Monthly Archives: June 2010

Smile at the Bicycles

Today there were so many bicyclists along my route, everywhere, becoming a real force in the movement of the city – it was beautiful. I found myself smiling the whole way home.

There are many more bicyclists this summer than last summer, and especially more people dressed in regular clothes. I’m bad at numbers, but I must have seen nearly 100 other bicyclists during my commute. On the way home I rode behind a guy in a suit (jackpot!), a woman in a skirt and another woman in stylish khakis and a button-down with pink flowers on her basket.

I hope people who don’t ride notice all of the bicycles, too. They must! Seems impossible to miss such a dynamic new part of the cityscape. I’m pretty sure I saw some smiles on the faces of pedestrians. Who can resist a smile at the bicycles? Especially those with wicker baskets, flowers, skirts and suits? :)

Have you noticed more bicyclists where you live? Or is it your first summer riding a bike? I’m really curious to hear what others’ experiences have been.

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Camera Karma

As Part II of the LGRAB Summer Games was coming to a close (how has it been six weeks since we started these??) I spent a lot of time reading everyone’s entries and planning how to participate myself.

So imagine my joy when, last Wednesday, I realized I was carrying a load (small box of books, plus a laptop) on my bike.

Then imagine my chagrin when I arrived home, pulled out my camera to get some photographic evidence . . . and realized I had left my memory card in my iMac at the office. Duh.

Luckily I had a backup method: telephone!

The haze over the lens pretty much says it all about the sort of humid, sultry weather we’ve been having lately. And the uptilted seat? well, that’s something that will be addressed when I write up my “complete a bicycle maintenance task” post.

I plan on being a much more timely poster when it comes to Part III!

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LGRAB Summer Games, Part III: New Territory

We are now entering the final phase of the Summer Games. How time flies! Ladies and gentlemen, your challenge awaits.

June 28-July 18: New Territory

  • Ride a greenway (“nature” bike trail)
  • Have a bicycle picnic
  • If you don’t normally ride to work, commute by bike, or by bike/train or bike/bus
  • If you do commute, take the long way home: add distance to your usual ride
  • Explore a new part of town by bike

Prizes for this round (to be awarded to anyone who plays in Part III) include:

Winners will be determined by random drawing on July 19. As always, email us your blog links or your stories and photos using the subject line “Summer Games Part III Entry” (and check out our Flickr group). Don’t forget that you must complete two events in each round to be eligible for the grand prize of a Batavus BUB. See our original post for complete details.

Thanks to all the sponsors and players! You can drool over the complete prize list here.

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Drumroll Please (Part II)…

We have the winners from Part II of the LGRAB Summer Games!

Watch the video for a dramatic reading of the names or go beyond the fold to bypass the suspense.

Continue reading

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Flowers for the Tour de Fat

On Saturday I attended the Tour de Fat, an annual bike festival by New Belgium Brewing, where I ran into several people I know, including frequent commenter Scott and his girlfriend with their gorgeous Velorbis and Pashley bikes (pictured below). Chicago was the first stop on a nation-wide tour. You can read, see and watch more about the Tour de Fat at my write-up from last year.

Before heading out, I decided to decorate my bike. The flowers came from a thrift store wreath and were already strung together. I simply zip-tied each end to the top of my basket and voila – bike basket beauty.

I also decorated my hair. :) This is going down as an event in the Summer Games, “Decorate your bike.”

All bike baskets should be adorned with flowers and/or ribbon!

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Beautiful Bicycles: Pashley Sonnet Bliss (yes, again)

Today I stopped by Boulevard Bikes to visit the Pashley Sonnet Bliss. Lucky for me, one of the very few Pashley retailers in the U.S. is in Chicago. My love for Pashleys is no secret and I hope to own a Pashley one day. Of course, I also hope to own a bakfiets cargo bike, Brompton folding bike, ANT Light Roadster and Sweet Pea Little Black Dress, so… we’ll see.

Two years ago I seriously considered buying Pashley Princess Sovereign. I decided to buy my Dutch bike instead, but now I think owning both would not be too crazy.

A year ago, I rode and reviewed the Pashley Sonnet Bliss and fell in love. You can read all about the bike at the original review.

This is going down as “test ride a different type of bike than you normally ride” for the Summer Games. I swear the Pashley is different enough from my Oma to count! ;)

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I {Heart} My Bicycle

I love my Rivendell Betty Foy for her steel strength, smooth ride, quickness, lightness, easy step-through and good looks. Most of all, I love that she loves me back. It’s obvious!

Feel free to say what bike you ride and what you love, even if you’ve said it before. Let’s get some Friday good bike vibes going :)

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Chicago’s Bike to Work Day

Despite our focus on the simple side of cycling – get on your bike and go – I think Trisha and I became certified bike geeks the day we started a bike blog. There’s no way around it.

So when Bike to Work Day came along, I was incapable of simply riding my bike to work, I had to make a whole bikey day out of it.

First, I met my friend Elizabeth (of Bike Commuters) early in the morning to ride downtown together.

Elizabeth at the Bike to Work Rally in Daley Plaza

Then we attended the Bike to Work Rally in Daley Plaza and mingled with other bike commuters. I was excited to hear da Mayor speak, since he gets so much praise as a cycling advocate, but he did not show up due to “another mayor commitment.” Boo – hisssss. Lame.

The great helmeted dog of Kathy's folding bike

During my lunch break, I met up with Patty for delish fish tacos – silly me forgot to take a photo of her and her bike. We met through LGRAB and I must say that everyone I’ve met through this blog is all sorts of awesome. She was also a team leader for her employer’s commuter challenge (doing a great job, based on the numbers!). We talked about some ideas to get the Bicycle Goddess Brigade going, so stay tuned.

On the way home after work, I got caught in the rain storm.

Caught in the rain

Undeterred, I headed back downtown via the L train to attend the bicycle forum featuring David Byrne and other local bike advocacy luminaries. All of the speakers were interesting and the part that excited me most was a mention that Wells Street is getting a buffered bike lane in the fall – a first for Chicago. That’s part of my commute! I haven’t been able to find any information on this, though, and can’t imagine how a buffered lane would fit unless the city removes street parking (not gonna happen).

The panelists, David Byrne on the far left

After the forum, I bumped into Patty and her boyfriend Brian, aka The Car Whisperer. Even in a city as large as Chicago, the bike geeks are a pretty tight group :)

By the end of the day, I felt optimistic about the future of bicycling in Chicago. The most important thing, though, is to make every day Bike to Work Day. Here I go…

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Bike Events Are All Around

It’s the first official weekend of summer, and two events in the Southeast can help cyclists kick it off right.

First up, Nashville peeps can check out Russ & Laura (of the Path Less Pedaled) at the Nashville Bicycle Lounge at 5 pm on Saturday, June 26. I had the pleasure of meeting them yesterday, and you definitely want to hear about their trip across the country by bike.

My beautiful cousin Jodie is getting married this weekend in Birmingham, so I won’t be at the Bicycle Lounge–but if I have a second between rehearsals, showers and family time I will definitely be showing up at the Bici Coop Garden Party put together by our friends at Bike Skirt.

Are summer bike events popping up in your area?

(This post brought to you courtesy of the free wireless at  12South Taproom — go USA!)

Friendly Commute

This morning I rode further than usual to attend a conference.  While waiting at a stop light, my friend Elizabeth magically appeared next to me.  What a fun surprise!  There are few surprises better than meeting a good friend in an unexpected place.  Turns out she was on a long morning ride (being much sportier than I).  Gotta love the social aspect of bike riding.

Elizabeth brightening my morning

Soon afterward, a grouchy guy tried to mar my morning.  As I rode 8 mph on the nearly empty bike path (trying not to sweat my ass off before work), he said sarcastically while passing me, “Nice place for your helmet,” indicating the helmet hanging from my handlebars.

Helmet-carrying contraption, aka handlebars

Why, thank you!  I agree; that’s a brilliant place for my helmet, as I can easily take it off and put it on as I transition from the streets to the bike path.  Perhaps if he slowed down occasionally (to, say, 8 mph), he would notice that riding a bike is not always an extreme sport requiring protective gear. :)

Really, I ride so slowly and cautiously when I take off my helmet on the bike path – if anything, I am safer.

My ride was otherwise nice and relaxing, though almost 90 degrees and humid. Nothing a wet washcloth and deodorant couldn’t handle.

And now for something completely different. In one hour (9:00 central) Trisha and I will be interviewed live on Bicycle Radio. You can – and totally should! – listen at http://bicycleradio.com. If you miss the show, you can download the podcast. While you’re at it, check out their awesome archives, which include guests such as Ray LaHood and Gary Fisher!

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Bike Camping Trip

This weekend I took my first official bike camping trip. I’ve camped plenty of times and taken my bike before, but I’d never biked to the campsite or carried my camping gear on my bike.  Rivendell has termed this kind of small adventure the S24O, for sub 24-hour overnight trip.

The basics:

  • Packed a change of clothes, essential toiletries and some food and dishes into panniers.  Zip tied sleeping bags to racks.
  • Biked to Union Station in downtown Chicago.
  • Took Metra train one hour out of the city.  Bikes are allowed on train for free.
  • Met Melissa at the destination station and the three of us biked together to the forest preserve campsite.
  • Met Chanh at the campsite in his car.  Good for people who are not comfortable riding the whole route and/or carrying bigger items like tents and coolers (although we could have fit a tent on our bikes).
  • Biked around, played with fire, drank beer and canoed.
  • Biked to the train station, took train back to Union Station, biked home.

The details:  Once we set up camp, all four of us set out for Two Brothers Brewery. The route was a nice mix of nature bike paths, quiet neighborhood streets and fast roads with wide shoulders, with some interesting sites along the way.

After super fresh beer, food and more bike riding, we returned to the campsite to watch the sunset.  Songs, fire and more beer drinking followed late into the night.

The next morning started with s’mores – the breakfast of champions! – and Melissa’s guitar.

A quick rain shower cleared up in time for us to hit the lake.  Mr. Dottie and I took a canoe, while Melissa and Chanh chose a tandem kayak.

After packing up, we biked to a diner for lunch and then biked to the train station.  Mr. Dottie and I took the train to downtown Chicago and biked home. In our neighborhood we stopped for frozen custard, and it’s amazing how well the turtle sundae recharged my batteries.

My Rivendell Betty Foy, which I bought for the versatility of commuting and light touring, handled everything perfectly and felt wonderful.

By the end of the whirlwind weekend, I was exhausted but happy.  I want to do this more often.  The next-to-nothing cost and planning make it easy to accomplish on any given weekend.  The opportunity to escape the city and enjoy life’s simple pleasures make me want to do it every weekend!

Who else has experience with bike camping, either S24O’s or longer tours?

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LGRAB Summer Games reading ideas

Looking to complete the “read a book about cycling” event in Part II of the LGRAB Summer Games, but not sure what to read? Here are a few suggestions, in no particular order, all of which have been read by Dottie or me over the past year or so:

Pedaling Revolution by David Mapes (Read Dottie’s review of this one here.)

The Art of Cycling or The Cyclist’s Manifesto by Robert Hurst

The Lost Cyclist by David Herlihy (I’m currently reading and enjoying this one)

Bike Snob by Bike SnobNYC (Don’t miss Velouria’s take on this)

Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt

And last but not least, David Byrne’s much-heralded Bicycle Diaries.

FYI, fiction where cycling plays a starring role is also permissible, so be creative! Dottie recommends Sarah Dessen’s YA bestseller Along for the Ride.

S. at Academichic has a few ideas as well. I’m adding The Man Who Cycled the World to my bike-related reading list. Anything else we should consider? Share in the comments!

Happy reading!

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Bike Commuting in a Severe Storm

A severe storm hit Chicago unexpectedly late yesterday afternoon. Hurricane-force winds up to 77 mph, torrential rain and hail blew out windows in the Sears Tower and downed trees and powerlines. Guess where I was when this happened? Yup, riding my bike home from work.

When I heard about the approaching storm, I decided to leave work a little early to beat the storm home. Soon after I set out, rain began falling. The further I rode, the heavier the rain and winds became. I could feel a little hail. Stubbornly I pushed on – soooo close to home, I kept telling myself. Half-way home the wind and rain were so strong, I had to slow considerably. Then I rode on the pedestrian-free sidewalk in case the wind blew me over. Two-thirds of the way home, the wind and rain became literally impossible to ride in. I realized that trying to ride my bike was pretty crazy and dangerous. My stubborn nature is usually an asset when it comes to biking around Chicago, but sometimes it makes me stupid. As I locked my bike outside a (conveniently located and cozy) pub, lightening and thunder hit so closely that I screamed.

Safely in the pub, I commiserated with some other stranded folks, emptied the water out of my shoes and rung out my skirt and shirt, and ordered a pint. Nearly an hour later the rain and wind calmed down enough for me to ride the final 1.5 miles home. That’s when I took these photos. A similar storm hit around 10 pm but I was tucked safely inside.

The moral of this story is: don’t try to beat a severe storm home or at least have a cozy pub to duck into if necessary.

I have lots more to say about this day, which included the Bike to Work Week rally, David Byrne’s bicycle forum and hanging out with bikey friends.

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World Cup on Wheels

What a rollercoaster day for fans of sports played with two feet. Fellow World Cup addicts, can I get a “Go USA”? (International readers, you are excused unless you’re feeling particularly generous.) Despite not being a sports fan in general, I get excited for this event. The global scope paired with a focused competition is unique–and it only happens once every four years!

After screaming ourselves hoarse during the USA/Slovenia game (the comeback! that ref!), my friend C and I blew off some steam by pedaling to Dan McGuinness to watch England and Algeria play. C doesn’t usually ride much but she was a champ as she pedaled the Flik down Music Row. It probably would have been nice of me remind her not to wear flip flops (sorry C!), but she managed, and her lovely white skirt was the perfect choice.

Today the Bat’s blue was looking very patriotic. I didn’t get any grief for my France t-shirt despite their appalling display yesterday; everyone was focused on today’s game. It was boiling hot and brutally humid, so we only took a couple of pictures.

England’s scoreless game was a surprise, but a welcome one. Now we just have to beat Algeria. Or tie Algeria and hope England doesn’t win against Slovenia. Or tie Algeria and hope England and Slovenia have a draw but don’t score too many goals. Ack. I feel my blood pressure rising already.

Anyone else caught up in the World Cup this year?

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Bikes Belong!

The Chicago Sun-Times published another super positive piece about biking today, an op-ed by the President of Bikes Belong. To my pleasant surprise, the paper used my picture to accompany the piece.

Photo by Keith Hale, Chicago Sun-Times

The entire op-ed, which also appeared in the Chicago Tribune, is below.

Why just ride to work when you can ride everywhere?

This week, commuters in Chicago are celebrating Bike-to-Work Week. An unprecedented number of commuters will savor the benefits of two wheels for health, fun, the environment and their bank accounts.

While Bike-to-Work Week is a great concept, I like to think of it as Bike-to-Anywhere Week — the store, a friend’s house, a trail, school. More than 70 percent of the trips that Americans take each day aren’t work-related. Nearly half of our trips are three miles or less.

For these short outings, riding a bike makes sense. Going six miles by bike instead of by car saves an average of $3, and three hours of riding a week can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by half.

But after 30 years as a cycling journalist, national bike advocacy leader and regular rider, I think I understand what will discourage most Bike-to-Anywhere neophytes from continuing to pedal next week.

If people are going to bike regularly, riding needs to be safe. It needs to be relaxing. Ideally, the route should be scenic. And when you arrive anywhere, a secure and convenient place to park your bike is essential.

Although cities like Chicago have made big steps toward becoming more bike-friendly, in too many cities and towns across Illinois and our whole country, these conditions don’t exist — at least not yet.

My organization, the Bikes Belong Foundation, is trying to change this. We’ve created a new national bike movement called peoplefor bikes.org. Our goal is to get 1 million Americans to sign a pledge of support for bicycling.

Close to 50 million Americans ride each year. A few cost-effective investments in facilities could help bicycling become even bigger, and more helpful in addressing key national challenges such as obesity, air pollution and dependence on expensive, nonrenewable sources of energy.

We like to say that when people ride bikes, great things happen — for the individual, the community, the nation and the planet.

You’ll see the appeal of two wheels on the faces of the people who ride this week. Look for smiles all around, just from the simple act of riding a bike to anywhere.

Tim Blumenthal,

president,

Bikes Belong Foundation

{Can I get a hell yeah? Sign People for Bikes Pledge here!}

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Back to Normal

My world is all better today. I have a renewed appreciation for my regular commute, despite the congestion and car door flinging. At least traffic is slower, there’s a marked bike lane and lots of other bike commuters along the way.

Chicago from a lobby window

This is Bike to Work Week in Chicago and there are definitely more cyclists out and about. I’m team leader at my workplace and five other people have biked so far this week!

My new camera remote and $4 thrifted dress

In random news, I bought a MacBook! Last month, my six-year-old IBM Thinkpad gave out. After all the problems and crashing I put up with on PCs through the years, I decided to join Trisha in the Mac love. I’m giddy over the vastly increased RAM.

My new MacBook (and free iPod Touch)!

More random news: I won a ticket to Cities, Bicycles & the Future of Getting Around, featuring David Byrne! Check back here after Friday for a full report.

Has anyone out there heard Byrne speak about bikes? Or love Macs? :)

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Dottie and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Commute

Wanna hear my story? Don’t worry – no dotties or bicycles were harmed in the making of this commute.

Monday and Tuesday I had to work at a satellite office on the west side instead of my office downtown. From my starting point the satellite office is four miles straight west on one street, Belmont Avenue. See the yellow line highlighted on the bike map below? That’s it.

This should have been a simple commute. However, as shown on the map, I had to cross a river and an expressway. No side streets cross both, only arterial streets. I avoid arterial streets due to the heavy and relatively fast traffic. I tweeted for route advice and the general consensus (thanks!) was to avoid Belmont Avenue. After studying the bike map, I decided on a circuitous route to stay on quiet neighborhood streets most of the way, riding on arterial streets only to cross the river and the expressway.

The ride started fine and I crossed the river fairly easily, although mixing it up with the fast traffic got my blood pumping. Back on the neighborhood street, I rolled along happily for a couple of miles, but when I tried to cross the expressway, I kept coming upon dead ends. I had ridden too far and backtracked down several side streets – all dead ends – until finding the big street again.

Time for the next obstacle. Traffic entering and exiting the enormous expressway is fast, aggressive and not looking for bicyclists, so I cautiously road on the sidewalk until I safely crossed over. Not only did I ride on the sidewalk, I also went against a red light. I saw that no one was coming and knew that as soon as the “walk” signal appeared, the cars waiting to my left would turn right onto the expressway with absolutely no regard for lil’ ol’ me. Something about expressway ramps makes drivers insane.

After crossing I had to pull over to get my wits about me. I couldn’t remember which side street I was supposed to take next and called Mr. Dottie for directions, grumbling about traffic and the time. Soon I found the side street that I thought would take me straight to my destination.

Wrong!

The street suddenly ended and dumped me back on the arterial street. By this time I was already late for work, so I sucked it up and pedaled as fast as I could with traffic, an activity not for the faint of heart. Also not for the faint of heart: stopping in the middle of an arterial with no turn lane while waiting to turn left.

Finally, I arrived at my destination – stressed, sweaty and 15 minutes late. But alive!

For the ride home I decided to take a more direct route down a nearby arterial, Diversey Avenue. This route was simple and better than the morning nightmare, but called for some serious vehicular cycling, moving fast and taking the right lane. I was the only bicycle out there, making me long for companions, regardless of whether they stopped at the red lights. This street is busy and relatively fast, but has a bike lane for part of the way and is a marked bike route on the Chicago map.

Just as I was thinking positively about the route, two SUV’s almost hit me while I was crossing the river, one right after the other. They were stopped in traffic in the left turning lane, I was going straight in the right lane and they did not look before impatiently gassing it out of their lane and straight into my path. That was it for me – bike car traffic city sensory overload for the day.

The next morning I took the Belmont Avenue bus, which carried me straight to work with no stress. I stared out the window and read Anna Karenina. I did not regret my decision.

The city needs to do some serious work to make safe east-west routes, because the current set up is absurd. Lucky for me, I can now return to my usual commute downtown.

After I returned home from my bus commute, I set out on my bike to a board meeting a few miles away. En route, rain started pouring. I pushed on until thunder and lightening showed up, then I admitted defeat, turned around and attended my meeting over the phone. Sigh.

So this brief period of time will go down as the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad commute. I guess everyone has bad commutes sometimes.

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LGRAB Learning Experiences: Week 1 Roundup

So far, LGRAB Summer Games Part II is off to a great start. We’ve had at least one person perform every task already! From carrying groceries to test-riding a Pashley or a Trek Belleville, our awesome readers are finding fun and creative ways to learn more about cycling. Without further ado, le round-up:

  • Perform a maintenance task — big or small!

Missy had to tune up her bike before competing in her first triathlon last weekend. Scott from Two Sixteen put together an amazing bar tape tutorial. Dave from Portlandize gave handsome Bertrand a bath, and Biking Toronto talked about restoring a vintage bike.

  • Decorate your bike

Two creative ideas here: Sumeha’s Ugly Pad, which I find pretty cute!

And customized wine-cork valve caps from 416 Cycle Style.

  • Read a book about cycling

Morty at Slow Bike Madison dug into The Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne, while Carolyn picked up The Art of Urban Cycling by Richard Hurst. Watch for our suggested bicycle reading list, coming soon.

  • Carry a load on your bike — groceries, etc.

Seeing the different things everyone carries by bike is so much fun. Smallest load: Margaret’s Frozen Yogurt (hey, a load is relative, I suppose!). Biggest potential? Scott’s modified trailer, which was ready to haul fence posts.  Dave and Patrina at Portlandize went to the farmer’s market, and Carice even carried flowers. (Miss Sarah has your water!) And one of you showed us how much you carry on your normal commute. We’re still waiting for the cargo bike brigade to weigh in—show us what you’ve got! :)

  • Test ride a different type of bike than you normally ride

This one brought us our first reader video submission: check out Sumehra and her sister test-riding a Pashley! Verdict: “This is the best bike ever.”

Meanwhile, Samantha rode a Bakfiets and Monty gave the Trek Belleville a spin.

What events will you be completing in this round? Don’t forget to email us with the details.

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Carry a Load on Your Bike!

On the way home from work today, I met Mr. Dottie for a bulk food run. We were fresh out of the huge jar of fancy olives! We usually don’t grocery shop by bike because we live a block from a nice store, but we will go out of our way for a great deal on peanut butter: that’s where Costco comes in.

Bulk Grocery Run

The magnitude of this trip did not come close to our last haul with the bakfiets. Since we don’t own a bakfiets, most of our trips involve a basket, panniers and a few select bulk products. Our acquisitions today included 24 bottles of Two Brothers local craft brew (on Greg’s back rack), 4 lbs of organic strawberries, 6 lbs of yogurt, 4 lbs of raw nuts, 3 lbs of chicken sausage and 2 lbs of hummus. Yummy!

Beer Rack

The bikes handled the loads perfectly. A good test ride for the bike-camping trip we’re going on with Melissa and Chanh this weekend!

This is going down as a Summer Games, Part II Learning Experience: Carry a load on your bike.

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Love and the Bicycle

This weekend I shot engagement portraits of my great friends Melissa and Chanh. Although I had never done anything like this before, I gave it a try because they had no plans to get professional portraits made.

They happen to be the cutest and most fun couple ever, so my job was pretty easy.  (I only wish my camera and lens were more sophisticated, but that’s money, honey.)

Melissa started bike commuting a year ago and is still going strong. She is trying to get Chanh to ride more – recently he bought a new bike and by force rode with us to the bar last night.  She is very convincing ;)

I think if one person in a relationship rides a lot, eventually the other person has to start. Anyone else out there working on convincing a partner to ride more?

And aren’t Melissa and Chanh the cutest?!

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