Monthly Archives: May 2012

Lake Breezes and Karma

The cool breezes of Lake Michigan lured me to the lakefront trail yesterday morning.  Freedom from the stifling heat of car exhaust and crazy drivers, I relaxed and enjoyed the beauty around me.

These pictures are from this great old Polaroid Land Camera 250.  Very fun to play with.  :)

In the evening, I took city streets, where I witnessed a scene that first had me flaming mad and then had me cheering.

As I waited at a red light at a crowded intersection, a driver in a fancy SUV was turning left and inching into a crosswalk as a mother with a baby carriage crossed with the walk signal.  The mother was saying something to the driver that I could not hear, probably like, “Excuse me, I have the walk sign and I’m here with my baby.”  The driver responded by HONKING his horn, right in the baby’s face!  The mother did not budge and the driver then stepped on the gas to lurch forward and psych out the mother, who was standing no more than two feet away WITH HER BABY CARRIAGE!  (Who are these horrible people???)  As soon as she moved away, the driver sped down the street…

…for about 3 seconds.  A police SUV, which was two cars behind the offending SUV, immediately went after it with lights and sirens.  As a biked by, the SUV was pulled over and two police officers were exiting their vehicle.  The scene was so beautiful, I could have wept.  KARMA!

I think the driver should have been arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, but at the very least I hope he or she received a citation for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.  Drivers need to know that they cannot get away with criminal behavior simply because they are surrounded by a ton of metal!

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The Independence of Bicycling

Boy, was I happy to be riding my bike yesterday evening!  An extra-alarm fire at a furniture store adjacent to the L-tracks shut down the red, brown, and purple lines for several hours spanning the height of rush hour.  (No one was hurt in the fire.)  Mr. Dottie was on the brown line and had to walk the last two miles home, which is not so fun in near 90-degree heat, carrying a heavy work bag and wearing steel-toed boots. I, on the other hand, sailed along home with trusty Oma.

The scene biking past the L station was chaotic, with hundreds of people waiting for shuttle buses and car traffic jammed from road closures.  I may have gotten some envious looks from the poor commuters stuck on the side of the road.  Too bad Chicago’s planned bike share is not up and running yet – I bet lots of people would have tried it for the first time!

Bonus: enjoying the sight and smell of fresh flowers along my route.

While situations like this on public transportation are rare, I prefer to deal with them never.  The ordeal reminded me of the independence that the bicycle provides.  As long as I have my trusty bike and a slim stretch of road, I’m set.  (Just no thunderstorms, please!)

Good work, Oma!

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Roll Model: Sam of Brown Girl in the Lane

As part of the new LGRAB, every Tuesday we will profile an inspiring everyday cyclist—a weekly series called “Roll Models.”

This week’s Roll Model is Sam (also known as Beany) from Brown Girl in the Lane. Dottie and I have had the pleasure of meeting Sam in persontwice!—during visits to San Diego. If you’re wondering if she’s as idiosyncratic and charmingly acerbic in person as she is on her blog, the answer is emphatically YES! Sam is the only person I know who has moved cross-country by bike, and she always emphasizes how empowering and enjoyable riding a bike can be. We’re honored to share more about her with you. (For those of you who don’t know her blog, Sam doesn’t post photos of herself—but all photos in this post were taken by her.)

 

A rare bird—female cyclist in San Diego

Describe your bicycling style in three words.
Comfortable, fun and quirky

How long have you been riding a bike?
Since I was 5. I’m 31 now. So about 26 years.

Describe where you live and cycle.
In neighborhoods with a lot of human activity (people walking, riding) and along the coast with the view of the ocean constantly at my side.

What inspires you to keep bicycling?
Every day I ride, I feel indescribably happy. The experiences I have on the saddle allow me to be truly in touch on a very visceral level with the city around me. It is a sort of attachment that I cannot shed. And one that I don’t want to.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world—shops, outreach, group rides, etc.—feel welcoming for you as a woman?
No. I found one bike shop that did, and then they up and moved to Portland (Velo Cult). Intentionally or unintentionally, I always feel stupid when I walk into bikes shops. And I don’t know a whole lot but the condescending attitude seriously ticks me off. So I revert back to how I’ve always done things: watching youtube videos and buying my supplies online.

A family ride

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?
I believe that the infrastructure issue is huge as it has been highlighted often. But women are constantly put down by not just the media (who tend to take their cues from leaders in the movement), but by men in general and that can be very demoralizing. I experience that on a near daily basis and since I’m fairly thick skinned I don’t notice it unless I take the time to really analyze it. I guess I’m a bit dead on the inside to really take stock of it. I think bike blogs written by strong women (like yourself and Trish) really serve to inspire. You look normal, and many women can relate to you and your interests. Between where we are now, and before we turn the U.S. into The Netherlands or Denmark, we’ve got to support one another.  I think I should write about this in more detail. [ed: in between submitting this post and us posting it, she has! Check it out.]

Although you seem to enjoy life in San Diego, you often express frustration with its dominant car-culture and poor infrastructure. If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?
Have a car-free day once a month. Have people ride, walk or transit everywhere. My frustration stems from the lack of empathy from the drivers. If everyone knew how annoying it is to get buzzed or honked at, I think people would be more considerate. [ed: WORD.]

Standard Tap: one of Beany's favorite watering holes

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?
It is scary, intimidating and annoying. Especially at first. My motivation is financial—I hate spending money. But the after effects have been tremendous. Riding gives such a wonderful feeling of independence—you can go anywhere you want to, on your own power. That is such a powerful feeling. Being outside on a bike—I feel so powerful, so happy, so inspired (I get some of my best ideas when I’m out on long rides). I’m very shy, so I tend to do things alone. So if you’re like me, I’d urge you to just try it out. Give riding a shot in a safe, protective environment and see how you feel. Don’t do something you’re uncomfortable doing. If you have a friend or a partner you trust—try riding with them. Ride with someone who is patient with you and your limitations. Be stubborn, and keep trying. If you have concerns about your body or your lack of fitness, try a little bit at a time. Although I ride every day, my body is not a svelte, lean, muscular machine. Like many women, I have my own body image issues, but I ignore them because the joy I derive from riding trumps all the negative thoughts in my head.

Final words?
I dream of a day when the number of people riding are split 50/50 between men and women. I want to be lost in the crowd of women.

____________________

 

Thanks to Beany! Everyone should check out Brown Girl in the Lane for more San Diego cycling stories.

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October’s Brunch and the Urban Adventure League

Today I developed a long-forgotten roll of B&W film and discovered the pictures from October’s women-who-bike brunch.  If anyone was wondering why I never blogged about October’s brunch, that’s why.

Enjoy.  :)

At this brunch we had special guests from Portland: April and Shawn from the Urban Adventure League.  They were at the end of a long bike tour that took them from Portland through Vancouver, Montana, Minnesota and finally Chicago.  Shawn is also the writer of the comic Ten Foot Rule, among other publications.

The women-who-bike group makes special exceptions for men who are visiting from out of town, especially if they biked.  :)

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Fashion Friday: Memorial Day picnic

Happy three-day weekend, U.S. readers! On actual Memorial Day, I will be “running” a 10K. So I’ll have to get in all my relaxing on Saturday and Sunday. My daydreams today at work will be about pulling on a comfy T and a pair of shorts (while I love cycling in dresses, shorts can’t be beat when you plan to be sprawled out on the grass), grabbing that book I’ve been meaning to read and a few snacks, and pedaling over to the park for some rest and relaxation.

 

Summer picnic

Cheese, wine, a good book, a bicycle with a basket to carry it all—it’s pretty simple, but I’m not sure there’s a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon! Other weekend plans: swinging by the thrift store to pick up a few casual (and possibly, disposable) clothing items for Bonnaroo. Oh, and deciding which iteration of the gradient nail trend I’m going to go with for next week. I like this monochromatic look with glitter! How are you spending your weekend?

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Review: Ortlieb Bike Shopper Pannier

While test riding the Civia Twin City, I also tested the Ortlieb Bike Shopper rear pannier.  My Basil pannier, designed to fit my large Dutch rack, did not fit the Civia’s smaller rack, so Jon gave me the Ortlieb to go with the bike.  The hooks on this pannier can be adjusted to fit any size rack.

The pannier is waterproof.  This is the main attribute, as most of the panniers on the market are only water-resistent.  Personally, water-resistence has been adequate for my needs, as my cargo has never gotten wet, even in thunderstorms, and I always keep a plastic bag handy for extra emergency protection.

The second stand-out attribute of the pannier is the mounting system, which Ortlieb calls the “QL2″ system.  This allows you to attach and remove the pannier with barely any effort and with only one hand by pulling on a small strap handle, while the pannier remains securely attached otherwise.

The system is hard to describe, but it totally works wonders, so I made a quick video to demonstrate.  Note that I was able to detach and reattach the pannier all while holding a camera with my other hand.

Unfortunately, this ease of use does not extend to the plastic zipper, which is ridiculously hard to open and close.  I had to use both hands and pull hard just to get the zipper to slowly move.  Perhaps this gets easier over time, but over the course of three days and at least 10 tries, it did not.  Another awkward thing about the pannier is the way the shoulder straps simply dangle when the bag is mounted.  They are not long enough to get caught in the wheel, but the design should have been improved to provide the straps with a home.

The inside is large and holds about as much stuff as my Basil Design Shopper.  There are a few interior pockets to hold your keys, cellphone, and other objects you need to access easily.  I do not like how the bag narrows at the bottom, but I guess that is to prevent heel strike, although I’ve never had a heel strike problem with other panniers.

The pannier comes in several different colors.  I had the ice blue-gray color, which is the prettiest by far.  (Other options include neon green and black.)  I would like to see Ortlieb apply their awesome mounting system to panniers that are more attractive.  I am not interested in carrying into the office or the store a bag that looks like athletic equipment.  I consider a commuting pannier successful when the design allows for an easy transition from the bike to the rest of my life.

I must point out that all the photos on Ortlieb’s website are of men, making the company look out of touch with the current sea change in bicycle commuting.  As in – women do it, too!  Of course, Ortlieb is entitled to focus their market narrowly, but that does not mean I have to like it.

Overall, the Ortlieb Bike Shopper pannier is a high-quality and functional bag with an excellent mounting system that makes attaching and detaching the bag a breeze, even one-handed.  Unfortunately, this ease disappears when dealing with the zipper and arranging the awkwardly dangling straps.  For someone who absolutely needs a waterproof bag and is willing to invest $100 (a fair investment for years of bike commuting), the Bike Shopper is a good choice.  But if a water-resistant bag is good enough for your purposes, there are many other options that I would recommend, especially if you desire a bag that transitions from the bike to the office with more aplomb.

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Urban Gardening by Bike

I am a city girl, but sometimes I complain about not having a yard and google Asheville farmhouses.  A classic “grass is greener” situation.  In reality, I have never displayed a green thumb and barely use my only outdoor space, a small wooden balcony.  Admitting this to myself, I decided to embrace what I have fully, instead of uselessly dreaming of what I do not have.  The result is my new urban garden!  My south-facing balcony gets strong direct sunlight for most of the day and finding plants that thrive in such an environment was easy.

On Saturday, I biked to my neighborhood garden center (Fertile, for locals) and loaded up on flowers: roses, begonias, daisies, and a window box for mounting.

To transport the plants, I simply zip-tied to my front rack a wine crate that Mr. Dottie found in our alley (free!).  This served the purpose splendidly.  The plants were packed in enough that they did not jostle or fall over.

Back at my condo, I transferred the flowers to bigger pots with more soil.  Lucky for me, I snapped up several terra-cotta pots that my neighbor left in the basement when she moved (free!).  These were a big score, as transporting heavy pots would have been difficult.

I learned via gardening blogs that I need some larger material at the bottom of my pots, below the soil, to help with drainage and avoid root rot.  I had enough wine corks for the first pot, but then I was at a loss and not up for another trip to the store.  Mr. Dottie came up with a plan to collect rocks from under nearby L tracks, which sounded kinda gross, but after only a few handfuls each – and after picking out the broken glass – we were set (free!).  :)

On Sunday, I returned to the garden center for herbs and vegetables.  Same bike set up as before.  I got sage, rosemary, basil, thyme, tomatoes, and banana peppers!

 Mr. D stuffed another flower box in his pannier.

Then we got back to work potting.  Getting my hands in the dirt – like a kid again – was fun, even though the dirt came from a bag.  (I was able to buy organic potting soil from the nearby grocery store, allowing me to walk home carrying the bags and avoid loading the bike up.)

Now I have a real live urban garden – complete with herbs, veggies, and flowers.  Once I prove to myself that I can keep these guys alive, I plan to go back for more.  And I’m working on some seedlings (green beans, catnip, flowers) that hopefully will join the rest of the gang outside soon.

As a final touch, I scored two barely-used patio arm chairs from Craigslist, which the seller delivered for a small extra fee.

I could not be more excited about my tiny urban garden!  Now I can sit outside and enjoy my personal oasis.  :)

Plus, I’ve already roasted a chicken using my own herbs – delish!

Does anyone else have an urban garden?  Or do you have an actual yard with an actual garden??  I’d love to hear stories and tips.

{Two helpful blogs I used as resources: Urban Organic Gardener  and Life on the Balcony.}

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Bonjour mardi!

French braid.

 

French bike.

Maybe it was seeing Goodbye, First Love (aka Un Amour de Jeunesse) on Sunday night, but today I felt the urge to dust off poor, neglected Le Peug and take him to work today. When going back to this bike after a break, I’m always surprised by how nimble it is.

My camera is still hiding somewhere and taking Panda snaps with the iPhone in glaring sunlight is terribly awkward (mine’s a plain old 3G without a front-facing camera). So apologies for my quizzical expression. The crown braid is actually a terrific cycling hairstyle; watch for a tutorial soon. It’s easier than you might think! Until then, check out the trailer for Goodbye First Love. It’s the kind of movie that stays with you and gets better the more you think about it.

 

 

Roll Model: Jools of Lady Velo

As part of the new LGRAB, every Tuesday we will profile an inspiring everyday cyclist—a weekly series called “Roll Models.”

This week’s Roll Model is Jools, aka “LadyVelo,” who blogs about her adventures on two wheels in East London at Vélo-City-Girl. Jools sets the bar pretty high when it comes to cycling in style—and she’s only been at it two years! Read on for a glimpse of the London cycling life.

Jools and her Pashley!

Describe your bicycling style in three words.
Stylish, leisurely, fun!

How long have you been riding a bike?
I’ve been riding my Pashley for just over two years (two years and two months to be exact!)

Describe where you live and cycle.
I live in Newham in East London, which is now famous for hosting the 2012 Olympic Games! As I cycle to work (also in East London) I do ride around the area a lot. Improvements are being made around here for cyclists, but there is still a lot of work to be done on the cycling infrastructure around here. When I’m out with The Boy on our bikes, we often cycle across London for our Coffee & Cake Saturday rides, which is ace! Getting around London by bike is the best way to really see and appreciate the City!

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?
Bicycling has had a huge effect on my life: It’s been a fantastic way to meet new and likeminded people who enjoy the freedom of cycling… and who also enjoy mixing fashion with two wheels! My levels of fitness have also improved since getting my Pashley and starting to ride again… it’s been amazing.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world—shops, outreach, group rides, etc.—feel welcoming for you as a woman?
In my honest opinion, I find that the smaller / independent bike shops are always more welcoming to women riders. Some of the larger chain bicycle shops seem to be heavily geared towards men, which is a pity as there is a huge female cycling demographic out there. When it comes to group rides, women are being catered for with rides organised by the likes of Breeze Network, who are reaching out to female cyclists wanting to get back on the saddle—encouragement is key.

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?
I really hope to see the day when there isn’t a “Gander Gap” in cycling when it comes to media attention / getting more women cycling….

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?
The current CS Cycle Highways we have. I’d make them wider and adopt a similar style to those in Berlin

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?
I do feel optimistic about the future of cycling in London. Although it may feel like a tough battle at the moment, so many people / organisations / bloggers and such are campaigning for improvements here . . . voices will be heard and changes will be made.

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?
Go for it! Do some research and look into getting a bike suited to your needs, and go at your own pace. Between me taking up cycling again in March 2010, there was a 10-year gap—it’s NEVER too late to start riding! It’s also very likely that there will be women-only cycle groups in your area—check them out and go on group rides or rides with friends to build up your confidence if needed…

Final words?
Be safe, be happy & enjoy being on your bike! x

 


 

Thanks for sharing your story, Jools! For more, visit her at Vélo-City-Girl or on FB or twitter.

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Nashville’s Bike to Work Day

On Friday, Nashville celebrated Bike to Work Day along with most of the rest of the country.


Nashville’s event was in our Public Square, in front of the relatively new courthouse.

As in most cities, people rode in from all parts of town to partake in coffee and breakfast, and to meet other cyclists.

Maybe nothing out of the ordinary, except that Nashville’s Bike to Work Day this year was the biggest ever.

The bike racks were full and the crowd was ready to be addressed by Mayor Karl Dean, who had biked in himself.

After a donut, a banana and some conversation I headed in to work with a group of friends. It was a great way to start the day.

See Lauren’s blog for another take on the day (she kindly shared her pictures since my camera is hiding somewhere)—and the official Nashville Bike to Work FB page has some great pics too.

Cycling is really taking off in Nashville these days—it’s so exciting and fun to see the number of cyclists on the street and at events like this growing.

Did your city bike to work last Friday? How’d it go?

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Chance Meeting with Reader Holly

While at J.C. Lind Bikes the other day, I met Holly, who was looking all cycle chic and introduced herself as a reader of LGRAB.  What a lovely chance meeting!

I fawned over her Carolina blue Gazelle, which she purchased last year.  How great is the blue with the cream tires?

I also loved her use of an orange wire Basil basket on her rear rack.  She simply slipped the handlebar holder prongs over the Gazelle’s thick rear rack and added one zip tie for extra hold.  I might have to use this idea with Oma or Coco.

I got Holly’s email address and followed up with her for more information on her bike life.

I just got back on a bike five years ago after a 20 year hiatus.  I grew up on a gravel road, so I had never ridden a bike IN a city and it took me quite a while to build up courage.  After reading your blog and realizing that commuting to work did not have to include another set of clothes and a shower but actually, you could wear the cutest damn outfit and just enjoy the ride, I decided I could probably do it, too.

I bought my Gazelle at JC Lind last summer after trying out a lot of bikes and doing a lot of research online.  Your reviews and posts made a world of difference for me in helping understand important features and the needs for commuting and commuting in Chicago.  I decided that the Gazelle Basic was the best option for a “beginner” Dutch bike.  I wasn’t fully ready for the financial commitment of the “super” Dutch bikes!

If there is something I’d want others to know, it’d be that biking means different things to different people.  You don’t have to be fast and you don’t have to be fit, you just have to enjoy being out there, but please, bike polite!

Meeting people like Holly reminds me how cool biking women are and how happy I am to reach so many of them through LGRAB.  If anyone sees me out and about, please say hi!  I’d love to chat.

 

Scenes from the Tour de Nash

The Tour de Nash is currently on progress, and I’m watching riders come in after doing the 8-mile ride. (last one is a snap from the finish, where I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of Izze’s Ice. Oh, and also Lauren, Whitney & Sarah. ;)

My favorite part? The panda prompt:

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Fashion Friday: Bike Spring!

Happy Friday!  The weather in Chicago is absolutely beautiful, with blue skies and sunshine.  I am in the mood for wearing a bright spring dress and fun sandals, hopping on my bike, and riding around all weekend!  I plan to do just that, once I get this work day over with.  :)  Along with all that bike riding, my weekend plans are to go to farmer’s market, start planting a balcony garden (tomatoes and herbs!), develop some film, read a lot, and relax.

In that spirit, here is some spring bike fashion inspiration.  This is a new Fashion Friday series and the goal is to inspire – a mindset, a style, a look-alike thrift store outfit – not to advertise any particular brand.  If you are not interested in fashion, feel free to skip over these posts, but in the answers to our survey, readers overwhelmingly requested more fashion content.  The people have spoken!  :)

Nutcase “Dots” helmetSolandra T-strap sandals and Primary Blooms dress from Anthropologie, Kate Spade New York Abici from Adeline Adeline

Betty Foy Stationery!

I recently received a message from Pam, a proud Rivendell Betty Foy owner and reader of LGRAB.  She shared with me the custom Betty Foy stationery that she created and then sent me one in the mail.  So pretty!

Pam traced a photo of her Betty and took the drawing to a stationer, who made a plate and letterpressed the cards.  She carefully matched the frame color and, if you look closely, you can even see the water bottle and Po Campo bag on the handlebars.  Her full name is pressed into the top of the card in the same color.

The real life Pam and her Betty Foy.  :)

Lovely!

This custom stationery is such a great idea.  I appreciate the time, thought, and work that Pam put into creating these cards. Stationery is a soft spot of mine and seeing others who appreciate fine paper as much as fine bikes warms my heart.

Has anyone else created personalized bike art?

Beautiful Bicycles: Civia Twin City Step-Through

I recently tested the Civia Twin City Step-Through from J.C. Lind Bikes.  I picked up the Twin City on Friday, returned it on Monday afternoon, and had a lot of fun in between.


The Twin City is a steel frame mixte with a great commuting set up – fenders, chain guard, rack, 7-speed internal gear hub, roller brake, and albatross bars.  Unfortunately,  smaller necessities such as lights and a bell must be added after market.  (During my test ride, I kept reaching for a non-existent bell – bells are so important in the city!)

The attachment you see on the bottom tube is the Abus Bordo lock, which is sold separately.

 

Overall, the Twin City has an attractive and kinda ’70’s look (is it just me?).  A metal Civia headbadge decorates the front of the bike.  I really appreciate a well-designed metal headbadge, instead of a sticker.

This bike comes in only one color, a deep and almost pearlescent red.  My friend’s 12-year-old daughter loved this color and declared that she wanted her old Schwinn painted the exact same.

The top tube is split all the way down, like a traditional mixte, but curved to allow for an easier step through.  I think step through frames make the most sense for anyone looking for a commuter bike, regardless of gender.

The bike has front caliper brakes – the kind most commonly seen on modern bikes – which stop the bike by clamping on the tire rim.

The rear wheel has a Shimano roller brake, which helps with stopping power in the rain or snow, because the elements cannot reach the enclosed hub.  There is also a Shimano Nexis 7-speed internal gear hub – again, great for all weather.  This is an excellent hub, the same I have on my Oma.

The bike is built with steel fenders and a chain guard, all painted to match the frame.  Fenders and chain coverings are so necessary for a transportation bike and I like how these are integrated and blend well.

The pedals are metal with sharp teeth and side reflectors.  They are okay, but I would swap them out for rubber-padded pedals.  My feet slipped several times while wearing both my Keen cycling sandals and my rubber-soled sneakers.  I can imagine they would be even more slippery with dress shoes.  Plus, my history with spikey pedals tells me I would eventually scratch the crap out of my calves when walking the bike.  For the more sporty type, clip-in or strap pedals would work well with the bike, too.

There is a single-footed kickstand.  While I appreciate that a kickstand is included, I would swap this out for a double-footed stand because I like my bike not to fall over constantly.  (Single-footed kickstands offer only an illusion of security!)

The quill stem and handlebars are great, similar to the Nitto Albatross bars I have on my Rivendell Betty Foy.  The positioning is more leaned forward and down than my Betty, but not as much as drop bars.

I added my personal rearview mirror because I always like to know what’s coming up behind me.

I also added my personal Brooks B17 saddle because the plain black saddle that comes with the bike is uncomfortable as hell.  Atrocious.  I suffered through my five mile ride home from the bike shop, until I could swap in Betty’s saddle.  I highly recommend upgrading to a Brooks or a similar not-awful saddle.

In addition to the fenders and chain guard, there is an integrated and matching rear rack – another essential element of a good commuter bike.  The rack held a good size load in a big pannier with no problem, although it is not made to be super heavy duty.

I borrowed an Ortlieb pannier for the test period, because the Basil pannier I use on my Oma would not fit on the Twin City rack – the Basil connectors were too wide.  I will review the Ortlieb pannier soon.

 

The Twin City is much more than the sum of its parts.  The ride quality and versatility are both high, as is the quality to cost ratio.  Someone looking for a commuting bike that also works for longer recreational excursions and is fairly light (compared to a Dutch bike) would do very well with the Twin City.  She or he would also do excellently with a Rivendell Betty Foy, but the price would be at least 150% more.

I rode the bike home from work on Friday, to the neighborhood movie theatre on Saturday, on a long ride on Sunday, and to work on Monday.  I found the bike to be excellent for every type of ride.

At first, when biking home on Friday, I felt way bent over and down, but that extreme feeling went away once I got used to the bike. I realized that it only seemed extreme after riding super-upright Oma.  The geometry is somewhat leaned over, but no more so than most typical commuter bikes on the market.  The steel frame allows for a smooth ride, even over Chicago’s notoriously potholed streets.

I was a little worried about how the bike would feel during my long 31 mile ride on Sunday, but there was no need.  The bike performed beautifully and proved to be nimble, quick, and comfortable.  I never felt like I was weighed down, even with a strong headwind, and totally enjoyed my ride.  I did wish that I had some harder gears in the tailwind, though, as I could not really open up and use all my energy without spinning.

The Twin City would be great for hilly terrain.  Of the seven gears, I mostly stayed in 7th gear, shifting to 6th at stoplights.  If I were using this bike for daily riding in Chicago, I would prefer a more difficult set-up that allowed me to use the other gears more.  That said, I used 5th and sometimes 4th gear when hit by a strong headwind and the full range of gears would be essential for a hilly city.

Overall, this bike has a lot going for it.  I was impressed.  The base price is $850 for the 7-speed or $595 for the single speed, which probably seems like a lot for someone who is looking for a bike to get started – my first adult bike was $450 and I felt like I was spending a fortune! – but is a good and fair price for the quality and features.  I strongly suggest that someone buying this bike upgrade to a Brooks saddle ($80) and add a bell ($10-20) and lights (at least $30).  I would also recommend swapping out the kickstand and pedals.  However, please note that such extras would not necessarily be expected on a bike at this price point.  I know that bike companies cut where they can to present a product for mass market appeal under a certain cost.  Even with those extras, the Twin City is a good value for a steel frame bike with fenders, chain guard, rack, internal 7-speed hub, and roller brakes.

I made a short video about the Twin City.  Not the best ever (I swear, sometimes I sound like I’m talking gibberish – my mind gets ahead of my tongue), but hopefully it gives an idea of how the bike looks in motion.

The bikes that seem most comparable to the Civia Twin City are the Public and Linus.  I think those two are not as high quality, but I have not tried them yet, so I cannot compare. I’ll try to do so in the near future, since we get a lot of questions about them.

As always, I highly recommend that anyone considering this bike try to arrange a real test-ride, if possible.  Your opinion of a bike could be totally different from mine.

p.s. There is also a Twin City Step-Over.

{J.C. Lind Bikes is a sponsor and friend of LGRAB.  This is not a sponsored review, but my own honest opinion.}

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Roundtrip Bike Ride to Woodlawn

On Sunday, Mr. Dottie and I biked to a friend’s home for brunch in Woodlawn, a neighborhood on the southside of Chicago.  The total roundtrip was 31 miles.  The Lakefront Trail conveniently took us almost straight there, allowing for a beautiful and car-free ride.  As you can see, the weather was absolutely perfect!  The sky was blue, the lake bluer, and the sun shining.  Days like this, I really treasure living in Chicago.

Because poor Betty Foy needs a tune-up desperately, I rode the Civia Twin City that I’ll be reviewing soon.  For the haul, I swapped in my personal Brooks saddle and slipped on padded bike shorts under my skirt.

Although I enjoy going for long bike rides, I usually need a destination to motivate me.  My daily 9 miles of commuting prepares me pretty well for longer hauls, but I admit that my legs were tired while finishing the ride in a strong headwind.  That’s when you really know you’re alive, right?  :)

Have any of you commuters broken free for a long ride lately?

 

Roll Model: Karen of She Rides a Bike

As part of the new LGRAB, every Tuesday we will profile an inspiring everyday cyclist – a weekly series called “Roll Models.”

This week’s Roll Model is Karen from She Rides a Bike.  In 2008, Karen began bicycling for transportation in Flagstaff, Arizona and now blogs about her move toward a simpler and more satisfying lifestyle.

Describe your bicycling style in three words. In 3 words, my bicycling style would be responsible, assertive and well-organized. I wish I could say stylish but it’s more of an aspiration. [ed: way stylish!]

How long have you been riding a bike? I’ve been a committed transportation cyclist for 4 years.

How does bicycling fit into and shape your life? I’ve worked bicycling into most aspects of my life. If I can’t get someplace on my bike (with the exception of necessary air travel) I start questioning whether or not it’s even someplace I need to go. I still use a car from time to time but I’m more deliberate about when, where and why. I think bicycling has inspired me to reassess my relationship with “stuff” and motivated me to pursue simpler living that places value on experiences over possessions. I still like nice things but prefer quality over quantity.

What inspires you to keep bicycling? I’m inspired to keep bicycling by the way I feel (and sometimes don’t feel) when I’m pedaling. I love the feeling of strength, liberation, and openness that I experience moving in space. Bicycling is something I can do so why would I stop? Why give up my power? I’m also inspired by the other women cycling bloggers that I follow and their choice to also do something that is still a bit outside the mainstream.

As women, we are often rewarded for accommodating the expectations of the larger culture regardless of whether or not doing so is in our best interests. I love seeing women (and men for that matter) challenging expectations that serve no other purpose than to perpetuate a not always helpful status quo.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world – shops, outreach, group rides, etc. – feel welcoming for you as a woman? I think that I’ve been pretty lucky that the LBS in Flagstaff are super helpful and supportive of women cyclists regardless of what kind of cycling they do. A few of them sponsor clinics on bike maintenance and offer group rides. Flagstaff has a great urban trail system and many bike lanes so I can get around almost anywhere by bike. Flagstaff Bicycling Organization does a whole week of Bike to Work Week activities, as well as trail repair days and safety clinics. Women cyclists are viewed as important. The downtown bars and restaurants have also welcomed Tweed Rides since they bring people downtown who will spend money without taking up parking.

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle? I don’t see that big a gender gap in Flagstaff. It’s an outdoorsy community so women are doing all sorts of activities once considered daring. If there is a gap it might be more between moms and not-moms. I’m not a mom so I have considerable time and freedom that moms don’t necessarily have since I don’t have to worry about balancing a work schedule and a child schedule. Moms might have more safety concerns than I have. Flagstaff is bike friendly but some of its residents and visitors view the road as meant for cars and trucks only. Few cities enjoy the kind of bike culture as Portland.

I see an ongoing debate in the media about the cycle chic movement that strikes me as rather odd. There’s nothing prurient, in my opinion, about the cycle chic movement. I like to look nice at all times, including when I’m on my bike. As a new cyclist I appreciated cycle chic blogs that showed me how it was done. I’m 49 and have no desire to be confused as a bike-riding Hooters girl, and I don’t think cycle chic promotes that anyway. I just want to dress to please myself. If I had to wear gender neutral, asexual bike apparel or lycra, I wouldn’t have given bike commuting a shot.

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be? I think bicycling is still viewed by the movers and shakers as a recreational activity not as a serious transportation option. The town motto seems to be “Poverty with a view.” People joke about it but the high cost of car ownership is not funny. We sold one car and started bike commuting to help economize and it’s made a big difference in making ends meet and being able to save for retirement. Flag is small enough for bike commuting to be a very workable option for most residents but some still view investments in bike paths and other bike infrastructure as frivilous. Luckily, the bike community is pretty vocal.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling? I’m not by nature an optimist but I think the cycle chic movement has mainstreamed transportation cycling just a little bit. Framing bikes as sexy and fashionable might be the honey that makes the bitter medicine of changing how we get around go down a little easier. Ten years ago nobody could have told me I would be biking to work or the doctor or my hair stylist! It was a decision I made out of necessity. Nationally, times are changing. I think the days of mega houses and cars for every member of the household are coming an end. And that’s not such a bad thing.

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling? Give yourself permission to start slow and learn. Being a newbie at anything requires a learning curve and a period of clumsiness. With time, it all becomes second nature. Visit plenty of bikes shops, ride lots of bikes, and check out all the biking blogs out there because they are packed with experiences, ideas, images and real people who can give you lots of wisdom. Whatever your barrier to bike riding, someone has come up with a way to overcome it.

Final words? I just appreciate being asked to particiapate in this post. I think most bloggers do so because they have something in their lives that they want to share. I’m always amazed when I meet someone who tells me I helped motivate them to try bike commuting but if I hadn’t stumbled upon LGRAB and other lady-biker oriented blogs, I wouldn’t have had the courage to get started myself.

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Thanks so much to Karen for sharing her story and insight with us!  So many good points!

Visit Karen at She Rides a Bike and follow her on Twitter.

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Nashville Bike Week 2012

I’ve been remiss in posting about all the exciting events going on this week for Nashville Bike Week — let me make up for that now with an all-encompassing post.  After a rainy weekend, the forecast is on our side too!

First, tonight there is a Jamaican-themed dinner buffet at Wild Cow to benefit Walk/Bike Nashville. Vegetarian and guaranteed delicious!

Tomorrow, the Ride of Silence will depart from the main Centennial Park entrance at 7 pm sharp (cyclists should arrive at 6:45). The ride is 7 miles, and riders must wear helmets—more details here. The Chicago ride is also on Wednesday and you can get info about that here.

Friday is Nashville’s Bike to Work Day. It’s definitely going to be our biggest one yet—we already have 171 people signed up on Facebook (Chicago peeps, stop your sniggering, this is big for us). So grab your bike, check out our route map and join us (and the Mayor—he’s biking in too!) at the courthouse for donuts, bagels and coffee.

And of course Saturday is the biggest biking event of the year—the 2012 Tour de Nash! Come out for a sweeping tour of Nashville’s new Music City Bikeway. If you’ve never ridden on quiet city streets with hundreds of other elated cyclists—you don’t know what you’re missing. There’s child care available. Also, our T-shirt this year is the cutest one yet. Come out!

 

On a smaller note, I plan to reschedule my rained-out progressive dinner ride for later in the month, so stay tuned for news on that.

Hope to see you Nashvillians on a bike this week!

 

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Pedaling in a new direction

We are excited to announce an evolution of Let’s Go Ride a Bike! Since December 2008, we have been bringing you personal stories of our growth as transportation cyclists. This will not change—we will continue to share our everyday adventures with you. But now in addition to our traditional blog stories, we will increase our rate of posting and expand the range of our editorial content to present a broader view of the cycling world.

Why? 

After 3.5 years of sharing our personal stories, the time has come to expand beyond the traditional blog format. As the rate of transportation cycling continues to rise, we hope to be a resource and support system for bicyclists, new and experienced alike, with a focus on women (although men are definitely welcome and included!). We remain committed to demonstrating how life on two wheels can be simple, stylish, and fun. This new direction has energized us, and we hope it will energize you, too!

What?

  • Daily updates, sometimes two or more per day
  • Varied content
  • Regular series
  • How-to’s and practical information
  • Longer articles focusing on advocacy issues
  • Fun fashion and vintage inspiration
  • Interviews with movers and shakers in the bike world
  • Profiles of everyday cyclists and “Roll Models”
  • Videos and podcasts
  • Links to other interesting articles in the blog world
  • Dynamic magazine-style layout allows us to present more content in a compact space—while keeping individual posts and RSS feeds the same
  • Monthly newsletter (sign up here) featuring a sure-to-be-stunning monthly desktop calendar designed by Dottie

When? 

The new direction starts . . . now! If you are reading this through our RSS feed, we encourage you to click through to our actual site to see the redesign.

Your turn.

We’d love to know what you would to see more on LGRAB. Take our three-second survey.

Thank you for your continued interest in and support of Let’s Go Ride a Bike—and your patience during this transition. (We’re hoping you won’t need too much of it!) We remain dedicated to creating a community where all those who ride bikes for transportation will feel welcome, no matter the format. Your thoughts and comments are always appreciated.

May’s Women-Who-Bike Brunch

Last Sunday, the Chicago Women-who-bike gathered for our monthly brunch at Revolution Brewing in Logan Square.  This meant we got to enjoy their signature beermosa.  :)

Overall, our group size was about 30 people, all at one long table.  Special thanks to our excellent waitress, Jessica, for taking such good care of us.

Molly and her husband Piet joined us while visiting Chicago from Ann Arbor, Michigan.  You may remember both of them from their Summer Games participation and especially Molly from her 2010 Roll Models profile. 

After brunch, we spent time outside – as always – talking about bikes.  I like how April strapped her Kate Spade bag to her front rack.

Alison took Jen’s bakfiets for a spin.  Love the look on her face.  :)

But she soon went back to her own cute orange ride.

The day was a little rainy and I saw lots of different rain coats.  I particularly like this teal one!

Jenny showed how casually stylish a skirt with sneakers can look.

And Megan wore cool red sneakers!

Saya and Laurie, her friend visiting from Boston, struck a pose for me.  :)

This is only a small sampling of the great group of women who came out.

If you’re a woman and in Chicago and you bike (or simply want to learn more about biking!), email me at LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com to be added to the list.  Our next brunch will be Sunday, June 3rd – a picnic on the lakefront.

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