I ride a Dutch bike, oma-style. (This is not the first bike I bought, as she was tragically stolen yesterday, but that’s for another entry.) This bad-ass girl weighs a lot; she’s a brick house, if you will. Guaranteed to mess up a car’s paint job when it hits me more than any other bike. And look good doing it. Handmade in Holland, she’s black steel, with a skirt guard, chain case, internal gears and brakes, dynamo powered lights (they get energy from my pedaling), heavy duty fenders and mudflaps, thick tires, cute bell, crazy kickstand, back rack that holds 75 lbs and front rack that holds 50 lbs. (I have not yet come across a reason to load my racks with 125 lbs, but I merely need to be more creative.) If only she were bright pink, she would be perfect.
Hello, I’ll be the other contributor to this blog. I live in Chicago and ride my bike to work daily (a 14 mile round trip) plus pretty much everywhere else I go. It was not always so.
In June 2008, following the brilliant footsteps of my co-blogger Ms. T, I began riding a bike to work. I say “a” bike instead of “my” bike because I did not own a bicycle at the time. Other than the occasional beach cruiser rental while on vacation, I had not ridden a bike since junior high.
There are a lot of cyclists in Chicago, though, and a combination of seeing them everywhere, hearing about Trisha’s biking, and often walking by my neighborhood bike shop put the idea in my head that maybe I could ride a bike, too. At the end of May, armed with my “stimulus” check, I purchased a bike. I told the owner of the shop that I was thinking of maybe, possibly, perhaps trying to ride my bike to work downtown. She told me that it was totally doable, grabbed a Chicago Bike Map and showed me the best route to get from my house to the lake front bicycle path, which would take me along Lake Michigan straight to downtown. I was feeling pumped up, until I rode the bike home and around the block a bit. I was nervous, wobbly, and absolutely ridiculous. I thought I had wasted hundreds of dollars on a bike that I would never be able to ride around the block, let alone downtown.
Not ready to give up, I turned to my default activity – I read. A lot. About when to take the lane, what the door zone is, proper signaling, everything. Bicycling blogs were – and still are – the best source of on-the-ground information for cycling in the city. The next day, my husband and I rode our bikes to the lake front bicycle path. After 1.5 miles of white-knuckled (for me), totally quiet and peaceful side-street riding, we got to the bike path. Then something clicked: simply riding my bike down the crowded lane was the most fun I’d had in years. I’ve had a lot of fabulous food, fun vacation, wine consuming, good friend fun in the last few years, but this simple bike ride was somehow different. Later the same day I had a dentist appointment a couple of miles from my house. I decided to ride my bike instead of take the bus or drive. I felt self-assured and confident. I met drivers’ eyes. I firmly maintained my position in the road. It was pretty cool. Once I realized that I could control a lot of the situation by riding calmly and defensively, I was set. I rode my bike to work that Monday and I’ve been riding like that ever since.
I’m sure at this point my hordes of readers are wondering what kind of mean machine gets me to work every day (or at least 3 times a week). Here’s some info on good ol’ Pinkie. I’ve made a few modifications since I started commuting (like putting on new tires; the originals were pretty worn and dried out after 15 years) but most of what I’ve got on there now can be bought at your local Target or on Amazon.com.
My 1990 Schwinn
There’s the bike. It is a 1990 Schwinn Frontier. As you can see, it’s bright, bright pink. When I was 10, this was an asset. Actually, now it is, too, as I can leave my bike unlocked anywhere in town and no one will steal it. I joke because I love, Pinkie!
A sinus infection and monsoon weather kept me off my bike for most of December. I think there was only one week that I met my commuting goals.
However, I feel I’ve made up for it this week. Sure, I only rode twice, but one of those days (today) I went to work when our offices were closed. Surely that counts double? It was a beautiful day (at the moment we seem to be alternating between bone-chilling cold and nearly spring-like temperatures here in Nashville) and the commute was wonderful. Since the office was closed, what to wear was not an issue, and my jeans, sweatshirt and moccasins worked just fine. Traffic was light, and aside from a bit of debris in the bike lane (from last month’s rain) and one very rude motorcycle rider who zoomed past me when I was trying to turn left (surely he should have more sympathy for other two-wheelers?) it went smoothly. Next week, when everyone’s back at work, it’s sure to be a different story, but I certainly enjoyed it.
Sticking to bike commuting is one of my New Year’s resolutions, so between that and the responsibility of documenting here, I hope to have a lot to write about.
I figured I’d keep this subject, since this is my intro to the blogging world. I’m counting on this site to keep me to my goal of commuting by bike three times a week, even in the winter. Each day that I ride, I’ll tell you about it.