Monthly Archives: December 2009

You Can’t Go Home Again

You can’t go home to a trailer park and farm in North Carolina again, not after living the simple bicycling lifestyle in Chicago for three years. It’s not that folks from my hometown read my blog and hate me for portraying them as bumpkins, a modern and predictably crappy remake of Thomas Wolfe, simply that my way of seeing the world has changed dramatically in the past few years.

A Vanity Fair article I read years ago aptly described my military hometown as a mix of strip bars and Baptist churches. Growing up, I itched to get out of my city; it was an ill-fitting sweater that took 16 years to wrestle off, catching my limbs, pulling my nose, tangling my hair and finally releasing me as I gulped for fresh air. My yearnings were basically the cliche teenage feeling that there is a big world going on without me – not a world of parties and glamor, but a world of pedestrians and cafes. I had fantasies of sidewalks, which I knew existed from TV and rare visits to family in Massachusetts, and a hazy idea of “culture” that my city lacked.

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Reader Photo: Beach Biker!

As seen on Folly Beach . . .

Beach biking pictures are usually the province of California bloggers like Christa of Bike By the Sea or Cosmo of LA Cycle Chic, but this pic was snapped by my friend Ali, who had the great fortune to be spending Christmas at the beach.

Victoria Reaches the Finish Line – 3992 Miles!

A little over two months after staying at my place in Nashville, Victoria made it to Santa Monica Pier in time for Christmas. Check out her blog to read about the final leg of her journey, and congratulate her on her amazing accomplishment. Way to go, Victoria!

vic at the pier

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All Is Calm . . . for the Next Few Days!

Merry Christmas everyone! I’m in Alabama with the fam, dressing our cats in silly costumes and making a few modifications to Le Peug with my dad. As Dottie mentioned, it might be a slow week on LGRAB but we have some big things coming in the New Year — including a top secret project to commemorate our first anniversary — so stay tuned.

Wishing you all the very best for the holidays and a wonderful 2010!

Bedecked Batavus

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Six Miles in Three Inches

On Tuesday morning I woke up to heaps of snow. Not anything like the East Coast is experiencing, but the first real snow for Chicago this winter. One of my rules is not to ride in measurable fresh snowfall, but my girlish fun side took over, enchanted by the winter wonderland and potential for pretty pictures. If I wanted the easiest way to work, I would have taken the L train.

The side streets were not plowed at all, and thus a bit slippery at times, even with my studded tires. Drivers were very patient, though, going slowly behind me as I took up the one-way street to ride in tire tracks. Once I got to the Lakefront Trail, I was surprised that the Parks Department had already plowed it. Thanks, Parks Department for making my commute 100% easier! The streets downtown were, as always, miraculously free of any trace of snow.

Oma embraces snow

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Cutest Helmet Ever: DIY

Check this helmet out – what an idea! The author of Oh Joy!, a top style-lifestyle inspiration blog, happens to be a very chic cyclist. When she couldn’t find a polka dotted helmet to suit her needs, she made one out of a Bern Muse helmet and sticky decals.

Oh Joy's Polka Dot Bern

She is also the proud owner of a Velorbis Victoria. Classy!

Oh Joy's Velorbis and Bern Helmet

Read about her project direct from the source HERE, including the link to buy the polka dot decals.

I’m tempted to get a red helmet and attach black dots. I have a thing for ladybugs! :) Couldn’t hurt project get-drivers-to-treat-me-like-a-human, either.

Anyone else into personalizing helmets?

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Getting There is Half the Fun

The Day. I spent Sunday in downtown Chicago with Melissa, ice skating, warming up with afternoon tea service and generally enjoying the beauty of the season.

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Ice on the Lakefront Trail, Prada on Rush Street

On Friday, after riding city streets all week, the beauty and safety of the Lakefront Trail won me over. Light snow fluttered in the morning, but changed to freezing rain by the evening. Again the temperature was 30-something and my new thrifted wool cardigan kept me warm enough.

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A Secret to Winter Bike Commuting

Here is a secret to winter bike commuting: it’s not that bad. If you look closely at the individual days that make up winter, you’ll see that most of them are pretty nice. Sure, sometimes the windchill is -20 and sometimes a foot of snow falls, but the time between the extreme days is perfectly fine for bike commuting.

Riding in Wicker Park

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Riding the Nashville Greenways

Back in November, I went on my first group ride with Nashville Slow Ride through two of Nashville’s greenways: Shelby Bottoms and Stones River.

It’s really criminal that I waited so long to post about this, actually, because not only was it a fun 20-ish mile ride with great people, it also marked the meeting of the Flik and Andrew’s Bike Friday. How would the two folders compare?

Andrew and Friday, on Saturday

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A Gray Day for Betty

Lest you all (or at least my Gram) worry that I’m freezing, the weather here is milder than last week. Yesterday was an odd day, more like fall than winter, with misty rains and high 30’s F temperatures.

I pulled out Betty Foy for the occasion. She is not getting studded tires for the winter, so will come out and play only on the days when it’s not icy. I enjoyed her carefree riding, but during the evening commute the battery-powered front light got weak and I worried about my visibility in the dark. That’s why I prefer generator lights.

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A Mighty (Cold) Wind

Winter is kicking my ass already.  The extreme freezing temperatures more common to mid-winter arrived early on Thursday: 2 degrees Fahrenheit (-17 Celsius) with 25 mph winds, 40 mph wind gusts, and a windchill of -20 degrees (-29 Celsius). Despite the severe weather, I dragged Oma out to bike to work as usual.

Oma in the Snow

At first everything went smoothly. My studded tires crunched over the ice with ease.  Dressed in wool leggings, tweed slacks, wool undershirt, wool sweater, wool overcoat, wool socks, wool scarf around my head, Bern winter helmet, leather snow boots, safety glasses, wool-silk blend glove liners and heavy duty Gore-Tex goose down mittens, I was feeling good. I even put chemical warming packs in my mittens.

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Review: My Basil Blossom Postmenbag

Basil Blossom Postmenbag

Dottie and I have both had a lot of questions about our Basil bags. Now that I’ve had mine for 6 months, it’s time for a review. I have the Basil Blossom “Postmenbag” in white, and have been extremely pleased with it since I bought it at Copenhagen Cyclery in June. (The bag is also available on Amazon.)

Based in the Netherlands, Basil has been producing Dutch bike accessories since the 70s, and their whimsical patterns and quality construction have made them a well-known name. They make bags, panniers, seat covers, baskets and more, and their line is becoming available in more and more bike shops across the U.S.

The Postmenbag is basically a messenger bag modified to attach to a bike rack: the back is reinforced to add structure, and the design on the nylon fabric is moderately reflective (there are two reflective stripes on each side of the bag).

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Bicycling On Ice: My Studded Tires

Studded Tire and Snowman

It’s that time of year again: legions of bike commuters are gearing up for winter and considering whether to buy studded tires. Well, okay, maybe just five or six of you.

So should you get studded tires?

I asked myself that question for weeks last year. My dithering abruptly ended on the morning my bike slipped from under me and I landed on my butt.

Many winter cyclists in Chicago seem to go without studs, sticking to the major routes that are well-plowed, but I prefer side street and the Lakefront Trail, which are often icy. Also, I appreciate having one less worry for winter cycling. Freedom from paranoia is a good reason to get studded tires.

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Weird, Windy Wednesday

This morning started off just fine. It was nearly 50 degrees outside. The Flik and I posed for a minute under our tree. If there had been leaves on this sucker, they would have been waving like mad!

Windy morning departure

Of course, two of my neighbors had to leave for work as I was conducting my photoshoot. I’m sure they wondered what the occasion was.

walter watches

Oh Walter, if only you could take pictures.

Slightly embarrassed but not daunted, we set off, into the wind. Yikes. Nashville could have put the Lakefront Trail to shame this morning, with a steady, strong wind and occasional gusts that had me in the lower range of gears all the way to work. Once I turned north, the wind was coming from the side. I thought that was an improvement until a huge gust almost pushed me out of the bike lane.

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Beautiful Bicycles: Velorbis Mobii Trike

When I visited Copenhagen Cyclery this weekend, I also test rode the Velorbis Mobii Trike. Yay, trike! I’ve been wanting to test ride a three-wheeled beast for some time now. When I wrote about the WorkCycles Bakfiets a couple of months ago, I mentioned that I could not know for sure how I felt about it without riding a trike for comparison.

The Mobii (love the name!) comes in one size and two powder-coated colors: orange and gray. Designed and handmade in Denmark, this thoroughly modern, steel-framed stunner has the power to erase whatever old-fashioned connotations the word “tricycle” has.

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Secondhand Savvy: Vintage Style II

Our vintage style series has finally returned! Now that Dottie has outlined the many excellent reasons cyclists are drawn to vintage style, it’s my turn to share some tips on secondhand shopping. Since I can’t bring you all to my favorite places to shop vintage– America’s Thrift Store in Pell City, my grandmother’s closet (like other bloggers, a place I’ve had great luck with), the local shop Pre- to Post-Modern,–I’ll focus on shopping somewhere I know you all can visit: the Internet.

Vintage dress, vintage bike

Vintage dress, vintage bike

I love browsing through carefully curated vintage shops for style ideas, but when it comes to opening my wallet, the item must be a bargain (hey, it is used after all!). When shopping secondhand, I prefer items that are either timeless, or play off of current trends without being too costume-y. Things, in other words, that don’t necessarily scream “vintage” and can be mixed with modern pieces to add a unique touch.

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Beautiful Bicycles: Velorbis Studine

Today I met a new beauty in town, the Velorbis Studine at Copenhagen Cyclery, a “younger” and more affordable version of the Velorbis Classic bikes (which I reviewed here). The differences are subtle – fewer gears, painted rims and no lights or leather grips.

Designed in Denmark and handmade in Germany, these stylish steel bikes are chic and cheeky at once. The Studine aka Student comes in three colors (red, green, black) and four sizes (51 and 56 cm for step-through, 54 and 59 cm for diamond frame). If cream-colored Schwalbe tires are not luscious enough, these ones are coupled with powder-coated rims to match the frames. The classy and comfortable Brooks B67 sprung saddle tops the design off perfectly.

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A Bike Lover’s Gift Guide: Give Back

Week one of our Bike Lover’s Gift Guide highlighted fun and beautiful handcrafts available on Etsy. For week two we are shifting our focus to gifts that give back to the bicycling community.

  • Life-Changing Bikes – Gift a bike in honor of someone you love via World Bicycle Relief. The Bicycles for Educational Empowerment program aims to give 50,000 bicycles to school children in rural Zambia – 70% of whom are girls – to enable the children to travel to and from school more easily. The cost is $134 per bicycle, which includes shipping and assembling the bike, as well as paying for a trained bike mechanic for each school. Any donation amount is welcome.
  • Local Bike Advocacy – Give the gift of membership to your local bike advocacy organization. In Chicago the Active Transportation Alliance works to create better conditions for bicyclists, pedestrians and public transit users. Membership is inexpensive and includes lots of discounts at retailers across the city, several membership events and a newsletter.
  • Bicycle Cooperatives – Give the gift of community. Examples include gift memberships at co-ops like Bici Co-op in Birmingham and used bicycles for purchase at Bikes Not Bombs in Boston and Working Bikes Cooperative in Chicago.  Your community may have a bicycle cooperative you could support in some way through your holiday gift-giving.
  • The Open Road – Give the gift of adventure. A gift membership for the Adventure Cycling Association includes a subscription to Adventure Cycling Magazine, discounts on route maps and affiliate benefits, and if you join or renew for yourself now, you can give a holiday gift membership for half off. If you really want to go all out, you could give someone an amazing cycling tour.
  • Magazine Subscription – Momentum, The Magazine for Self-Propelled People, is distributed free in several cities across North America. Gift subscriptions are super affordable and help support this first-class publication.
  • Organized Rides – Give the gift of a fun day together.  Many rides support bicycling or other environmental causes.  If you find a ride you like in another city, make a whole weekend vacation of it.  This ride along Chicago’s beautiful lakefront benefits Climate Cycle. The annual ride is scheduled for May 14, 2010 and cyclists select from a 4, 10, 20 or 62-mile course. Proceeds go to installing solar energy in Chicago public schools, which currently pay more for energy costs than books and computers combined.

If you have any other ideas or know of a worthy bicycling cause, please share in the comments!

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