Losing my religion

I want to thank everyone who wrote complimentary and encouraging comments in response to my last post about Taking a Break from Over the Bars.  It is rewarding to get confirmation that readers appreciated me sharing my thoughts. It was also nice to get some understanding about the time commitment required to produce a post with substance on a daily basis. A number of comments included the suggestion I post less frequently.

Even if I was relieved of the pressure to publish every day, many of the other reasons why I quit publishing remain unresolved.  Chief among those are the vagaries of my feelings about the community of people who ride bicycles in Milwaukee after some of the comments I received after the last election.  I’m honestly no longer sure if the majority of people who ride bicycles in Milwaukee support spending money to add more trails, bike lanes or other facilities.  I thought they did before the election, but politics have become so divisive that I’m no longer sure.

To review, I started Over the Bars because I saw shops in other US cities devoted to selling european city bikes (like the Dutch omafiet) and wondered if we couldn’t have a similar bike shop in Milwaukee. I started Over the Bars to spread the word that riding a bike in Milwaukee is a really safe, fun and healthy thing to do. I started Over the Bars to try to encourage more women to ride bicycles. I read blogs written by women and men in other cities promoting riding bicycles in skirts and heels and suits and ties and thought Milwaukee should have a similar voice promoting the idea that you can ride your bike in the same clothes you drive a car.

Perhaps it was hubris, but I honestly thought that all I had to do was to introduce these ideas to the lycra-clad people pedalling around Milwaukee on drop-bar racing bikes and in no time everyone would be sitting upright, riding omafiets in Luboutin heels and Armani suits.  I confess that I have been frustrated almost to the point of anger that so many of my fellow cyclists patently reject these ideas. 

While spreading the euro velo philosophy was my original mission, the posts on Over the Bars have strayed beyond city bikes and cyclechic in the same way my thoughts wander as I ride around Milwaukee.  I have reviewed cycling products, defended spending on bicycle infrastructure, analyzed mode share statistics, tried to make cycling look attractive through photographs, etc. Most of these other topics have been well received by the readers. I guess I lost sight of that bigger picture (and my cool) when my expectations were not met about a few issues.

I still passionately believe that practical bikes and riding in regular clothes (along with attractive bicycle facilities) are the keys to attracting more people to cycling for transportation and increasing the diversity among people who ride. I still feel Milwaukee cyclists need a forum to read about and discuss bicycle planning issues. I still think we need to encourage more women in Milwaukee to try riding bicycles for transportation. And I still need an outlet for my thoughts as I pedal through the Cream City.

Since I still feel strongly about these ideas and because of the positive feedback I got, I have decided to re-enter the blogosphere, albeit with different expectations.  While I have come to accept that cyclechic is not going to spread through the Milwaukee bicycling community like wildfire, my helmet-mantra chanting, lycra-clad readers be forewarned: I will still promote Dutch-style bikes and the joys of riding in fedoras and vintage suits thrifted at the Value Village. The same followers may want to stop reading if it sounds like I am about to wax poetic about the day when hordes of women in tall heels and short skits can be seen riding around Milwaukee on heavy black bikes with fenders.

But I will also write about the simple joys of riding a bicycle, for any reason. I will review practical bicycles and products that make going places on two wheels easier.  I will write about costumed pub crawls as well as wonky transportation planning meetings.  I will share the view from over my handle bars of what Milwaukee looks like now and what it might look like in the future if we all work together.

Thanks again to all the readers who left kind comments whether you agree with everything I write or not.  Special thanks to Jason Capriotti for noting that during a recent discussion in which quite a few people disagreed with me, everyone remained civil and polite. A small thing, but for some reason that comment helped me see the bigger picture.

At this point I can’t say with what regularity I will publish, it is too soon to know. I’m not the same person I was when I started Over the Bars last Memorial Day, but maybe that’s OK. Change is part of any journey worth taking. 

Talk to you soon,


Breaking Trail: grey 15 oz wool pinstripe pants and a charcoal with white polka dot tie. Love it or leave it, that's the way I roll.

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

34 thoughts on “Losing my religion

  1. glad to have you back- dave, in whatever rare form you decide to bring.
    push your opinions. be yourself. it is alright to defend your position and every once in awhile find a boundary. it’s your blog for jebus sake.
    your influence and action (rare!) alone in this city- has driven cycle access and discussion further than anyone else.
    let’s not be timid now- friend, the turbulent times may just be beginning and we are going to ride no matter.

  2. Very glad to have you back! You can’t please everyone, let this be as niche as you want. I can say that I for one have consciously changed the way I ride because of what you have written here. Stopping at lights, obeying more laws, setting a better example to both motorists and cyclists. I second Ed, you don’t just talk, you take action, informed-well thought out-action.

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  4. Saints be praised! You’re back and I’m so glad. Now can you settle this question: Everyone knows a man’s belt color should match the color of his shoes. Shouldn’t the color of his Brooks saddle match both as well?

    Seriously – good to be reading you again. Stay strong MKE.

  5. Dave,

    Keep up the good work and the great thoughts. I love your posts since they really hit home with us. We own Dutch bikes including one with a small engine that my wife rides. We are frustrated with the attitudes of the lycra biking crowd, who have a rightful place in biking, but not in the bike commuting conversation. Eventually we need to separate the groups, allowing for the commuters to speak with one definitive voice. This might have a greater result.



  6. Good news!

    A bike is a bike. I like drop bars, but I like flat bars, too. I like bullhorns and mustaches. Bikes are good – all of them, from wicker baskets to lycra shorts.Short ride good. Long ride good. Commuting good. Racing good.

  7. Glad to see you’re back, I only recently discovered your site and would have been sad to lose it so quickly.

    I’ve really enjoyed your posts and it’s nice to see there are others out there promoting following road rules. It’s hard not to feel a little lame when you’re the only one stopping at the lights….

  8. I’m so glad you’re back with the blog! I’m not quite 100% a cyclechic girl, but aspire to be considered one, and am glad to see your voice advocating for the riding style that we generally share – a growing but still tiny minority view here in the Brew City.

  9. It’s a big wide wonderful world. There are so many choices. I’m happy that you give us a plateful. There was only one I had to reject for myself. But I totally love the idea of a wide variety of bicyclists, clothing, wheels, frames, seats, handlebars. Let the rainbows blossom.

    Your reflections on the responses you received kind of reminded me of a conceit in the rail blogosphere: angry drivers always accuse transit advocates of trying to *force* them into buses, or trains. The very idea that whatever happens we all have to subscribe is so unfamiliar in the American culture, that I am at a loss to figure out why the advocates of variety have to explain a really basic “American” (doing it my way) principle.

    For our health and well being, feed us a varied diet, David, and don’t be discouraged as you experiment with new idea, even ideas from (help us!) Europe!! Some readers read to get their world view endorsed; but not all of us, however.

  10. Dave,
    Yay! So glad to see you post again. Your posts definitely made a difference to me – for one, reading them encouraged me to ride in my work outfits far more often, and I really found that it worked well, felt good and saved time over riding in casual clothes and changing at the office. Not that short skirts and high heels are my m.o. anyway (I hear certain other readers chortling in the background, you know who you are), but rolling in my regular professional duds felt great. I call it my Gidget Gear. Thanks again, glad you’re back.

  11. Dave –

    Yes, great to have you back. Look forward to fun reading.

    Sorry I didn’t make it to the Rampage. Weather and a nasty little sinus thing conspired to make me consider “discretion” and the valor thing. Feeling a bit of a wuss, but so be it. I’ll be back.

    Any chance we can get a ‘Bike division’ for that ‘Summerfest Run’ thing on the Hoan?? Kind of like a ‘wheelchair division’?? Wonder what it would take??

  12. Peter, on the vague and not-well-thought-out assumption that we are faster than runners (don’t laugh) perhaps we could offer to be Marathon Marshals and lead (but surely not hold back) the pack. The best bike ride on that bridge, however, is the slow one. You can go fast anytime, on four wheels, or on two but running from the sheriff

  13. I’m on the same page with you Dave. I strongly agree with your statement that you can ride a bike wearing the same clothes that you would driving a car. Maybe Milwaukee isn’t ready for it but like you said before there are blogs out there promoting the same idea in other cities. It may take them a little while to catch up but I can assure you that I see it every day in your neighbor city to the south, Chicago. It may be closer to Milwaukee than we think. Glad to see your back.

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