Her Bike Style with Laura Solis
WE Bike NYC has been praised everywhere from League of American Bicyclists to Bicycling Magazine for their amazing work getting more people on bikes. Today, we’re going to call attention to their bike style, with our first New York Her Bike Style feature, Laura Solis.
Title / Occupation: Outreach Coordinator for WE Bike NYC
Location: Bronx, NYC
Bike(s): Ernie Jr. III a Fuji Feather; The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) a Specialized Vita Sport; and Iron Pony a foldable Peugeot as old as some grandmas
Tell us more working with WE Bike NYC and what the organization is working to do. WE want to get more women, female-identifying, and gender non-conforming people on bikes by providing them with information and experiences. By doing this we hope to break down barriers that may be inhibiting them from riding how they’d like to. For some that means participating in a workshop on how not to arrive to work looking like a hot mess, for others it’s a social ride where our only objective was to visit as many ice cream shops possible. We get into the more technical stuff as well, like fixing a flat and how to clean your bike, and even show you how to true your wheel. Hosting track bike clinics and hosting happy hours, are also on our resume, those bring new aspects of cycling to some and help bring the community together.
What are the most important things that us, individuals, can do to get more women biking? Ask them to go for a ride with you and ride the kind of ride they’re comfortable with. That may mean riding in a park, or on a protected bike lane for some. I also encourage adding a food component because food is often my (long) ride motivation. More importantly though, adding a destination to a ride can make riding seem more practical which I think increases the likelihood of them making a habit of it.
How long have you been biking? I learned to ride a bike when I was 17, and didn’t get back on a bike until the Summer of 2011. That was my tiny Peugeout’s Summer of discovery. I got back on it for one day February of 2012 and then bought the BFG March 30, 2012. I’ve been riding ever since.
What made you start biking? Back in the Summer of 2011, I wanted to go see a roller derby match that was not very easily accessible by public transportation. The smart guy I was dating, recognizing that there was a beautiful steel pony nit wing utilized in my living room, suggested we take our bikes on the train as far out as we could and the ride the 5 miles out to the venue. The ride to the venue was a voyage, it was my first day riding a bike as an adult, I was a bit squirrely on a ride that started on a very busy and dangerous Flatbush Avenue. We got there, I was sweating in new places, and I felt invigorated. There was no turning back after that. The ride back to the train station was a rainy one, which certainly motivated my legs to pedal faster.
Was there anything that you were nervous about when you started? Being hit by a car.
What are five things that make biking easiest for you?
- Confidence, which I got a lot of after I participated in a couple of Bike New York’s (free) Street Skills classes. The first part was in a classroom setting, we went over traffic laws and tips for riding safely. The second part included an escorted ride in traffic with two ride marshals send a small group putting this new knowledge to use.
- The Ride the City app helped me get “unlost” on many occasions and now helps me find my way when I decide to just for a ride to nowhere.
- My legs – they acclimated to cycling rather well. They still impress me, I love a good hill climb.
- Knowing how to fix a flat is great. I won’t get stranded when I’m on one on my rides to nowhere because of a flat.
- Hard-soled shoes! Call me tardy to the party, but I was a couple months into regularly commuting when I realized how efficient riding can be when you wear hard-soled shoes. A painful lesson learned’ flats and metal pedals do not play well together.
What is your favorite time of day to bike your city? Late at night is great because there are fewer motorists on the road, and fewer cyclists, for that matter. So traffic is light, it’s just me, the yellow cabs and the delivery people, the streets are all mine.
Where is your favorite route to bike in your city? Hmmm that’s difficult. I love discovering new routes or streets I’ve never ridden one. However, I tend to live “far away” from my desired destinations so I guess I’d have to say first avenue is my favorite route. It’s a straight shot to the Willis Avenue Bridge, which connects Manhattan to the Bronx, once I’m on it, I know I’m almost home. (I say “far away” because according to most, my perception of distance is not as it is for most folks, my supposed local bike shop is 15+ miles away from my home, I don’t think that’s so bad).
What tips would you share with someone looking to start biking? Ride like a hippo. When I ride I think of myself as a hippo, large, domineering and graceful. If I need to take a lane, I do. If you honk at me, I say thank you, it means they see me. That might not be the message they were trying to send, but I’ll take it.
How has your style changed since you started biking? The only thing I have not been successful in wearing on a bike is a pencil skirt. Aside from that my style hasn’t really changed. I wear whatever is comfortable and I think looks good. My hair on the other hand, used to be styled much larger than it is now. The say I find an afro accommodating helmet, will be a great day.
Who is your style icon? Anyone wearing clothes that are not considered “technical” cycling apparel and looks fly, is good in my book. I’m not knockin’ the spandex wearers, it’s just not how I usually choose to ride. That “stuff” usually looks so bland and unimaginative. I’m not artistically talented, my sense of expression comes from my style of dress. I love padded bike shorts, however. Especially under my regular pants/shorts ;)
Do you have a bike shop or mechanic that you go to? Do I ever? My favorite shop is Bicycle Habitat (BH) in SoHo. I came upon it after searching for the “right” bike shop. I was disappointed in the service I had received while shopping around at all of the other shops, including the ones closer to me. BH is 15.5 miles away from me, however the mileage is worth it for the service I receive and how they make me feel like I’m home. Pancho and Sheldon, are my usual mechanics and they hook my bikes up. Charlie, the owner, is my favorite business man, he treats me like family
What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you or you saw when biking? Humor is usually injected to my rides when I ride with friends, particularly my BFF Ayesha McGowan (who also took these amazing photos), she’s faster and more skilled than I am, and is a wonderful human being overall. However, I’m sure she’s never outgrown her 12 year old self :)