October 2010 archive

Biking in France: the Wine Road

Alsace is my favorite region in France for a lot of reasons; it’s going to be a bit difficult for me to focus this post on our two-wheeled adventures without first enthusing just a leeeetle bit about this under-explored region. To set the scene: here’s Dottie and me in Strasbourg, along the canal overlooking La Petite France. A bit worse for the wear after our 7-hour plane ride and 2.5-hour train ride, but definitely happy to be there.

The entire city center of Strasbourg is a UNESCO heritage site and is full of beautiful timbered houses. Since it is home to a large university, there is a large number of cyclists.



The next two photos were taken with my camera by Dottie, and I just noticed that I am in the background of the first one.

The countryside looks like this.

Exploring it by bike on a beautiful fall day was an amazing way to spend a lazy afternoon. I had big plans for renting bikes in Colmar and embarking on a 40km ride through several villages. Between the advice of the bike rental guy and the condition of the bikes we were renting, it seemed prudent to change our itinerary, and instead we took an easy, 18km ride to the village of Eguisheim. Less time on the bike, but more time to wander, eat and taste wines like this one.

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Bicycling in France

Remember when Trisha and I were gone to France for two weeks? You may be wondering if and when we’ll write about our adventures. Trust me, we will! I have not yet summoned the time and energy to tackle the task, but eventually we’ll highlight three bicycling adventures: biking the Wine Road in Alsace, renting bikes to tour Versailles, and riding Velib around Paris. Here’s another sneak preview: me and Trisha riding bikes on the grounds of Versailles.

Me and Trisha at the Grand Trianon in Versailles

Trisha will be visiting me in Chicago this weekend (yay!) and we’ll soon have even more bicycling adventures together. And I still need to write about my thoughts on bicycling in NYC. Thanks for standing by. :)

Tandem Tips from ecovelo

Our final guest post is from none other than ecovelo, bike-lifestyle blog extraordinaire. (Technical difficulties prevented me from receiving the post until recently.) Chances are you’re already a fan. If not, you soon will be. Below are thoughts from husband and wife team Alan and Michael about tandem riding.

They say there’s nothing quite like a long ride on a tandem to shine a bright light on a relationship. If the relationship is good, the ride will be too, but if the relationship has its problems, well…

Riding together on individual bikes is not too unlike riding a tandem as a couple. In other words, it can be a real joy or a real pain depending upon how it’s approached. We’ve been riding together for a number of years, and though we’ve experienced a few bumps along the way, we’re fortunate to have a harmonious relationship on the road in which we read each other’s subtle cues and ride together with little effort and zero conflict. We only arrived at this on-road relationship through many, many miles of practice, and lots of talking about how to better communicate and take care of each other while riding our bicycles. Following are a few of the things we think are key to riding smoothly and safely as a couple:

Someone needs to lead and someone needs to follow – It’s usually best if a ride leader is determined before departure to reduce the likelihood of confusion or conflict on the road. Typically the more experienced rider leads.

The slower person determines the pace – The slower person should always determine the ride pace, even if they’re in the following position. It’s the leader’s responsibility to be sure they don’t drop the follower or inadvertently push the pace beyond the comfort level of the slower rider.

The slower person should be on an equal or faster bicycle – If at all possible, the slower rider should be on the faster bike to reduce the speed differential between the two riders. It’s common to see the less-experienced, less-fit rider on the heavier, slower bike, which only undermines the pacing rule above.

The less experienced rider sets the comfort level of the route (traffic levels, infrastructure, distance) – It’s up to the less-experienced rider to determine what type of roads they’re willing to traverse. The leader should never pressure the less-experienced rider into situations in which they’re uncomfortable.

The leader always defers to the less experienced rider unless it’s a safety issue – A less-experienced rider may not understand what they’re getting into and find themselves feeling overwhelmed once they’re on the road. It’s imperative that the leader defers to the follower and respects their need to turn back, take an alternate route, or whatever is necessary to reduce their unease.

Develop a consistent method of communicating (hand signals, voice, visual) – It’s important to learn each other’s signals and cues. Agree upon a set of simple hand signals to indicate upcoming turns, slowing, debris in road, car-behind, etc.

A sure way to put a quick end to a riding relationship is to simply head out the door without a clear understanding of each other’s expectations. Acknowledging each other’s expectations and agreeing upon a plan for the ride, while always putting the other rider’s needs above your own, is the most effective way to ensure a healthy, long-term riding relationship.

Thanks, ecovelo! This really makes me want to grab a companion and go on a ride. What has everyone else’s experience been riding “in tandem.” And has anyone else out there ridden an actual tandem?

Scottish Cycle Chic in Chicago

Jennifer is a bike commuter in Edinburgh, Scotland and an LGRAB reader. She owns both a WorkCycles Oma and a Pashley. When she mentioned that she was taking a vacation in Chicago, I was excited to suggest that we get together.

On Wednesday, we met up for a few beers with my friends Patty, Brian, Elizabeth and Dean (all bikey people, incidentally). Then yesterday Jennifer and I spent the day together with Oma and Betty. This turned out to be quite an adventure!

After a hearty Mexican lunch, we set out for the Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier via the Lakefront Trail. The wind was exceptionally fierce, crashing waves onto the path all around us, and the rain unexpectedly picked up during the ride, but it was still great fun.

I assume this mounted police officer was there to make sure no one tried anything stupid, like surfing.

Our raincoats mostly protected us. When we got to the theater my tights dried quickly and Jennifer cleverly let her long tunic top become a dress, while her jeans hung to dry in the coat check room. Then we warmed up in the pub over whiskey and Baileys before settling in for a great production of Romeo and Juliet.

After the play, we walked along Navy Pier a bit as the wind whipped around us, speculating as to how difficult our journey home would be, since the tail wind we enjoyed on the way there would be a head wind.

We walked over to the ferris wheel for a ride but it was closed, apparently due to the high winds.

As we figured, the head wind was killer and the 7-mile ride home was slow, cold and dark – but pretty funny! We could not help laughing at the absurdity of the situation: the trail was deserted and the two of us, in our dresses and on our upright bikes, were the only ones intrepid enough to brave the weather.  

Undeterred, we swung by my place to pick up Mr. Dottie and continued our ride to the Lincoln Square neighborhood, where we enjoyed dinner at a very lively German restaurant. Schnitzel, mashed potatoes and steins of beer work wonders to warm a body.

The rain picked up full force for our late ride home and poor Jennifer’s jeans got soaked all over again. Luckily, she was just an L train ride away from the warmth and comfort of her hotel room.

Many thanks to Jennifer for being great company and such a good sport! What could have been grounds for complaining instead became a fun, invigorating, laughter-filled adventure. ‘Cause cycling ladies are cool like that. :)

Commuting to the Courthouse

This past week I rode my bike to work every day, as usual.

Yesterday I had a court hearing in the morning and I wore my professional outfit on the bike commute – a Brooks Brothers skirt, blouse, hose and shoes. As soon as I got to my office, I threw on the matching suit jacket that was waiting for me and walked one mile to the courthouse.

Thank goodness for the perfectly cool fall weather that made all of this possible without sweating. Also, major props to my new Liz Clairborne shoes from DSW. They are super comfortable for walking (I wore them every day in France), have no-slip rubber soles for biking and still look decent enough for work.

Nothing hip or especially fashionable here, just a real outfit on a real bike commute. :)

Happy Friday!

Hope everyone has fun plans for the weekend. Me, I plan on getting around to some of those France posts (it’s so hard to stay in front of the computer when the weather is so gorgeous!). Here’s a sneak peek: Dottie and Greg on the Velib, fitting right in with the Parisian riders ahead of them. If you look closely, you can even see me–well, my shadow–in the foreground.

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Bon weekend!

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