15 March 2010

DESIGNER BIKES: Virginia Elwood of Pedaler Clothing

Founder and Managing Partner of (newly launched) Pedaler Clothing - Virginia Elwood has been tattooing New Yorkers for years. She recently shared her thoughts with for the LOVE of bikes on biking in Boise, manufacturing in the U.S. and the anti microbial qualities of bamboo...

What was the first bike you ever rode?
I think it was a Huffy, pinkish purple with streamers on the handle bars (of course), white basket with plastic flowers on the front, coaster brakes and training wheels... I believe it had a banana seat. I loved that bike, but all the neighborhood boys made fun of me so when I was with them I would borrowed my neighbors bmx!

How has your interest evolved since then?
I've been riding bikes for as long as I can remember but throughout the course of my life my interest has definitely waxed and waned. I lived in Boston for a bunch of years and rode my bike there quite a bit, but it wasn't until I moved to Boise, ID that I got really obsessed with it. Boston had a huge bike scene, and I'm sure the people in it are great, but I think I always felt intimidated by it... I wasn't a bike messenger and I rode a Schwinn Calente that was way too big for me. I guess I just thought I wasn't cool enough! Boise is a smaller more manageable city and everyone there rode a bike. It's really an amazing cycling town. It was there that I realized, 'ok I don't have to fit some mold of what a cyclist is, anyone can be into riding a bike!' It sounds kind of silly now, but it helped me get over some of the notions I had about being a "real" cyclist and allowed me to just be someone who likes bikes.
What type of bike(s) are you commuting with these days?
I'm actually in the market for a new bike at the moment. I have a few already, but mostly I ride this 'frankenstein' bike that I put together a few years ago. It's nothing special, but I really love it. It's a single speed, but lately I've been wanting more of a proper road bike. This one is good for my short commute over the Manhattan bridge, but I'd like something a bit more comfortable for longer rides. One of the shops that carries Pedaler is Ride Brooklyn and I know if I stop by they'll be able to point me in the right direction.

You just recently launched Pedaler Clothing with Trinity Kerr who is based in Laguna Beach, CA while your based in Brooklyn, NY. How did that come about?
The idea for the line came from both of our personal needs for clothing that was conducive to a cycling lifestyle with out being obtrusive. We were both altering our clothing and bags to make them easier to ride in and over a bottle of wine decided to make a go of it.

What are the similarities/differences you've noticed b/w the two cities' street cycling culture?
No one would argue that there are differences between the east and west coasts, but we realized that if we were both having the same issues living in different cities then we probably weren't alone in our plight. Because of the milder climate in CA perhaps people there are inclined to ride all the time? I can't say for sure... I know a bunch of toughies who brave the north east winter on their bikes everyday. The cultures are different on each coast but safety and comfort are universal.
Do you have a personal favorite piece from your new clothing? (I personally really like your anorak with those custom brass 'P' buttons.)
I'm obviously biased, but I really like all of it! Our hoodies and T's are made from Bamboo which is really an amazing sustainable fabric... %200 more wicking than cotton, anti microbial (anti-stink) and it feels like cashmere. They are a bit longer to help avoid embarrassing plumber butt moments and all of them have reflective elements and jersey pockets in the back.

The hoodies have longer arms and thumb holes on the cuffs... no more pulling when you reach for your handle bars!

Our denim and twill pants/shorts have a gusset seam in the crotch (I ride on a hard saddle and the seams on regular jeans can really hurt your bits!) and can be worn with or without riding shorts underneath. The cuffs roll up to reveal a reflective strip for safe night riding.

Our bag is waxed canvas and I'm rarely without it, but I may have to agree with you about the jacket... I wore it on a ride recently and it was pretty great.

All of Pedaler Clothing is manufactured in the U.S. -- which is wonderful. How has that worked out?
Sustainability has been an important part of Pedaler from the start and part of that meant manufacturing our line in the U.S. I think if we had done this a few years ago we would have been met with a greater challenge. The unfortunate downturn of the U.S. economy has actually worked in our favor to some extent. Factories that never would have considered working with a small start up were eager for our business. And manufactures who previously would not have sold fabric to us because we didn't make their minimum requirements were willing to make concessions.

You also have a career as a tattoo artist at the ever popular New York Adorned... how did you start on that path?
I was going to school at Massachusetts College of Art and knew I wasn't in the right place. I struggled with the idea of going to school for art. It's scary to study something for four years and not have a job at the end of it.

I annoyed the @#$ out of Fat Ram of Pumpkin Tattoo in Boston until he said he'd apprentice me! Tattooing was just being legalized at the time and Ram was opening the first legitimate Boston tattoo shop in over 40 years. I brought him my drawings all the time and basically harassed him every other day... I started working as the front desk person until he offered to apprentice me. A lot of people don't get what I had and they have to struggle for years to learn how to tattoo. I started my apprenticeship in 2001, and still feel like I'm learning something everyday.
By chance, have you noticed an increase in requests for bicycle related tattoos?
I can't say I have. I wish I had though! I've done a few over the years and have a small one myself.... just a simple line drawing of a bike. But the amount of people coming for their appointments still sweating from their ride in has absolutely increased!
... you can see more of Virginia's tattoo designs here

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