Category Archives: featuring . . .

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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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·a·Bee: urban beekeeping meets city cycling

I recently received an email from Jana Kinsman, a long-time reader and year-round Chicago cyclist, about a very cool project she is beginning with the help of Kickstarter called Bike·a·Bee.

With Bike·a·Bee, Jana aims to bring beehives to community gardens all around Chicago. She will be an urban beekeeper who visits every hive herself by bike. The entire operation will be car-free.

Jana Kinsman of Bike·a·Bee, photo by John Greenfield of Grid Chicago

She had me at bicycles and honeybees, but I especially enjoyed hearing that “honeybees are a female-run society. The queen bee is in charge, and all of the worker bees are female. Drones, the males, are essentially around for mating purposes :)”

Love it.

In order to make all this work, Jana needs to raise money to pay for the operation, including a bike trailer and beehives. Her goal is $7,000 and she must raise the entire amount by February 7th.

This is the kind of stuff I want to see in my community, so I decided to support the project personally as a bike trailer backer. When the project gets going, there will be an LGRAB logo on the trailer. Fun!

Anyone can become a backer by investing $1 or more to help get the project going. Other rewards for becoming a backer of the Bike·a·Bee Kickstarter project including bee postcards, bee stickers, bee posters, and bee honey! Plus, you’ll get the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes with helping a project start and watching it grow.

By helping fund Bike·a·Bee, you are casting a vote for sustainability and urban agriculture as much as you are earning some sweet gifts! As Bike·a·Bee launches, we’ll begin creating webisodes to document our process and share the story. You’ll be there as we set up our first hives in the spring, check on the bees throughout the summer, harvest honey in the early fall, and tuck them in for the winter. You’ll be with us from the start because, without your support, a project of this scope wouldn’t be possible.

As of this posting, she has raised $6,236 of her $7,000 goal.

Let’s help push her to her goal and beyond!

{For more information about Jana and her project, read the excellent interview by John Greenfield on Grid Chicago.}

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Love for Atlanta Bicycle Chic

I have a new blog love: Atlanta Bicycle Chic!

This is a fabulous blog filled with original photography of stylish cyclists around Atlanta.  Such a high-quality blog focused on bicycle street style with posed portraits is a rare gem  (the only other that comes to mind is Chicago’s Bike Fancy).  If you’re not already familiar, you should check it out immediately!

Looking through the archives really makes me want to visit and ride around Atlanta!

 

 

 

 

Atlanta Bicycle Chic is an off-shoot of the style blog Atlanta Street Fashion, both by photographer Cameron Adams.  I had a quick email chat with Cameron to learn more about his blog and Atlanta bicycling.

Cameron Adams on a Bianchi Milano

What made you decide to start a blog dedicated to Atlanta bicycle fashion?

Great looks are everywhere and bikes make stylish accessories.  The convergence of street fashions and city cycling is a global trend and one worthy of its own forum, so I started Atlanta Bicycle Chic.

I think of Atlanta as a car-centric, traffic-heavy city. What is the bicycling scene like?
Yes, Atlanta is a car-centric town, but bike commuters are daily shaping the future. One leading the way is Rebecca Serna of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and organizer of our Heels on Wheels. ABC also organizes group rides like the BeltLine (Atlanta’s rails-to-trails project) Tour and has participated in a mass ride to the state capitol campus in support of the three foot law. Progressive politicians like Kwanza Hall keep our infrastructure needs at the forefront of the city’s legislative agenda.
You often feature photos from the Heels on Wheels ride. Could you tell how readers in the Atlanta area could join?

Interested? Look to their facebook page. The ladies meet on first Saturdays spring, summer and fall for leisurely rides on Peachtree Street for fun and fellowship.

What is your personal history with bicycling?

A younger version of me commuted in the streets of my hometown Richmond, Virginia, but now I ride daily for exercise on the lovely riverside trails in north Atlanta and take my bike into town by MARTA rail or car for style blogging expeditions. Both Bill Cunningham and Scott Schuman know there’s nothing like being a pedestrian for intercepting other pedestrians.

Thanks to Cameron for maintaining Atlanta Bicycle Chic and for taking the time to chat!

{Check out other Atlanta-area bike blogs, Sweet Georgia Brown, I Dream of Bicycling, and Cycle Kabob. Who did I miss?}

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Mid-life Cri-cycle

Last month, reader Bethany made a delightful comment on my Velorbis Dannebrog review, sharing the tale of her new Velorbis, which she labeled her “mid-life cri-cycle.”  I responded that if she wanted to send a photo, I would love to share it with everyone here.  Today I checked my email and there it was, “Bethany’s Velorbis,” totally brightening up my morning.

Bethany and Her Velorbis Dannebrog

Bethany’s original comment:

Mine just came in and I love it! My 50th birthday present, I call it my mid-life cri-cycle. I chose the Velorbis over a heavier Dutch bike since we have plenty of hills in Kansas City. The flat lands everyone thinks of don’t start for another 200 miles or so. And who wouldn’t fall for the color. I just had to have it!

This bike is the most comfortable bike I ever ridden. It leaves simply no excuse in my mind for not riding a bike, as long as you have two legs that move. I look forward to the day when bike stores everywhere have these bikes. Until then, I give high marks to My Dutch Bike in San Francisco, where I bought my Velorbis.

I ride 4 miles each way to work and park it in the administrative area of my office. I found a lovely back street route. I’m proactive with the bell–people backing out don’t always see me–and take my lane. So far so good.

Thanks, Dottie, for introducing me to Dutch bikes, and transportation biking. I started following your blog after I read about you in Yes! Magazine.

Yay! Love it. Thanks for sharing, Bethany.

Does anyone else have a “mid-life cri-cycle?” What kind of bike would you choose?

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Newcity Cover Story: the Martha Stewart of Chicago biking

Last week John Greenfield interviewed me for a cover story in Newcity, a Chicago news and arts weekly. I enjoyed chatting about bicycling with him over a beer and the story came out quite nicely. Apparently, I am the Martha Stewart of Chicago biking! I want business cards with that title.

One funny thing about the paper layout, though. The Pitchfork bike cut-out is grouped with two photos of me and before reading the interview (which mentions the objectification issue), people may think it’s also a representation of me. My co-workers were joking, Is that you after a few drinks??

You can read the full text and see more photos at Grid Chicago, where John blogs with Steve Vance about transportation issues. If you’re in Chicago, you can pick up a paper copy at any pink Newcity dispenser around the city.

Thanks, John!

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Roll Models: Amy, the Crafty Commuter

Our latest “Roll Model” is Amy of Bobbin & Sprocket, who bicycle commutes in East Tennessee—when she’s not making cool bike accessories, that is. We asked Amy a few questions about her mixte obsession, the  reasons she loves working on bikes, the riding scene in East Tennessee and more.

Amy and Hedwig

Describe your bicycling style in three words.
Go. To. Work. Really, that’s pretty much it! I have two jobs. One about 1/2 mile from home in which I can wear whatever, and the other 5 miles from home that I need to dress grungy for. My bike has been adapted to fit these two lifestyles. It’s fairly upright, can hold my travel mug of tea in the morning, can carry what I need to take with me (and I usually have to haul a good deal to and from the barn in the evening), it’s comfortable and speedy and has worked out to be just a really good tool for getting around on. Now, once the Pashley arrives this may change a little. ;)

You’re a mixte girl–tell us why!
The first adult bike I had was my mom’s ’73 Fuji Dynamic 10, which is a mixte. It was the bike I learned how to shift a derailleur on, and to ride with drop bars. I just always liked the sporty yet practical feel of the mixte frame. I still have the Fuji, having been reunited with it over the summer. It’s in pieces right now, waiting for me to replace a bunch of parts.

How long have you been riding a bike?
Most of my life really. My dad was big into cycling when I was little, so he started me out young. By time I was 10ish I was getting around to all my friends houses (and some forbidden places mom didn’t know about!) by bike. By the time I was in high school though, we had moved way out into the country (My fault. Bought a horse and mom and dad din’t want to have to pay boarding.) We were half an hour car ride to the nearest shopping center and cycling ceased to be a practical way to get around. So from about 1991 to about 2 years ago I really didn’t do much cycling. Then I picked up a 1969 Hercules 3 speed on Craigslist and it all started coming back to me!

Where are your favorite places to ride?
I usually find favorites by accident. Just set out along some country road and see where it goes. Since I live in a mostly rural area, I love taking advantage of the scenic routes. I live about 4 miles from Boone Lake, and have a couple of favorite routes to get there. I also like hauling out to Kingsport to ride on the Greenbelt. I’m hoping to try the Virginia Creeper this summer too.

You have an etsy shop that sells handmade bike accessories — how did you get started with this?
I’ve always been a maker of things. Usually if I see something that I want, I figure out a way to make it instead of just buying it. Skirt guards are hard to come by in this country, crochet guards especially. So since I can crochet I sat down one night with some yarn and a hook and went to town. I decided put them up on Etsy and make them available to others. I’ve got two crochet guards now, available as ready to use items and as a pattern for the DIYrs as well. I’m also working on some stretchy netted guards and tooled leather accessories.

Tell us about cycling in Eastern Tennessee–what’s the culture like? Do you see a lot of other riders?
Cycling in Eastern Tennessee is pretty much for sport/ recreation. During the summer months I see some sport cyclists on the roads, and tend to see lots of MTBs on car racks. There are lots of bike trails around like the Virginia Creeper Trail and the Kingsport Greenbelt. We do have a couple of bike lanes on Johnson City, though they don’t really take you anywhere. Every once in a great while I will see someone riding for transport (in the 4 years that we have lived here I can count those times on one hand though). There may be a little bit more cycling around the ETSU campus. I have a co-worker who is a student there and she brings her MTB to campus in her car, then uses it to get around to her classes. She says that there are other students there that do the same. I’ve also seen a handful of bikes downtown. Now, in Kingsport I’ve seen just a little bit more transportation cycling. They have the Greenbelt there, which connects a good deal of the neighborhoods to businesses.

What inspires you to keep cycling?
I just love it! The fresh air, the exercise. Not needing to own two cars. Fitting into size 1 jeans again while still enjoying copious amounts of chocolate! Also, I love working on bikes. Finding old bikes and taking them apart, getting greasy, figuring them out and making them work again is a lot of fun for me. So if I’m going to keep a bunch of bikes around, I need to be riding to justify the herd!

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?
I think that they first thing I would say to do is start small and work your way up. Buy a bike, any bike that feels comfortable and just ride it around in your neighborhood, apartment complex, a park or wherever you feel safe. I did this every evening for about 6 months before I felt confident enough to go back out on the streets. Plan a trip! The first time I decided to venture out by bicycle I actually went and drove it, paying attention to the terrain, condition of the roads, whether there was a good shoulder or not. I looked for safe places to stop if I needed to. For while I would plan a trip using Google maps street view to try to get an idea of the lay of the land if I was going down a road I had never been on before. Now I just get on and go, figuring it out along the way. Learn your local laws regarding cycling too. Reading up on TN’s laws actually made me feel more confident about getting out there. Don’t let rude drivers get you down, and have fun!

{Thanks Amy! You can find out more about Amy—and her bicycle crafts!—on Bobbin & Sprocket. Read about our past Roll Models here.}

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My Hyggelig Feature

My Hyggelig, one of my favorite blogs that is celebrating its 4th birthday today, has been publishing a series on creative female bike bloggers in the month of January, and yesterday featured an interview with me.  I suggest that you head over there and check out the other features on Kara of Knitting Lemonade, LC of Naturally Cycling: Manchester, and Meli of Bikes and the City, a truly inspirational group!

Me and Coco in the snow

Commuting update: Yesterday I biked to work wearing a pinstripe pants suit with a white puffy down vest over the suit jacket and that kept me warm enough in 18 degrees, although I may have looked a little funny.  Today I’m heading for the L train, as a blizzard is expected to start this afternoon and dump 1.5 feet on Chicago.  Later!

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Bike Fancy Showcases Chicago Cycle Chic

Attention everyone: you must check out the new blog Bike Fancy. Pro photographer Martha Williams is documenting stylish cyclists in Chicago and sharing them with the world, including a selection of her own cycle chic looks.

Martha photographs Emily

A resource showcasing Chicago Cycle Chic has been a missing link in our bike community and I’m super excited that Bike Fancy is here to pick up this slack. I look forward to watching the gallery grow!

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Women-who-bike brunch

My inaugural women-who-bike brunch took place on Sunday. The focus was on enjoying good food and even better company, while bikes took a backseat as a tool for transportation and for connecting us all in the first place. To this end, a dozen awesome women rode their bikes without ceremony, in their regular clothes, and proceeded to chat for three fun hours. Here is but a sampling of the awesomeness that ensued.

Women who bike - photo by Martha Williams

Rebecca! of Active Trans

Emily! of Po Campo

Samantha! of Ding Ding Let's Ride

Martha! of Bike Fancy

Janet and Patty

The group checks out Po Campo prototypes

Me - photo taken by Martha Williams with my film camera

Are you a woman in the Chicago area who would like to join us in the future? Email me at LGRAB [at] letsgorideabike [dot] com. If you’ve sent me your email before but did not get the message about the brunch, please re-send. I might have indadvertedly left some people out.

I must sound like a broken record but women who bike are pretty much without fail smart, fun and cool. :)

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Simply Bike at LGRAB

This weekend a very special guest stayed chez Dottie, S from Simply Bike. I was very excited to meet her in person, after following her for a long time on Academichic and now on the newer bike blog.  Obviously, we have a lot in common and as I predicted, we got along extremely well and I had so much fun. As a bonus, she and Betty Foy were perfect together.

Riding bikes was a big part of the visit, since she had a conference about 8 miles away along the lakefront and I dropped her off and picked her up each day.  Other notable activities: the Race Against the Sky movie, a big German meal at Chicago Brauhaus, a ferris wheel ride at Navy Pier, fresh Mexican at Rick Bayless’s XOCO, Checkov’s The Seagull at Goodman Theatre and warm donuts from Dinkel’s Bakery.

I love getting out and enjoying Chicago to the max.  I always try to take advantage of everything the city has to offer, but hosting an out-of-towner gives me an extra push.

Saying goodbye to such a cool lady was sad.  All of us fun, smart bike ladies should colonize a new city, where we can hang out and ride bikes together all the time.  :)

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Live Call-In Show with Path Less Pedaled TONIGHT

The owner of transportation and cargo bike shop Cycle 9 (located in my beloved old stomping grounds of Carborro, NC) is doing a live call-in interview with Russ Roca and Laura Crawford of The Path Less Pedaled TONIGHT at 9 pm eastern/8 pm central.

Russ and Laura, photo by Trisha

You can not only listen to the hour-long show, but call in to ask questions!  To do this, you first need to register at http://www.biketouringbliss.com.  Once you register, you’ll have access to the call in number. There’s no charge to participate.

If you don’t already know about Laura and Russ, you should!  They are a couple who have embarked on a truly “epic” 14-month bike ride across America.  I know I’ll be listening tonight!

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Martha’s Stylish Cyclists

Today I met Martha, a professional photographer working on a project documenting stylish Chicago bicyclists. She photographed me and Oma, and then I turned the tables on her for a few shots. After all, she has been a chic bike commuter herself for many years and rides an awesome vintage pink Schwinn.

Martha, her camera, her bike and Chicago

Here is more information from Martha about her project and a call out to Chicago cyclists.

I am working on a small project photographing stylish cyclists, and I want to photograph you with your bike (outside somewhere). I have a few rules:

1. No active wear, you should be wearing work clothes or going out clothes. (unless you can make a case for a particularly nice looking “functional” outfit)

2. I want all kinds of bikers but prefer women and commuters.

3. Look cute and dress up a little!

If this sounds good to you, contact Martha at mafaw1 {at} gmail {dot} com – she is still looking for subjects. She plans to compile her documentary photographs and create a new bicycling photoblog set to launch soon. I’ll definitely update you all when her site goes live!

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Tandem Tips from ecovelo

Our final guest post is from none other than ecovelo, bike-lifestyle blog extraordinaire. (Technical difficulties prevented me from receiving the post until recently.) Chances are you’re already a fan. If not, you soon will be. Below are thoughts from husband and wife team Alan and Michael about tandem riding.

They say there’s nothing quite like a long ride on a tandem to shine a bright light on a relationship. If the relationship is good, the ride will be too, but if the relationship has its problems, well…

Riding together on individual bikes is not too unlike riding a tandem as a couple. In other words, it can be a real joy or a real pain depending upon how it’s approached. We’ve been riding together for a number of years, and though we’ve experienced a few bumps along the way, we’re fortunate to have a harmonious relationship on the road in which we read each other’s subtle cues and ride together with little effort and zero conflict. We only arrived at this on-road relationship through many, many miles of practice, and lots of talking about how to better communicate and take care of each other while riding our bicycles. Following are a few of the things we think are key to riding smoothly and safely as a couple:

Someone needs to lead and someone needs to follow – It’s usually best if a ride leader is determined before departure to reduce the likelihood of confusion or conflict on the road. Typically the more experienced rider leads.

The slower person determines the pace – The slower person should always determine the ride pace, even if they’re in the following position. It’s the leader’s responsibility to be sure they don’t drop the follower or inadvertently push the pace beyond the comfort level of the slower rider.

The slower person should be on an equal or faster bicycle – If at all possible, the slower rider should be on the faster bike to reduce the speed differential between the two riders. It’s common to see the less-experienced, less-fit rider on the heavier, slower bike, which only undermines the pacing rule above.

The less experienced rider sets the comfort level of the route (traffic levels, infrastructure, distance) – It’s up to the less-experienced rider to determine what type of roads they’re willing to traverse. The leader should never pressure the less-experienced rider into situations in which they’re uncomfortable.

The leader always defers to the less experienced rider unless it’s a safety issue – A less-experienced rider may not understand what they’re getting into and find themselves feeling overwhelmed once they’re on the road. It’s imperative that the leader defers to the follower and respects their need to turn back, take an alternate route, or whatever is necessary to reduce their unease.

Develop a consistent method of communicating (hand signals, voice, visual) – It’s important to learn each other’s signals and cues. Agree upon a set of simple hand signals to indicate upcoming turns, slowing, debris in road, car-behind, etc.

A sure way to put a quick end to a riding relationship is to simply head out the door without a clear understanding of each other’s expectations. Acknowledging each other’s expectations and agreeing upon a plan for the ride, while always putting the other rider’s needs above your own, is the most effective way to ensure a healthy, long-term riding relationship.

Thanks, ecovelo! This really makes me want to grab a companion and go on a ride. What has everyone else’s experience been riding “in tandem.” And has anyone else out there ridden an actual tandem?

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Scottish Cycle Chic in Chicago

Jennifer is a bike commuter in Edinburgh, Scotland and an LGRAB reader. She owns both a WorkCycles Oma and a Pashley. When she mentioned that she was taking a vacation in Chicago, I was excited to suggest that we get together.

On Wednesday, we met up for a few beers with my friends Patty, Brian, Elizabeth and Dean (all bikey people, incidentally). Then yesterday Jennifer and I spent the day together with Oma and Betty. This turned out to be quite an adventure!

After a hearty Mexican lunch, we set out for the Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier via the Lakefront Trail. The wind was exceptionally fierce, crashing waves onto the path all around us, and the rain unexpectedly picked up during the ride, but it was still great fun.

I assume this mounted police officer was there to make sure no one tried anything stupid, like surfing.

Our raincoats mostly protected us. When we got to the theater my tights dried quickly and Jennifer cleverly let her long tunic top become a dress, while her jeans hung to dry in the coat check room. Then we warmed up in the pub over whiskey and Baileys before settling in for a great production of Romeo and Juliet.

After the play, we walked along Navy Pier a bit as the wind whipped around us, speculating as to how difficult our journey home would be, since the tail wind we enjoyed on the way there would be a head wind.

We walked over to the ferris wheel for a ride but it was closed, apparently due to the high winds.

As we figured, the head wind was killer and the 7-mile ride home was slow, cold and dark – but pretty funny! We could not help laughing at the absurdity of the situation: the trail was deserted and the two of us, in our dresses and on our upright bikes, were the only ones intrepid enough to brave the weather.  

Undeterred, we swung by my place to pick up Mr. Dottie and continued our ride to the Lincoln Square neighborhood, where we enjoyed dinner at a very lively German restaurant. Schnitzel, mashed potatoes and steins of beer work wonders to warm a body.

The rain picked up full force for our late ride home and poor Jennifer’s jeans got soaked all over again. Luckily, she was just an L train ride away from the warmth and comfort of her hotel room.

Many thanks to Jennifer for being great company and such a good sport! What could have been grounds for complaining instead became a fun, invigorating, laughter-filled adventure. ‘Cause cycling ladies are cool like that. :)

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Bike fun vs. fun by bike

Our next guest post is from the fabulous Dave of Portlandize, whose cycling advocacy is a huge inspiration. Today he’s giving LGRAB readers a glimpse of his recent trip to Amsterdam. More on the European cycling scene through American eyes is coming later this week as Dottie and I overcome jetlag and post about our time in France.

Folks in the U.S. bicycle scene often talk about what markers distinguish an established bike culture in a city or country. We talk about infrastructure and percentages of people riding to work and that kind of thing. But I think one of the biggest indicators is a slight (but rather important) perception shift from bike fun to fun by bike, and the idea behind that shift.

Portland is notorious for its bike fun, and people even internationally know us for organizing rides at the drop of a hat for the most mundane or silly kind of events. We have huge bike-related festivals and events and a lot of typical Portlandy events have emphasis on bike themes. There is nothing wrong with this, bikes are fun tools, and these events give people a chance to use them in creative ways and people really have fun with them. But to use these events as a marker of an established bike culture isn’t really accurate, in my opinion.

We were recently in Amsterdam for about a week, and one particular day we spent running around the city with Marc from Amsterdamize. As we were riding around and later sitting at a cafe, we saw hundreds of people riding by dressed in more-or-less religious themed attire (with some notable exceptions, like broccoli). We were probably seeing people go by for an hour and a half. We learned later they were all on their way to a huge party where the dress theme was religious attire.

Amsterdam 2010

Amsterdam 2010

Amsterdam 2010

What stood out to me is that they were not out to have fun on their bikes, they were out to have fun, and it just so happened that the way they were getting there was by bike. It wasn’t a deliberate decision, just like it’s not a deliberate decision for most people in the U.S. to hop in their cars to get somewhere. It’s just a given. When you
have to get somewhere that’s beyond easy walking distance, you hop on your bike.

Amsterdam has its share of bike fun, too – fixies and bike polo and tall bikes and the whole works, but what really marks it as an established bike culture (among other things), is that pretty much everyone uses their bike(s) without thinking about it. There are a lot of things that go into making this the default choice for people, and that’s a theme for many more posts, but there is no doubt that in Amsterdam, the bicycle is as usual as bricks, glass, and humans. It’s a natural part of the everyday flow of people, whether it’s to work, school, restaurants, parties, shopping – whatever the destination, the bike gets you there.

Read more about Dave’s trip to Europe and his everyday Portland cycling life at Portlandize.

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Timeless Cycle Chic

Hi, Chelsea from Frolic! here! I am so glad to be guest blogging on Let’s Go Ride a Bike today! It’s one of my daily reads. I recently came across these old photos and I think the girls and their bicycles are super chic!

Photos from Flickr: 1, 2, + here.

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The more things change, the more they stay the same

Today’s guest post is from Elisa, one of the two women who make up Bike Skirt, a blog based in Birmingham, Alabama. Elisa and Anna started blogging about the same time Dottie and I did, and it was so wonderful to discover kindred spirits here in the Southeast! They are doing their best to bring cycling to the mainstream through work at the Bici Coop and organizing Alleycats and other events (including one tonight).

First, thanks to Dottie and Trisha for asking me to guest post (and apologies for my tardiness on getting it to them…oops).  When they asked me to post, I didn’t know what to write about, since our blogs seem to have talked about everything under the sun with biking!  So, I decided to write about just that: that riding a bike, while it hasn’t changed, is new every day.

Birmingham bikers back in the day

I love that everyone knows and uses this statement: ” It’s like riding a bike.” Why do we say that?  Because riding a bike is something that we never forget how to do and always want to get back to it.  Yes, we may get rusty and need a few practice runs, but once you remember how…oh, how wonderful it is!  Each day I ride roughly the same route, but it feels new each day.  I see new people on the corners, new delivery trucks taking up my space and the seasonal flowers that I get to smell every day.  I see how my neighborhood changes with the seasons, heck, each day.  I feel the slightest crisp in the air and the hint of a storm when it is coming.  Those things are hard to get in a car, and I get them every single day.

What is my point?  My point is that riding a bike itself hasn’t changed…still 2 wheels, a saddle and handlebars (yes, the components have changed and it has gotten easier), but the ride changes every day.  That is probably the thing I love the most about riding.  The everyday mystery of it. That, and that I get to wax poetic about my commute of all things.

Birmingham riders today

Thanks again to Trisha and Dottie, I hope you two are having the most fabulous time in France.  Can’t wait to see the photos of all the bikes and fun that you have

.

{Thanks for this guest post, Elisa! }

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Tall tales of chic cycling

Today LGRAB welcomes Kara of Knitting Lemonade, who offers a unique perspective on her search for a stylish bicycle.

When you’re tall, finding pants that are long enough is a Herculean task. So imagine the trials of trying to find a ladies bicycle that complements your inseam.

The average height for women in the US is 5’4”. I am 6 feet tall with a 35” inseam. For perspective on how tall that is, here is a picture of Dottie (who is pretty tall) and me.

Dottie and Me

Inspired by bicycle blogs (this one in particular), I decided to invest in a classic loop-frame bicycle. But I found the size options available in the US to be somewhat limited. It seemed like a lot of the women bicycles came in one size—like the Electra Amsterdam. And in my experience “one size fits all” really means “one size fits small.” As far as the bicycles that came in several sizes, they seemed to max out for a woman with a height of 5’8”.

Of course there was the option of buying a man’s bike. And it was a solid option. There are a lot of amazing, classic-looking bikes for men. But I was a little stubborn. Just because I was man-sized didn’t mean I wasn’t feminine. So the challenge was set, I wanted a bike that was big enough for a man, but cute enough for a woman.

A Dutch-style bike seemed like a good choice since the Dutch are a very tall people. And after some exhaustive research, I was able to find some manufacturers that offered larger Dutch bikes. But then I saw it—the Pashley Princess Sovereign. In my eyes, she was perfect. I immediately had visions of riding through the English countryside in tweed. Also the Princess has more aggressive angles than the Dutch bicycles, 5 gears to tackle the hills of Salt Lake City, and is a smidge lighter (every pound counts when you have to carry a bicycle up a flight of stairs to your apartment). What’s more, the bicycle comes in a 22.5” frame. Even with that size frame I still wasn’t sure if it would fit. But according to the Pashley website, this size would fit an inseam up to 36.5”. Without having the option of a test ride, I took a leap of faith and ordered her.

Adelaide in action

By adjusting the handlebars to their highest position and getting over the fact that I was flashing some seat post, my Pashley Princess Sovereign turned out to be a lovely fit for me.

You would think that would be the end of the story, but I was on a roll. Now that I had my classic loop-frame bicycle, I decided to also get a fast bicycle. More specifically, a mixte for longer, sportier rides. Looking at vintage and modern mixtes, I ran into the same problem. Too small.

Loving Dottie’s Betty Foy, I e-mailed Rivendell telling them that “tall girls need cute bikes too.” They agreed and informed me that they would be coming out with a 62cm Betty Foy. Well, that sealed the deal. In August, I got my own “Kara-sized” Betty Foy. I couldn’t be any more in love.

Betty and me

These bikes were definitely an investment. And I don’t want to convey that you need to spend a lot of money to get a tall woman’s bike. Just hope to say that with such limited options available, when you find something that you love AND works for your body, seize the opportunity.

There is just something magical about getting a bike that truly fits you, physically and emotionally. In my case, I have two bikes that are big and girly, just like me.

The gal pals

Are you an Amazon looking for a bicycle? Here are some leggy options:

PUBLIC M8 and M3 mixtes come in large (fit for 5’8” to 6’)

Rivendell’s Betty Foy mixte comes in 62cm

Soma Buena Vista mixte comes in 58cm

WorkCycles Oma comes in 61cm

Achielle Oma frames come in 61cm

Pashley Princess and Sonnet models come in 22.5”

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Brownie on a Bike in San Diego

Hi. I go by “beany” online as I’m a bean counter. I’m a brownie who is car-free in San Diego and blog at Brown Girl in the Lane . While Dottie and Trish are off galavanting in France, eating the most delectable of meals and drinking the finest of wines, they have asked me to write a post for you. So here it is :)

I had the incredible pleasure of meeting Dottie and Trish in person earlier this year. It is easily one of the most memorable blogger meetings I’ve had because meeting women who ride a bicycle is harder than finding a pair of shoes that I want. Meeting women who genuinely love riding and ride for the sheer pleasure of riding, like I do? Well, that’s much harder than…fixing a flat in the worst of all possible ghettos in sub zero temperatures, in a hail storm while trying not to dirty a nail. In other words, a very rare occurrence in my world.

This post is a brief-ish history of my love affair with riding a bicycle.

Me and my cousin at age 5

I first began riding when I was around five years old.  My father bought me a red colored bicycle that had a banana seat and came with training wheels. To say that that bicycle became an obsession would be an understatement. My bicycle was parked close to my bed and I rode it every day  and soon graduated to riding a two wheeler like a proper cyclist would.

My bicycle became a constant and steady companion. It was how I was able to explore the city of eight million that I grew up in. My bicycle was my ticket to freedom, exploration and with it an incredible feeling of utter exhilaration. Riding through the city began to define how I viewed the world. Everything seemed possible and doable when I was out riding. It was on a saddle (or banana seat) that I was able to sort out the jumble of thoughts and contemplate about things I thought were worth contemplating over.

In my late teens, I moved to the U.S. where I found myself living in a suburb of Philadelphia. It was there that I realized the futility of relying on others for rides or the shoddy public transit system. I also disliked living in a small town. I thrive on the energy that is found in cities. So I began to date a man in Philadelphia who would one day become my husband. My dates with him all revolved around a lengthy bike ride ending at a good bar and grill. Thankfully, he rode because he loved to ride and rode everywhere. But he was unhappy living on the East Coast and wanted to fulfill a lifelong dream of living by the Pacific Ocean. I agreed to move and convinced him to make the move to the West Coast…by bicycle.

And that was what we did. We got rid of everything we owned and got ourselves touring bikes and panniers and headed west.

I would state that teddy bears provide much more visibility that wearing neon would. Because, who would want to run over a teddy bear?

This was how, in late 2008, we found ourselves in San Diego. San Diego seemed like a nice enough city so we decided to make this city our home. I found that I had become a very different person than the one who had left Philadelphia. The weeks of repeated riding had made me fall deeper in love with riding. Whereas in Philadelphia I found myself only riding because I had, in San Diego I soon found myself extending my commute daily, going out for a ride for no real purpose besides for the sheer thrill of riding.

I moved further away from my job to extend my commute. I began frequenting a farmers market located further way to have a longer ride. This was craziness. Especially in a place where the love affair with the automobile is practically a law.

But here I am. Living in a automobile-saturated culture without ever having owned an automobile. Life here without an automobile is the furthest thing from a hardship, for me. With perfect weather to be experienced every single day, the last place I want to be is boxed up in an automobile. The only place I’d rather be is on my saddle: riding, exploring, discovering and falling in love with the world around me every single day.

Visit the awesome Beany and her wickedly funny musings at Brown Girl in the Lane.

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