Her Bike Style with Nora Strang

Her Bike Style with Nora Strang

What better way to introduce our fall/winter intern, Nora Strang, than through our Her Bike Style series?! I met Nora through a mutual friend over the Fourth of July weekend, and couldn’t get enough of her. I was so excited when I learned she was changing course and pursuing her dream of apparel design. She rocks her tomboy style, is a dedicated bike commuter, and has been an amazing part of the team.

Nora Strang
Title / Occupation: Apparel Design Student at Seattle Central
Location:  Seattle, WA
Bike:  Astra, Tour de France roadbike (made by Motobecane)

Tell me more about why you decided to switch careers and get a degree in apparel design?
Fashion has long been my creative outlet. I’d taken numerous sewing classes, but always dismissed fashion as something ‘frivolous,’ or ‘superficial,’ – not something career-worthy. It took a really long time for me to reconcile being a smart, independent woman, and being interested in something I had long held, or been led to believe, was unimportant or vain.  It is unfortunate it took me so long to realize that those things are not mutually exclusive and don’t contradict one another!

After nearly 10 years of social work, and experiencing the pattern/routine of feeling emotionally burned out after about two years, which necessitated a job change w/in the field, I knew I couldn’t face that pattern for the rest of my working days. While I was a skilled/good social worker, I was unfulfilled. I decided it was worth pursuing my daydream. I had done several studio visits w/some of my favorite designers – talked to independent women in the industry, interned, and felt sufficiently informed and ready to make the shift. Making big changes never gets easier – the longer the decision is postponed, the less likely it is to come to fruition.  So, w/much trepidation, I quit my job and started school…w/out a doubt, the combination of the rigor of this program, with going back to school full-time as an adult is the hardest and most fulfilling thing I’ve done to date.

Her Bike Style with Nora Strang

And that gorgeous ring on your finger?
My grandmother gave me her gemstone ring before she passed away – it is definitely my most treasured possession. When she gave it to me, and I told her I couldn’t accept it – she has 7 daughters and innumerable granddaughters.  But she insisted. Grandma asked if I remembered sitting on her lap, and going through the ring – naming all my aunts and my dad in their birth order.  I certainly did. Grandma then asked me if I remembered one day looking up at her and asking, “Grandma, when you die – can I have this?” What an insensitive little jerk I was!  But she said she remembered that and always wanted me to have it.

How long have you been biking?
I brought a bike to Seattle when I moved here 7 years ago – but I was intimidated by the hills, the sheer number of bikers, and the traffic. That bike ended up being donated to 20/20 Cycles, w/out me ever even riding it in Seattle. I got back on a bike about 4 years ago – casually riding to yoga, b/c it was faster than walking. I think that is all it initially took – I realized how convenient, and fun, it was to ride, and got more gutsy!  But that bike was borrowed, and eventually the owner returned to claim it. So, 3 years ago I bought myself my current bike as a birthday gift to myself.

It took having panniers to take me to the level of committed, daily commuter. I needed something to haul all my stuff around in – and not wearing a backpack, or having anything on my back is such a great feeling while riding.

What made you start biking? 
As mentioned above – biking started out as a matter of convenience. I am a runner, and sometimes used to run to/from places as an alternate to walking, driving, or taking the bus, and was floored at how much faster riding a bike is than running – duh, hello! That, and the feeling of independence and connectedness w/my surroundings that I feel when I’m on my bike. Being on a bike puts you in two simultaneous environments – you’re connected to nature in a way you cannot be when in a car, but are also still a part of that urban, motorized landscape.  I love riding as a matter of practicality and utility – something that is not just contained to a weekend hobby.

Her Bike Style with Nora Strang

Was there anything that you were nervous about when you started?
I was worried about the hills!  I had moved to Seattle from Milwaukee, WI – which is a very flat city w/wide streets…pretty much the opposite of Seattle! There are still some hands-off hills around this city – but I find myself enjoying the climb of a big hill even more so than the descent.

What are five things that make biking easiest for you?
The fact that my commutes are best handled by bike gives me no reason not to ride. Having a relatively easy daily ride also has helped me build up my comfort level to know that if/when I do have a longer or more difficult commute – I will still prefer to take it by bike.

  1. Panniers!  Serious game changer. I wouldn’t be commuting w/out them.  I use my boyfriend’s – which he purchased years ago for a bike tour that took him from Seattle to San Francisco. I love that after years of being in storage, they are now used in a different capacity, and to think of the miles and adventures they have been taken on.
  2. Cycling gloves. When I bought my bike it was in original condition – as in, hadn’t really been ridden since the ’70′s. So, initially, I was really particular about preserving the bike’s condition.  Certain things had to be changed or swapped out – but the original handlebar tape remains…and let’s just say it provides little to no cushioning. Padded cycling gloves are a must for me.
  3. Rain pants – kept in said panniers. I’ve never had fenders on my bike, as it can be somewhat difficult – the bike doesn’t have as many options for attaching racks/fenders as newer bikes. So rain pants have been a suitable stand-in to fenders for me.
  4. My bell! I half-heartedly joke about wanting to carry an airhorn w/me on my bike, but I feel much more confident and comfortable equipped w/my bell and voice. I have no qualms about speaking up and/or ringing my bell – it keeps makes me safer.

What is your favorite time of day to bike your city?
I really love morning rides. This past week, especially – the cold/crisp morning rides are the best…it is such a great way to wake up the body…but in the summer, I prefer night rides. I think I’m influenced by a little bit of nostalgia – and remembering living in more humid climates when it was cooling to go for an evening ride, but I still really love them in the summer time, when the days/nights in Seattle are so long.

Where is your favorite route to bike in your city?
I really love riding the Mountains to Sound Greenway that runs under the Jose Rizal Bridge on 12th Avenue. From there you have beautiful urban views of the city and port – framed by the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound. If you head South – you can quickly drop down into Sodo or Georgetown, and if you head East – you can ride through the I-90 Tunnel and over to Mercer Island, or hook up on Lake Washington Boulevard.  It’s also really fun in the summer months, on periodic Sundays, when Lake Washington is closed to vehicular traffic. It’s a super stunning ride and really great to be out and surrounded by other cyclists enjoying themselves.

Her Bike Style with Nora Strang  Her Bike Style with Nora Strang

What tips would you share with someone looking to start biking?
Start small and ride w/friends. If you live in a city that has a bike share program – do it!  It’s so fun and easy. Try swapping out a trip you’d normally make on foot by going on bike. I also really want to advocate cyclists following the rules of the road and wearing a helmet. If we, as cyclists, want to be treated w/respect on the road, we have to follow the same rules as cars. It makes and keeps everyone safer.

How has your style changed since you started biking?
It hasn’t really – but I let this concern keep me from riding for a long time! I was convinced I’d have to dress differently in order to ride – which isn’t true! I am ridiculous about my footwear and wear clogs on an almost daily basis. Clogs just don’t fit into the cages on my pedals, which I really love and won’t part with – so that means I’m always riding in one pair of shoes, and carrying a change of shoes in my panniers – which is silly, I know. Other than that, I really haven’t been impeded at all.  Even though I ride a men’s bike, I am able to ride in dresses and skirts.  I’d say the only factor I have to take into consideration is the leather saddle (which was made by Wright’s, a company later purchased by Brooks). I try and keep it covered, so as to prevent it from getting wet, but sometimes that’s inevitable, and when wet, the leather can stain/discolor.

Who is your style icon?
Jane Birkin, Tilda Swinton, Caroline Maigret – women w/serious tomboy style, who are super undone and natural – and in that state, their amazingly natural grace and beauty really comes through.

Do you have a bike shop or mechanic that you go to?
My boyfriend is actually the only mechanic my bike has seen – but we both really love the folks at 20/20 Cycles.

What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you or you saw when biking?
I can’t think of a funniest thing – but probably one of my fondest cycling memories is going bicycle camping on Lopez Island.


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