July 2011 archive

Summer Games, halfway point

Well, it’s the halfway point of the LGRAB 2011 Summer Games. How are you doing with your events? If you need some inspiration, check out some of the submissions we’ve gotten so far.

Wendy and her husband took a group ride in Cleveland. As she points out, group rides are a great way to build confidence and learn from more seasoned riders. She also wrote a letter to the city council requesting a bike rack outside her local grocery.

Our friend Melissa is going gangbusters on the Games from her new home in Denver. She test rode a different bike and fell in love with the Electra Townie.

Melissa and the Townie

Looks like a good fit! She also commuted to her new job by bike for the first time. “I was definitely more awake during the day and the ride home helped me relax.”

A&P of The Notables also test rode a different sort of bike (I love reading about people doing this). They enjoyed the Giant commuter model they tried, but are talking about a trip to NYC to see what Adeline Adeline has to offer.

Daniel of La Pedaleada went on a group ride and performed a maintenance task—and videotaped them both! Check it out. I need to proofride MY Brooks…

Cathey decided to perform a maintenance task on her Globe—checking the tire pressure and filling them up. “I never thought I would enjoy doing work on my bike, but now, strange as it may seem, I kind of have my fingers crossed that a tube will need replacing or my chain will need work. I can’t wait to keep learning!” she writes.

Deb went on a group ride to celebrate her one-year anniversary of cycling. Her official mileage tally: 1,140.98 miles. Makes me wonder what mine would be if I kept count! Maybe in 2012. :) She also explored new territory by riding the entire width of her township in Michigan.

Reader Annie from Minnesota has already completed FOUR events. She, too, has logged more than 1,000 miles on her bike in the last year. “I made up a Tshirt that I wear often when I ride.  It says, “Bicycle Minnesota” on the front and “Ride, Fat Girl, Ride” on the back.  It makes me smile,” she tells us.

Keep the entries coming!

p.s. are you adding your photos to our Flickr pool?

 

 

ATTN: Betty Foys in the DC area?

If you know someone who owns a Rivendell Betty Foy in the DC/Northern VA area, please respond here.  There is an obviously stolen “antique” Betty Foy being offered for sale.  If I did not live 700 miles away, I would rescue it myself.

Please pass this message on.

You might also like:

July’s Critical Lass Ride

With the temperature at 97 degrees last Thursday, I thought the Critical Lass turnout would be dismal.

Well, look how wrong I was!  A little blazing sun isn’t enough to keep a lass from her bike.

A few beat-the-heat tips from the lasses:

1) Play in water fountain.

2) Eat an ice cream sandwich, preferable from from an ice cream trike.

3) Grab a pop of yellow to rival the sun.

4) Adorn your bike with cute accessories, just because.

With all the above summer essentials covered, the group set out for the 6-mile slow ride.

Unfortunately, Ms. Chicargobike had a pedal that stubbornly insisted on falling off her awesome new trike, so the two of us left the group to stop by Rapid Transit Cycle Shop.  Once the pedal was secured, we had our own duo lass ride to the destination bar, where we met up with everyone else.

Despite the obstacles, it was a delightful evening.

Women of Chicago looking for a fun time: join Critical Lass the third Thursday of every month starting at the Polish Triangle!

This means I’m turning!

Before I get to the main point of this post, let me mention that I was thwarted from riding my bike today.  Last night a severe storm knocked out power for about 18 hours.  No electricity meant my garage door opener would not work and my bike was trapped inside (a detached garage).  That’s something I never considered before.  I guess there’s some sort of mechanical opener on the inside, but figuring all that out early in the morning was beyond me.  So I took the L train instead.  Boo.

And now for something completely different.

Bike Snob recently mentioned (which means made fun of)  a Kickstarter project for creating a turning signal bike glove.  While the idea of a bike turning signal is…interesting, I prefer to use old fashioned hand signals that no one understands.  When I feel like increasing visibility, lately I’ve been using this slap bracelet that came in my bike-to-work week goodie bag.

That’s right – slap bracelet.  Remember those?

Makes me think of Smurfs and Fruity Pebbles.

When I’m not wearing the slap bracelet, I keep it slapped on the handle of my pannier.  I’m not really big on neon, but this thing is so easy and increases my false sense of security, so I haven’t found a reason not to carry it.

Do you do anything to make your turning intentions more visible?

Nashville’s Tour de Fat was all that

On July 9, Nashville hosted the Tour de Fat for the first time.

It was a big deal for a lot of reasons, first of all because it was one of the first times the “no alcohol in Metro Parks” rule had been set aside for an event. Good news is, the chance the Mayor took was worth it: Nashville’s tour set records for both the number of parade participants and money raised for local nonprofits at a first time Tour — 600 parade riders and $14,000 for Walk/Bike Nashville and Soundforest.

Honestly, I didn’t know how much this ride was for me, since photos from Tours in other cities showed a lot of scantily costumed folks on tall bikes or cruisers, but any group ride in Nashville can pretty much count me in so I headed out. I did not have a summery costume so I wore a flounced, sheer overskirt over the smallest tank dress I could find and my trusty Jessica Simpson heels. Setting out at 9 am, alone on the street, I felt slightly ridiculous (ride of shame?) and got a couple of curious looks/honks, but once I arrived among the throngs of cyclists at Centennial I felt more at home.

me next to my beer, after the ride

The ride was a blast. Even though it was hot and we were very, very sweaty. Music was blaring and the carnival atmosphere at the starting line had the energy rising. I also liked the “this ride is pro-bike, not anti-car!” message that the “Rymanese Twins” were proclaiming from their platform at the start of the race.

Afterward I met up with Anna from Bike Skirt and we watched the shows and tried out some of the trick bikes they had in the corral. Anna was more adventurous than I.

Anna & me

Anna and Ross on a tandem

The moral of the story is: if the Tour comes to your city, hop on! It really is the best party on two wheels.

 

In Search of the Most Peaceful Commute

While I wait for Chicago to be covered in gloriously safe bike infrastructure, I have to work with what I’ve got. As some mentioned in the comments to yesterday’s post, small side streets can provide a calm and safe way to travel through the city – no special bike infrastructure needed. Using such routes to get from one place to another may require practice, familiarity and extra time, but it can be well worth the trouble for those who value peacefulness above efficiency.

Over the past two years, when it no longer made sense to take the car-free Lakefront Trail on a regular basis due to the location of my new office, I have been adjusting my 5-mile commute route from the efficiency side of the scale to the peacefulness side of the scale.

Happy to be cycling on Chicago's peaceful side streets this week

I started with the most obvious and direct bikeable route: a left and a right and I was there (Lincoln to Wells). Most of the ride consisted of a diagonal street with either sharrows or bike lanes the whole way, popular with both bikes and cars. Unfortunately, vehicle traffic moved quickly and there were lots of trucks, buses and giant six-way intersections.  After a while I grew tired of the traffic and aggression, such as drivers shouting at me to get out of the way or just generically being awful. The stress was really getting to me.

Looking for an alternative, it occurred to me last summer to sacrifice some efficiency and try taking slightly calmer streets. The new route amounted to a right, left, right, left and right, instead of a straight diagonal (basically, Southport to Armitage to Wells). I still had to deal with congestion, often riding down the bike lane past grid-locked vehicle traffic, but the cars moved considerably slower, the intersections were smaller, and the bike lanes more consistent.

This route served me well for a year, but lately I have been craving a more peaceful commute. Participating in the super calm Critical Lass rides helped me realize that Chicago has lots of small, tree-lined, neighborhood streets to ride, as long as one is willing to meander: these magically quiet streets have a tendency to end or become one-way suddenly. For the past few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with different side streets, backtracking and exploring a lot.

As of today, I’ve finally discovered The Calmest Route from My Neighborhood to My Office (patent pending). My route is now: right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left. That is no exaggeration: I typed while visualizing my ride with my eyes closed.

The difference in my stress level from my first commute route to my current commute route is night and day, with my current route being virtually stress-free. Of course, this comes at a cost. First, it takes about 10 minutes longer than more obvious route. Second, the potholes are especially bad on side streets. Third, this route probably won’t be an option during the winter, when side streets are neglected by snow plows. Finally, I have to be extra cautious at each block’s four-way stop sign because drivers in neighborhoods love to roll through stops, unless there’s another ton vehicle staring them down. Despite these costs, the calmness of the route is worth it to me.

I wish I’d thought of adjusting my route like this a long time ago, but I guess such a paradigm shift is obvious only in hindsight.

I know this kind of meandering commuting is not for everyone, but I’m curious: does anyone else seek out the most peaceful routes possible?

Optimism

As someone who rides my bike everyday, I get a lot of questions and comments about bicycling in the city.  When people tell me (so many people do, especially women!) that they wish they could bike BUT they do not feel safe and are afraid of being hit by a car, I do not launch into a stump speech about the benefits of bicycling.  I may say something like, “It’s not so scary once you learn the rules of the road and get used to riding in traffic,” but I always say something like, “Yeah, it can be scary, I know.”

Although I’m a passionate advocate for transportation bicycling, I have to be understanding and realistic during those conversations.  I don’t think it’s right to pressure or judge people when it comes to bicycling because the transportation system is not set up for us.  While bicycling may be safer than driving a car statistically, statistics won’t help people feel less afraid as speeding SUVs whiz by them.

All of this is to say – I am optimistic that the day will come when I can respond to people with something like, “Oh, you should try out the network of protected bike lanes.  Just take X street to Y street straight into the Loop and you’ll be physically separated from cars the entire time.”  Or, even better, I’m optimistic that the day will come when I won’t have to respond at all because the first reaction to the idea of bicycling in Chicago won’t be FEAR.

From whence does my optimism spring?  From the direction the city is going in with bicycle infrastructure.

Today was the ribbon cutting ceremony for Chicago’s first protected bike lane and the announcement of the next location to get a protected bike lane: Jackson Boulevard from Damen to Halsted.  This is all part of new Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan for 100 miles of protected bike lanes during his first term.  The Mayor is working with new Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein to get this done.  (Read an interesting interview with Commissioner Klein at Grid Chicago.)

I know I should not get too excited about this plan because it’s only the beginning and there will surely be opponents.  But I’m choosing optimism.

What do you think?  Do you feel optimistic for the future of bicycling where you live?  How do you react when people tell you they’re too afraid to bike?

 


Enjoying Bike Summer at the Seersucker Ride

Lately it seems I’m posting more about group rides and events than about my daily biking.  While I continue to ride my bike to work and everywhere else, the high points of my biking life have been special events like Critical Lass, the Women-Who-Bike Brunch, my Cupcake Ride and the Tour de Fat.   There is simply no better way to enjoy Chicago in the summer than outside, under the sun, on my bicycle, chatting with nice people.

Now I’m adding  the Seersucker Ride to that list, which I joined last Sunday.  The ride was co-organized by the BBC (British Bicycles of Chicago), the Slow Bicycle Society and Velo-Francais.  Sort of like a Tweed Ride for the summer heat.

There was an excellent turn out of excellently turned-out folks.  :) We met at a neighborhood watering hole for starter refreshments.  I chose a summer shandy to deal with the heat wave weather.  (I refuse to listen to anyone who points out that alcohol dehydrates!)

Then we headed to beautiful Humboldt Park for a picnic.  By far the classiest picnic I’ve ever seen, with table cloths, mini strawberry shortcakes, and fresh mixed mint juleps!



Fun bicycle events provide such a friendly and relaxed environment.  I enjoyed chatting with old friends and meeting new people.

Everyone was dressed so nicely, very casual chic.




After the picnic, we meandered slowly to another watering hole, where I chose to remain for a couple of hours before heading home.  :)

Oh, yeah, and there was this: 

Take that fixies and BMX bikes!  He was actually only one of five penny-farthing riders there and three of them were women.  (I can’t believe I forgot to get a picture!)

Ash gave the Pennyfarthing a try, but I am too much of a chicken for something like that.

Many thanks to the organizers of the Seersucker Ride.  Everyone had a great time!

Who else is enjoying a bike summer?

 

Tour de Fat Comes to Chicago

On Saturday, I went to New Belgium’s Tour de Fat festival during its one-day stop in Chicago. For those who are not familiar with the Tour, it’s basically a gloriously goofy celebration of bike culture and craft beer. It also raises money for bike non-profits local to each city – the highly deserving West Town Bikes for Chicago.

My festival story must begin with this sneaker bike. Yup, sneaker bike, a beautifully grotesque creature. Too much fun, right? Yeah, because after doing one lap around the ring, I wiped out spectacularly (kinda like that guy in the background). Totally worth it.

That was after Megan and I tried and failed to ride an extremely odd tandem – if you could even call it that.

I wasn’t the only one checking out the franken-bikes. Ash and Rico also took their turns.

Later at the main stage, there was a slow bike race. As in, whoever gets to the finish line last without stopping wins.  I think Coco and I could have been real contenders, but she was too lazy to try.

Apparently, she has nothing to prove. Instead we drank beer served to us by Stephanie (thanks!).

Jami twisted amazing balloon creations (not as deviously as she looks in this photo).

And others wore them very chicly.

Mr. Dottie posed for a rare photo.

Finally, a group of us headed to nearby Lula Cafe for lunch and drinks, which was the perfect way to end a hot day.

The Tour de Fat is always lots of fun, plus it’s an unusual and inexpensive way to spend the day outdoors while benefiting deserving non-profits. Highly recommended!

I plan to be there again next year, just like I was last year and the year before.

Check to see if the Tour de Fat is coming to your area. If so, you should put it on your calendar!

Stay tuned for Trisha’s story of the Nashville Tour de Fat next week!

They’re here: The 2011 Summer Games

This Friday, the cycling event of the summer begins! We couldn’t be more excited about hosting the Summer Games again this year—and giving out some wonderful prizes for you players out there.

Things are a little different this year. Instead of three separate parts, we’re asking you to complete 4 out of 10 of the events from the list below between July 22 and August 8. Once you have completed your events, there are two ways to enter:

1) Email us links to your blog posts detailing the activities; or

2) Email us your story and photographs [LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com].

Please use the subject line [Summer Games]. At any time, you can also upload your photos to our Summer Games Flickr pool. By entering, you give us permission to publish your content here.

  • on vacation? rent a bike and go for a ride!
  • write a letter advocating for bicycling infrastructure (bike lanes, bike rack, etc) to your alderman/council representative, mayor, or a local business.
  • take a picture of something along your commute that says “summer” to you, and explain why
  • commute to work by bike or bike/transit if you don’t already
  • perform a maintenance task on your bike
  • explore a greenway or bike path in your city that you haven’t previously visited
  • test ride a different type of bike than you normally ride (road bike, mountain bike, etc.)
  • read a book about cycling
  • ride your bike somewhere new in your city
  • go on a group ride

We will draw for prizes from among the entrants who have completed at least four events. So start planning, and drooling over our prize page.

Major thanks to all the sponsors who are helping us spread the bike love!


 

Want a banner to put on your site to let others know you’re playing the games? Right click on any of the images below to download it — and be sure to link to this post.

 

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