Beautiful Bicycles: WorkCycles Secret Service

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As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I recently got my paws on a WorkCycles Secret Service Step-Through bicycle from J.C. Lind Bikes in Chicago. (The bike is also available in a diamond-frame version.)  Naturally, I have lots of thoughts after riding the Secret Service around for a few days.  If you’re interested in learning more about this Dutch bike, read on!

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For those of you who are not familiar with WorkCycles (where have you been?!), they are a true Dutch bike company  with unfailingly high quality. Dutch bikes, of course, are known for their practical utility.  WorkCycles shines on that front, offering bikes loaded with bells and whistles that make for a comfortable, all-weather ride.

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I have been interested in trying the WorkCycles Secret Service for years, because the Secret Service is billed as a lighter, tighter, more compact version of the WorkCycles Oma – aka my big baby girl.  As such, I will frame my thoughts about the Secret Service as they relate to the Oma.

First of all, the Secret Service profile is noticeably slimmer.  This is a result of slightly lighter tubing, narrower tires and handlebars that swoop back less dramatically.  The body positioning while riding the Secret Service is straight up, with legs motioning down and not slightly forward as with the Oma.  Oddly, I was not able to place a foot on the ground comfortably at stoplights; I had to dismount instead.  Note that I test rode the 53″ Secret Service and my Oma is a size 57″.

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The sturdy steel frame and sprung Brooks saddle together make for a smooth ride – almost like my Oma, but not quite as smooth. The pace of the ride is also similar to my Oma, but definitely a bit peppier.  I don’t think I got anywhere faster than I would have on my Oma, but I used a bit less energy.  Some people are thrown off by the front handling of the Oma, feeling that the front wheel way out front is too unweildy.  Those people would not have that issue with the Secret Service – handling is definitely more nimble and responsive.

Like any respectable Dutch bike, the Secret Service holds a substantial amount of cargo.  The integrated rear rack is rated to carry around 65 pounds, while the built-in bungie straps are useful for fastening all sorts of stuff on the rack.  There is an option to increase the cargo capacity significantly by adding a front rack that is rated for up to 50 pounds.  (Same as Oma.)

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Shimano roller brakes in the front and rear are excellent in any weather.  Since they are covered, they are not affected by rain or snow.  With roller brakes, your days of taking twice as long to screech to a stop in bad weather are over.  (Same as Oma.)

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The sturdy wheels are 28″ with Schwalbe tires.  Schwalbes are the best!  The ones on my Oma have never gotten a flat after almost 5 years – knock on wood.  (Same as Oma, but the tires are narrower on the Secret Service.)

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For gearing, there is a Shimano internal hub with 8-speeds.  The bike is also available with a 3-speed hub.  This Shimano Nexus shifting system is a joy to use – transitions are super smooth and allow for changing gears while completely stopped.  (Same as Oma.)

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There are several components that work together to keep your clothes clean and safe. The chain case will prevent your clothes from getting dirty, greasy or eaten by the chain. The fact that the chain is fully covered majorly cuts down on maintenance and helps make this an excellent all-weather, all-season bike.  (Same as Oma, but with a center cut-out and overall lighter look.)

The skirt guard will prevent your skirt or coat from getting caught in the wheel spokes while riding.   (Same as Oma, but smaller and see-through.)

The sturdy two-footed, center-mounted kickstand holds the bike up no matter what. A sturdy kickstand is especially helpful while loading and unloading.  (Same as Oma.)

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Heavy duty fenders are included – an essential for all-weather riding, especially in nice work clothes.  Remember: friends don’t let friends get skunk stripe.  (Same as Oma.)

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The bike is equipped with integrated front and rear lights, which are essential for safe daily riding.  The lights are hub dynamo, which means they are powered by your pedaling and batteries are not needed – a huge benefit!  I really cannot overemphasize the usefulness of integrated lights.  Few situations are more dicey than biking home in the dark after your battery-operated light runs out of juice or is stolen.  (Same as Oma.)

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A sprung Brooks B67 saddle is standard.  This saddle really contributes to the smoothness of the ride.  I can attest that these are absolutely the most comfortable saddles out there, after a short breaking in period of only a few days.  (Same as Oma.)

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The rear wheel comes with a wheel lock, a useful extra that immobilizes the bike – unless someone wants to carry her away.  (Same as Oma.)

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The platform pedals work well with all kinds of shoes, helping to prevent slippage.  (Same as Oma.)

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There is a built-in tire pump that I find to be an odd addition, as I much prefer to use a floor pump.   The chain case makes fixing flats on the go a huge pain and Schwalbe tires rarely get a flat, so a mini pump does not seem very useful.   (Oma does not have a pump.)

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In summary, the set-up of the Secret Service is the same as Oma’s, except the the skirt guard, chain case, and tires are slighter; the handlebars are not swept back as far; the tubing is a tad thinner; and the weight is a bit lower. In exchange for a smaller size and peppier response, the ride is not as smooth and the overall feel is not as luxurious as Oma’s. Those who find the Oma ill-suited because she is too big or heavy would do well to check out the Secret Service. (I’m talking to you, shorter peeps!)

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The WorkCycles Oma is firmly in a class of her own. She reigns as Queen of Citybikedom.

The WorkCycles Secret Service is a first-rate bike with excellent quality, utility and beauty, but could be considered in the same general class as the following:

Gazelle Toer Populair
Pashley Sonnet Bliss
Velorbis Victoria / Dannebrog
Pilen Lyx

Riding the Secret Service reminded me more of those four bikes than of the Oma. Oma is like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Float or a glider rocker on wheels; the other bikes are like very nice bikes.

I would recommend the Secret Service over the Oma for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the size of the Oma, who dislikes the sometimes-unweildly front handling of the Oma, or who travels longer distances or encounters the occasional hill.

As always, I recommend trying to test-ride as many different bikes as possible before deciding which bike is best for you. If you’re in Chicago, you can head over to J.C. Lind Bikes in Old Town (and soon, because he’s getting only one more small shipment of WorkCycles for the rest of the year).

Finally, here is a quick video I put together that hopefully gives you a better idea of the bike.

P.S. Read about our visit to the WorkCycles shop in Amsterdam here.

{As always, we at LGRAB receive nothing for our reviews except the joy of spreading beautiful bike love.}

Watching (a lot of) online beauty videos

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This post has absolutely nothing to do with bicycling.

For days I have been wallowing around sick at home. I did not leave the house, let alone ride my bike. Even reading a novel seemed like too much work. This led to me watching literally hours of beauty videos online. Admitting this feels silly, but it’s the truth. I’m not that into makeup, but listening to these women’s voices was oddly comforting and I felt like I was learning something while using very minimal mental energy.

Most YouTube “guru” type makeup people are way too tacky or cutesy for my taste, but here are some that I like very much. If you feel like wasting some time, enjoy!

Lisa Eldridge is the best (and her voice is lovely). She’s a top makeup artist working with the likes of Kiera Knightly and Vogue. She just did a helpful series on foundation basics. I prefer watching the videos via her website, but she also has a YouTube channel.

Sali Hughes is a close second. She is the beauty reporter for The Guardian. Her website is much more than just videos, but she also has a YouTube channel.

Here she is hanging out in Caitlin Moran’s bathroom!

All the others are straight-up YouTubers:

A Model Recommends

Start2FinishMUA

Tanya Burr

Xteener

Even though I’m 31 and have been wearing makeup for years and years, I still feel like I don’t really know what I’m doing. Tell me I’m not the only grown woman who’s fallen into the rabbit hole of online beauty videos. I’ll feel a bit less silly.

Do you have any recommendations I should add to my list? Not that I need to waste more time on this…

WorkCycles Have Returned to Chicago!

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To the untrained eye, this bicycle may look like my Oma, but it’s actually a stealthy WorkCycles Secret Service.  She’s a loaner from J.C. Lind Bikes for a few days while Betty Foy gets her (much needed!) spring overhaul.

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When Dutch Bike Chicago closed a year and a half ago (their Seattle shop is still in business), I was disappointed that WorkCycles were no longer sold in Chicago.  People often ask me about my Oma, and after DBC closed I had no place to direct them other than the internet.

Happily, this is no longer a problem.  WorkCycles have returned to Chicago!  Jon of J.C. Lind Bikes (at 1300 N. Wells for locals) worked out an arrangement with Henry of WorkCycles, and now the shop carries a variety of WorkCycles city bikes.

I have a review of the Secret Service coming soon, and I’ll try to test others like the Fr8 and Gr8 at some point, since I know many people are unable to test ride them in real life before purchasing and must rely heavily on online information.

Stay tuned!

{J.C. Lind is an LGRAB sponsor and friend. Henry of WorkCycles is an LGRAB friend now, too!   But all of my reviews are absolutely independent.}

 

Bike With Me: Elston Separated Lane

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Yesterday afternoon I had a meeting across town, which led me to a different route for the commute home.  I was able to take advantage of the newish separated bike lane on Elston Avenue.  I first wrote about this lane in the fall, but have not had occasion to bike it since.

Riding in this lane is like butter.  The separation from cars makes all the difference, of course. Other benefits are not being placed in the door zone and the relatively small number of cross streets, alleys and parking lot exits.  I would love a set-up like this on the busy streets that connect my neighborhood to downtown, where I often feel like a hunted animal during open season.

You can see previous videos of me biking along Chicago’s protected bike lanes here:

Dearborn protected lane  - two-way bike lane in the Loop

18th Street protected lane - the most similar to Elston’s bike lane

Kinzie protected lane - Chicago’s first separated bike lane

 

Suiting up for spring

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Right about now is the perfect time to bike in a wool suit without sweating or freezing.  Yesterday I did just that, as I had a court hearing in the morning.

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The early spring weather was chilly (I ended up putting on a light jacket over my suit) but beautifully clear – especially along the Lakefront Trail.

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As I biked down the trail, I passed a group of tourists on a rental bike tour preparing to set out and heard the tour leader say, “And this is the lakefront path, over 20 miles of…”  This was a good reminder to slow down and appreciate the beauty I’m lucky enough to enjoy on a daily basis.

{For more on wearing suits on bikes, see my earlier post, How To: Bike Commuting in a Suit.}

You might also like:

Warm Spring Ride!

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What’s that?!  A mittenless hand?

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Bootless feet?

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Muffless ears?

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That’s right – spring is HERE!  (Okay, I’m willfully ignoring the 20-30 degree temps predicted for Monday.)

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This long-awaited warm-up set the stage for a highly enjoyable and leisurely bike ride with friends Dan and Janet.

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The destination was a lovely Easter lunch at the home of our friends Sara and Glenn.

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Oh yeah, Che lives there, too!

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After a delicious meal and a spirited game of Scrabble, we were off on our bikes again to return home.  The evening sun made the ride chillier, but still very enjoyable.

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The feel of warm air on bare skin is such a luxury this time of year.  Here’s hoping there is much more of it soon!

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Did you enjoy any special rides this weekend in the warm spring air?

Biking Chicago to Grand Rapids, In One Day, On a Fixie

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The approaching warm weather has me itching to take long bike rides.  I’m betting you all feel the same.  For some inspiration, I’m sharing reader Jeff Kwapil’s story of biking on his Trek fixed gear, leaving from Chicago, Illinois in the morning and arriving in Grand Rapids, Michigan in the evening.  Enjoy!

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My long-time half-baked plan to ride from my place in Chicago to my mother’s house in Grand Rapids Michigan (GR) became reality last summer. I haven’t ridden much long distance. I commute a lot, 12 miles each way. And I take weekend rides, 10, 20, 30 miles, occasionally 50 or 60. I have done one century, four years ago.

However, in my mind I’m a bike touring kind of guy. But three obstacles have prevented this ride until now.

1) The one-way ride would take take three days. That reduces the time I have in GR to visit Mom, compared to just driving there in three hours.
2) Amtrak does not take any luggage from GR to Chicago, so I would have to ride back (another three days) or arrange some other ride home.
3) Navigating through the steel mills & such around Gary Indiana does not look like fun.

So, I have a week off work, and the solution popped into my head. I made it in ONE day! Here’s how I did it.

06:15 AM Depart home on bike to Metra commuter train stop
06:33 AM Depart Chicago on train to Kenosha WI
08:25 AM 35 miles biking Kenosha WI to Milwaukee ferry terminal (arrived 11:00 AM)
12:30 PM Depart Milwaukee on boat – arrive Muskegon MI ferry terminal 04:00 PM
04:40 PM 50 miles biking Muskegon to GR
09:00 PM Arrive Mom’s

This was not planned as a fixie ride, but my geared bike suffered a catastrophic frame failure Wednesday, so I went ahead on the my lovely fixie*.

Holy Moly, people have built A LOT of trails in the past few years!! Maybe 60% of the riding was on paved and crushed rock trails. Much appreciated. It’s very different from the days of my youth, riding 2-lane roads and earning the ire of drivers who felt crowded and expressed themselves with honked horns and upraised fingers.

The Racine and Kenosha county crushed rock bike rails-to-trails bike path got me most of the way to Milwaukee. In Milwaukee County a lot of the ride was in the lakefront parks.

In Michigan, the Musketawa Trail led from the outskirts of Muskegon to the outskirts of GR.

Notes:

Google Maps bicycle directions are amazingly helpful.

Navigating with only a smartphone is a pain in the ass, but the GPS is spiffy. In the future I will carry real paper maps, augmented with the GPS phone.

Fixed gear is no fun on downhills. Normally I only use my fixie around town, where the “hills” are bridges with 10- to 40-foot elevations. I missed tucking in and racing full-bore downhill. Instead I had to either brake a lot, or spread my legs and risk the Whirling Pedals of Death (not comfortable).

85 miles in a day was hard, but not bad. After a long hot shower and a good night’s sleep I felt fine, no aches, no sores. I think I am in pretty good shape thanks to the commuting.

– Jeff Kwapil
Chicago IL USA

Puffy Coat Weather

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When I’m wearing my puffy coat in late March, I’m not happy. As you can see, winter has not yet released her grip on Chicago.

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BUT this photo was from last week and spring weather is riiiiight around the corner now. Allegedly.  I hope to have happy spring bicycling stories to share after Easter.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the comfort of escaping the bitter cold in a corner cafe, sipping French apple brandy with friends.  :-)

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P.S.  and apropos of nothing, can someone make me a bike out of this awesome guy?  That would be amazing, thanks!

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(Spotted at Architectural Artifacts.)

Video: Bicycle Bag Basics

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We here at LGRAB get a lot of questions about which bike bags we use and recommend.  Over the years, I have accumulated quite a collection!  I’m constantly switching from bag to bag – usually between my two Po Campo panniers, my regular purse and canvas shopping bags.  In this video, I go through my entire collection and discuss which styles I like best.

I figure this post will be a resource for new bicyclists searching for ideas about how to carry stuff on their bikes, so please share your bike bag recommendations in the comments.

Brands:

Wald basket

Basil

Arkel

Detours

Po Campo

Fieldguided canvas

Patagonia

Chrome

P.S.  For more info on my bicycle, see my Rivendell Betty Foy video.  Also, my bungie straps and Po Campo review.

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