Monthly Archives: January 2013

Snow, Sun and Sleet

The past three days have been warmer than earlier this week, but presented challenges related to precipitation, rather than temperature.

Snow fell heavily on Friday morning and I took the L train to work.  I never bike when the streets look like this:

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One day later, the skies were clear and blue…

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…and the snow was reduced to mucky slush on the side of the road.

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My friend Janet and I were able to ride our matching Omas to ballet burn class with no problem.  (Except for ballet-burn-related soreness!)

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Sleet and freezing rain have been falling all day Sunday, which I took as a sign to stay inside and read Wide Sargasso Sea (and hate  Mr. Rochester so much).  The world outside my window looks pretty nasty, so I’ll probably be on the L train again Monday.

This mix of snow, sun and sleet reminds me that the best way to get through winter is to be flexible and not put pressure on myself to bike all the time.

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When I feel comfortable biking, I enjoy it so much more.

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Icicle Bicycle

The morning temperatures this week have varied from 0 degrees to 10 degrees, plus some snow has been falling.  For a good idea of how bitterly cold Chicago is, check out this photo below of a warehouse fire in the city.

Photo by Jose M. Osorio

Photo by Jose M. Osorio

Yeah, that’s cold!

I spent part of the week riding public transportation and part of the week bicycling.  Although I have biked in sub-zero weather before, the convenience of the L train lures me to the easy option when I’m feeling lazy.  Which is often.  A couple friends have been bicycling on days I took the L, so I give my hardcore title up to them.  :-)

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These photos are in an alley.  The streets are much clearer, so biking in snow and ice has not really been an issue.

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When I ride my bike on super cold days, there are some key pieces I rely on, as I’ve mentioned before.

Wool leggings over my tights to allow me to wear skirts and dresses.

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Hand and toe warmers.

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Snow boots that have been serving me well since 2001 (or the brown ones shown above).

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Ta-da!

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I hope everyone is staying warm, whether on the bike or not.

Now how many weeks until spring?  ;-)

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Roll Models: Samantha of Ding Ding Let’s Ride

The Roll Models series is back!  Today’s roll model is my friend Samantha, cool woman and author of the blog Ding Ding Let’s Ride, which focuses on everyday family bicycling with Dutch bikes and adaptive bikes.

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Describe your bicycling style in three words.

Urban.
Everyday.
Dresses.
Cowboy boots.

(OK – so that’s 4 words, but I wanted to convey that I often wear dresses when I ride, but I’m
not a total cycle chic girly-girl and often wear pants and cowboy boots.  ;-) )

How long have you been riding a bike?

I’ve been riding a bike since I was a kid. I had a lime-green banana-seat kid’s bike, followed by
a 3-speed upright bike with a basket that I rode into my early teens. I didn’t ride much until grad
school when I started up again with a mountain bike. I haven’t stopped for the last 20+ years.

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?

My bike is my primary form of transportation. I commute via bike to work year-round, run
errands and grocery shop on my bike, go on evenings out by bike, and ride to events and
activities with my family on my bike.

What inspires you to keep bicycling?

I love the city of Chicago, and riding a bike is the best way to experience it. I feel better
mentally and physically when I ride, even on cold, dreary, blustery days and I don’t ever want to
give up that feeling.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world – shops, outreach, group rides, etc. -
feel welcoming for you as a woman?

I think the overall attitude in the bicycling world these days is fairly welcoming to women. There
are certain shops or groups that feel a bit like a boys club sometime, but there are also so many
different kinds of bikes, riders, and events these days that I think you can find the place that is
right for you. I’ve never felt excluded from cycling businesses or events because I was a woman.

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What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get
more women to bicycle?

The way to get more women riding is to make cycling safer and it has to truly be perceived
as safer too. I’m not the first one to say that – but I’ll be glad to repeat it. And “Safer” to me
means more truly separated bike lanes with lights, and more education/public awareness of
how motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians should interact on public ways. I really do think that
the next thing the city of Chicago should do is develop a long-term bike awareness campaign
that demonstrates how one should approach an intersection with a cyclist on either side, make
a turn, handle protected bike lanes, door zones, etc. I’m happy about the bike infrastructure
improvements we’re seeing, but now we need to teach people how to use this new infrastructure
and how to walk/bike/drive in conjunction with it.

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it
be?

I would make all the buffered or ‘protected’ bike lanes in this city into truly separated bike lanes
with real dividers – perhaps like the curbs and planters I’ve seen in Long Beach CA.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?

I feel very optimistic about the future of bicycling. I see more people cycling all the time. Each
winter here in Chicago I see more people continue to ride through the cold months than the year
before. That’s a great thing.

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Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?

Start out in your comfort zone. If you haven’t been riding at all, you may want to start out riding
on recreational paths or side streets – don’t expect to ride in downtown traffic the first time you
get on a bike. If you’re looking for a bike, research a few different bike shops – find one that
carries the type of bike you think you’ll be interested in, and one with a staff that is welcoming
and helpful to you and not just trying to push you into any ole bike purchase.

Final words?

There are a lot of women who are biking in Chicago and writing about it so don’t be afraid to contact any of us and ask questions. We all ride for different reasons and with different styles, on different bikes, but we all share the same desire to get more cyclists out there and we are always willing to share our own experiences and knowledge to further that goal.

I certainly second that! Thanks so much to Samantha for sharing her experience, thoughts, and advice with us!  For more, visit Ding Ding Let’s Ride and follow her on Twitter.

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Video: Cycling in a Long(ish) Skirt

As you may have noticed, I enjoy wearing skirts and dresses, which means that I often cycle in skirts and dresses.  Last summer, I posted about cycling in a long dress on a bike with a chainguard and soon made a  part II video on a “regular” bike with no chainguard.  In both cases, I was wearing ankle length dresses and had to be careful that the hem would not catch in the chain.

Recently, I found myself wanting to wear a new long(ish) skirt on my regular bike.  This skirt stops about 6 inches above my ankle.  I thought I would have to gather the skirt to keep it from the chain and back wheel, but discovered that the skirt hem stayed far from those danger zones once I’m up on the saddle.

I made a quick video to demonstrate how easy bicycling in this long skirt can be – no special accessories or preparation needed.

Bicycling in a Long(ish) Skirt from LGRAB on Vimeo.

Do you have long(ish) skirts that you can cycle in with no problem?

(p.s. I’ll be using Vimeo to post videos now; I’m tired of all the Creepy McCreepersons on YouTube. Visit our channel.)

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January’s Women Who Bike Brunch

On Sunday morning, our group of awesome women got together for some brunching.  :-)

I must give a special “thank you!” to the new restaurant, Southport and Irving, which was especially welcoming (see that looong table below? that’s all us on a busy morning) and served delicious food (duck confit with caramelized onions, scallions, duck fat potatoes, poached eggs and mustard sauce – I had to hold myself back from licking the plate).

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(The duck confit was gone before I got to my camera, so here is a photo of my tea bag.)

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I was so distracted by eating, I failed to get photos documenting everyone who was there.  I managed to capture only a few stragglers.  :-)

Chika! looking so fab in orange.

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Sara with her sparkly gold helmet, blue Pashley, and orange Chika.

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Sarah rocking the fur hat.

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Her front rack is conveniently equipped with a bottle opener!

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Rachel just moved to Chicago from Atlanta and brought this amazing cat helmet with her (kids’ section at Target!).

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I threw on jeans, boots, and a trench.  Forgot my earmuffs but lucky for my poor ears, I did not have far to bike.

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The outside of Southport and Irving (located, perhaps not surprisingly, at Southport and Irving).

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Interested in joining our brunch group?  You should be!  We’re friendly, smart, and fun – if I may ring our own bell.  We love new people.  Email me at LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com to be included on the evites.

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Winter Bicycling Is…

Winter bicycling is more than temperatures and forecasts and wool layers and hand warmers. Winter bicycling is when the world brightens as the wind whips and my mind clears as my cheeks flush.

My fingers and toes may be numb, my nose may be running, my eyes may be watering – but I am the happiest and calmest version of myself, bicycling on a crystal clear winter day.

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Today I experienced a rare winter treat: leaving the office early enough to catch the sun before setting. The late afternoon light painted the sky with an ombre splash of color, inspiring me to record a video that I hope conveys some of the joy of the ride.

The accompanying song is “This Winter I Retire” by Said The Whale.

(Hello, there!)

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What is winter bicycling to you?

 

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Saturday Night Sleet

Here I am Saturday night after biking home in rain and sleet with Mr. Dottie.  The streets were not slippery yet, so the ride was not so bad.  :-)

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My Lululemon Ride On Rain Jacket continues to perform well.  Being able to put the hood under my helmet is a great help.  Today the weather is super cold, dry and sunny, which I generally prefer, but sometimes a ride in the freezing rain can be invigorating.

P.S. Who watched the Golden Globes last night?  Love Tina and Amy!

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Fashion Friday: Chicago Bicycle Uniform

Earlier this week, I was sitting in Heritage enjoying a muffin and cappuccino, watching the morning bicycling traffic on Lincoln Avenue, when suddenly I saw my friend Maria (of Po Campo fame) cycle by.  I’m always excited to see a friend in the wild, so I texted her.  A couple of minutes later she responded that it could not have been her: she was still at home eating breakfast.  Either she has a doppelganger (it’s possible!) or I was fooled by someone who looked kinda alike and sported the same Chicago Bicycle Uniform.

As you can see by perusing the portraits on Bike Fancy, there is no set Chicago style (except for editing).   But recently I noticed that there are some accessories that show up often on Chicago’s bicycling women.

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Nutcase helmet, Po Campo bag, fall/winter/spring boots, steel-framed bike, and a certain Audrey-esque casual elegance.  :-)

Of course, not every woman wears these accessories – not even close – but I’ve enjoyed watching them become more common through the years.  The prevalence seems to signal that more “regular” people (as opposed to kids looking for an adrenaline rush) are bicycling in the city now.

Have you noticed a sort of bicycle uniform developing where you live?

P.S. Biking home that evening, I spotted my friend Sara cross my path from afar.  When I got home I texted her, wondering for a moment whether I would be wrong again, but I was right.  I’ve yet to see another blue Pashley Poppy in the city.

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Winter Beauty

Winter is my favorite time to ride a bike in Chicago.  The paths are relatively empty and there are many sunny mornings, when the blues and whites and sands shine brilliantly.

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There has been a little ice and snow this winter.  Just enough to add a bit of sparkle to the city, not enough to disrupt my routine or put challenges in my path.

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I cannot imagine Chicago winter without bicycling.  I think life would be pretty grim this time of year, if I did not have a reason to frolic outside with regularity.  And I would miss out on so much beauty!

 

 

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Guest Post: Multimodal commuting in Nashville

Today’s guest blog post is from my friend Whitney, a dedicated member of the Nashville Bike Brunch gang. She had an adventure in multimodal commuting last Friday, when she used car + B-cycle + Music City Star to get to her office in (Hip) Donelson. Definitely something I’ve never done before! 

On Friday, I went on a bit of an adventure. My car had to go to the shop for the day, and it turned out that none of my coworkers who live in my neighborhood were available to take me to work. Trisha has mentioned before that Nashville has quite a car culture, but it does have a few public transportation options. Unfortunately for me, they’re all designed to shuttle people in and out of the downtown area, whereas I live outside the downtown core and work in the suburbs. But since the car dealership was close to downtown, I decided to use this opportunity to try out a couple of these options to get to work.

I’d always been curious about the Music City Star, a commuter train that runs in the mornings and the evenings and serves the “east corridor” of the Nashville metropolitan area. Its western terminus is downtown on the riverfront, and the train makes four stops before reaching its eastern terminus in Lebanon, about 30 miles outside of Nashville.

To get to the train station, I rented one of the new B-Cycles. There is a kiosk at Music Circle, one block from the dealership, and another at the train station. After an easy walk to Music Circle, I checked out a bike, which was a very simple process, scraped some frost off the seat, and hit the road.


I knew this would be the easy part, since I’ve ridden downtown on Demonbreun many times before and it’s downhill all the way. And the construction of Nashville’s new convention center on that road slows the traffic considerably. But I was surprised at the lack of traffic at this time of day. Even the dreaded section where Demonbreun passes over I-40 and I-65 (where off-ramps turn into cross streets and cross-streets turn into on-ramps) was very stress-free. And I was excited to see the hustle and bustle of downtown Nashville on a weekday morning.


When I reached the train station, I simply popped the bike back into the kiosk and went inside to warm up before the train arrived 10 minutes later. It was amazing to see all of the commuters who use the train to get downtown from the suburbs. Dozens of people poured off the train at 8:15, the last downtown stop of the morning. Going east, however, I shared a carriage with only two other people.


I was the only person to get off the train at my stop—in fact, I don’t think it would have stopped there at all if I hadn’t told the conductor where I needed to go. A coworker kindly picked me up at the station and drove me to work.

I barely had time to turn around a take a photo before the train continued on its way

In the evening, I repeated the process—caught the train, rented a bike…and then, as I said, getting to the station was the easy part. The ride back to Music Circle is entirely uphill. And here in Nashville it’s completely dark by 5:30. Evening rush hour is evidently much busier than morning rush hour, there are no bike lanes on Demonbreun, the B-Cycles are heavy cruisers with only three speeds, and remember that the day was freezing. So…I didn’t quite make it to Music Circle. By the time I got just over halfway, I was huffing and puffing pretty violently. Looking ahead, I saw the hills I still had to climb; looking to my right, I saw a B-Cycle kiosk, and I decided to give in: I returned the bike and walked the rest of the way back, just over half a mile. I got to the dealership just as they were closing and gratefully hopped in my car.

It was a really gratifying and educational experience, and now is the time I’m supposed to draw some conclusions about this experience. I guess they are as follows:

1.) The Music City Star is amazing. It gave me a strong desire to move downtown and train/bike commute to work every day.

2.) Biking south out of downtown is difficult in the best of cases and really intimidating at night. A safer and/or easier option is needed, even if it’s just a bike lane on Demonbreun.

3.) Though the B-Cycle is a convenient option, they should consider offering seven-speeds rather than three-speeds in hilly Nashville.

3.) Working in the suburbs doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doomed to a life of sitting in traffic.

5.) There are more people voluntarily using public transportation in Nashville than I ever thought!

{Thanks, Whitney!  I have yet to try the Music City Star—maybe a trip to the outlets in Lebanon is in order. Any multimodal commuters out there? Does your city make it easy for you?}

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2013 by bike, so far

I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I look back on the year before and try to tweak the formula a little to come up with a better year to come—more of this, less of that and a little of something new. Still, I always try to start the New Year out by doing things that I want to do more of (or keep doing) in 2013.

So on New Year’s Eve I made sure to take my bike over to my neighbor’s for a quick dinner of Fat Mo’s and prosecco.
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Freezing rain on New Year’s Day—and a persistant cough that I can’t seem to shake (along with half my office)—meant that my next ride had to wait a while. But I did take a quick ride to Halcyon last night for a party for the volunteers for the 12South Winter Warmer. The place was packed (I love parties in bike shops!) and the beer was great.

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The party

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Other things I have done so far in 2013:

  • Attended the Belcourt (they’re doing a Hitchcock retrospective! I got to see The Lady Vanishes on the big screen)
  • Spent a whole day lying on the couch watching a BBC miniseries (The Crimson Petal and the White, very good)
  • Visited the new coffeeshop in my neighborhood, run by the best roasters in town
  • Eaten Pad Thai twice
  • Made a galette des rois (in progress now)

Judging from this list, I’d better get up to something a bit more active this weekend, lest 2013 be a year of sloth and screen-staring. Luckily Anna is coming into town today and can perhaps save me from myself with a nice long bike ride.

How’s everyone else’s New Year going so far?

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A Freezing Start to 2013

Welcome, 2013!  As I followed my ritual this morning of pouring a cup of coffee and popping open my macbook to check the weather, I was greeted by this sight:

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12 degrees fahrenheit – yeesh.  (That’s -11 celsius.)  Normal for Chicago winter, but by far the coldest day of this season so far.  At least most of last week’s snow has disappeared.

With very little traffic lately due to people being off work for the holidays, I’ve been enjoying my bike commutes along otherwise highly trafficked streets.  I certainly did not want to miss out on cycling today.  Here I am preparing to set off:

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I wore a wool dress with tights.  To this I added the following for non-bulky but highly effective layering: wool leggings and wool leg warmers, wool socks and winter boots with warmers, a light windbreaker and trench coat, cashmere scarf, glove liners and ski mittens with warmers, earmuffs and winter helmet, and sunglasses (safety glasses after dark to protect my eyes from cold wind).  This is very similar to what I wore in my how-to video for winter cycling.

This worked perfectly.  I was like a little moving furnace.  My only problem was forgetting to fill my pockets with tissue to blow my nose, which runs like crazy in the extreme cold.

When I left work in the evening, the weather had warmed up to a relatively toasty 22 degrees and I was sweating under my layers by the time I got home.

How has your 2013 started?

P.S. For more info on dressing for winter bicycling, see The LGRAB Guide to Winter Bicycling, How To: Cycle Sleek Winter Wear, and How To: Dress For Winter Bike Commuting.

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