Monthly Archives: February 2011

Spring has sprung in the South

Not to rub it in to those of you who are still fighting winter weather (yes, that includes my favorite co-blogger and the mister, who definitely deserve better!) — but after a beautiful week/weekend here in Nashville, spring has sprung and I’m noticing things like this:
So, my fellow bike bloggers and LGRAB readers: can I suggest Nashville as a travel destination? Chicago might have more bike lanes and riders, but it’s got nothing on spring in the South, weather-wise!  Plus, all the cool kids can’t just visit Dottie in Chicago or I’ll get way too jealous. :)

To further tempt you, here’s our four-day forecast. Should be a great week for riding!

What’s the weather looking like in your neck of the woods these days?

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Precious Cargo Fail

What I learned today: 24 bottles of beer can fall from a bike rack in transit and not break.

Tis true.

The heavy cardboard box of Two Brothers brew I strapped to Oma’s rear rack crashed to the pavement as I peddled out of the Costco parking lot. I have successfully biked home with cases of beer in the past, but the problem here was that I could not center the box on the rack because my full pannier had to clip on the left side, so the box was flush on the left side but hanging over quite a bit on the right side. Bad idea. I know this now.

After I thanked the barley gods that the bottles did not break, I repositioned the box in the center of my rear rack, placed the pannier on top of my filled basket, hung a bag from my handlebars, and proceeded to walk my haphazardly loaded bike home, one mile in the misty sleet, mumbling cuss words under my breath.

I really needed a beer by the time I got home, which was convenient.

That was pretty much the perfect end to a difficult week.

A bright spot in the past seven days, though, was a happy hour with some of the women who bike and brunch – and drink! Good times. I did not have my camera, but Ash came through with her phone as she and I prepared to ride home in the wet snow.

Ash and her Batavus Old Dutch

Me and Oma

The happy hour and Darcy’s – I mean, Colin Firth’s – best actor win were the highlights of the week.

Here’s to hoping this coming week is better.

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Midday Ride Adventure

As I mentioned last week, my friend Elizabeth (of Bike Commuters) and I got together for a midday joyride recently. During lunch, I cycled to her office and then we set off together down the nearby Lakefront Trail.

A few miles later, we arrived at our arbitrary destination, the Field Museum.

We battled a fierce headwind on the way there and we were both a bit overheated from working so hard. I even took my sweater off, although it was not quite 60 degrees out.

Joyfully, we had a tailwind on the ride back, which didn’t feel like wind at all. I just felt naturally fast and strong. :)

The route was pretty muddy and watery, with all the blizzard snow quickly melting.

So what if I returned to the office a bit muddy with a run in my tights and tangled hair (bad, uncovered Betty Foy chain!) – I felt much more energized and productive the rest of the day.

Funny that no matter how much I cycle for transportation, I still love to joy ride, especially with a good friend. I never (okay, rarely) get tired of riding a bike.

Do you ever get out during the day for a ride?

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Chicago’s New Mayor on Bicycling

Rahm Emanuel has been elected the next mayor of Chicago!

Here is a bit of what our new mayor has to say about bicycling in Chicago:

Rahm supports full implementation of Chicago’s Bike Plan and will initiate a review of its goals and timelines to identify opportunities to expand the plan and accelerate the pace of implementation.

Chicago’s 125 miles of bike lanes cover a small portion of the city’s 5000 miles of roads. Rahm wants to dramatically increase the number of miles added each year – from 8 to 25 – and prioritize the creation of protected bike lanes. His plan is based on a simple premise: create a bike lane network that allows every Chicagoan – from kids on their first ride to senior citizens on their way to the grocery store – to feel safe on our streets.

Under the plan, Chicago would be a pioneer in the creation and expansion of protected bike lanes, which are separated from traveling cars and sit between the sidewalk and a row of parked cars that shield cyclists from street traffic. He will prioritize the lanes on major thoroughfares that link communities to downtown and each other.

I was surprised and impressed by the specificity of these campaign promises, especially the emphasis on protected bike lanes, which the city so desperately needs to encourage more people to ride a bike.

Mayor Daley has done a lot for bicycling in Chicago, but I’ve seen very little progress in the last couple of years.  I’m excited for a fresh start!

You can read more about Emanuel’s transportation plans here, with sections on public transportation, bicycling and high speed rail.

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Spring Fling

My premature spring fling with Betty Foy has come to an end.

After today’s snow, I will be resuming use of Oma and her studded tires for the foreseeable future.  Betty Foy has been shoved back into storage, but I sure enjoyed the few days she and I spent together!

P.S. Check it out – Mr. Dottie and Sir Raleigh popped up on Bike Commuters today.  :-)

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Parisian Daydreams

On a Monday morning, waiting impatiently for spring, a girl needs daydreams.

Paris is always a good daydream, so if you’ll indulge me in a non-bicycling detour, I’m putting up some of my photographs from our trip last year.  {This post goes out special to Trisha.  :-)}

Read more about the bicycling aspects of our trip:  Bicycling the Wine Road, The Freedom of Velib, and a Bicycling Tour of Versailles. For more French goodness, see street shots of Parisians on bikes at Un Cycliste Parisien.

Paris was my favorite place ever, so I daydream about it a lot.  Where does your mind wander when you start daydreaming?

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Embrace Messy Hair

I am not one of those polished and elegant women, who seem to exist only in movies and Copenhagen Cycle Chic.

I range from feeling slightly unkempt to a hot mess, depending on the day and my mood.  This has always been the case, predating my bicycling lifestyle.  For this reason, hair was never a big issue for me when I started biking to work.  My hair is just there, often thrown back in an uninspired ponytail or braid.

After taking off my helmet and walking through the Chicago wind, I usually look something like this:

My motto: embrace messy hair.

You know, I try to be clean and otherwise professional in my appearance, but the world doesn’t point and stare if my hair is not perfectly coiffed.

I don’t think my legal advice is taken less seriously because I may or may not be wearing a scrunchie.  (Okay, I should be really embarrassed by that, but scrunchies are so comfortable.)

{This print from Etsy seller funnelcloud studio via Cup of Jo sums it up perfectly. I need one for myself and extras to hand out and spread the message of liberation.}

Sometimes I do get tired of my boring ponytails and Little House on the Prairie braids, though.  For times when I want to be a bit more stylish – but still in tune with my messy nature – I’m mentally filing away these two super easy “messy” hair styles I came across.

Both of these should be easy enough to throw together in the ladies’ room after jumping off my bike.  And I personally think that women with seemingly effortless hair like this are the most elegant.  Good stuff.

What kind of “hair person” are you?

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Valentines Via Velo

Someone asked me last week if I had any bikey Valentine’s Day plans with Mr. Dottie. I answered, “No, we’re just going to dinner at our favorite French restaurant, Bistrot Margot.”

Then I thought for a second and amended that answer with, “Well, of course, we’ll be riding our bikes there.”

Bicycling is such an ingrained part of our lives – it’s always there somewhere. But unlike driving or taking public transit, biking is not simply another mundane transportation option. It’s fun and adds something special to every occasion!

For this reason, I would say that our little French dinner was a bikey Valentine’s Day, with bicycling being the perfect aperitif (to stimulate the appetite) and digestif (to aid in digestion).

Of course, fancy truffles and flowers are always welcome, too. :)

But above all – bike love!

P.S. February 14 is long gone and so are all those truffles!

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Bringing in the Spring Style

Every bicyclist has his or her own personal signs of spring style – something that clearly indicates a departure from the darkness of winter. My friend Elizabeth’s involves clip-in bike shoes for the first time since fall, fingerless gloves, footless leggings and flouncy skirts.

Love this look! While totally utilitarian, it’s also a stylish celebration of spring that conveys her individuality.

She and I got together today for a lunchtime bike ride to celebrate the high-50’s temperature. (More on that later.)

How does your bicycle get-up change as the weather warms? Do you also feel the need to mark spring with a celebratory style?

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Guy Week at Bike Fancy

Hey, hey – it’s Guy Week at one of my very favorite internet places, Bike Fancy!

Pro photographer and stylish cyclist Martha is turning her lens on the men of Chicago. Although the majority of Chicago’s cyclists are men, I’m not used to seeing them without their backpacks and rain pants, track standing and running red lights. (I poke fun because I love!)

So this is a treat. :)

For those not interested in pictures of guys per se, there’s also an offer off of locally manufactured menswear company Nonetheless.

Guy Week at Bike Fancy – Check it out!

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Spring Feistiness

Regardless of the actual season, my mind is determined to spring forward. I know because spring feistiness is slowly replacing winter fortitude.

As I mentioned calmly this morning:

THE SNOW IS MELTING!

THE TEMPERATURE IS WARMING!!

THE SPRING IS COMING!!!

After publishing that optimistic message, I swaggered outside in a dress, tights and windbreaker – and the air promptly greeted me with a frosty 27F embrace. Reality rolled her eyes at me.

That’s what happens when my head gets stuck in the clouds. What’s that you say? Something about it being only February 15? I can’t hear you with all these clouds in my ears!

But I soon warmed up, along with the weather as the day progressed, until my ride home was in the high 30’s. Road conditions were hugely improved over last week. Although melting snow in the alleys and puddles froze overnight, the streets and occasionally the bike lanes were clear and dry.

Last spring's feistiness - throw on a windbreaker and gloves and that was today's outfit

I rode Betty Foy, my (relatively) fast bike. About half-way to work, a messenger-type guy bombed past me. A burst of mischievousness caused me to dial up the energy. I was compelled to catch and keep up with him, which I did the rest of the way to work.

Vroom, vroom! ;)

I won’t lie, I was huffing and puffing, but hopefully not loudly enough for him to hear me.

I don’t remember ever getting that impulse during the freezing winter, but long-time readers may remember that I posted about this feistiness/ego last spring.

It’s good to feel feisty again. Winter biking is sooooo 2010 – I’m ready for a new challenge. Let the sweet, fresh air of cold Chicago spring fill my lungs! (Even if it’s still a month away and the temp was -6F only five days ago.)

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The snow is melting!

The blizzard’s snow has melted 60%, as the temperatures soar up to the 30’s and 40’s. Feels like spring – almost is spring.

More on this exciting turn of events soon. :)

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Valentine contest alert!

In case you haven’t seen it, Chrome is running a contest this week in celebration of Valentine’s Day. They’re giving away a Schwinn Tango tandem.

Needless to say, we’d love for one of our readers to win this one. Head on over to their site to enter! The contest closes on Friday.

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Bicycling on the Coldest Day

After whining about winter on Monday, I left my bike at home and took the L train to work two days in a row. That sounds ridiculous in hindsight – two days in a row – but I really needed a short break from winter biking. The trick to enjoying life on two wheels is not to make bicycling feel like an obligation. As such, on the rare occasions when I feel burned out, I back off. By this morning, I was champing at the bit to get back in the saddle (uh, too many mixed horse metaphors?).

Sure, the temperature was the lowest of the year at -6F with -25 wind chills, but after conquering arctic air three weeks ago, I’m no longer intimidated.

Seriously, I simply threw on an extra layer of wool, wrapped a scarf around my face, tucked warming packs in my boots and mittens, and the ride was perfectly fine.  Full outfit: tweed skirt, wool leggings, blouse, wool sweater, puffy down vest, wool socks, snow boots, hat, scarf, mittens, sunglasses. The biggest difference between today and any other Chicago winter day is that my sinuses got really dry.

The feeling of being back on my bike was exhilarating. I felt like myself again. You know how they say absence makes the heart grow fonder? That is certainly the case with me and my bikes, especially when the alternative is a slow and crowded L train (though that’s still way better than driving).

One weird thing about the ride was that my bike felt exaggeratedly slow and heavy, the pedaling like churning rich butter.  By the time I arrived at work, my body was more fatigued than usual.  Talking with Mr. Dottie later, I learned that he had the same experience this morning on his vintage Raleigh.

Does anyone know what would cause this?  I have a few different theories: the arctic wind (doubtful because I’ve experienced stronger – but not as cold – Chicago wind without the same affect); the extreme cold did something weird with our bodies; the extreme cold did something weird with our cranks/gear hubs.  Thoughts?

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February’s women-who-bike brunch

The women-who-bike brunch continues to grow each month, to my great delight. The fourth official brunch last Sunday was the biggest yet, with 20 women attending. This was after 6 people sent their condolences due to the inches of fresh falling snow that greeted us in the morning.  Quite a few of us, including me, opted for public transportation due to the weather, but the important part was gathering together and talking with cool women, no matter how we traveled on that particular day.

By the time sunny spring rolls around, we’re going to change things up and start having pot luck picnics. We’ll have to: no restaurant will be able to contain us!

The brunch location: Ann Sather

Our table of 20

Martha and Chicargo Bike

Elizabeth

Danielle and Megan

Famous Ann Sather Cinnamon Rolls

After interesting, intelligent, silly and fun conversation and many huge cinnamon rolls, it was time to unlock our bikes, talk some more and eventually disperse until next month.

Megan unlocks her bike

More talking

Sara and Danielle (the latter 9 months pregnant and riding her Christiana Trike!)

Ready for the ride

Megan, Suzanne and Catherine

Megan, Suzanne and Catherine stay cozy

Janet and her Oma

I wore my "new" vintage horse dress

Some of us stopped by Women and Children First bookstore afterward, where I bought Lionel Shriver’s The Female of the Species (half way through – so good!).

Women and Children First independent bookstore

I’m eagerly looking forward to the next brunch already.  We’ll have to meet up for a happy hour in the meantime.  :)

The End

The next women-who-bike brunch will take place on Sunday, March 6.  If you would like to be on the email list for the time and location, please email me at LGRAB [at] letsgorideabike [dot] com.  The more the merrier!

I also created a group on The Chainlink so we can more easily communicate among each other and continue spreading the word.

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Winter Maintenance of the Lakefront Trail

I’m still annoyed by winter, but I’ll think back to happier times: Friday, when I biked to work and then took a joyride to the lakefront during my lunch break.

This was two days post-blizzard. Access to the trail is through an underpass below Lakeshore Drive and this was the most difficult section to manage due to the snow, as only a narrow path was shoveled and not very well.

Once I emerged on the other side, the plowed bike path pleasantly surprised me. I biked a ways up and down the path just for fun, but it was slow going, mostly because I’m a baby when it comes to biking on packed snow, even with my studded tires, and always want to be able to put a foot down if necessary.

At this moment, I joined Lovely Bicycle in really wanting a Surly Pugsly for the massive snow tires. I also wondered if Coco would be better in this particular snow situation with her Fat Frank tires. I’ll have to take her for a spin in the alley this weekend for research.

It’s a good thing that my visit to the Lakefront Trail was only for fun and not for transportation. Although I commend the city for plowing the trail so quickly after the blizzard, clearing away all the snow would take a little more time.

For Chicagoans who want to use the trail for transportation in the winter, the Active Transportation Alliance posts regular updates of conditions on its blog, along with helpful pictures. You may also be able to find useful information on The Chainlink, a Chicago bicycling online community.

Is anyone relying on trails and bike paths to commute during the winter? If so, how are the conditions as far as upkeep and lighting?

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No. More. Snow. Please?

I’ve hit the metaphorical wall with snow. I am so tired of biking in snow. On Sunday a couple of fresh inches fell on top of last week’s 20 inches. Yesterday I biked to work, as usual, and while the total lack of bike lanes (filled with more parked cars than snow now) was annoying, the morning commute was okay.

But the commute home was a bear. It was not supposed to snow yesterday evening! Not. Snow. No. More. Once I noticed the heavy flakes falling fast outside the office window, I actually got mad. Like, really mad. I took my anger out on poor Oma, yanking her around the snowbank where she was parked and cursing under my breath.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I avoid riding in fresh falling snow because it’s never an enjoyable experience around city traffic. Yesterday’s snow, on top of the snow already piled high from last week’s blizzard, had me riding smack dab in the middle of the lane most of the way home. My visibility was limited by my glasses fogging up, but I needed them to block the windy snow.

In hindsight, the ride was not bad. The traffic was unusually light and slow; I always felt sturdy on my studded tires; and I worked off the office danish I thoughtlessly scarfed down earlier in the day. Unfortunately, I just had a bad attitude. I think this year’s wall-hitting is happening later in the season than during my previous two winters of bicycling. That’s progress, at least. Hopefully soon I’ll have something other than the weather to write about.

{Now it’s still snowing. I may take the L train today to avoid resenting my bicycle.}

For someone with a much better attitude about yesterday’s bike commute, check out one of my new favorite blogs, This Little Bike of Mine. S at Simply Bike also has a great post up about the best attitude with which to approach winter cycling.

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Adele Rides a Bike

While checking Adele’s site looking for the presale date for her June show at the Ryman (Wednesday!), I came across this picture of her on a new bike. Her post was enthusiastic about the purchase, saying she loves the “bring bring” bell—rumor has it she plans to buy a house in Amsterdam, so it’s a good thing she’s prepping for the cycling lifestyle. The bike looks vaguely Oma-esque—anyone know what it is?

p.s. if you haven’t heard the first single from Adele’s new album yet, here it is. Is it too selfish to hope men keep doing her wrong when the results are awesome breakup songs like this one?

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Post-Blizzard Bike Ride Details

Yesterday I posted pictures I took while playing in the blizzard and I mentioned my bike ride the day after the storm. Here is a detailed account of that ride and a look at the blizzard’s not-so-pretty aftermath.

After pulling Oma out of the garage and into the alley, I began doubting my decision to ride my bike one day after 20 inches of snow poured down on Chicago.

The condition of the first street I came upon did not increase my self-confidence.

However, I had a plan to take arterial streets that I usually avoid due to scary car traffic. I knew they would be plowed and a bit calmer than usual, and I was right.

Once I reached my destination, I just had to find a parking spot…

This bike called dibs way earlier. I’d say he earned it.

Luckily I found a bike rack that was not totally consumed by snow.

Once on foot, I realized that bicycling in the road was much easier than walking down un-shoveled sidewalks.

Well, except for streets like this one. The side streets still had a ridiculous amount of snow.

Want some?

Overall, the ride was a pretty low-key adventure. My intimate familiarity with the area, bicycling confidence and studded tires helped the situation. For sure, I was happy to return home at sunset, safe and sound and feeling a little bad ass.

Today I biked 10 miles roundtrip to work, plus a couple of miles during lunch, plus a few more miles tonight to see the Decemberists play a live show (so good!). The rides were more stressful and obstacle-course-like than usual, especially when some [censored] honked at me, but enjoyable nevertheless.

Now what’s that news story about a groundhog seeing his shadow?

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After the Blizzard

Starting Tuesday evening, 20 inches of snow fell in 24 hours.  Here’s what it looked like yesterday:

My work closed yesterday and today – I didn’t know Chicago ever had snow days!  By this afternoon,  I was itching to get out of the house and do something.  This was my agenda:

  • Movie theater to watch Blue Valentine
  • Thrift store where I scored a beige jersey dress with two big horses printed on the skirt
  • Record store to look for the new Decembrists on vinyl (no luck)
  • Bookstore to buy my fave magazine, Lula
  • Drug store to drop of film for developing

Luckily, all of these businesses had re-opened already.  I opted to ride my bike, not from a sense of adventure, but because it made the most sense.

I wanted to get to a certain area and didn’t want to walk 3 miles roundtrip or deal with public transportation.  The ride was fine.  While the side streets are drowned in snow, the main routes have been plowed and cars were nice enough while going around me.

Pretty cool, right?  I enjoyed my first blizzard.  :)

How’s everyone else dealing with the weather?

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