Monthly Archives: January 2010

Snow Days in Nashville

Biking news out of Nashville is going to be slow for the next day or two, due to Snowpocalypse 2010. Friday morning, snow started falling and continued for the rest of the day, ending with an accumulation of (gasp!) about four inches (I can hear Dot laughing all the way from Chicago).

My office was closed on Friday, as were all the schools, and many businesses were shut over the weekend.

Snowy day in Nashville

Snow!!

Before you hardier New England and Midwestern souls start laughing too loudly, I should explain that this sort of weather strikes us, oh, only every 10 years or so, so the city has no proper snow plows. This means that streets stay icy/slushy/snowy for days following a snowfall–especially side streets, which are what I take to work. And of course, none of my bikes are set up to cope with this amount of slush, snow or ice.

icicles

icicles

It’s supposed to be sunny tomorrow, with a high of 4o, so fingers crossed some of this snow will be melted away and I can be back on two wheels come Tuesday or Wednesday! I’ve missed my bikes.

Minnie

My car stayed at home this weekend too

Luckily, my neighborhood is walkable. I spent most of the weekend tromping around, trying out the new Thai restaurant that’s just blocks away and having a beer at my local pub — at least, when I wasn’t at home drinking hot chocolate, working on a long-neglected craft project or two, or catching up on “Gossip Girl.”

snowy me

Snowy me

Anyone else dealing with unexpected wintry weather?

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Brooklyn Tricycle Chic: Vintage Style III

My favorite online vintage shop is Market Publique, where the sellers are vetted, the pictures are well-styled and the selection is a top-notch mix of designer duds and affordable finds. Imagine my delight when I saw that the intrepid entrepreneur behind the site, Pamela, uses a vintage trike to get around and haul cargo for the shop. She was gracious enough to talk with us for Part III of our Vintage Style Series. Read on to hear about the traumatic event that stopped her from cycling for so long, her return to pedal-powered transportation and the intersection between chic cycling and vintage style.

Pamela's first vintage trike

Pamela and her Vintage Trike

Hi Pamela. Thanks again for taking the time for this! We love to profile real women who use bikes for transportation, and you and your trike are perfect for our vintage series.

Tell us a bit about your history with cycling. When and why did you start, and how do you use cycling now in your life?

I didn’t really start cycling until this summer. I knew how to ride a bike when I was a kid, but I was pretty bad at it, and once crashed into a small bush outside this lady’s driveway because she was backing out and I had never learned to use my backpedal brake. As I was lying amidst the bush, under my bike, the lady backed up more, rolled down her window and said: “Can you please be more careful with my bushes?” then she rolled up the window and sped away… I was stunned, hurt, scarred for life and never rode my bike again.

My husband Jon has always been on my case about how awesome it would be if we could go ride our bikes together around Brooklyn. I was also walking many many blocks with tons of packages from the Market Publique office to the Post Office, and we had just signed up for a CSA, where I would have to pick up our vegetables every two weeks – it seemed like I really needed a bike then.

(Yikes.) So what is the story of your awesome vintage trike?

I hesitated getting a bike because of my childhood experiences, so I jokingly said that maybe I should get a Big Wheel or some kind of tricycle so I could carry a bunch of stuff and not worry about falling over.

I didn’t really know adult tricycles existed, but after some googling, we found a few. I got super excited and was trying to decide between a blue and a red model on Amazon, when a few days later, Jon surprised me with an early birthday present: my awesome vintage trike, found on Craigslist. My birthday is actually in September, but that way I could ride it around all summer and really enjoy it.

Unfortunately, knowing little about bikes, I bought the wrong lock and my trike got stolen before my birthday even came. We instantly searched Craigslist and eBay, to see if the thieves were up to no good, and lo-and-behold, we found a very similar one, which we bought instead.

Pamela's Second Vintage Trike

Do other cyclists and drivers on the road treat you differently because of your bike and clothes?

Ummm, yes. I think people think I’m weird (it’s true). Some cyclists get very excited, and ring their bell or yell “awesome bike” (I like those). Others give me dirty looks and complain I’m taking too much of the bike lane or going to slow (not so keen on them). About the clothes, I do live in Williamsburg, so I don’t stick out as much as I would in other places.

Is there a link between your passion for vintage clothing and your passion for cycling (aesthetic, environmental, economic, etc.)?

I think biking is a great way to get around without having a carbon footprint. It’s much better than driving a car to go 10 blocks away, and great exercise!

It is very much tied to my vintage lifestyle, as the main reason I got it was to be able to take the packages of clothing I’ve sold on Market Publique to the Post Office. We also love to eat local, so we joined a the Southside CSA. I ride my bike to pick up our veggies all the way from the Northside, and take my reusable bags in the basket with me.

Aesthetically, I love how my trike has recently become my signature accessory, it’s really fun! And the fact that we were able to get a vintage one is even better.

Vintage style seems to be having a moment right now. What do you attribute that to?

People are wanting to be more eco-friendly and sustainable without sacrificing style. Vintage achieves that, because you can get something fashionable and one-of-a-kind, that’s also eco-friendly. You’re not only reusing, but there’s less waste created when the fashion you buy is stylish but not necessarily trendy: you can wear your vintage season after season, since it won’t really go out of style, instead of buying things made in China that won’t last or will be out of fashion in a few months.

Plus, vintage tends to be a better value, as the quality is often higher than that of new items at an equal price point. If a dress has been around for more than 20 years, you know it will hold up for a few more years – unlike the new things that you wash once and get destroyed.

Pamela and her Topshop cruiser

Pamela and her Topshop cruiser via Chictopia contest

The online vintage shop you co-founded, Market Publique, is a huge success. Tell us about the concept.

Well thank you! I think we’ve had the success we’ve had because we solved a problem.

I was selling vintage on eBay and then on Etsy for a few years before we started Market Publique, and was really frustrated with both options. eBay changed their policies, fees, and feedback system to a point where it no longer made sense for me to sell my vintage there. Plus, it’s overrun with fakes, vintage reproductions not listed correctly, and a lot of irrelevant items, which made it hard to find the true vintage or trust any of the sellers.

I tried Etsy, but items sat on the virtual shelves for way too long without moving, and the lack of auctions made pricing difficult. You could also have very little creative control over your shop and branding, which is essential in conveying your message and presenting your items in an attractive way. Plus I felt that vintage should not have to be a second-class citizen on a handmade site, but should have a marketplace designed and built for it.

Since my partners and I are designers and developers, we decided we should start a site that fills in the gap, and gives vintage buyers and sellers a focused environment where vintage is truly appreciated – thus, Market Publique was born about six months ago.

We’re truly grateful to everyone who has supported us in our short existence. Because of them, our budding new site is now competing with eBay (10 years old!) and Etsy (5 years old!). We are thrilled at this quick start, and excited to finally bring the vintage community together, giving them the place and attention they deserve.

What is the vintage outfit of your dreams to ride your bike with (or perhaps you already own it!)?

Hmmm… I have so many dream outfits! Some I do own, like many of my 50s dresses, which pair excellently with some flat sandals and a picnic basket on the trike. I would love to have a swimsuit by Rudi Geinreich with a cute little skirt that I could ride to Brighton Beach and go sunning in (with a big hat and SPF, of course!).

Do you have any guidelines you apply to yourself when dressing to go somewhere on your trike, or do you ride in any outfit without giving it a second thought?

I try to ride with any outfit, but that has gotten me into trouble before, so now I give it a little more thought: Rompers usually work the best. Too short skirts or skirts that tend to twirl and blow in the wind require bike shorts or cute little tap pants. Long skirts are a no-no. Shoes are better without a heel, but hey, it all depends how far you’re going! And no shoes that are too precious to get scratches, as that’s almost inevitable.

The aforementioned "trouble"

The Aforementioned "Trouble"

The Aftermath

Is there any advice you would like to pass on to women considering city cycling?

I would say, stay on the bike lane and wear a helmet. I go to http://www.nycbikemaps.com/ and plan my route if I don’t know where I am going. I also bike with other people if I am going long distances, so we can help each other out if necessary – although they don’t like to wait for my grandma trike… hehehe. I try to only bike around Brooklyn, and not go into Manhattan so much, as it is mighty crazy over there.

Plus, get all your gear: a good helmet that fits properly, lights for night riding, a bell, and most importantly – a mighty good Kryptonite lock – they will steal ANYTHING in big cities.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks, Pamela! What an interesting and inspiring story.

If you are a vintage lover, check out Market Publique. You can find everything from this amazing 80’s Chanel dress (with price tag to match) to this much more affordable floral polyester shirt dress, this well-priced plaid and velvet YSL dress, and this sexy Dior cocktail dress. Also check out Pamela’s blog for fun fashion inspiration and trike spottings.

You can read Part I and Part II of our Vintage Style Series at those links. Stay tuned for the final series post, Trisha’s guide to buying and owning a vintage bicycle.

Anyone else out there have a trike? Love vintage? Both? :)

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More Visible: Neon or Bunnies?

Some bicyclists never leave home without their neon, like this guy below.  Not a bad idea.

Other bicyclists get noticed by wearing stuffed bunnies atop their helmets.  Naturally.

If you or someone you know rides an Oma in Chicago while wearing a Bern helmet topped with a pink bunny and streamers (YES!  you read that right) please contact me.  Mr. Dottie spotted this woman yesterday, obviously someone I need to have a drink with.

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LGRAB, California style

It all started with our friend Wanda . . .

. . . who summoned me, Dottie and our friend Erin to California to visit her for a long weekend. At the end of January. Who were we to say no?

Because Dottie and I can’t seem to travel without taking at least one turn around the city by bike, our sunniest San Diego day was reserved for a cruise down the boardwalk near Belmont Park, and a meetup with our blogger buddy Beany of Brown Girl in the Lane. Though Beany didn’t want her picture on the blog, if you look closely you might catch a glimpse of the handlebar of her sharp customized Surly in some of these shots.

The group sets off!

The group sets off!

We didn’t get a real sense of what cycling in San Diego day-to-day was like (check Beany’s blog for that), but our one beachside afternoon was a lot of fun. So consider this your glimpse of what LGRAB would be if Dottie and I relocated from the midwest tundra and the land-locked southeast!

First of all, the colors would be a lot brighter; at least, this time of year.

Grass would be green, and it would be windy! The hair is flying in these shots.

Erin against the ocean

We would make sure to pause for some goofy photo breaks — OK, so that’s not a change.

handlebar pushups!

And stop for ice cream. OK, also not much of a change!

I’m still not completely sold on beach cruisers. In addition to the strange geometry, they don’t do much to encourage people to make cycling part of their everyday lives, even though they’re easy to ride in everyday clothes — we saw a lot more bikes on the boardwalk in San Diego than on the streets. On the other hand, a pleasant cruise alongside the beach might be a nice introduction for a reluctant rider — and who says cycling has to be serious all the time? Certainly not us.

Dottie & her cruiser

Dottie sparkles!

A beautiful beach with a vibrant city behind it is a pretty killer combination — now I realize why people fall in love with San Diego. You can see more pictures from our trip here.

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Roll Models: Catherine and Her E-Bike

If you hang around here, you’re probably already familiar with the awesome Catherine of The Freckled Diaries. We asked her to share her bicycling story and tell us more about her cool bikes.

Brief introduction:

I’m Catherine, a librarian working on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  I live in the Old Town section of Alexandria, Virginia–a small city just on the other side of the Potomac from DC.  I own two bikes–one regular and one electric and I’m in the final stages of going totally car-free and I’m excited about it!

Catherine with her Electra Amsterdam

A little about my bike history:

I was big into bike riding as a kid, particularly from ages 10-14, when I pretty much lived on my bike. I had what felt like free reign to the whole universe, but in retrospect, the outer limits of what was allowed was a mile and a half away. It didn’t matter though because my school, after school activities, most of my friends, the YMCA, the library, playgrounds, etc were in this 1.5 mile circle around my house so, for a pre-teen/young teen, that may as well be the whole world. My bike riding came to an abrupt stop at about age 14 when I started high school in a town 10 miles away and I outgrew my pink Schwinn. This being the mid-90s, it was replaced with a mountain bike. I hated that bike. I didn’t like the way I felt riding it, but because I didn’t know any better, I figured it was because I had outgrown bikes. In retrospect, it was the hunched over feeling, the perched too high feeling, the handle brakes (as opposed to coaster brakes which I still prefer) that I hated. I think I rode that thing twice.

A Reintroduction to bikes and the Electra Amsterdam:

Fast forward a double-digit number of years and I find myself living in Old Town. It’s pretty much the perfect city environment for bike riding: streets on a grid, not heavy or fast traffic, everything you need within 2 miles, extensive trail network all over Northern Virginia and DC to get elsewhere. I bought an Electra Amsterdam with the intention of riding it around town for errands, getting myself to the Metro station, etc. I thought maybe I’d take it out on the trail every now and again, but at the time I was heavy and not physically fit and “cyclists,” particularly those out on the trails, seemed like such athletic people that I couldn’t really imagine doing much more than scooting around town.

I quickly learned that I need a better imagination.

The bike commute:

When my bike arrived in March, I immediately fell back in love with the freeing feeling of cycling, and found myself inventing errands to do so I could spend more time on the bike. After a few weeks, I took to the trail to see how far I could make it, and after doing that a few times (by mid April) I realized that I was 3/4 of the way to work and that I really could make a go of bike commuting. After dealing with a broken foot (minor setback), I started bike commuting twice a week in early June.

The commute is about 10 miles each way, and is largely flat but does have a few short but steep hills and one very seriously large and steep hill at the end. (Here’s a video I made of the commute: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvYI2PYivw8). It’s a great ride: a bit of Old Town streets, then a trail all the way up and across the Potomac, a sidewalk/trail to the Washington Monument, then a straight shot up the National Mall to Capitol Hill. It also takes me past two rugby fields, which I particularly like because there’s frequently a match in the spring and summer evenings. I love rugby and rugby players, so it’s kind of an ideal situation for me :).

Catherine with her e-bike

My e-bike decision:

A combination of the time factor, my fitness level and various logistic concerns made a daily commute not really workable for me. I thought about it more and more and realized that if I got an electric bike, I could bike commute every day and completely replace my car with the combination of the bikes, Metro and Zipcar. By early August, I had my e-bike (an Ecobike Elegance) and began bike commuting every day–most days with the e-bike and some with the Amsterdam. I still consider the Amsterdam my main bike; it’s all I use for everything but the longest of rides, and I frequently take it on Metro to get to/from farther-flung friends’ houses. The e-bike is more the utilitarian commuting beast.  Either way, I haven’t driven my car since September and have its sale in the works.  All in all, the sale of the car will cover the cost of both bikes, and between insurance, gas and maintenance (plus the ability to rent out my parking space), I’ll be saving/earning almost $5000/year (the parking space is worth a pretty penny ’round these parts).

More about the electric bike:

About e-bikes….they introduce a level of complexity into the situation but I’m really a proponent of them. Mine works in two ways–one by “turn the handle, bike goes” (the throttle option) and by pedal assist option–you pedal and the bike “senses” the effort you’re putting in and matches it. Most of the time, I use pedal assist because that’s what comes naturally to me and it doesn’t drain the battery nearly as much. I use the throttle mainly to help starting from a red light (particularly if I’ve forgotten to change gears before stopping!), or every now and again for a little “daredevil” boost of speed.  Most e-bikes work in a variety of different ways (some allow the cyclist to select the percentage of assistance for pedal assist, others are throttle only, some regenerate the battery when coasting/breaking). I know that they’re a little “controversial”, mainly because of the perceived “laziness” factor, but I think that this quote from a recent New York Times article about e-bikes in the US addresses that nicely (and coincidentally comes from my brand):

“Four years ago, we encountered many people saying, ‘Oh wow, we are so lazy, we need motors on our bikes’ ” said Scott Shaw, president of EcoBike USA, an e-bike maker in Southern California. “Now people are understanding and saying, this is more a utilitarian vehicle for commuting and getting outside on two wheels rather than four.”

I think it’s really important to recognize that not everyone is willing or able (physically, or time-wise) to commute, or otherwise travel daily by regular bike. While e-bikes are not as simple or “green” as regular bikes, and don’t provide the same level of exercise, they are far simpler, more sustainable and provide far more exercise than cars and public transportation. I think they’re a great option for that large segment of people who “would cycle to work but….”. I think that the more we embrace (or at least not dismiss) e-bikes, the more we’ll see bikes being thought of and used as transportation rather than “just” recreation.

So that’s it! If anyone’s ever in the DC area and wants some tips on where to go, what to do (or even a personal tour of the Capitol– a little staff perk), drop me a line!

Thanks so much for your inspiring story, Catherine! Visit Catherine at The Freckled Diaries.

Her story contains a common thread that also runs through my and Trisha’s stories: that of abandoning the bicycle in early teenage years, only to rediscover as adults the fun of riding a bike. We are curious to hear who shares this experience. Or has anyone ridden bikes without pause from childhood up through adulthood? If so, what kept you from falling into the societal trap of trading a bike for a license? On the other end of the spectrum, has anyone picked up a bicycle for the first time in adulthood, having never ridden as a kid?

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Back From California

We are back from a trip to San Diego for our annual girlfriend reunion.  We will have intelligent stuff to say about the city and its bicycling culture later – which includes cruisers and meeting the fantastic Beany of Brown Girl in the Lane.  For now we’ll leave you with pictures.

I’ll put them after the jump to spare loading time…

Continue reading

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The Winter Cycling Community

While I was taking this shot, hunched over Betty Foy to balance my camera on the saddle, two separate passing cyclists asked if everything was okay. Yes, thank you! This random kindness reminded me how strong the Chicago cycling community remains even in the winter.

Sometimes while waiting at a light I find myself flanked by two or three other people on bikes. Note that I said “waiting” at a light – winter cyclists as a group seem more responsible than the influx of summer cyclists. The percentage of men vs. women is definitely more skewed toward men in the winter, but plenty of women are out there, too. Friendliness is all over the map, with some people striking up whole conversations and others completely ignoring my chipper “Good mornings.”

Overall, I am impressed by the number of winter cyclists and feel that the worse the weather, the stronger our collective bond. That’s one reason why events such as today’s Winter Bike to Work Day hosted by the Active Transportation Alliance – complete with coffee and cheesecake – are so great.

How is the winter cycling community where you live? Is there one?

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DIY: Fun with Fenders

Technically, this should have been categorized as a DIWYF — do it with your family! Without my dad and my brother, there’s no way these Velo Orange Fluted Fenders would have made it onto Le Peug. I had read about fender installations before purchasing mine, and the one thing that all the stories had in common was the potential to get into something difficult–something that required special tools or customization. As luck would have it, mine required both.

Twas the week after Christmas, and we wheeled Le Peug into my Dad’s garage.

Le Peug before

Le Peug enters the garage . . . he doesn't know what he's in for

First step was to clean the bike and touch up the 30-year-old paint job. Dad promised that his 3M compound could take out all but the deepest scratches, and that Wenol, an extra-strength German metal cleaner, could make the dull aluminum rims shine.

tools

cast of characters

As usual, he was right. Check out these before/after shots. That compound cream worked miracles. If you think your bike needs to be repainted, try this first — but keep in mind that it does remove some of the paint, so be cautious.

portion of seat tube near bottom of photo has been cleaned

stays

stay at top of photo has been cleaned

After cleaning the frame with compound, we touched up the scratches with some white paint. Once that dried, it was time for wax. Now, the frame is back to blinding white and looks almost like new.

The clean, touched-up frame -- like new!

That took a couple of hours, and a lot of elbow grease, but it was the easy part. Next, we had to figure out how to install the fenders. Le Peug’s brake and stay clearance was tight, so we had to reshape both the front and rear fenders a bit.

And because the screw on our brake bolt wasn’t long enough to attach the fender, too, we had to come up with a makeshift L-bracket. Luckily, right about that time my brother wandered into the garage. He scrounged up some scrap metal and got to work.

Charlie bracket

Charlie drills the custom bracket

One fender down! I study the instructions for our next step.

The other major modification? Shaving down the front sides of the rear fender so that it would fit better between the chain stays behind the bottom bracket. Sorry, but I did not take pictures of this process since flying sparks were involved.

We replaced the wheels and cut the extra length off the stays (more sparks!).

Both fenders on, we replace the wheels.

Then we wiped the frame down again, removing some of the marks we had made with wrenches, etc, during the installation. And here’s the finished product!

front fender with custom bracket

Charlie wasn’t happy with the L-bracket was, since it was so visible and made of two different colored metals, but I like it — the gold matches the decal on the bottom tube and it is distinctive.

all done

my finished beautiful bicycle

While I don’t really enjoy day-to-day bike maintenance duties (refilling tires, yawn), projects like this feel different. Taking the bike apart, cleaning it, installing the fenders and putting it all back together gave me a better sense of how my bike works. And seeing the finished project was oh-so-satisfying: Le Peug looks better than ever, and our painstaking custom installation means a perfect fit with no rattling. I’m now saving my pennies for the next upgrade on my list: a Brooks saddle.

What’s your latest DIY project?

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Guitar Bike: Week Two

Another guitar class means another guitar-bike picture. Since the weather is beautiful and the roads are clear, I rode Betty Foy this time. I felt perfectly stable, but had to lean forward a bit more than I would like, making the ride somewhat uncomfortable. Luckily, it was less than two miles. Cars seem to give me more room when I have this on my back.

Now I’m off to enjoy the beautiful weather with Betty some more :)

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Foggy Navy Pier Ride

Today we engaged in our absolute favorite Saturday activity – cycling to Navy Pier to see a play at the Shakespeare Theater. In my opinion, this is the best theater in Chicago and we never miss a performance. There has been a “heat wave” of just above freezing this week. I doubled-up my tights, wore two sweaters, threw on snow boots and was good to go (my Marc Jacobs maryjanes rode in my basket – I have cycled in these heels, but my feet would have been too cold today). Since most of the snow and ice melted, I was able to pull out sweet Betty Foy for the ride. I missed her effortless pedaling, although the potholes that Oma handles so easily rattled my teeth.

Navy Pier looks much different on a foggy day. To see pictures I took on a beautiful blue day, click here.

Where did you ride this weekend?

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Cycling: Simple Act or Sheer Will?

Reactions to our bike commuting can come in two extremes.  Some act like we are superwomen or daredevils for riding everywhere, even in winter.  Others act like we are frivolous and silly for riding in skirts with Dutch bikes.   Neither of these extremes are accurate.

My gut reactions to these two viewpoints vary just as wildly. I want to assure the “superwoman” group that riding a bike is a simple and fun act that requires little more than sitting and pedaling, while I want to curtly inform the “silly” group that we are out there riding every day in any weather, while they are curled up on the couch reading back issues of Bicycling Magazine.

So I must ask myself, which reaction is more accurate? Is cycling a simple act that anyone can perform or a determined act of sheer will?  Can we reconcile the two?  (I was looking to capture a little of both in the photos.)

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Icy Sunday

Another Sunday ride for alone time, now with my new tripod. 10 degrees F (-12 C) was no reason to sloth around indoors. I took city streets to work every day last week, and hadn’t been to the lakefront since last Sunday. I love to be one with frozen Lake Michigan during the winter. Contemplating the horizon makes city living much more interesting.

It’s really not that cold. Humans are made to withstand temperature differences. I was totally warm, except for my fingers as always. In case you’re wondering, I stay warm in dresses by wearing two pairs of thick wool tights. Under my dress I have a cashmere sweater and over a thick wool sweater coat I bought in Tallin, Estonia and scarf and boots I bought in St. Petersburg, Russia 8 years ago. How time flies.

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Teen Witch Cycle Chic

Teen Witch! I was obsessed with that movie for a bit in 1990, carrying around a pink-papered, heart-shaped notebook in which I wrote all the spells. Somehow I had forgotten all about it, until I saw on Lily and the Muse that Teen Vogue posted a remake of the iconic Top That “rap” scene. The two girls happen to be riding bicycles in awesome preppy 80’s outfits.

The Original:

Good stuff. I’m really feeling their outfits and definitely the bikes. The music, not so much. :)

You can watch the remake here. The remake is by designer Rachel Antonoff (they’re wearing her new designs) with Alia Shawkat from Arrested Development. This demonstrates the growing popularity of both bikes and 80’s fashion.

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Down and Dirty Snow Ride

Sometimes snow is a magical winter wonderland, and sometimes snow is simply bad weather. When I need to get to work and 7 inches of snow have fallen in the last 24 hours – that is bad weather.

I wanted to ride the wonderlandy Lakefront Trail this morning, but even if it were plowed that early – and there’s no way of knowing – the side streets that lead there were impassible.

I almost turned around immediately after setting out, until I saw that the major street I take was perfectly clear. For most of the trip, I was able to ride in the bike lane like normal.

The next semi-major street was mostly clear, but the bike lane was trashed. I refuse to ride in slush – it’s slippery even with studs and you never know what it’s hiding – so I rode in the main lane and let cars go around me.

Oops, look at the time. I need to stop fiddling around with my camera and get to work.

The entire parking lot was shoveled except for my no-parking parking spot. Oma got stuck and I had to pick up one of her wheels to pull her to the gate. Thank goodness for internal brakes and chaincases, because Oma would have been effed up by the time I pulled her out for the ride home.

Turns out the Lakefront Trail was plowed, at least when Mr. Dottie rode it later in the day. Here’s a gem from his Blackberry camera. Dottie jealous!

Anyone else having down and dirty snow rides? What are your tricks and tips?

Update: Oooh, watch this very positive story about Chicago winter cycling from our local news station.

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Fleet, Fun Folder: the Jango Flik

It’s been several weeks since the Jango Flik T8 arrived at my door. Overall, my time with this fleet, flirty folding bike has been a real pleasure. Cute as a button, the Flik is something of a social butterfly, with the ability to attract stares and start conversations.

the Flik in Dragon Park

the Flik in Dragon Park

This is a ride that’s  sporty yet practical, with 8 speeds, a rear suspension and an eye-catching design. With an MSRP of $1199, this is no bargain bicycle, but the smoothness of the ride and the ease of the fold demonstrate real quality. My favorite design feature is the wide, comfy grips that make the slightly bent forward riding position an easier adjustment for a sit-up-and-beg-er like me.

flik grips

the wide, comfy grips

Like all Jango bikes, the Flik is compatible with a wide range of Topeak accessories. I was sent a few of these to try: a spacious rear rack bag, which I liked quite a bit; a handlebar headlamp, which was pretty much useless; and a handlebar bag that can hold a cell phone or iPod — well, if said iPod is newer (and hence smaller) than my circa 2005 Mini. The bike also has space to fit a headlight or tail light and a customizable head badge area.

That said, the bike lacks a few of the amenities you might want in a commuter bike, like fenders and a chainguard — much to the dismay of my gray pants. :)

flik rear wheel

flik rear wheel

In the above picture, you can also see the rear suspension. This is the first bike I’ve ridden with a rear suspension, and it feels like riding in my grandfather’s Grand Marquis rather than my Mustang. The Flik actually bounces up and down if you’re pedaling hard. It’s a subtle movement but definitely a movement! Personally I didn’t find the suspension a major plus as I tend to “post” when I ride over large bumps on a bicycle, but if you ride regularly on rough pavement or gravel roads (which the Flik’s wider tires can do easily) it might be appreciated by your bottom.

One thing my bottom never grew to appreciate was the seat, an “Allay Racing Sport saddle with AirSpan technology.” Despite repeated adjustments (you can actually pump it up or deflate it using a little button under the very front of the saddle) it never felt quite right for me. That’s an easy change, though.

flik seat

Flik seat: not my fave feature!

“Flikstand”

Pedals, rubberized and collapsible

Now it’s time to talk about what it was like to have a folder in my life. Like most folding bikes, the Flik is aimed at multi-modal commuters, who go from train to bus to bike and back around again. Though I never took it on a bus, Nashville’s only form of public transportation, I did end up taking many car/bike multimodal trips  that wouldn’t have been possible (for me) without a folding bike, like the East Nashville Greenway ride. You end up riding more, in a lot of ways. I have to admit I also took advantage of my friends’ trumk space a couple of times, after a night out or if it suddenly started raining. Why not?

There was one more benefit of having a folding bike in a city without many bike amenities: In the absence of bike racks, you can just take it in with you! The Flik waited patiently for me in the office, and even accompanied me into the coffee shop a time or two. Having a folder also meant that it could fit in my condo with no problem.

My only complaint about the Flik’s foldability was that it didn’t get quite small enough. It didn’t fit in the trunk of my Mustang convertible (though it did fit in any other trunk) and when completely folded up, it was difficult to maneuver, with the handlebar stem flopping awkwardly alongside of the frame. (There is a second folding mode that preserves steering ability on the more expensive V-bar version of the Flik.)

And while I found the bike a little uncomfortable on the 20-mile ride, it performed excellently on my 5-mile roundtrip commute. Every time I rode it I felt fast and sportier than usual, not a bad thing! The 8 gears gave enough versatility to get around hilly Nashville, although I used the higher gears more often than I do on my Bat and wasn’t able to increase speed through pedaling at speeds above 15 miles or so.

At $1199, the Flik is priced similarly to the Bike Friday Tikit (which starts at $1298). It is nearly twice as expensive as the Dahon Vitesse D7, the other folder I have experience with. The Flik provided a better ride than the Dahon — you don’t feel like you’re riding a folding bike, From what I could tell from a brief test ride (it was too big for me, sob) the Tikit was comparable. The Bike Friday folds smaller and a bit more quickly, and has fenders, but the Flik has rear suspension and a sportier look. Which one you choose is probably a personal preference.

With bike commuting on the rise, folding bikes are going to be more and more in demand–it’s nice to see another quality choice out there for cyclists. The Jango Flik is definitely a strong contender in the category.

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Carrying a Guitar on a Bike

I embarked on a new adventure this year by enrolling in a guitar class. I was worried about transporting the guitar for two miles, but turns out it’s easy peasy.

Cycling with a guitar on your back is the kind of simple trick that only looks difficult. The case fits on like a backpack and the guitar is pretty light. The bottom of the guitar stops at the top of my saddle, so there’s no interference. The top of the guitar is slim, so it does not obstruct my view looking back.

I already get looks simply for being a woman, on a Dutch bike, in a dress, in extremely cold temperatures.  Add a guitar on top of that and I feel like a regular circus freak.   Life on two wheels: always an adventure.

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The Waltz of the Bikes

The Waltz of the Bikes is already making the rounds in the bike blogosphere, but I feel compelled to post it here.  The video is mesmerizing and literally put a smile on my face. Although I have seen countless pictures on Amsterdamize, watching video of cyclists in Amsterdam is powerful.

The Waltz of the Bikes from mike rubbo on Vimeo.

This video also made me a bit sad. It drives home how far Chicago is from the ideal – and Chicago is one of the most evolved cycling cities in North America.  I so rarely see anyone in normal work clothes riding about casually.  While I get a kick out of people thinking I am a superwoman for riding my bike all the time, I wish doing so were not such an oddity.

For details and background on the video, visit the maker (along with Violeta Brana Lafourcade) Mike Rubbo’s blog, Situp Cycle. Mike writes from Australia, which also has a long way to go. While there, check out the excellent video interviews with Mikael of Copenhagen Cycle Chic.

Update: also check out Amsterdamize’s Sinfonia Cyclissimo and his Vimeo channel.

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Ditch the Coat, Grab the Coffee

My new year of bike commuting is starting out very well. I’ve been taking city streets and feeling zen about everything. At least 10 other riders traveled my route this morning, a high number for winter. I even ran into another rider I know at a stoplight. The weather is dry and cold-but-not-too-cold (teens F). A few simple changes have improved my winter commute even more: ditching the coat and scarf and bringing along hot coffee to sip. This may sound goofy to some, but it works for me.

I’ve been hot in my wool coat, so this morning I critically surveyed my overstuffed coat rack and picked out a Patagonia vest, which worked perfectly over my cashmere sweater. My arms are never cold anyway, and my armpits didn’t overheat today (yes, I said armpits). I also chose not to wear a scarf. Unless it’s super cold out, a scarf makes the situation worse: my glasses fog up at stop lights, my nose gets snotty and my neck sweats. A cold face does not really bother me, especially compared with these complications. Cold digits remain my weakness, which I’m resigned to at this point, but if anyone knows of good electric mittens (not chemical glove-warmers, which were a disappointment), lemme know.

I ~love~ sipping hot coffee at stop lights with the cupholder I bought last month. Words cannot describe how pleasurable hot coffee feels in the freezing cold. Funny how the simple act of drinking coffee from my cupholder draws looks (more than usual) from drivers and people waiting at bus stops. The Soma mug is not great, as Julian of Totcycle warned(wish I’d seen this before!). I traded it with my usual coffee mug, but there’s still some splattering. A sacrifice I’m willing to make for hot coffee.

Everyone’s different when it comes to winter commuting. Some may think it’s crazy to wear only a vest, while others manage to keep their feet warm with regular sneakers, while others sip…whiskey? How about you – trying anything new? (If you live in a warm climate, feel free to gloat.)

p.s. If anyone’s interested in Batavus, Abici or Velorbis, these brands are discounted at Copenhagen Cyclery. If you know of any other sales out there, please post the info in the comments.

p.p.s. I should have said before, huge thanks to Trisha for creating this new site.  I supplied the vague ideas, she did the actual work :)

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