Monthly Archives: August 2010

Seventies light

Life has come between me and long blog posts, but these photos sum up my evening rides home better than words anyway. As the days get shorter and my workdays get longer, the ride home takes place in what I like to call “Seventies light”—because snaps from that era often seem to include the same preternaturally bright greens and golds that spring to life in the early stages of the sunset.

How’s the scenery on your commute these days?

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Another side of biking safety

Chicago is a big city, which presents some unique challenges when bike commuting. Usually, heavy traffic is the biggest problem, but sometimes – rarely – the problem is dangerous people.

Greg (Mr. Dottie) is working in the far suburbs this week, so yesterday morning he rode his bike to Union Station, took the train and on the other end rode his bike to the worksite. While still in Chicago, almost to Union Station, he was stopped at a red light behind a cab when a goth-looking street guy with a big cart walked into the road to his left. The guy asked him if he was an undercover cop and then started ranting that no one was going to stop him from getting to Detroit.

Greg was boxed in on three sides by the guy, the cab and the curb. The light turned green, but the cab did not move, probably watching what was going on behind him. The guy was still more than an arm-length’s away and before he could get closer, Greg started backing up to turn his bike around. Just then the guy pulled out a knife, the cab finally moved forward and Greg rode off, informing the police of the guy when he got to Union Station.

Downtown Chicago is rarely dangerous, but there is crime. Although my initial reaction is “never ride in that area early in the morning again,” Greg’s reaction is, “never stop for a red light behind a car in that area again.” Also, be aware of your surroundings, don’t give anyone the benefit of the doubt, and don’t let anyone get near you. Although someone on a bike is less protected than someone in a car, at least it’s usually easier for a bicyclist to get away.

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The Last Weekend of August

Yikes – this is the last weekend in August. Where has the summer gone? To enjoy as much of the remaining warmth as possible, I spent Saturday experiencing a new-to-me Chicago summer tradition: the Ravinia music festival. There the music takes a back seat to enjoying time outside – Chicagoans so love time outside in the summer. Ravinia Park has a huge lawn where thousands set up elaborate picnics, often complete with tables, candles and multiple courses.

Riding home from the train station

The evening’s performance was by Rodrigo y Gabriella, but because we could not see the stage, our focus was on picnicking, drinking wine and spending time with friends. As everyone in our group bike commutes and some race, there was much discussion about terrible drivers and the awesomeness of cyclocross races, which sounds like an event I should go watch sometime.

New friends Brian and Patty

Me and Greg at Ravinia

Mr. Dottie and I rode our bikes to the Metra station and the suburban train took us straight to Ravinia Park for free. Hordes of others had the same idea to take the train, which resulted in extreme waits to get in the Park and back on the train after the show. Although this was hectic and I wished I’d had my bike, it was far better than driving.

How are you enjoying the last few summer weekends?

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Absence makes the heart grow fonder

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OK, so I’m still not sure about this statement when it comes to romantic relationships, but it does apply to me and my bikes. Every once in a while, I get in a rut where bicycle commuting seems as problematic as any other form of routine transportation. Over the past two years I’ve learned that if I start feeling that way, the best remedy is to not fight it. After a few days off the bike, riding it again feels like a new discovery or a special treat. That wasn’t the reason for my recent break in riding, though: it was due to the extreme head cold I’ve been fighting since getting back from NYC. Despite a welcome drop in the temperature I hadn’t felt up to getting on my bike — until yesterday.

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What happens to one's skin under heavy bangs after 3 weeks of 100 degree temperatures is not pretty.

And it felt great. Le Peug and I added on an extra couple of miles by going to my friend Erin’s to pick up our CSA share. Only one squash was lost on the way home (darn pletscher racks).

Hope everyone is enjoying the cooler weather.

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Who, knowing the truth, would choose anything else?

This morning I planned to take my usual street route to work. After I got on my bike and felt the sweet sun and cool breeze, however, my instinct took over and led me to the Lakefront Trail. I thought maybe I needed a clear stretch of pavement to go fast and get out any residual aggression from yesterday’s jerk sighting, but after I rode the mile to the lake and my tires automatically slowed upon hitting the Trail, I realized that what I craved was some quiet time with the horizon, safe from all motor vehicles.

The same held true for my ride home from work in the evening. Just what the doctor ordered.

There was a great post on EcoVelo recently about how ridiculous it is when non-cyclists speak of your bike commute as a great sacrifice, when it’s anything but. Riding a bike is almost too fun and too perfect for starting and ending the workday. That really is the big secret, apparently. Who, knowing the truth, would willingly chose anything else?

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A Typical Tuesday

My commute to and fro today was lovely, other than having to yell “JERK” at some jerk, who honked at me for being in the road and then cut me off to turn right.  I guess I should not be surprised, since some people (*cough* men *cough*) are often jerks in general.   The anonymity of driving naturally magnifies this tendency.  They should get their ridiculous testosterone under control and stop bringing me down.

Anyway, my ride really was (mostly) lovely.  There is finally some relief from the oppressive heat and I can feel autumn trying to break though.  Although I know it’s too soon to get excited, I can’t help it – I love autumn!

How’s everyone else doing?  I’ve been so busy lately, I feel a bit disconnected from my fellow bike commuters out there in internets land.

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Bike Fun with Girls & Bicycles

On Saturday Mr. Dottie and I had the privilege of spending the whole day with Miss Sarah of Girls & Bicycles and her husband Don. We showed them Chicago, local style. First they came to our place to get fitted on Oma and Sir Raleigh. Despite the height differences, the bikes worked out.

Then we rode a few miles to the Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood, where we had brunch at Toast and walked around. While Sarah scored at the BCBG sale and the thrift store, I finally found a good straw hat at Goorin Brothers hat shop. Eventually we ended up at the gem of the neighborhood, Copenhagen Cyclery. Much riding of awesome bikes and talking of sustainable living with owner Brett and manager Phil ensued.

We all had lots of fun with the Velorbis Mobii.

Then we rode the Larry v. Harry Bullitt.  That bike got the best of me – I could not even ride it a few yards without bailing, lest I fall over.  Something about the steering is very odd, but Don and Greg managed to figure it out.

After the shop, we drank delicious cocktails at The Violet Hour speakeasy.  Our drinks: Swingin’ on the Lawn, The Etiquette, Georgia Peach, Tattooed Seaman, Tequila Old Fashioned, and Juliet and Romeo.

Next we bought wine and picnic food from The Goddess and Grocer and rode our bikes to watch To Catch a Thief in the park with bike friends Elizabeth and Dean, before finally returning home 12 hours after we set off.  A very good day!

Sadly, Sarah and Don – and their crazy foreign accents – are now heading back to Canada.  I’ll have to start planning my trip to Edmonton.  :)

You can see more fabulous pictures of the whole day from Sarah at Girls and Bicycles.

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Friday Unwinding

This morning I almost took public transit instead of riding my bike, as the news predicted a sweltering 90 degree day with thunderstorms. I decided to ride anyway. By the afternoon, the official thunderstorm watch was the talk of the office, with heavy rain and lightening strikes predicted…any minute… But the rain never happened. So after work I rode my bike a couple of miles as planned to meet up with Sarah, Don and Mr. Dottie at The Publican for dinner.

After a delicious and very interesting meal, we walked the 1.5 miles back to their hotel, stopping to take random photos, of course.

I have no idea what we were talking about in this last photo, but I was obviously amused.

After leaving Sarah and Don at their hotel, we rode the 7 miles home via the Lakefront Trail. The night ride was a perfect way to wind down after a long week of crowded streets and hot sun. TGIF.

I find that switching up my commute at the end of the week is a good way to unwind and usually I have the opportunity to do so after going out with friends. How do you unwind to leave your weekday riding behind?

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Meeting Miss Sarah

When I first started riding a bike over two years ago, the internet was my best resource for information: how to pack a pannier, change a tire, signal turns, etc. All very technical and masculine, but I accepted that as the bicycling culture. Then one day I stumbled upon Girls and Bicycles. One girl and one bicycle, to be exact: Miss Sarah and her Pashley. For the first time, I saw the possibility of a different kind of bicycling lifestyle, one in which dresses, heels and nights at the opera fit seamlessly. The rest is history.

Tonight I had the great pleasure of meeting Sarah, although I felt like I already knew her well. She is just as interesting, funny and open as she seems on her blog. And stylish! Killer outfit for her date with me. :)

Sarah and her husband Don are vacationing in Chicago this week (lucky for me). Check out Girls and Bicycles for lots of awesome Chicago pictures, and stay tuned for more Miss Sarah (and Don!) on LGRAB. We’ll be hanging out more this weekend – yay!

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LGRAB Back from NYC

Trisha and I are back from NYC! I have lots of thoughts about the infrastructure and bikes there, as well as general comparisons with Chicago, but that will have to wait until I have more time to write. In the meantime, here are some pictures of our adventure.

I’ve been posting a lot more pictures of our trip at Dream Camera. More excitement is coming up, as I will be meeting up with a very special guest who is visiting Chicago this week.

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Pashley Pride in NYC

Trisha w/Pashley Princess Sovereign and Dottie with the Pashley Poppy

Dottie and I took a spin on some bikes from Adeline Adeline this afternoon with our friend Wanda. We took our time looking over their impressive inventory–Linus, Pashley, Batavus, Gazelle and more–and rode a couple of models each, including the Pashley Princess Sovereign and Pashley Poppy pictured above. It was my first Pashley ride and Dottie’s first time on a Pashley Poppy–and the first time riding the streets of New York City for all three of us. The ensuing debriefing covered many topics, including compare and contrast: Pashley Poppy and Azor Oma; is bigger really better when it comes to bells; and the prevalence of bike salmon. More to come on these all-important thoughts and our NYC experiences when we get home!

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Gonna ride my bike until I get home

This afternoon I discovered  “Bicycle Song,” a little ditty from Mark Ronson that feels perfect for a Friday. I’m digging the kitchy retro sound and the rap at about 2:20: “Don’t you wanna take a joy ride on my tandem?” (Via)

Happy weekend to one and all! Off now to pack to meet up with Dottie in NYC…

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“Excessive Heat Warning” Commute

Today there was an excessive heat warning in Chicago, the first since 2006, due to a top heat index of between 100 and 107 degrees. I rode my bike today, as I have every day this week. It wasn’t a big deal, nothing dramatic. I went slowly and sweated and that was that. For the very young, the elderly or the asthmatic, riding a bike probably would not have been a good idea, but I was okay. The worst part was the haze of pollution in the air.

I also walked a couple of miles in the middle of the day. Riding a bike felt much better, since it creates constant airflow.

On my way home I attempted a panda shot in honor of Simply Bike. Turns out I’m really bad at taking pandas and barely got the bike in the frame. I’ll have to practice this some more.

How’s everyone else holding up this fine August?

p.s. By the time you read this, I’ll be on a plane to visit NYC for the first time. Trisha will be there, plus bikes, plus more friends – I’m very excited.

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Beautiful Bicycles: Kangaroo Family Bike

Allow me to introduce you to the Kangaroo, the most sophisticated cargo bike I’ve met. The Kangaroo is a Danish bike, designed specifically – and wonderfully – to carry children. Although I was initially skeptical of a bike made of such modern materials and with such a narrow purpose, after my test ride the Kangaroo now ranks near the top of my bike list.

the Kangaroo

The frame is aluminum 6061, the cargo area is impact-resistent and UV-stabalized polyethylene, and the cover is nylon. Good old-fashioned wood and steel is more appealing to me initially, but these materials go together to create a unique and utilitarian set-up that would not be possible without them. The cover, when fully set up, is wind, water and snow proof, although there is an additional tarp for heavy downpours and outside storage.  The convertible cover is impressively simple to operate, going from fully-enclosed to open-air in about ten seconds.

ready for action

There is only one frame size, but everything is adjustable to allow more than one member of a family to hop on and drive. In addition to the seat, the handlebar system is highly adjustable, able to go up, down, forward, backward and all around. The position of the bars in these photos is a little further from me than I would have them set up for long-term use. There are also several hand positions for comfort, kinda like cargo bike drop bars. The steering responsiveness is also fully adjustable, so the driver can set it how she or he feels most comfortable.

riding

The amazing part of this bike is the cargo area, designed to hold kids with many different set-ups.  The seats look super comfortable and a harness holds the kiddies in.  Here is the main set-up with two seats facing the front.

two seats

The seats are held on with these rails and quick-release levers.  Adjusting the seats take a little more time than adjusting the cover, but no more than a couple of minutes.  The seats can slide back and forth to adjust for necessary leg room or cargo.

seat rails

The seats can be turned around so one or both face the back.

facing backward

One seat can be removed to carry only one child in the center and keep a good balance of weight.

one seat

And the seats can lay totally flat for some nap time.

seat laying down

When turning, the front moves separately from the back and the back leans to the side slightly. The turning radius is amazing for a big trike like this.  I was going around and around in tight circles and weaving in and out of parked cars.  The bike always felt completely stable.  My least-favorite part of riding the De Fietsfabriek trike was feeling a bit topsy turvy over every grade change and pothole, even if it was mostly in my head.  With this bike I deliberately went over a lot of uneven pavement (there’s plenty to choose from in Chicago) and never had that feeling.

turning

tight turning radius

The front has hydraulic disc brakes for serious stopping power, although I cannot say how they feel stopping from high speeds, carrying a heavy load or while going downhill.

hydraulic disc brakes

The rear has a coaster brake, which by itself was suitable for my stopping purposes during the test ride. There is a seven speed internal hub – more than enough for Chicago. Again, I cannot say how this bike would feel up hill. I imagine it would be a hard slog, as it would with any cargo bike.

coaster brake, chain guard, 7-speed internal hub

Need even more carrying capacity? There’s a sturdy rack on the back. For keeping your clothes clean, there are fenders and a chain guard. LED lights in the front and rear are built-in. I prefer dynamo lights that automatically work without batteries when I pedal, but at least LED batteries last a long time.

rack, fenders, LED lights

There is a short-term parking brake on the handlebars. For long-term parking, the front kickstand is sturdy. The number you see on the front is also on the frame and serves as a theft deterrent or at least a way maybe to get the bike back if a thief tries to sell it.

ID number for theft, front kickstand

Overall, I’m highly impressed by this bike. The design is ingenious for kid-carrying, the ride is smooth and the handling is superb. The limitations of my short test ride without kids in the front means I cannot give complete information about using the bike, but I know that when the time comes for me to buy a family bike, I will be going back to test ride the Kangaroo again.

better than a Subaru

For more info, check out this Danish article via Copenhaganize that test rode several family bikes and ranked the Kangaroo as the best, giving it a 5 out of 5 rating. The article also calls it the Volvo of bikes and says it has a suburban look to it. Certainly, the Kangaroo is not sexy like the wood and steel Bakfiets, but that would be the least of my concerns while toting a kid around the city.

The company has another version, the Wallaroo, that is shaped like a two-wheeled bakfiets, but has a similar child compartment on the front. I’d be interested to try that version, as well.

As far as I know, the Kangaroo is carried by only one store in the USA and, lucky me, it’s in Chicago. The store is J.C. Lind Bikes.

{As always, we at LGRAB receive nothing for our reviews except the joy of spreading beautiful bike love.}

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A Hot Ride

The heat wave continues in Chicago and around the country. In the 90 degree temperatures, this dress helps me look put together while sweating bullets. Although the black material attracts the beating sun, sweat marks are completely concealed.

I love this Diane von Furstenberg dress because I bought it from the Salvation Army for $3.99 last week! Unfortunately the details don’t show up in the photo from my point-and-shoot camera, but it’s a button down with a big collar and a sash at the waist.

This is the beautiful garden where I sat during my lunch hour, eating a cupcake and reading Bust magazine. A guy walking by looked at my bike and commented, “Must be tricky in those heel.” Nope, not really, with some practice.

Oh, I love getting out of the office for a bike ride, although the resulting sun and sugar high makes it a bit hard to focus for the rest of the afternoon. :)

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Bank Cashes in on Bicycling Lifestyle

Trish! Have you seen the new Regions commercial with the family bike? They are in a shop making bikes, and they are talking about the simple elements of good banking and bike building. It is very neat! At the end they give a little family a two-seater bike and a kid seat on the back.

Last week my friend Jennie reminded me of an ad campaign featuring bicycles that Regions Bank has been running. It must be a success: it has been around for about two years and includes several different TV spots. A Birmingham-based ad agency, Luckie & Company, produced the spots.

While I haven’t seen the spot she mentions, and couldn’t find it on YouTube, I’m definitely a fan of these ads. My favorite is this one, which associates all the things we love about bicycles with Regions Bank. What I love most is that it flat out says cycling is a better way to get where you want to go.

This one features a woman riding in a dress.

Do you think Regions’ CEO really bike commutes?

Of course, for every positive portrayal of bicycles in the media, there’s an ad for car insurance that shows a wistful cyclist wanting to trade in his helmet for a set of SUV keys (everyone would rather be driving, right?). And everyone knows the “green” bandwagon is the place to be right now. Still, seeing cycling portrayed as a normal, sensible activity—even if it’s just in a 20-second commercial—is always a good thing, right?

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LGRAB in Yes! Magazine

Let’s Go Ride a Bike is featured in the upcoming issue of Yes! Magazine, an award-winning, ad-free, non-profit publication that supports people’s active engagement in building a just and sustainable world.  The issue is on building community resilience and one of the features is 8 Crash-Proof Ideas, highlighting people and places building skills now that will come in handy in a future without oil.  We (meaning us and all of you out there) are Resillent Idea 3: Bike Anytime, Anywhere, As You Are.

You can read this part of the article by clicking on the image above.  The issue comes out sometime in the next week or two.  You can purchase it at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods, other book/magazine sellers or subscribe here. I highly recommend supporting this intelligent, interesting and unique publication.

Viva le revolution!

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Bulk Grocery Trip

My bulk grocery trips are not as pretty to look at as my farmer’s market bike trips, but I imagine the former are much rarer than the latter in the bicycling world. Of course, Mr. Dottie and I prefer to buy our food at the farmer’s market, but the bulk store keeps us in fancy olives and upscale beer within my non-profit salary.

We’re lucky that the route to Costco is super simple and relaxing – only a couple of miles down a quiet neighborhood street leads us directly to the parking lot.

And the result of our farmer’s market and bulk food trip – dinner!

There’s quite a lot packed into our panniers and my basket, but the ride was no problem. I load my rear rack with a lot of weight without worrying about it, but I keep my front load lighter, otherwise my steering gets squirrely. I also carried a light shoulder bag with my camera and some spinach.

If we owned a car, we would probably say, “eff it, let’s take the car,” so we’re thankful that we don’t have that option. Makes life more interesting :)

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The Good of Bicycling Far Outweighs the Bad

Yesterday there was a blip on the radar screen of my good commutes. On my way to work, I had to call a company and report that one of their transfer trailer drivers passed me within 4-6 inches. I’m not sure why he was in such a rush, because very soon afterward, he pulled over and parked in the bike lane to make a delivery. Lucky for me, this made it very easy for me to read both the company’s phone number and the license plate number, as well as take pictures. Although my hands were shaking, I managed to stay calm and the woman on the phone was nice and helpful. All I want is for the report to be maintained in the employee’s personnel file, in case others complain of his driving. Any employer should take such reports seriously or risk legal liability if their driver ends up hurting someone, especially since there is a law here requiring drivers to pass bicyclists with three feet of distance.

But that was only a blip. I’m so happy when riding my bike around and I adjust – as I must – to the reality of the situation. These photos are from my commute home on Thursday (taken with my new vintage SLR camera).

Look how beautiful riding a bike can be. By the evening commute, all was right with the world again.

My spirits were further lifted by reading Velouria’s post, Everybody Loves a Lovely Bicycle. The pictures are beautiful and she reminds us that “beautiful bicycles can lift our spirits” and make passersby smile. I remember that for every one jerky driver, there are hundreds of considerate ones, including the occasional woman who rolls down her window at a stop light to compliment my basket or ask about my bike, plus all the pedestrians who spontaneously smile when they see my Oma cruise by.

So bike love all around :)

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