April 2011 archive

A Skirt for Public Transportation

As Chicago experiences the rainiest April in 50 years, my thunderstorm-averse and frankly unmotivated self has been taking the L train this week. A colleague yesterday asked if my bike was okay because she saw me walking.

I’m determined to bike tomorrow no matter what (probably) because I’m going stir crazy. In the meantime, I’m taking advantage of this rare public transportation time to wear the few outfits I have that simply do not work on a bike, which usually sit untouched in the back of my closet.

For example, this skirt I wore today that does not allow me to lift my leg any higher than shown below.

Normally, I would not buy a skirt that constricts my ability to cycle, but I made an exception for this mint condition Marni skirt from Salvation Army for $2. Yeah, that’s like $798 off retail price! Looking at this photo, I realize that the entire outfit is thrifted, except the bamboo tights from Trisha.

In other news, the cherry blossoms still have not bloomed in Chicago, which so far is one month later than last year. All these April showers better bring some May flowers!!!!

And finally, happy, happy, happy birthday to our very own Trisha! I’m saving the big b-day post until after I document whatever trouble we get in together this weekend, but for now here is a beautiful flashback to T’s birthday party last year.

Smashing, love!

Moving to Denver!

Well, I’m not moving to Denver, but I bet I got your attention. :)

My dear friends Melissa and Chanh, who married last weekend, are moving to Denver next month. Which means I will be visiting there soon.

Chanh and Melissa: soon to be Denverites (Denverians?)

They want a different lifestyle than they currently have in suburby Aurora, Illinois – a lifestyle where they can ride their bikes everywhere, be more outdoorsy and live closer to Melissa’s family.

I’m reaching out to all of you for advice I can pass on to them about living and bicycling in Denver. Know of cool Denver blogs? Tips on good bicycling routes? Favorite restaurants? Please share!

The Newlyweds!

And to Melissa and Chanh – congratulations!!!

Something new: Abici dream!

A new bike joined the Nashville bike lineup last week, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Loyal readers of LGRAB know that I’ve been longing for an Abici ever since I rode one in Chicago a year and a half ago courtesy of Copenhagen Cyclery.

Now I’m riding one in Nashville thanks to Adeline Adeline, a fave bike shop of ours and a sponsor of Let’s Go Ride a Bike. Like Dottie’s Coco, my Kate Spade Abici is a good old-fashioned barter in exchange for advertising. That said, my experience on the Abici will be reported honestly.  There’s no agreement that I will talk up the shop or Abici or write about the bike. You will see her on this blog for sure — just like Le Peug and the Bat — but my reflections on owning this bright green, single-speed coaster brake bike are completely my own.

So far, the bike is kitty approved.

And on the sunny day that I picked it up, after assembly at my LBS Halcyon, we were a great match.

Dottie is coming this weekend to document the bike in the fashion that it deserves. I’ve installed my coffee cup holder on the handlebars. Get excited folks. :)

Spring? Not here.

I am stubbornly dressing in happy spring clothes, but had to layer on a coat, earmuffs, winter boots and mittens for today’s 35 degree weather.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed my bicycle rides. My commute was low key and I was happy not to be stuck on the L train again.

My only complaint is that the trees don’t have green leaves yet, let alone cherry blossoms. Le sigh. When the flowers finally start blooming, my cameras and I will be ready!

Winter Style Encore

Guess what I woke up to on this fine spring morning? Snow! All over the cars and the grass, even as cold rain fell on top of it. I was in no mood to have a surprise winter bike commute, so I grabbed my puffy coat and huffed my way to the L train. I’m itching to wear my pretty spring clothes, not my down coat, for goodness sakes!

Looking for a bright side, I decided to take this opportunity to spotlight some final winter bike photos. Below are two sleek winter cycling looks that readers Molly and Kaitlyn sent.

Molly shows how stylish winter cycling can be in Ann Arbor – at least on the days when she does not wear her sleeping bag-esque winter coat.

Molly in her sleek winter wear

Molly – sleek off the bike

Kaitlyn in Brooklyn rocked the sleek NYC black look, even when wearing rain pants. She blogs at Thoughts of Mint Green.

Kaitlyn in her sleek winter wear

Kaitlyn – sleek off the bike

Looking good, ladies! Thank you for the inspiration!

And now let’s drag winter off the stage with a hook. :)

Me and my shadow

Work, life and a few side projects have kept me from the blog so far this month—but they haven’t kept me off my bike. I am loving these late spring evening commutes. Even if this picture was taken a week ago and it’s now far too warm to wear a jacket of any sort, much less corduroy!

This morning I’m riding into the Village to get a new pair of glasses. (After 6+ years, it’s about time.) Anyone taking advantage of the pretty weather to bike this weekend?

Happy Friday!

This has been a splendid week for cycling.  During the past few days, I have encountered:

  • Countless other bicyclists on the streets.
  • Two friends during my commute (Hi Jami and Elizabeth!).
  • A mother riding a box trike with two kids in the front.
  • An impromptu happy hour with seven of the lovely Women Who Bike.
  • No particularly aggressive or wildly stupid drivers.
  • Warm weather!

I’m especially happy to see all the other bicyclists.  We’re a real presence out there.  :)

Still waiting for flowers, though!

Beautiful Bicycles: Gouden Leeuw Oma

While having Betty Foy serviced last week, I borrowed a Gouden Leeuw Oma from J.C. Lind Bikes (a sponsor of LGRAB) for a couple of days.

Although the Gouden Leeuw may look a lot like my Workcycles Oma, the two are very different bikes. My Oma is a full luxury brick house, while the GL Oma is relatively diminutive, much lighter and $700 less. Also, the GL Oma is a single speed with coaster brakes.

Aside from those factors, there are many similarities.  The GL Oma has a powder coated steel frame and all of the accessories that I demand from the best city bikes.

Fully enclosed drivetrain. The full chain case acts as a barrier between the chain and the outside world, meaning both the drivetrain and your clothes stay clean and protected. Fenders! Essential to keeping yourself clean and dry in any weather.

Front and rear battery powered lights.  I prefer hub lights that receive energy from pedaling alone, but these battery powered lights help keep both the weight and the cost down.

A wheel lock to provide extra minimum security and a skirt guard to keep your clothes from getting sucked into the wheel.

A comfortable saddle. This Brooks saddle is an upgrade that I highly recommend as the most comfortable saddle ever. A rear rack to carry heavy loads with strong rubber straps to hold down all sorts of packages.

A double footed kickstand to keep your bike upright when parked, especially helpful for loading and unloading cargo.  This kickstand model is better than a regular one-footed design, but is not totally sturdy and I much prefer the two-footed center kickstand on my Oma.


A minimalist cockpit features comfy rubber grips and a bell.  There are no cables or other distracting elements because there are no handbrakes and no gear shifters. I prefer coaster brakes (where you pedal backward to stop) combined with a front hand brake. The coaster brake set up alone on this bike is not my favorite for city cycling.

The bike comes in two frame sizes. I am 5’7 and I rode the 50 cm frame for riders 5’2 to 5’8.  The other frame is 57 cm for riders 5’8 to 6’2.  The 50 cm fit me fine after raising the seat and handlebars, but I felt like I could have ridden the 57 cm.

Riding this bike around Chicago was fun, smooth and swift. The gearing was spot on and I never felt limited by one gear (although I never rode up any hills).  I felt like I was perched atop one of those European bikes from the early 20th century, on which you sit straight up but keep your hands down low. A jaunty ride that made me want to talk with my terrible British accent. ‘ello!


Overall, I liked this bike. While it lacks the indestructible feel of my Oma, it’s a good choice for someone who appreciates the design and utility of a Dutch city bike, but not the weight or the higher price tag. All of the bells and whistles that make for a utilitarian city bike are there, rolled into a classic and stylish design.

I’m not sure about the price, though. $900 is substantially less than most other Dutch bikes on the market and it’s an okay asking price for a bike with so many features, but at that price point there are other excellent bikes that I would consider, such as the Abici, Pashley Poppy or base Civia Loring. The Gouden Leeuw may be as good as those bikes, but without the name recognition and reputation, it’s impossible for me to say. I don’t know if this is the kind of bike that can be used and abused and still counted on a decade later. I’m also not a fan of the coaster brake set up and would want to add on a front hand brake.

I would love to hear from any Gouden Leeuw Oma owners out there. I know of some who were lucky enough to snap them up during the Groupon deal at an amazing price.

A Late Blooming Spring

So far this year, I have not seen any flowers. The temperature is finally warming, but the scenery remains bleak. How disappointing!

I decided to check the LGRAB archives to determine when I could expect beautiful cherry blossoms and I was shocked to see that by this time last year, Chicago was filled with flowers. I guess Spring 2011 is a “late bloomer.”

April 2, 2010 – A Good Friday Commute


April 3, 2010 – I Never Get Tired of My Bike

April 4, 2010 – Simple Spring Enjoyment

April 10, 2010 – Cherry Blossom Oma

April 11, 2010 – Black and White Spring

I’m going to take a bike ride this warm Sunday and hunt for flowers. :)

Is anyone else still waiting impatiently for spring?

A Shared Bike-Cab Moment

Q: What would cause a bicyclist and a cab driver to share a moment in the middle of a busy Chicago intersection?

A: Nearly falling victim to a supremely stupid and dangerous move by another driver.

On my way home yesterday, as I waited in the middle of an busy three-way intersection to turn left – my light was green but through traffic from the other direction had the right-of-way – a big SUV pulled next to me and then awkwardly inched itself half-way in front of me at a turning angle, effectively cutting me off and placing me dangerously within its turning radius. I was thinking, “What the hell, moron??” and had to walk my bike backward. (True to stereotypical form, the driver was a woman talking on a cell phone.)

We sat there as one, two, three cars went by coming from the other direction. There was one more car, a cab, in the line of right-of-way traffic. Our light was still green. Shockingly, the SUV driver turned left right in front of the cab. She did not dart out quickly; she simply turned as if she had all the time in the world.

For a split second I was sure the cab would crash into the her and both would crash into me. Thankfully, the cab driver managed to stop in time by slamming on his brakes and the SUV continued on as if nothing strange had happened, leaving the cab driver and me stopped in the middle of the busy intersection, staring at each other and shaking our heads in disbelief. Happy to have someone to commiserate with, he made a “What was she thinking????” gesture and I responded with a “I have no idea, but that shit was crazy!” gesture. We shared a moment. Then he continued straight and I turned left, strangely giddy for the rest of my ride home.

I deal with so much ridiculousness on my bike every day, connecting with a driver about the confirmed idiocy of another driver was oddly comforting. It reassured me that I am not the crazy one. It also reminded me that cars are not my natural enemy; rather, stupid drivers are a common enemy to all. I prefer to focus on that part of the incident, rather than think too much about the fact that there are so many drivers distracted by cell phones that they don’t know or even care what they’re doing on the roads. After all, if the cab had crashed into this woman, she probably would not have been injured in her huge SUV and I’m sure she has insurance, so why should she care enough to follow the law and not talk on her cell phone while driving? That would be terribly inconvenient.

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