Monthly Archives: July 2012

Kicks

I prefer to keep my work shoes under my desk, especially during the summer when my feet sweat.  Last summer I spent a lot of time biking in Keen Commuter sandals or regular slip-on sneakers.  This summer, I wanted casual shoes that could also look stylish.  I chose Bensimon Tennis Laclets (aka the French Converse) and I like them a lot.

These sneakers are easy to slip on and off – I never have to mess with the laces.  They are also breathable and very lightweight.  The only downside is the thin soles.  I would not wear them for a lot of walking before adding a gel insole, but happily that is not an issue when bicycling.

 I’ve been wearing them a lot and I like how they dress down and lighten up my regular outfits.

What kind of shoes do you like for summer bicycling?  Anyone else wear Bensimons?  :-)

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Fashion Friday

Overcast skies and thunderstorms colored my week with steely blues and soft grays.  After months of bright sunshine and primary colors, this low-key palate soothed my eyes and spirit – and my sensitive skin, which was happy for  some cloud cover!

These colors and the feelings they evoke inspired this collage.  I began with the soothing familiarity of my own bicycle, then dressed my imaginary self in a made-to-order organic cotton dress from Portland-based designer, Makool Loves You, paired with crocheted sneakers and a silky helmet cover. The cover is made for equestrian helmets, but I wonder if it would work for bicycling?  A lovely perfume would help with the sweat-free summer strategy – here I chose iris and white musk, the scent of a flowering garden after a heady summer storm.

I always have a book with me in my bike bag and this is a good time to delve into the work of America’s new Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey.

Overhead, pelicans glide in threes—
their shadows across the sand
dark thoughts crossing the mind.

My imagination paints this scene with the same blues and grays.

What color was your week?

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Sweat-free summer? Strategies for cycling

As the height of summer approaches, it seemed like time to amass some tips for cycling in the heat into one post. Here they are: my tips and tricks for riding in the heat over four summers in Nashville. None are rocket science, all have helped me at one time or another.

Something else that's good for keeping cool: Ice cream!

  • Get baby wipes, or, better yet, ActionWipes, to keep at your office and wipe down once you arrive.
  • If your feet sweat, put baby powder or cornstarch in your shoes before leaving the house, and after you arrive at work.
  • Use dry shampoo (did you know you can make it yourself? True fact!) to absorb odor from sweaty hair. Also: braids braids BRAIDS.
  • Ride slowly! It’s surprising how much of a difference this can make. Dottie talks about that here.
  • Wear loose clothing—dresses, loose linen shirts, etc. The more air can hit your core, the cooler you will be.
  • Consider a dark color or a fabric with a print, the better to hide any sweat stains (tip of the hat to Lovely Bicycle for the print idea).
  • Pick a route with minimal stoplights and traffic. There’s nothing worse than sitting at a red light, with heat radiating off cars and the blacktop. Side streets also tend to be shadier.
  • Don’t apply lotion (including body lotion) or foundation before leaving the house. It blocks your pores and will make you sweat more. (If anyone has found a body lotion that does not do this—please let me know what it is!)
  • Keep your back clear! Put up your hair, use a pannier, not a backpack, etc.

All that said, working up a light “glisten” on summer bike rides is usually unavoidable. If you have to smell like a human for a few minutes once you get to your destination, give yourself a break. Just think of all the toxins you are unloading!

Do you have a favorite trick for keeping cool while biking in the summer? Tell us in the comments!

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Read This Now

I hypothesize that Cycle Chic’s true message and appeal is at its base, at least in North America, is that it seeks to normalize a gendered code of conduct that, sadly, still holds considerable appeal among both sexes. Its message is that bicycling can be a means of, rather than a barrier to, conforming to a certain set of standards of gender and class stereotypes. Access to these standards is far from universal.

In order to truly break down barriers to bicycling, it’s necessary to understand what those barriers are…Great things can certainly be achieved while wearing high heels, but never solely by doing so.

Elly Blue of Taking the Lane offers an incisive critique of the Cycle Chic ™ movement. While the site was an inspiration for me when I first started bicycling, I have come to feel similarly to Elly on the issue.  Our goal with LGRAB is to present the message of everyday, sometimes stylish, bicycling within an atmosphere of inclusiveness and feminism – but sometimes I worry this does not always come through.  I will try to keep Elly’s points in mind.

What do you think about the issue?

[Update 5:00 pm - Just to clarify, my thoughts on this apply very specifically to the site that Elly discusses in her article.  My concern is not with photos of stylish cyclists - which were inspiring to me as a beginner - but with a mindset that holds up one narrow and exclusionary type of cycling as the only right way.  I fully support the general movement of lifestyle cycling - obviously!]

Colorful Bungie Straps for Betty

Betty Foy has brand new, beautiful, red bungie straps!  For years, Betty has had navy blue striped ones that did not match her aesthetic well.  I’ve always wanted pretty straps for her, but found only boring colors in the past.  The old straps were slowly becoming more slack, so when I saw these new bungie straps in a rainbow selection of colors, I knew it was time for a change.

This red color matches her heart lugs – a subtle detail that is important to me!

These straps snapped on in a matter of seconds, since I already had a base for them on my rear wheel.

For now, I’m using the bungie strap to hold only my lock, but these bad boys are stretchy and strong enough to hold big boxes on the rear rack.  I’ve used simple straps to carry cases of 24 bottles of beer!

Sorry, I do not know the brand (no markings on the product), all I know is they are from Holland and locals can pick them up at J.C. Lind Bikes, where I got mine.  I’ll update this with the brand name when I figure it out.

With a front basket, plus a rear rack with bungie cords and panniers, a regular bike can hold a lot of cargo.

Who else loves bungie straps as much as me?

:)

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Fashion Friday: Beach Bike Ride

One of us is at the beach this weekend—and it’s not me! So obviously, for this Fashion Friday, I’m going to imagine that I am. I’m thinking maxi dress, sandals, a floppy hat and an Electra Amsterdam would be just the ticket.

Beachy bike ride

This weekend, I will be attending a tomato festival/square dance, going to the Night Farmer’s Market and catching up with a good friend who’s visiting from Atlanta. What are your weekend plans?

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We’re crossing the pond again!

Sorry for the slight lapse in posting lately. Dottie and I are devoting a lot of mental energy to planning our next trip.

Yep—that’s a London-Paris-Amsterdam itinerary you’re looking at. We will be there in mid-October (and I’ll be in Wales and Dublin before that).

Since we have so much time to dream and plan, we’d love to get suggestions from you on what we should see—especially when it comes to Amsterdam, as neither of us has been there before. Please share in the comments! And let us know if you’re interested in a reader meetup. Tea and Topshop in London??

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Back on the Bat

After more than a year of languishing in my stairwell, giving me sad looks, the Batavus Entrada Spirit is back on the road. I pumped up the tires, dusted off the cobwebs and leaves and rode the bike on tiptoe to work late last week (the seat was still adjusted to D from when she visited for my birthday in 2011!).

All fixed up and ready to ride

 

On my way home, I stopped to let a mechanic at my LBS help me with the seat adjustment. This seatpost has always been a bear. Screws get stripped so easily for some reason, and they have to be threaded further up than a lot of screws are, and even then they don’t always tighten enough to make the seat completely immobile. She patiently went through two or three of them to find the right one. Thank goodness for bike mechanics. And double thank goodness for a bike mechanic who finally promised to order me a quick-release lever for this bike!

So this week, the Bat and I have been fighting the humidity together. As well as bad hair. And magically disappearing makeup. For those of you who think that this dress is too skimpy for the office (aka my grandmother, who likes to say that I ride my bike wearing “nightgowns”—love you Grams), rest assured that a scarf and suit jacket are stowed away in my new Po Campo bag. Along with two books, a camera, a pound of coffee beans, and the normal stuff one might carry in a purse.

While the Bat was gathering dust, I had somehow convinced myself that the reason I was neglecting it was that my other bikes were better suited to Nashville’s hills. Riding it again, that’s just not true. So…I guess I’m just going to continue to own four bikes.

As well as one new set of eyeglasses.

Anyone else dusted off an old friend lately?

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Caught in the Rain

Summer is notorious for sneak attack storms and I am always caught unprepared.

Such was the case on Saturday.  In the morning, I met my friends Chika and Holly for a free and super fun Bollywood dance class outside the Museum of Contemporary Art.  The sun blazed on us for two hours of dancing, but as soon as we got on our bikes, the sky darkened ominously.  The pouring rain soon followed.  Luckily, Chika lives nearby and offered us refuge.  She even invited Betty Foy inside.

The elevator was a bit of a squeeze, but we managed.

Once tucked inside, we waited out the rain with some delicious gin, among other treats that Chika kindly supplied.

After a couple of hours, the sun was back to blazing and Holly and I set out for home.

Unfortunately, I did not have any of the cool rain accessories that Trisha posted about on Friday, but my dress and shoes (and Betty’s poor leather saddle) were all dry by the time I set out.

Overall, I was happy for the storm because it lead to some quality girl-bonding time.  You know what they say about clouds and silver linings!

Who else has gotten caught in the rain lately?

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Fashion Friday: Rainy Day Biking

It’s been raining for a week here. After more than a month with no rain, and weeks of scorching heat, that’s no bad thing. But it does make for a change in my riding apparel. Here’s what I wish I had to wear this rainy morning: a neutral dress with bright accents, overshoes that work with heels and a rain cape. Whee, rain capes! There are a lot of options out there; the Iva Jean I chose is on the pricey side but Amazon has options from $11. And of course, you need a bright and cheery upright bike to wear it on. I chose Sara’s.

 

Rainy day cycling

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Summer Night Rides

Most of my end-of-the-day rides this summer have been in the late evening or night.   There are so many fun events in Chicago right now, I rarely go straight home after work.  Such was the case last night, when my friend Chika and I biked home at 11 pm after a wonderful outdoor concert by the Grant Park Orchestra.

Pritzker Pavilion in Millenium Park

Frozen Planet with a live orchestra

Chika and her Linus on the Lakefront Trail

Betty Foy sans rear light

Biking later in the evening is wonderfully refreshing.  I avoid evening rush hour: the hottest, most polluted, and busiest time of day.

Unfortunately, my rear light (held on by an old rubber band) fell off while I was going through a big intersection and broke into three pieces. The intersection was too dangerous to attempt retrieval, so now I need to buy a new light and actually attach it properly.  Luckily, my new Po Campo pannier has a huge reflector on the back, but I find a red rear blinkie light to be a necessity, in addition to a reflector.

Does anyone else find themselves biking home later this summer, either to beat the heat or as a result of other activities?  Make sure you have good front and rear lights!

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Blues Brothers in Wrigley Field

On Friday,  I saw a special outdoor showing of Blues Brothers at Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs.  This was my first time watching the iconic Chicago movie and there was no better opportunity to do so, as the setting was dramatic and the audience was absolutely enthusiastic.  Although the temperature reached a high of 100 degrees that day, I was happy to take my seat in the bleachers, knowing the sun would soon set.

The ride to Wrigley Field was quick and there was ample bike parking right outside the stadium.  We were glad to avoid the expensive nightmare that is car parking.

Chika on the left also biked there, from several miles away.  I thought she took the L train, judging by her miraculously fresh appearance, complete with a skirt and pearls.  Sara on the right simply walked to the stadium.

Here is my favorite bit of the movie:

Elwood: It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, a half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.

Jake: Hit it.

Speaking of wearing sunglasses in the dark, just before the movie began, we in the audience broke the Guinness Book record for the most people wearing sunglasses in the dark at once. Yes, apparently, there is a Guinness Book record for pretty much everything!

This was one of those perfect Chicago nights that make me so happy to live and bike in this city.

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Interview: why Sheena does not bike

I met Sheena last fall and was interested to learn that she is an LGRAB reader but does not ride a bike.  While she was an avid bicyclist as a teen, she transitioned to driving – like most teens – once she got her license.  Now practical considerations (safety, storage, commuting distance) keep her off the bike.

I think Sheena is a great example of the type of person planners and advocates should keep mind: she would like to ride a bike and is attracted to the idea of transportation cycling, at least for short trips, but will only do so if she views it as safe, convenient, and practical.  I am interested in exploring this more, so I asked Sheena if she would answer some questions and she graciously agreed.

First, tell us a little about yourself and your commute.

Hi!  My name is Sheena.  I recently received my MA in advertising and now work as an Interactive Project Manager .  I live in the Western Suburbs, about 10 miles outside of Chicago.  I currently work downtown and I commute via Metra train on most days.

What is your history with bicycling?

Biking was my main mode of transportation when I was a teen.  I grew up a bit further out and lived near quite a few biking trails, so that was a popular activity when I was younger.  We’d compete with one another by racing up steep hills without trying to fall.   We’d also set records for each other to see who could bike the furthest in a day—without getting in trouble for leaving town.

When did you stop bicycling  and why?

Pretty much the moment I got my first car at 16.  I was the first in my group of friends to get a car, but everyone else did soon after.  Biking to the local mall was less attractive when you had a car and we were able to go further distances.  Basically, biking was no longer convenient for us anymore and unfortunately we did not retain biking as a hobby.

What keeps you from bicycling now?

I’d say the lack of being able to use it as a commuting vehicle.  I think that if I lived in the city, it’d be much easier for me to bicycle and get around.  Biking into the city from the suburbs would obviously be difficult.  When I’m not taking the train to work, I mostly drive if I’m around in the suburbs or walk around my own neighborhood.   Couple the lack of opportunities to ride a bike with lack of place to store a bike, and it’s been hard for me to justify buying a bike.

When I do have the inkling to ride, I always look into renting a bike for a daytrip along the lakefront, which makes me nostalgic for my earlier biking days.  It’s still an activity that I enjoy and it brings me to a different place.

What are the top two things the city could do to help make bicycling more viable to you?

1.    I’d say safety.  Yes, I understand the city has come a long way, but I’ve seen more bike riders hit by cars than I’d care to.  I look to blogs (like Let’s Go Ride a Bike) for tips and to learn more about advocacy, but I think the city can do a bit more to ensure safety for bikers.

2.    More advocacy.   This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the safety issue, but this is a huge driving city or public transportation city.  While both of those options are fine, I think the city could do more to encourage the more reluctant population to bike to work by naming incentives and the benefits of doing so.

Earlier you mentioned that lack of bicycle storage is a hurdle for you.  Could you talk about that?

Yes, lack of storage for my bicycle is a huge issue.  I live on the top floor of a smaller apartment with no basement storage.  Since my apartment is smaller inside, there really is very little room for me to place a bike and it’s looked down upon for us to hang anything if I wanted to.  I’d consider a bike to be an important investment, so I’d want to make sure I could store it in a safe place.

How did you come upon Let’s Go Ride a Bike and what do you get from reading it?  

I love reading blogs, especially Chicago-based blogs.  This is pretty much my go-to blog to read about cycling, biking tips and learning about the bicycling community.  While I’ve seen people cycling in regular clothes, I had not previously found any tips that cover the topic like this blog.  Plus, I love the idea of seeing a community of passionate bicyclers who share their stories and view biking as much more than a hobby.

{Thanks so much to Sheena for answering our questions!  I might have to start grilling everyone I know who does not bike.}

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Bike Bits: Lionel Shriver, women on wheels & more

Happy Monday! Here are a few bike-related links I’ve discovered and enjoyed over the past few days.

HerStoria magazine coverHerStoria magazine has a piece on the early days of women and bikes. Though there’s nothing groundbreaking here, it’s a good overview of the questions that cycling raised around the turn of the century—and a reminder that a backlash for challenging norms is nothing new.

Would these  ‘free’ or ‘new’ bicycling women become sexually outré and masculinised , turning their backs on traditional family values and undermining the natural authority of men? If so, such daring women were nothing short of a threat to the well-being of the race and of the nation as a whole.

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Shriver

The July issue of the Atlantic has a piece on the London cycling scene by one of my favorite authors, Lionel Shriver, who tackles the subject with her typical contrarian charm.

Cycling was once my little secret. While the clueless lavished fortunes on train tickets, car repairs, and taxis, I saved a bundle. I got my exercise, while the proles, after a prolonged, miserable journey home, had to face another trip, to a stuffy, jam-packed gym.

My secret is out.

But she’s not rejoicing about this: for Shriver, cycling hell is other cyclists. More specifically, London cyclists, whom she says are more “cutthroat, vicious, reckless, hostile, and violently competitive” than those in America or Europe. If you’ve ever contemplated the dark side of achieving critical mass, and then felt guilty for it—read this piece.

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Also in the gloom-and-doom department: this piece on the Atlantic Cities blog on the failure of the latest transportation bill.

Lawmakers had the opportunity to achieve transformative change. They didn’t seize it.

(Surprise, surprise?)

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And finally, Lovely Bicycle had a thoughtful post on women and food. Though I’ve never counted calories, this disconnect between hunger and the need for nourishment that begins when you get older—and the anxiety it can cause—struck a chord with me:

At age 12, feeling hungry simply meant I needed to eat something. But by age 22, this connection had become severed. There was nervous hunger, cravings for comfort food during all the endless studying, emotional eating.

What links have you enjoyed this week? Share in the comments.

p.s. Our e-newsletter is delayed this month, but we promise delivery later today!

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July’s Women-Who-Bike Brunch

On July 1, the Chicago women-who-bike met for our monthly brunch.  A small group made it downtown for the 90+ degree day.  We picnicked in Grant Park, near the famous Buckingham Fountain.

Here is Jessica and her colorful Specialized Globe.  The blue wheels came with it.

Chika and her blue Linus Dutchie 3-speed.  I was with Chika when she bought the Linus from J.C. Lind Bikes – more on that selection process soon!

Michelle and her black Linus Dutchie 8-speed.  Michelle writes the informative and influential blog, Bike Walk Lincoln Park and I was so happy finally to meet her in real life.

Megan and her Gary Fisher Simple City (no longer made).  I love how her creamy linen and seersucker outfit matched her creamy bike.

Sara and her blue Pashley Poppy from Boulevard Bikes.  She loves this bike, since upgrading from a Jamis Commuter.

Me and my beloved Rivendell Betty Foy.

With my long dress pinned up for biking.

After a couple of hours, our sunny morning became overcast and thunder rumbled in the distance.

I was headed to a nearby theatre to see the Paris Opera Ballet perform again – I made it inside just in time to escape the storm.  When I emerged hours later, the weather was perfectly calm for my bike ride home.

Any women in Chicago who are interested in joining the brunch should email me at LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com.  We always meet the first Sunday of the month.

Fashion Friday: Sporty Sweating

The weather is soooooo hooooooot!!!!!  I admit that I am not biking on this ozone-action, 103 degree day, but I have been biking most days.  There is no way not to sweat like a piglet, so my only realistic option has been to wear gym clothes while on my bike and change at work.  For this Fashion Friday, I figured that since I am sweating anyway, I could imagine myself as one of those stylish sporty cyclists.

The Patagonia dress looks so sleek, plus it’s quick-drying and offers SPF 15 protection (pretty cool!).  The Keen Commuter Cycling Sandals I actually own and love because they never smell funky.  The Terry sunglasses are not something I would buy, but I like them in this magical collage world.  Finally, the Sweetpea Little Black Dress is my absolute go-to bicycle for fantasizing about being a road warrior glamazon.  (Gorgeous!!!!)

Do you have any sporty favorites that help you feel stylish while sweating?  Or are you beyond caring in this oppressive heat?

Patagonia dress / Little Black Dress™ | Sweetpea Bicycles / Keen Women’s Commuter Cycling Sandals  / Tifosi Women’s Cycling Sunglasses |

Paris Opera Ballet Picnic

{Our Roll Models series will return next Tuesday, after the holiday.  In its place today is a little story about a beautiful night out in Chicago.  Have a great Independence Day, Americans!}

On Wednesday, I enjoyed a free showing of the ballet Giselle, performed by the Paris Opera Ballet, in Chicago’s amazing Millennium Park.  The performance was a live telecast from a nearby theatre and the acoustics in the pavilion were wonderful.

The advantage of seeing a ballet on the lawn instead of in the theatre is laying out a picnic blanket and enjoying some wine and cheese in the fresh air.

A picnic is more fun when shared, so I gathered together my friends Sara and Jerry, Gigi and Chika, Maria and Seth (and Glenn, not pictured :-).

As the sun set in time for the second act, and the 90 degree heat lifted, the pavilion took on a magical feel, with shining city lights all around.

The group of us biked home together up the Lakefront Trail under the night sky.  A beautiful end to a beautiful night.  Jumping on the L train just would not have been right.  :)

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Smelly

The worst part of my bike commute today in 96 degrees and high humidity?  The pungent smell coming from trash bins as I rode down my alley and by others.  Oh, the humanity!  The smell wrapped itself around me in a most unpleasing manner.  The trash was not messing around.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to avoid breathing while bicycling.

The smelly did not stop there.  Although not nearly as bad (seriously, not anywhere close!), the gym clothes that I wore and sweated in during my morning ride were a little rank when I pulled them out of my cabinet at the end of the day.  Not fun to have to put them back on.  Darn polyester.

As for myself, I stayed fresh as a daisy with the help of my beloved office fan, a change of clothes, Burts Bees towelettes (pleasing scent), and awesome Soapwalla deodorant cream.

The forecast for Chicago tomorrow is as high as 99 degrees, with a heat index of 105 – and I know other areas are even hotter!

I will be on my bike with sunscreen, a change of clothes, a positive attitude and a travel size perfume.  :)

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Bicycling in a Long Dress, Part II

Last month, I posted about bicycling in a long dress.  I demonstrated using an upright Danish bike with a full chain case.  Today I wore a long dress and I wanted to ride my Rivendell, which has an exposed chain and no skirt guard.  I assume this is the type of bike that most readers have, so I’m posting Bicycling in a Long Dress: Part II – no chain guard edition.

This is almost as simple as Part I.  The only difference is that I pinned up the bottom of my skirt.

Here is a quick video to show how quick and easy making a long skirt bike-friendly is.

Has anyone else tried this with a long dress? I know a few of you commented about similar strategies in the previous post.

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