Monday, August 16, 2010

Handmade Dress Guards from Holland, by Simeli

My bicycles are not exactly run-of-the-mill, and they tend to get noticed when I am out and about. But nothing has compared to the effect of installing these dress guards on Marianne. Without exaggeration, the dress guards draw crowds of women, their eyes full of wonder at the sight of these unique creations. Subtle they are not. But they are sure to brighten up your day. I received these dress guards as part of an equal value exchange from Simeli (a sponsor July - August 2010), and here are my impressions:

First I must say that I've had the dress guards for some time now, but could not find a bike on which to install them. I was initially hoping to fit them on a loop frame bicycle, but all of mine already had dress guards and removing them would have been a pain. Finally I installed them on my mixte, and the combination is unexpectedly fabulous.

Here is a straight-up view. It is not as typical to install dress guards on a mixte as it is on step-through bicycles, but I really do not see why not. It was done in the past, and in Europe you will find many older mixte bicycles with holes drilled into the fender - evidence that at some point the dress guards were there. If you use your mixte for transportation and you wear fluttery skirts or coats, this is a useful accessory.

This angle gives you an idea of how the dress guards are attached: They connect to the bolts (or the fender stays) at the rear dropouts and to the fenders via clips. The clips are supplied by Simeli along with the dress guards, and are available in a variety of colours. If your fenders are deep enough to fit the clips without rubbing the wheel, you do not need to drill holes. However, please note that the attachment system was designed for the sort of wide, deep fenders that are found on Dutch bikes, English roadsters, and similar bicycles. If you have fenders like the ones pictured on my mixte, the clips will likely rub the tire. We have angled the clips on my bike as best as we could, and they still rub a bit. So if I keep this set-up in the long run, I will drill the fender and re-install the dress guards that way.

Simeli dress guards were designed to work with either 28" or 26" wheels, so anything in between is fine as well. This includes 650B, 27"and 700C wheels. The wheels on my bicycle here are 27" and the dress guards stretch tightly.

Another thing to note is that - like most dress guards - these have an opening to fit over either a "cafe lock" or a caliper brake on the rear wheel (click to enlarge the picture to see the opening). The opening is aligned with the  rear stays, so even if you have neither a lock nor a caliper brake on the rear wheel, it is unobtrusive.

As far as performance goes, these dress guards certainly do their job. They cover a large portion of the wheel and are densely knit. Any outfit you could wear is safe from the spokes with these installed. They do not shift or flutter or make any noise (other than the potential problem of the clips rubbing narrow fenders), and they hold up securely.

Of course the singlemost feature one is drawn to when discussing these, is the looks. There are several models offered by Simeli, and all of them feature crochet work in bright, cheerful colours. Mine are pink, lilac and light green, with silvery thread and a row of peralescent beads woven in between (the model is Linde).

Here is a close-up of the colours and the row of beads. If you've been reading this blog, you know that I do not tend to go for colourful designs like this, and instead gravitate towards neutral colour palettes. But it's nice to try new things once in a while, and hey - it's summer after all!

The shimmery aqua-blue of Marianne's frame is too much for me as it is, so I decided to go all out and make her my "technicolor dream coat" bicycle. And that she is!

But the crucial question: Would I buy these dress guards if they were not sent to me for review? I would if they were available in an off-white or natural-hemp sort of colour, or even something silvery or gold-ish. In fact, I am looking for something like that for the new custom mixte we are building up and would even gladly drill the fenders if they prove too tight for the clips. The bright and cheerful colours on the models currently available are not my style - but given the response they get out in the streets, I believe I am in the minority in that respect.

Final note: I've received emails from readers who are interested in the dress guards but cannot understand how to navigate the website (which is entirely in Dutch). If you'd like to order a set or have questions, please just contact Simone (the owner of Simeli) directly. She speaks English and can answer all your questions.

34 comments:

  1. Very pretty dress guard. I'm impressed that it's just crochet and binder clips with a few beads for accent. Now I'm getting crafty ideas. Once I finish the wedding present blanket I'm working on, I'm going to try my hand at dress guards.

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  2. Bobbin and Sprocket has a link to both a pattern for sale and similar dress guards in cream already made, if you were looking for something less colourful.
    I do like yours though. I'm going to go check out your link to simeli

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  3. Berthi Smith has a pattern for a crocheted dress guard on her website
    http://berthi.web-log.nl/berthi/2009/08/gehaakte-jasbes.html

    it is in Dutch...but if you run it through the Google translator, you can probably figure it out...if you crochet!

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  4. Thanks, I had seen Bethi's pattern and Bobbin & Sprocket's guards. I do not crochet, and have been thinking about Bobbin and Sprocket's designs.

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  5. I promise the roadies will keep at a safe distance if you display this peacock fan.

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  6. peacock fan, that's perfect : )

    The roadies actually seem to like it; everyone likes it when they see it.

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  7. I'm just curious what you'd use to attach them with if you go for drilling holes in the fender. I know for sure that I wouldn't have room for those clips with my mixte- I have just barely enough clearance as is. But I think it might work if they attached direct to the fender. Everything I can think of using, I'm scared it might snap mid ride, letting the dress guard fly loose, which would lead to a problem just as bad or worse than getting my dress caught in the spokes.

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  8. What about cleaning it when it gets dirtay?

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  9. Rose - I was thinking small, unraveled paper clips?

    Herzog - Good point; I have failed to get them dirty thus far, so not sure. They seem to be made of durable, shiny stuff that i bet is water resistant - so my thought is that I could just hose them off...

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  10. I would think that you could soak them in the sink with some warm water and dish detergent. The detergent should help remove any bicycle grease and road dirt. After you rinse them, I would lay them flat on a towel and reshape to dry.

    What about some kind of small S hook? Or maybe even earring hooks?

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  11. "They seem to be made of durable, shiny stuff"

    Based on the photographs and your description I'd bet that they're Olefin/Polypropylene. Not merely water resistant, but water and rot proof. It's the same stuff they make marine rugs out of and they stand up even to salt water environments.

    For the weight weenie, the yarn is so light (and because of the waterproofness REMAINS light even when soaked) that it floats.

    I'll go with Amy. I'd use small stainless steel S hooks. If you have the patience of somebody who's really, really patient, you could go with split rings.

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  12. I have been wondering about drilling the holes in the fenders. Obviously with a dress guard of this type you would not want to ride your bike in the rain and slush, but for other more all weather friendly types, wouldn't drilling holes in the fenders cause them to leak? From my experience even with mud flaps the wet and gunk manages to sully my feet and legs. So is it just a matter of 'don't take the bike out when it is raining so hard' or is it some function of proper design that I am not aware of?
    Does anyone have experience riding in moderate/heavy rain with drilled fender holes and dress guards?

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  13. The holes in the fender are not where the water comes off the tire. They are also quite small and mostly full of the hardware when in use. There are some rusting issues to deal with if you have steel fenders (because the holes and hardware trap and retain water), but even this is really a cosmetic issue.

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  14. @ rose
    there are a variety of snaps and hooks made for attaching fishing lures that would likely work, and would be very strong.
    http://www.cabelas.com/swivels-snaps-clevises.shtm
    I suspect the "findings" department of a bead store would also be a fruitful place to search

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  15. Berthi Smith who makes the same kind of dress guards, says on her website that she uses "Modern Cotton by Gedifra via Coats Benelux in the colors ecru 3225, green 3207, turquoise 3217, dark grey 3202, brown 3211, orange 3221".
    Simone says in the instructions that come with the guard:
    "Impregnate the dress guards with a water and dirt repellent spray, and apply some paraffin to the clips to keep rust away.
    To clean, take the clips off and gently wash the guards by hand."
    So I think it's not quite the sophisticated stuff kfg believes it to be. This cotton probably is easier to work on, and judging by the use the guards get over here they are quite durable enough.

    But, if you read this, Simone: laat je licht er eens over schijnen!

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  16. "I think it's not quite the sophisticated stuff kfg believes it to be."

    Apparently not. It was the shiny factor that got me.

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  17. Frits - Thanks, I guess that settles it. Hopefully she will have and English translation of all of that soon.

    Kate - As others have said, the holes in the fender will have no negative effects; I have a drilled fender on my vintage Raleigh and there is zero leaking.

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  18. To avoid any water on your shoes you must have a complete coverage fender, the kind that appears on Dutch/English roadsters and extends all the way down in the front, followed by a large rubber scoop/mudflap that practically drags on the ground. The rear must be equally protected if you care about what happens to people behind you.

    Having said that, I don't have such mudflaps and my Pashley's bottom bracket sometimes gets a "washing" from the front fender in torrential downpour. My shoes only really get soaked if I go through a seriously deep puddle (but you could always lift them up).

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  19. Simeli Dressguards
    Everything in live is ephemeral and so are the Simeli Dressguards. Holland is a country with lots of rain an my daughter is riding her bicycle with crocheted dressguards every day to school and after a year they still look beautiful. The dressguards are made of cotton and easy to wash (which was not necessary sofar). Now I have silver clips as well which are of a better quality. More durable because they do not rust as quickly as the black and coloured clips. I can not tell how long the dressguards stay beautiful....That is depending on how people use their bike.

    Clips
    If the space between the wheel and the mudguard is to small you can push one grip of the clip towards the mudguard. But then it is more difficult to take of the dressguards for changing or washing....

    I will translate my website. I hope to find the time in September. Two new designs will be on the website as well.
    Model Antoinette: black and gold
    Model Joretta: black, white and silver

    I hope my english is readable and if someone has a question, please ask...
    simone@simeli.nl

    Kind regard,
    Simone.
    www.simeli.nl

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  20. It looks cool as hell! But you should be wearing a dress... it is a skirt guard after all. :^)

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  21. I *am* wearing a dress - with leggings and a jacket.
    You can kind of see that here.

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  22. ( I think I walk away from the computer too fast and don't to the security stuff and my comments never get posted. )

    I love it.

    I love your fabu strong leg in purple with black and lace. Yumma. I want one of these!

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  23. Guys could use this, too, especially in the winter time when we wear long or even medium length coats. Or, all year long, those of us who sometimes wear kilts. She should consider putting them out in more masculine patterns.

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  24. Oh! As a guy, I'm clueless about such things. But I was thinking of a dress that might get caught in the spokes if not for the very pretty skirt guard. Again, I am clueless though, so...

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  25. I love that color pattern on your dress guard.

    Zanesfriend: How about camo? Then again, I know lots of women who like it, too.

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  26. Zanesfriend: How about guards with the colors and logos of the Oakland Raiders or San Jose Sharks? ;-)

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  27. The green clips in your photos are just small ”binder clips“ sold as stationery items. Cute and clever idea, but they're not going to be so corrosion-resistant, including the wire parts. I think that a very simple solution would be hooks made from stout-ish yet bendable solid stainless steel fishing leader wire, in a good fishing tackle store. You might even find diminutive S-hooks or some other snap item there, but with a pair of round-profile needlenose pliers and a good wire cutter, you could knock out some simple hooks in a hurry. They'd be easy to remove/replace for washing the guard. If using S-shaped hooks, I would twist them so that both open ends face away from the exterior, to prevent snagging skirt material -- so that they're more like a C-shape.

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  28. Good point, I did not mean to imply that they were special or proprietary clips.

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  29. Another idea: if you don't want to drill the fenders, then wouldn't lacing the two skirt-guards together with cord across the top of the fender work just as well. The cord might need to be anchored at both ends, so that the guards don't bunch up, so a small machine screw and nut might need to be installed where there's nothing else to tie the cord to. The lacing could also be done both ways (criss-cross) with two different cords, of course, each anchored independently, so that if one cord were to break, the other would hold things together.

    And about stainless steel wire: it's also available dead soft, rather than the tempered wire that's harder (but not that much harder) to bend. McMaster-Carr sells this, I think.

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  30. Re clips: Simone says she'll have them in silver shortly, a bit smaller too, which should be less rust-prone (although I have my doubt about strength).

    Re dressguards: I saw a Sparta bike this week (Dutch brand) like this:
    http://www.sparta.nl/NL/Fiets/Country_Tour
    The "leather" parts looked and felt remarkably like real leather but were what the French call "simili". The bike itself isn't much (as you can see it's rather cheap too) but the idea worked well enough.

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  31. Here's another option: http://www.etsy.com/listing/53642227/crochet-bicycle-skirt-guard

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  32. It's awesome that more people are starting to handmake dress guards and offer them for sale. I just received mine from Bobbin & Sprocket and it is fantastic!

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  33. Simeli has designed a special clip to attach crocheted dress guards in an aesthetic and easy way to the fender.
    http://www.simeli.nl/welcome/page.php?ID=765&lang=1

    Kind regards,
    Simone.

    www.simeli.nl

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