpler times. I feel that Cheshire cat grin growing on my face and familiar tightness in my chest when I see my five year old pedaling wildly around the block. Maybe she won’t grow up so fast; maybe…I didn’t after all.

Out of the Box

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I figure I’ve spent most of my life in a box. Boxed up in a house, in a school, in an office, in a store or in the glass, plastic and metal confines of a car; it’s all box time.

The transition to car-free living is like being mounted on a spring and catapulted out of the box. Every day, whether on foot or on our bikes we must venture out. The days of vacantly transferring our corpse-like bodies from work to school, to car to garage, to box to box are gone.

The morning was rough as the pothole, pocked and cracked roads we ride. My three children were in rare form, being both rambunctious and as slow as molasses on a cold day. Getting them out the door I assumed my usual role as the octopus drill sergeant, juggling backpacks, rain jackets, lunchboxes and children while barking orders to the troops.

The barometer was pitted against me; the forecast: cold, wet and windy. My shoulders constricted up to my ears, the tension settling into my face, to call me dour would be a loving compliment. I get the two little ones buckled in the bike trailer and my oldest I take to our bikes and pedal out. Outside.

The magic begins before the garage door has creaked closed. My breathing syncs to the rhythm of bike as the furrows in my brow soften. For the first time in the day, I feel aware. My eleven-year-old son pedals beside me; his cheeks glow rosy from the cold and exertion of the ride. I can’t believe the change in 5 months, transforming him from sluggish and soft to this young man before me. He is strong and lean, confident on his bike. Outside we are equals. Bicyclists.

Usually shy, my five-year-old is singing at the top of her lungs. Outside she is free of inhibition, a happy bird singing her morning song. Her one-year-old brother is nestled beside her. Outside he is content and relaxed. “Content” is an achievement for this non-stop powerhouse.

The streets are quiet; a few poor souls putter by at 35 mph locked inside their boxes. I pity them. Their faces are dour and their shoulders hunched around their ears like mine were in the box. They haven’t had the chance to be outside. We stop short as one wheels in front of us, brushing her teeth furiously, while texting on her cell phone. My son lets out a guffaw. She never even noticed us. Most of them don’t.

“We wouldn’t have seen (fill in the blank) if we had been driving.” Has become my children’s favorite saying. Today it was the circle of Morel mushrooms the oldest spotted by the schoolyard. My five-year-old wonders out loud who planted the hundreds of blossoming cherry, apple and dogwood trees? She says they surely weren’t here last year. At least we didn’t notice them from inside our boxes.

What else did we miss while doing box time? Pushing through the perceptual barrier of convenience and comfort has driven home the adage “out of the box”, and this Jack-is-not-going-back-in-the-box.

Venture out of the box and tell us about it! Join the revolution!

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Why are you riding your bicycles?

A Zen Teacher saw five of his students return from the market, riding their bicycles. When they had dismounted, the teacher asked the students,

“Why are you riding your bicycles?”

The first student replied, “The bicycle is carrying this sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!”

The teacher praised the student, saying, “You are a smart boy. When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over, as I do.”

The second student replied, “I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path.”

The teacher commended the student, “Your eyes are open and you see the world.”

The third student replied, “When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant, nam myoho renge kyo.”

The teacher gave praise to the third student, “Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel.”

The fourth student answered, “Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all beings.”

The teacher was pleased and said, “You are riding on the golden path of non-harming.”

The fifth student replied, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.”

The teacher went and sat at the feet of the fifth student, and said, “I am your disciple.”

Why do you ride your bicycle? Leave a comment, your blog or website and share your experience.

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The Revolution Begins

iBikeuBike: if I can bike…so can you.

February 14th, 2012
As the rest of America celebrates their love, we were ending a long term, (if seriously dysfunctional relationship.) We knew the day to part was coming…there was outside…interest..

The nights leading up to our goodbyes were sleepless. There were times in the wee hours before dawn when the memories, the smells, the touch and the thought of warm leather on the backside was almost too much to bear. (Oh, the warm leather!) Doubt, insecurity and uncertainty plagued the daylight hours, yet the day came, we said our goodbyes, signed the papers and the sun set on that chapter of our lives together.

Surprisingly it rose the next morning.

The pain and heartache never did surface, in fact it has been so quickly replaced with a new love, a passion that we might yell it from the rooftops!

Give up friends! Surrender your cars and find new love and freedom as you bike with us!!

Join us as we forsake our heated leather seats (Oh, the warm leather!) and climate control, for an in your face exposure to the elements, to sore bums, freezing rain and scorching sun. Come, as we abandon our built in DVD child entertainment players and navigation system for the grit of the road and the grease in the gears and ultimately memories shared and made from the bike lane. Pedal with us, to a future in which we control our speed, our time, our ultimately our destination!

Not ready to say farewell to your car yet?

Follow our family of five and explore the possibilities with us, one pedal at a time as we rediscover our lives from a car-free perspective. We will share tips from the road, gear reviews, advice on commuting, grocery shopping, biking with children of all ages and ultimately our experience of what life is like from the slow lane.

The revolution begins
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We love our bikes and the freedom of our car free lifestyle! What are your experiences? Leave a comment, post your blog and keep pedaling!