Our love affair with cycling started years ago and it's no coincidence, to us, that cycling and dressing for your destination go hand in hand. No need to be a speed demon when you're out on your bike, you'll get plenty of exercise by just hopping on your bike and riding. We do, however, need a little something extra every now and then on those rainy wet days, just to make things a little easier to endure.
Enter Astrid de Groot and Happy Rainy Days. Astrid lives and works in Amsterdam, in the capital of the Netherlands, and she makes the most fabulously stylish cycling rain wear that we've ever seen! We are especially smitten with Happy Rainy Days rain capes.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO START HAPPY RAINY DAYS?
In 2008 I quit my job in Advertising and gave up my car. I have 3 children who require a lot of transporting around the city. I have always traveled by bicycle and having children has not changed that. Come rain, wind or shine we are on our bikes. The problem, I could only find dreadful manly looking coats to cycle in, not the functional rain fashion I was looking for.
I asked friends and they agreed that there would be a market for nice rain fashion. My friend Michelle has a lot of experience in producing coats and that’s how we started HappyRainyDays. We started with a small Dutch web shop… 5 years later we sell our rain coats and capes to 320 shops across the world, Le Vélo included.
HOW DO YOU TRAVEL AROUND AMSTERDAM?
I cycle all my trips in town (Amsterdam). I ride to work, for sport, to the theatre and out for dinner with friends as well as to school with my kids, really everything I do is by bicycle. I only take the car or train if I need to go outside Amsterdam. My work is only 5km to cycle to the centre of Amsterdam (Dam Square) and it takes me about 20 minutes.
YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU HAVE A CAR, WHAT HAS INSPIRED YOU TO LIVE A LIFE IN AMSTERDAM WITH LIMITED DRIVING AND LIVING A LIFESTYLE BY BICYCLE?
My husband an I have one car, which we share. As the parking space in Amsterdam is very limited and the cycle paths in town are very good, everybody cycles in Amsterdam.
We are with 5 people at home (my husband, three kids and myself) and we own 9 bikes. Everyone has a normal bike for the day-to-day trips, we have two racing bikes and two old bikes for guests/friends from outside of town. We also use the older bikes when we stay out late in the centre. Bikes can be often stolen in town. So a lot of Dutch people have more than one bicycle. Friends of mine, for example, leave a bike on both ends of their stop at the train station. So they can cycle to the train station, park their bike for the day. Hop on the train and pick up their other bicycle at the other end and cycle the remaining distance to their work.
Did you know that in the Netherlands there are more bikes than people? (NOTE from Le Velo: there are over 16 million people living in the Netherlands, which is about the size of Vancouver Island - amazing statistic!)
WHAT'S YOUR SECRET FOR CYCLING IN RAINY WEATHER AND KEEPING YOUR PERSONAL STYLE?
I'm always wearing the HappyRainyDays Long Raincoat in stormy weather. It's also perfect for women who often wear skirts. The long raincoat is windproof, waterproof and breathable. The additional piece of fabric gives you extra room to move while cycling and you can see from the photograph how it will keep your legs dry, you can also hide the layer inside the long raincoat whenever you want.
By the way: In spring I love to wear the fashion trench coat with hood.
WHERE IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO RIDE YOUR BICYCLE IN AMSTERDAM?
I love to cycle around the canals and I really enjoy the trips in the Centre of Amsterdam. My favourite time to ride is by night. It is quiet and it is like cycling through a museum. All houses are build between 1640 and 1700. Beautiful! It's the best way to visit and see Amsterdam.
Photo courtesy of Amsterdam Canal at Night
DO YOU HAVE ANY CYCLING TIPS FOR WOMEN WHO WANT TO START CYCLING BUT HAVEN'T MADE IT ONTO TWO WHEELS YET?
That is a very strange question for me because I learned to cycle when I was three. All my Dutch kids started cycling on a three-wheeler when they were two years old and three/four years old when they started riding a little bicycle. Being Dutch, you start cycling at a very early age and everyone around you cycles.
However, once you start cycling you will soon find that you will enjoy the freedom of riding a bike and the wind in your hair, it's just lovely!
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CYCLE STYLE?
I always try to cycle slowly and enjoy, but cycling for me, most of the time, is a way of transport!
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE BICYLE YOU RIDE?
I cycle a Cortina with a big crate on the front rack. I carry the HappyRainyDays double pannier on the back rack. This allows me to carry all of my groceries for the whole family on the bike or whatever shopping I do that day. The pannier also holds my laptop while I ride into work.
This is a photo of my Family going on two weeks cycling holiday through the Netherlands! PS My youngest didn’t want to go:)
Thanks so much Astrid for sharing your beautiful, fashionable and very functional rain jackets and capes with us! We're big fans of HappyRainyDays and we look forward to a new season of beautiful colours and patterns.
When Astrid isn't at work you can find her cycling around Amsterdam enjoying the beautiful architecture in a city that is meant for riding. Or she can be found on a two week cycle tour (camping) in the Netherlands.