Color Story: Interview With Monling Lee

July 27th, 2015


Vibrant, emotion-packed color? We applaud. Creative use of public space? We rejoice. Here at PUBLIC you can be sure that if someone or something is making an statement with color in a clever and impactful way we take notice. Those reasons made it inevitable that our paths should cross with architect, designer and fashion maven, Monling Lee — who creates vivid, color blocking photography in and around her hometown city of Washington DC.


We discovered Monling Lee when we came across this article “Washington DC: Discover Under The Radar Public Spaces With Fashion Maven Monling Lee“. Monling generously said yes to an interview and we jumped at the chance to pick her brain about all things color and design related.

PUBLIC: As an architectural/urban designer you are constantly called upon to come up with new ideas and solutions for creative problems. Where do you find inspiration?

Monling: As an architectural and urban designer, I am constantly looking towards the built environment and the myriad ways citizens engage with it for inspiration. Take Washington, D.C., a city where I reside, for instance. It is a city full of well-known historic monuments and French-inspired public spaces that often have an overtly formal connotation that discourages informal uses. The recent injection of a younger demographic to the District however, brings about a demand for social third spaces and a renewed energy to historic spaces that have previously been off-limits to contemporary interpretations. One extremely successful reuse of a historic space that is currently ongoing is the National Building Museum’s Great Hall during its annual summer installation. The Beach, this summer’s installation designed by New York firm Snarkitecture, prompts thousands of diverse visitors every day to engage with this revered and often intimidating space in an unexpectedly gleeful way, which has been a joy to witness.


PUBLIC: Your website, is overflowing with the most vibrant, color-blocked photography. Clearly, color and fashion are important to you. What inspires your color choices?

Monling: COLORINDEX is a means to explore and catalog the intersection of two of my interests—fashion and the built environment—through a highly colorful lens. The series began as an exercise on Instagram in 2012, as an informal visual blog capturing what I wear and what I see. Color combinations were selected from various color reference guides in the beginning, from which I would then match pieces from my wardrobe and moments in the built environment. With the launch of the website in late 2014, the production process has gradually evolved to require more effort in planning and execution. The process of developing color combinations, however, has become less clinical and more intuitive. Anything can prompt the beginning of a color story, including seasons, narrative angles, a beloved piece of clothing, or a newly discovered space.


PUBLIC: You’re a pro at creating tableaus of colors. How do you come up with your color compositions on COLORINDEX? Do you start with an inspiring setting? Or an outfit?

Monling: The beginning of a color story can be inspired by anything that I find compelling for the project: a particularly interesting moment in an urban landscape, a fun piece of clothing in a vibrant hue, or more likely, the partnering product being featured. While the starting points are usually more direct and intuitive, developing the compositions requires more careful study by going through a mental and digital catalog of colorful spaces in the city, consulting various color guides when necessary, and sketching out various looks and scenes until the desired color balance is achieved.


PUBLIC: What’s your favorite color at the moment?

Monling: I have always had an affinity towards very bright colors, and usually would set one highly saturated color against three or four other colors of equal strength to maximize their combined visual effects. Like wearing a superhero costume, my mood can be instantly lifted when wearing an exceptionally colorful outfit. Lately though, I have come to find seasonal and foliage changes in DC streets to be great sources of inspiration, and have started to appreciate quieter colors for their subtlety and range. Colors like dusty rose, light blue, sage, or pale yellow are great neutral alternatives for they still retain very specific color personalities even when saturation levels are dialed way back.


PUBLIC: Out of all our bikes, you selected the PUBLIC C7 in Limited Edition Peach. What drew you to that color?

Monling: PUBLIC C7 comes in many fresh and delicious colors, but selecting the Limited Edition Peach was a quick choice. I have always favored variations on the color orange, which is a brilliant hue that is also fairly gender-neutral. The Limited Edition Peach, however, has a bit of pink understone, making it just slightly more feminine and a great color for summer!


PUBLIC: Any upcoming projects/partnerships you are excited about?

Monling: It has been really great working with and getting to know companies with compelling and compatible products such as PUBLIC. Going forward, I will continue to collaborate with both small and established apparel and accessories brands in this current editorial photography format. While I love to create visual narratives through color stories, my longer term goal is to collaborate with brands as early as the product design and development stages. After all, I am a designer by training and trade!

Models Needed – Helmet Photo Shoot

April 3rd, 2015

We’ve got a slew of new helmets coming in 2015 and we need some fabulous heads to show them off to their finest. And by fabulous heads, we mean yours! We’re hosting an informal helmet photo shoot on Thursday, April 9th and need models (adults of any age and children between the ages of 1 to 6) to be photographed in these helmets. The images taken will be used on our website and social media. Examples here.

This is an informal, casual photo shoot to showcase our customers and supporters with our products. There is no compensation for this shoot. If we end up using your photo, the reward is you’ll get to tell your friends and family that you’re an official PUBLIC model!

Our helmet photo shoot will take place at our Hayes Valley Store at 549 Hayes Street in San Francisco. We’ll have two time slots, one for children and one for adults. From 10am – 11am we invite children between the ages of 1 to 6 years old to get their picture taken in a helmet. And from 11am – 1pm, adults of any age are encouraged to swing by and pose with a helmet.

While you’re welcome to drop in, please shoot us a quick RSVP at so we can get a rough headcount.

Date: Thursday, April 9 2015
Two Time Slots:
10am – 11am – Children ages 1 to 6-years old
11am – 1pm – Adults of any age
PUBLIC Bikes on Hayes
549 Hayes Street b/t Octavia & Laguna
San Francisco, CA

Tips From a Pro For Winter Bike Riding

February 11th, 2015

Jen and her PUBLIC C1 during an Ottawa winter / © Dwayne Brown the loveOttawa project

When scrolling through our Instagram feed a few weeks ago, we came across a series of pictures from a PUBLIC rider named Jen Dykxhoorn and took pause. There she was, with her PUBLIC C1 and Porteur Rack in the snowy cold of a typical Canadian winter, riding to work. Inspiring. We wanted to know more. Like, why the heck she rides in the snow and what tips did she have for others on biking in winter weather?

We picked Jen’s brain about all things winter riding-related and she was game enough to answer in wonderful detail. For all you need to know about riding in the snow and safe winter bike riding, read on.

PUBLIC: Biking in the winter seems challenging. Why do you do it?

JEN: For so many reasons. I know this sounds contradictory, but for me, winter is both a wonderful adventure and a calming meditation.

The Adventure

I think adventure can be found everywhere, if you are willing to look for it. One of the reasons I bike through the winter is it gives me a little adventure “fix” every day. On my bike, I can challenge myself mentally and physically, explore parts of the city, and spend my day feeling more alive, alert, and happy. By the time I roll into work in the morning, I feel like a champ who has taken on winter and won. My coworkers/friends shake their heads at my “crazy” winter biking, but underneath their incredulity, I think they think it is rather cool.

The Meditation

At the same time, I also find biking in the winter to be calming and nearly meditative. Particularly in the winter, you need to be aware of what is going on around you, and to concentrate on cycling. It is the only part of my day where I am not expected to multitask – flipping between emails, phone calls, and tasks with 10 tabs open on my browser. It is refreshing to only focus on a single task – the simple, rhythmic experience of pumping your legs up and down. You don’t need to worry about what is to come, you only need to tackle the current challenge that is in front of you – from finding the best track through snow or tackling the big hill.

Jen bike commuting during the winter / © Dwayne Brown the loveOttawa project

And also, there is magic. There is something magical about riding home in the evening as the perfect “movie” snow falls around you in big, white, fluffy flakes. Moments like that make winter biking an absolute joy.

PUBLIC: What simple tips and suggestions can you offer for getting one started on biking in winter weather?

JEN: The great news is that you don’t need to be a “hard core” cyclist to ride in the winter, and that all of the reasons you love to ride the rest of the year are true even when the snow flies.

I think most people don’t realize that winter biking is not that hard or foreign, and it is totally within reach. You just need to give it a try! The hardest part is deciding to bike, all the rest is just a matter of logistics.

There are some simple things you can do to make the transition to winter riding a pleasant one:


  • Cover your skin. While there are tons of special clothes and products you can buy, you don’t really need most of them for short rides. I think the most important thing is to cover your skin as the wind will find ways into any gaps.
  • Work clothes are fine to ride in. I actually ride most days in my work clothes. If I am wearing a dress, I will throw on a pair of wind-resistant pants underneath for the ride. If I am wearing dress pants, I will layer with a pair of merino wool long johns.
  • Special outerwear is not a requirement. The outerwear is no different from what I would wear out-and-about in town. I have a vintage fur coat that is excellent for riding, I wear leather mittens that block the wind and are cozy, and wrap a scarf around my head and neck, which is thin enough to fit under my helmet, but adds enough protection to keeps my ears warm.
  • Equipment:

  • The other thing to remember when biking in the winter is that the days are shorter, so make sure you have a good set of lights to be visible. I make sure I bring all my lights inside, because the cold can suck the life out of batteries really quickly.
  • The only other piece of equipment that I would put in the “nearly mandatory” category is a good set of fenders.
  • My “luxury” items include a pair of ski goggles for the really cold days and a studded tire on my front wheel, which adds additional traction when the conditions are slick.
  • PUBLIC: How to you keep your wheels from slipping all over the place?

    JEN: The best advice I have for that is to slow down a little and ride in a straight line. Trying to brake quickly, ride quickly around corners, or make sudden changes in direction would be when you might get into trouble.

    The golden rule of mountain biking applies to snowy conditions – look where you want to go! Look for the best route through the snow, and your wheels will follow.

    I also put a studded tire on my front wheel, which adds quite a bit of additional traction, particularly for cornering.

    PUBLIC: When riding in the snow, where in the road should you be riding?

    JEN: When I am on the road I like to ride approximately where the right wheel track for cars would be (approximately 1 meter or 2 ½ feet from the curb). If you get too close to the curb, there tends to be lots of slush and debris there, which can be very hazardous.

    I find that it is much safer to take the space you need on the road, which means you can ride in a predictable manner and that you are visible to other road users.

    I am lucky to live in Ottawa, where the city has made a commitment to clearing some of the bike lanes as part of the “winter biking network.” For a portion of my commute, I get to ride a lovely separated bike lane, which is kept relatively clear as part of the city’s regular snow clearing.

    Jen, sporting her "mascara saving" ski goggles / © Dwayne Brown the loveOttawa project

    PUBLIC: I notice you bust out some serious goggles. Talk to us about those.

    JEN: While most days, I am fine with a scarf coving 80% of my face, Ottawa can get REALLY cold. For the extra frigid days, picking up a pair of downhill ski goggles was one of my best winter biking decisions. When the mercury dips below -10*C, the goggles keep my eyes positively cozy.

    The additional perk of wearing ski goggles is that your mascara won’t freeze on your lashes, only to melt all over your face as soon as you get inside a building. This happened to me on my 2nd day at a new job, and let me tell you, it was not a pretty sight!

    PUBLIC: Your bike probably gets really dirty with all the wet and snow. How do you maintain your bike?

    JEN: If you are going to ride through the winter, you need to show your bike some love, as the sand and salt can be really bad for your bike! I like to give my bike a good sponge bath every week to get off the worst of the salt and gunk.

    I also use a wet chain lube on my chain and also in the freewheel to keep things from seizing up.

    The salt is a particularly destructive force, so be come spring, I will bring my ride into my local bike shop for the “full spa treatment.” I am sure some parts will have to be replaced, but that is fine. I am a much happier person for being able to cycle in the snow, so springing for a new chain or some upgrades when the spring comes is completely reasonable.

    If you are looking for an all-season ride, I love my single speed PUBLIC C1. I don’t need to worry about gears in the winter, and the upright positioning gives me great positioning to be aware of what is going on around me.

    PUBLIC: Are fenders helpful?

    JEN: Oh my gosh, I think fenders are absolutely essential. I would be drenched and miserable without fenders. They are two bits of metal that separate misery from comfort and protecting me from the misery having a “skunk tail stripe” down my back of dirt and a face full of slush. I think fenders are absolutely essential for a winter bike. I have seen very creative DIY fender solutions, but I am so grateful for my full fender set.

    PUBLIC: Anything you’d like to add?

    JEN: It is OK to take a day (or two) off winter riding. Some days there are brutally cold arctic winds that just existing is hard, or the occasional massive snowfall dumps. Knowing what days to hop on the bus and what days to battle through the conditions is an art.

    Stay safe and enjoy the ride!

    Additional information:

    All photos courtesy of Dwayne Brown for the Love Ottawa Project

    Read more about Jen’s love for winter biking on her blog.

    Celebrities In The Bike Lane

    January 29th, 2015

    Natalie Portman & Audrey Hepburn Ride Bikes

    There’s no shortage of famous people spotted riding bicycles. And why not? From Audrey Hepburn to Natalie Portman to Julia Roberts, some of the most recognizable people in the world have been seen using the bicycle as a vehicle for personal freedom, mobility and expression. Check out our Pinterest album for a sampling of celebrities on bicycles.

    Julia Roberts and Solange Knowles & Alan Ferguson Ride Bikes

    We’ve talked about this topic before when we interviewed Steven Rea, author of Hollywood Rides A Bike. His compilation of vintage photographs of celebrities riding bikes is exhaustive. Check out the interview featured in another blog post, along with a few pictures.

    And if you can’t get enough of celebrities on bikes, these are our top links on the subject:

    Rides A Bike: Exhaustive collection of vintage snaps of celebs on Bikes. Who knew there were so many?

    Huffington Post: A varied assortment of candid shots of current stars rocking and rolling.

    Eleanoursnyc: A nice and thorough Pinterest board of celebs on bikes.

    Bike Light Up Your Holiday

    December 18th, 2014

    Why stop at trimming your tree with lights? Your bike is a prime candidate for a little more glow this holiday season. We amassed a few shining examples of festive bikes below and we’d love to see yours! If you’re decking out your bike with lights this holiday, send us a picture or tag us @publicbikes on social media.

    1. Cruiser bikes get a nighttime makeover with neon lights

    2. A vintage bike makes for a sweet holiday light show

    3. An amazing bike “tree” blinging with Christmas Lights

    4. A simple way to get festive, wrap colored lights around your bike basket

    5. Transform an old bike by wrapping it in white lights and turning it into a planter

    6. A long exposure and LEDs make a great bike light show

    Impeccable. Indestructible. Individual. Freitag.

    December 1st, 2014

    When it comes to chic, bulletproof gear that goes with cycling, there are a few brands that rise to the top. In saddles its Brooks. In apparel it’s Rapha. In bags it’s Freitag. Freitag is a Swiss company that has set the standard in bag production with their elegant, unique and functional products. Each bag is crafted from truck tarps, making them unique and virtually indestructible.

    Five years ago I visited the Freitag headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland (shown left). Their flagship store and factory is created entirely out of recycled freight containers and has become a kind of architectural icon. Fitting for a company whose products are iconic as well. I bought a few products on that visit, and I have been a passionate customer ever since. That’s my green bag shown below left. Like all their products they just get better over time.

    Just last week we launched Freitag products our Hayes Valley Store. There’s a terrific selection of popular styles there that range anywhere from $32-$340. These make great gifts for others as well as yourself. If you’re in the neighborhood, make sure to swing by and check out the collection.

    What makes a Freitag a Freitag?

    The Freitag company was started by the Freitag brothers. Both were designers and cooked up the idea for these bags while they were students, 20 years ago. Listen to an interview with Markus, one of the Freitag brothers. Since starting the company, the brothers have built a reputation that’s based on a commitment to sustainable processes, impeccable design, and legendary quality.

    Of course, by now there are numerous imposters selling lookalike product, but Freitag bags are truly the original. More and more companies are getting on the upcycled product bandwagon and you could argue that Freitag paved the way. Learn more about the Freitag production process.

    Here are 5 reasons why Freitag stands above the rest.


    Each bag is custom. Based on the inherent words, textures and colors found on each unique piece of fabric, a team of designers works together to design each bag individually.


    The fabric used for each bag comes from truck tarps.  This upcycled material is incredibly strong and durable and the reason why we call these bags “indestructible.” All tarps are cut, washed, designed and sewn into bags in the Freitag factory in Zurich.


    Not only are these bags made of  impermeable fabric, but they are smartly constructed for everyday wear. Their straps will stand up the the toughest use and the velcro closures are super strong. Don’t fear using your Freitag bag all day and in any weather conditions.


    The materials and construction are top-notch, but if for any reason you need to, you can send your Freitag product back if it needs repairs.

    5 | CHIC

    It’s very rare to a find a company making industrial-grade products that are this fashionable. Their products are frequently seen on the backs of both fussy designers and hard-core cyclists all over Europe.

    We are delighted and privileged to introduce Freitag to the Bay Area and hope you can come by our Hayes Valley Store and check these out. We do have a limited selection and the sooner you come by the more likely you will find a piece with the colors and graphic sensibility that suits your personality.


    Rob Forbes

    Founder, PUBLIC


    Go Big And Go Chrome – Our New PUBLIC D8i

    October 22nd, 2014

    When we caught a glimpse of our brand new PUBLIC D8i in Chrome for the first time, we all got a little giddy. There’s something about the sheen of chrome when translated into bike form that looks downright sexy. When you see the bike for yourself, we think you’ll agree. Our Chrome PUBLIC D8i is one elegant set of wheels.

    It’s constructed of high-quality, light-weight chromoly steel and features a premium eight-speed Shimano Alfine internal hub. This bike is guaranteed to turn heads.

    We’re offering this bike in two configurations:
    1) The PUBLIC D8i in Chrome, with a sporty white city saddle and matching white ergo grips retailing for $899 (List $1249)
    2) The PUBLIC D8i in Chrome Special Edition, with a Brooks B17 Saddle in antique brown leather and our matching PUBLIC Ergo Grip, retailing for $999 (List $1394).

    As we enter gifting season next month, we think this bike would look radiant wrapped with a red bow and/or positioned near twinkling lights. We only produced 50 of these Chrome bikes so get them now before we sell out.

    Meet Our New PUBLIC R16 Road Bike

    October 14th, 2014

    Our brand new PUBLIC R16 City Road Bike is our latest take on the classic steel road bike: lightweight, has 16 hill-ready speeds, and is now available at the special introductory price of $699. We don’t think you’ll find such a well constructed and good looking drop bar road bike with these features at this price point anywhere else.

    Planning a weekend adventure that includes light touring and overnight trips? Looking to out pace the commuter bus and speed across town? Or maybe you’re looking for an affordable alternative to your expensive carbon fiber road bike for everyday city riding? We designed the new PUBLIC R16 road bike with you in mind.

    Our Thoughtful Upgrades

    Secondary Inline Brakes

    We added, secondary in-line brake levers, also called “cross” or “interrupter” brakes. These are incredibly helpful when navigating city streets because you no longer only have to be in the drop position to brake.

    Downtube Shifters

    Previous models had bar-end shifters, but the 2014 model moves the shifters to the downtube. Shifting is more ergonomic and this allows for easy swapping of handlebars.

    Polished Silver Fenders

    We’ve also swapped out the color-matching fenders for polished silver and we think this lends a more classic “touring” vibe to this vintage-inspired bike.

    Available in both Cream and Green and in three unisex sizes, for people ranging from about 5’5″ to 6’3″.

    We highly recommend adding a PUBLIC Slender Rear Rack in matching British Racing Green or Cream to maximize versatility without compromising style.

    Limited Edition Colors 2014 – A Tasty Bunch.

    September 9th, 2014

    We’ve always been hot on edible and lickable color here at PUBLIC. So we’re really excited to announce the arrival of our new limited edition colors – a crop of colors so tasty that we’ve given nearly all of them food and drink-related names:

    The PUBLIC C1 step-though in juicy Raspberry and fresh Mint for $299 (List $449).
    The PUBLIC V1 diamond frame in an intense green we’re calling Matcha for $299 (List $449).
    The PUBLIC V7 diamond frame in a bluish-grey hue we’ve dubbed Earl Grey for $479 (List $649).
    And the PUBLIC C7 step-through in yummy Peach and our bestsellers, Turquoise and Orange for $479 (List $649).

    We’ve only ordered these bikes in small amounts. If you like to be the only person in your town sporting a bike in this hue, we highly recommend you snap it up. In the past these limited colors have sold out quickly.

    Do you suffer from “Bicycle Face”?

    August 29th, 2014

    For women in the late 19th century, bikes symbolized more than two-wheeled transportation. They were instruments of change, allowing women more mobility and redefining the Victorian notions of femininity. This radical idea of women freely moving about, and in pants no less, did not jive with the traditional notion that the woman’s place was in the home.

    As a result, doctors of the era took to diagnosing females in particular with the condition bicycle face, “characterized as including bulging eyes, and a tightened jawbone.” This article from Vox entitled “The 19th-century health scare that told women to worry about ‘bicycle face” does a great job of discussing the false malady and exploring the real reason behind why doctors were diagnosing this.

    To the 21st century woman who bikes, wears pants and makes funny faces that don’t “freeze” (thankfully) while cycling, this myth about bicycle face is just plain ridiculous. As the Vox article describes, men viewed bikes as just another toy, women during the early 19th century saw them as a tool. A way to cycle out of their conventional roles and gain equality.

    Vox also references this incredible (incredible because of it’s hilarity) “List of 41 Don’ts For Women on Bicycles.” There are so many “good” ones on this list it’s definitely worth a read. If you don’t have the time, here are some highlights:

    #2: Don’t faint on the road.
    #8: Don’t boast of your long rides.
    #10: Don’t wear loud hued leggings.
    #22: Don’t chew gum. Exercise your jaws in private.
    and #41: Don’t appear to be up on “records” and “record smashing.” That is sporty.