April 2010 archive

Millennium Park in the Morning

I stopped by Millennium Park on the way to work Thursday morning. The park is out of my way, but worth a visit. I have gobs more pictures of the gardens – this is only the first set.

I really appreciate Chicago.  The city has its problems, but there is also so much beauty.

Playing favorites

For the last few weeks you may have noticed me riding Le Peug more often.

But I like to be fair (I was the kind of child who worried about stuffed animals being lonely if they didn’t sleep with me every night, which is why I only ever had one), so for the past couple of weeks it’s been the Bat’s turn.

The minute my butt hit the seat, I thought, no wonder I brought this bike back from the UK. Smooth, stylish, sturdy, easy to shift, built-in lights and zero maintenance. Why would I want to ride something else? Why have two bikes, again?

Funny thing is, I know I’ll feel the same way the next time I get back on Le Peug. Light, nimble, sporty and fast. Why would I want to ride something else? Why have two bikes, again?

Anyone else have trouble picking a favorite bike?

Out of My Way, Boys!

What follows is a glimpse at the mindset of a female bike commuter. I assume I’m not the only one who has these thoughts and impulses. :)

I am not a competitive person, more happy when everyone is a winner. As the weather warms and I see all the – mostly male – cyclists jockeying for position in the bike lanes, I feel a combination of amusement and annoyance. Opting out of the commute-as-race mentality is one reason I love riding my Dutch bike.

That said, sometimes my ego kicks in when I ride Betty Foy and I end up pushing myself a lil’ more than usual. There is a correlation between this phenomenon and listening to Lady Gaga on my iPod.*

I’m not delusional regarding the limits of my skillz and my petite steel mixte, but I can ride pretty fast. On my Betty Foy, I pass the majority of cyclists on the lakefront path, except for those serious guys and gals in jerseys, especially in the spring when most are emerging from hibernation. (On the streets I usually take it easier due to all the traffic.)

Anyone who rides at least 10 miles a day, every day, all year is bound to get pretty good at it.

Today was one of those ego days.

On the lakefront path this morning, I saw in my rear view mirror a lycra commuter gaining on me. I decided to kick it up a notch, thinking he would eventually pass, but at least I would show that I’m not such an easy mark. To my surprise, the distance between us grew and soon he was far behind.

On the streets this evening, I had to deal with guys all up in my space, trying to crowd me out at lights. You know what I’m talking about – riders stopping next to me and creeping ahead before the light turns green. This behavior pushes my competitive button for two reasons. First, crowding me at an intersection is unsafe when I’m trying to maintain my line between moving traffic and parked cars. Second, the stereotypical attitude – based solely on my gender and appearance – that I am an obstacle to be overtaken irks me. Not so fast, boys! Methinks you should get out of my way. Yeah, I’ve got a pink helmet, basket, skirt, heels. And…? Sure enough, I soon left those guys behind.

Most of the time I’m happy to let others expend energy on this kind of stuff while I la la lalala along, taking in the scenery, especially while riding my Oma.  But sometimes I can’t help asserting myself.  It’s kinda fun!  I even start daydreaming about racing on a Sweetpea Little Black Dress wearing lycra, but really I’m very risk averse.  Plus, those hardcore women would kick my ass ;)

{And now, random scenes from my Chicago day. Note the very special Dottie fuel: gourmet cupcakes!}


*When riding in the streets, I sometimes listen to music, only in my right ear and at a very low volume. I’ve assessed the risk and determined it safe for my situation. Plus, it does wonders for my sanity and general cheeriness.

Spring Wind in the Windy City

In Chicago much of the weather depends on the wind. In these photos you can see the sun, but you can’t see the WIND, which made the 50 degree temps pretty chilly. The 20 mph sustained wind was my friend this morning, pushing me all the way downtown. In the evening the wind was up to no good, but in fairness I had turned against her, not the other way around. Betty Foy was definitely the bicycle of choice today, as she’s much lighter and more aerodynamic than my Dutch bike.

Overall, a pretty good day. :) Chicago is the windy city, so I’ve come to terms with this extra challenge – a fair exchange for totally flat geometry. Does anyone else deal with such fierce wind as a daily variable?

p.s. Two lovely blogs are making me so happy with bike loveliness lately – Evoluer (how have I never discovered this site before?!) and Lulu Letty (a fave fashion blogger who recently acquired a vintage beauty). Definitely check out these happy places!

Happy Birthday, Trisha!

Thirty years ago today, Trisha was born – mistress of bike riding, singing any lyric known to mankind, draping a scarf, interviewing famous authors, baking fancy treats, traveling Europe and goofing off. When we met four years ago, my life got way more awesome. For example, one year ago today, we were celebrating her birthday riding bikes in St. Petersburg, Russia, and in a few months we plan to be riding bikes in Paris!

But before that grand trip, I will be in Nashville this weekend to celebrate.

Trisha, if you supply the hula hoops, I’ll bring my dancing shoes and we’ll finally learn the In the Sun routine. Deal? Deal! :)

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Bicycle Goddess Brigade

Bicycle Goddess Brigade – the kind of name that is formed while riding in the rain with a posse of fun women.

This morning I met some great new people, Arielle, Amanda and Anni (Yup, we all have blogs – Arielle created hers today after encouragement. Fun fact: Amanda’s brother is Lansing Photo Cyclist). Before today we were strangers and I knew them only through this blog. They all recently moved to Chicago and are interested in getting around the city via velo, so I arranged for us to meet for brunch and an easy ride.

I enjoyed myself so much, even though rain joined us for the ride. I figure anyone interested in cycling around the city must be pretty cool and I was certainly right when it comes to these awesome women.

Back to the Bicycle Goddess Brigade. Women of Chicago who like bikes: join the fun. You don’t have to be a hardcore cyclist or even own a bike (in fact, you could go bike shopping with Anni and me). I’m thinking of this as a low-key way to hang out and make friends, not so much for structured group rides, though we could do some. Seriously, don’t be shy! Email me at LGRAB [at] letsgorideabike [dot] com – or just leave a comment below – and I’ll keep you updated on the next get-together.

Pop and Culture

I rode my bike 15 miles on Saturday, wearing a dress and boots, naturally. The rain stayed away for my ride, although the fog and wind were quite harsh.  I pumped myself up by pulling out my iPod on the bike path. The thumping beats of Lady Gaga and Kate Nash made me push myself harder and I accidentally got quite a workout.  I cooled down comfortably after five minutes of sitting on a park bench among the falling cherry blossoms.

My destination was the Art Institute of Chicago downtown. I met up with Melissa, who took the train from the suburbs, to see the temporary Matisse exhibit. Six rooms of Matisse was pure joy! I love Matisse. The exhibit was especially fun with such a cool friend, up for games such as, “Which do you like better?” and “Was he mad at his wife when he painted that portrait?”

Melissa the Muse

A little bit of pop, a little bit of culture, a whole lot of biking – that’s my kind of day.

More awesome rainy city adventures today, but that story will have to wait. I hope everyone else is having a good weekend!

April Showers

April showers have arrived to mess up everyone’s weekend plans, but I’ve decided not to give in. After riding home from work yesterday in the rain, I changed into a fresh dress, donned my raincoat and headed out on the town with Elizabeth. Our destination was a music venue several miles north and soon rain began pouring. After meeting up with Ms. Elle and enjoying the show, we rode home through a steady rain at 2 a.m. And guess what? We had a blast.

The thought crossed my mind that most people – unbikey people – would consider riding a total of 12 miles through a rainstorm in the middle of the night to be extreme. For me and my friends, all of this was perfectly natural. It just was, and I really dug that.

Now I’m off for more city adventures. Maybe the rain will hold off during my ride.

Deep Breaths

Riding in Chicago rush hour traffic can really raise my blood pressure, especially when it seems that every person drives a huge SUV while fiddling with a blackberry and passing within inches of me. Even after two years of daily riding, this still gets to me a bit too much sometimes. Today during my evening commute, I had to pull over for some deep breaths and springtime appreciation.

A few minutes later I returned to the road feeling calm and refreshed. I can’t control how others drive and I can’t control the appalling lack of bicycle infrastructure, but I can control my own moods. Sometimes I literally have to stop to smell the flowers.

How To: Bike Commuting in a Suit

The need to look professional is an excuse I hear often for not bike commuting. Please. Don’t try that one with me! As a lawyer, I often wear business suits to work and – yes – I ride my bike dressed up. Riding a bike in a suit is quite easy, especially if the weather is mild and the distance is not very great.  I have only a few tips:

  1. If the weather is hot, leave your tie, hosiery, jacket at work.
  2. If the weather is freezing, layer sensibly as I discuss here.
  3. If you wear pants, secure your cuff from hungry chains and crank arms, unless you want your fine Brooks Brothers suit ripped (sob).
  4. If you get hot while riding and want to remove your jacket, roll it before placing it in your pannier or basket to prevent wrinkling.
  5. Take it slow and steady.  No need to race the yoga-pant and lycra crowd.

If you follow these simple tips, riding in a suit will be a practical and simple course of action.  As a bonus, you’ll find yourself sitting up straighter and feeling super dapper.

Sure, you will definitely stand out, but is that a bad thing?  Drivers will pay more attention, while pedestrians and other cyclists smile at you more than usual.  Public perception is far from acknowledging biking in business suits as normal behavior, but that’s all the more reason to do it :)

An example of public perception: I attended my company’s Wellness Committee meeting this week to propose that we participate in Chicago’s Bike to Work Week (hosted by the Active Transportation Alliance) for the first time. (Challenge accepted, and I’m the Team Leader!) I passed around a flier advertising the ride and one of the young women immediately saw the picture below and cried out: “He’s riding a bike in a suit! Ha!” General tittering followed. I piped up that I often ride in suits.  “Really?”  “Yup.”  End of story.

Now at least all of us here know that riding a bike in a suit is not at all silly.  If you want to try riding in your work clothes, have at it!

Does anyone else out there ride in a suit, at least occasionally? Any other tips?  I almost never see other cyclists in suits.  I’ve appreciated the dapper/ladylike eye candy on the few occasions I have seen suits out there :)

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