Category Archives: Learning

Belle accessories for your bike

Look closely: do you notice anything different about my tire?

untitled-12-750x450

A ladybug is hitching a ride!

untitled-8-750x450
This pair of cuties (one for each tire) is made in Poland and came to me as a gift from Gosia of Bike Belle, who recently visited Chicago from London/Krakow.  Bike Belle carries a fun variety of bike accessories, much of them handmade/painted/knitted.  From the Bike Belle About Us page: “We design, make and sell designer bicycle accessories to make your bikes easier to use, prettier and more you.”  Sounds good to me!  Bonus: they ship worldwide.  :)
untitled-11These ladybugs (and other designs) are called “jewelry for your bicycle” – love it!  I guess these would be Oma’s earnings.  More beautiful jewelry: this rosy bell would be perfect for spring.

I also got this adorable, waterproof seat cover, staying with the polka dot trend.  (Why do I want this mouse one so much?? It’s mesmerizing.)
untitled-14

If anyone has always wanted a full ladybug kit for her bike, look no further.

Here are Maria of PoCampo, Gosia and me after a lovely brunch.

brunch

I’m so glad I had the chance to meet Gosia, hear a lot about bicycling in Krakow (sounds a lot like cycling in Chicago, actually), and learn more about her shop.

She also has a Bike Belle blog, with plenty of beautiful pictures, so you can enjoy it even if you don’t speak Polish.

Yay for cool, entrepreneurial cycling ladies!

Does your bike wear jewelry?  :)

Tagged , ,

Review: Bike USB Rechargeable Lights

Good morning! Daylight savings time might be right around the corner, but night-time visibility has always been a cyclist’s dilemma. One possible solution? Bike USB Rechargeable Lights, which I received for review from Uncommon Goods.

usblight

I have been impressed with these small, sturdy lights They come in sets of two: One front, in white, and one rear, in red. As shown in the photo above, they attach easily to your bike with an attached rubber band, not unlike other small bike lights such as Knog Lights. There is a groove in the top of the light so that the elastic band is held securely. These lights will not fall off your bike, but they’re easy to remove if you live in a city where bike light theft is a concern.

usblight2

 

The bonus with these little lights? No new batteries: just plug the lights into your computer with any mini-USB cable to recharge. (Fellow NOOK owners: your charging cable is now multiuse.) According to the website, you can get 5 hours of use before needing to recharge—I’ve used the lights for at least 20 minutes a day for about 20 days and have not needed to recharge them, so they may actually last slightly longer. Attaining a full charge takes about 2 hours.

A red light indicates that the light is still charging.

A red light indicates that the light is still charging.

Like most bike lights, these have a blinking mode as well as a steady mode. Just click the button on the top to toggle between modes and on/off.

nightlightrear And the front light is bright enough to help you see rather than just be seen.  It rivals my CatEye.

nightlightAt $49 for the pair, these are a bit pricier than Knog, but the convenience of not needing to replace batteries just might be priceless. (Also, shhh, Uncommon Goods often has sales or coupon codes available.) The final verdict: Worth checking out if you need a little extra illumination!

{ These lights were provided by Uncommon Goods for review, but the opinions expressed are my own. }

 

Tagged , , ,

Review: Carrera Unisex Foldable Helmet

Let me start out this post with an “I’m Switzerland in the helmet wars” disclaimer. Though I wore a helmet daily for the first year or two after I started cycling, over time, on my most familiar routes, I more or less abandoned it. Why? For many of the reasons Dave mentions in this post as well as the fact that in summer, in Tennessee, heatstroke is a much greater threat than head injury.

Carrerahelmetfront

front of the helmet

That said, there are times when I do want to wear a helmet, or am required to wear one—and I’m always looking for one that is cool, comfortable and relatively attractive. So when I saw the Carrera Foldable Helmet online, I had high hopes that it was the helmet holy grail.

IMG_1278

First things first: the “foldable” aspect of this helmet is pretty minimal. Common sense suggests that folding a helmet is not a logical expectation…and that common sense would be right. There’s really only a couple of inches difference between the helmet’s folded and expanded size—the figure they use is 20% smaller and that seems accurate to me.

Carrera helmet: folded

folded helmet

carrerahelmetexp

When folded, you can secure the helmet with a provided strap, which has a carabiner attached so that you can clip it to your bag or purse or the frame of your bike when not in use.

Carrerahelmet

Carrera helmet folded, with carabiner and strap for attachment to a bag, lock or purse

The strap has a reflective tag and can do double-duty by holding your pants leg away from your chain if you’re into that sort of thing.

IMG_1274

I got this helmet in glossy white, to match Le Peug, but they’re available in lots of pretty colors. The size small/medium fit my puny head perfectly straight out of the box, but there’s an elastic at the back that can tweak the fit as well.

carrera-foldable-card-2

 

The interior has removable, washable pads that are very comfortable. I hardly knew I was wearing it during my metric century.

 

IMG_1281

Best of all, the multiple air vents totally deliver—this is definitely the coolest, lightest helmet I’ve ever worn. (My other is a Bern Berkeley and I have spent a lot of time wearing Dottie’s Nutcases when in Chicago. I had a cheap-o Bell helmet from Target when I first started riding.)
cornfields

On the shallow side, I also really, really love the sleek fit and look of this helmet. Someone told me it looked like a hat—while I think that’s a little bit of a stretch, it’s definitely the most hat-like helmet I’ve ever worn. I didn’t have that mushroom head feeling at all while wearing it.

To get a little more serious, the helmet complies with EU safety standards (Carrera is an Italian company best known for sunglasses) so the actual protection factor is up to snuff.

meandandynatchez

The only real drawback to this helmet is the price: I paid $80 on eBay, which is $20 more than the Nutcase (it’s the same as the MSRP for my Bern, but you can almost always find a Bern sale somewhere). There’s also a “premium” version, which includes a light and a “multiuse scarf” and retails at about $130—if you can find it anywhere online.

Despite the somewhat high price, if you wear a helmet frequently and care about 1.) looks and 2.) lack of head sweat, the Carrera Foldable Helmet is definitely worth your consideration. It was definitely the Helmet Holy Grail for me.

Do you love your helmet? Tell us about it in the comments.

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,

A wooden crate as a bike basket

When I posted about riding my Dutch bike last week, Trisha noticed that I have a new crate on the front.  Yes, and I love it!

As I explained in my Oma review, I purchased my bike with a heavy duty front rack that attaches to the frame, making a sturdy base for up to 50 pounds of cargo.  I was using a Hershberger’s Baker Basket on the front rack, but two years of heavy use was more than the delicate basket could handle.  First the leather strap in the front broke, causing the top to fly open in the wind, then one of the small leather straps on the back of the lid broke, making the top sit crooked.  The wicker became dried and bleached by the sun.  Basically, the poor thing fell apart.

Baker Basket

Baker Basket in better days

For a while, I detached the front rack and used a pannier on my rear rack to carry stuff.  Then one day Mr. Dottie found a wooden crate in an alley behind a Mexican restaurant, which he thinks was used for avacados.  The crate has “Made in Mexico” stamped on the side.  He attached the crate to my rack with a bungie cord through the bottom and a few zip ties all around; it does not move an inch.

20130821-0110687-R1-074-35A

My new Mexican crate

I love the crate for both aesthetics and utility.  I can fit so much stuff in there, and I tend always to be carrying a bunch of stuff – for example, two full grocery bags and a purse.  I can also easily and quickly reach my bag when stopped at a red light.

20130821-0110687-R1-072-34A

The crate is heavy – it’s all solid wood and nails.  But so is my bike!  When I’m riding Oma, I’m slow and steady and generally traveling no more than five or six miles, so extra weight is not a big deal.

Does anyone else use a wooden crate like this?

Tagged , , , , , ,

Training ride: The Natchez Trace

A couple of commenters pointed out I was being a bit sketch about the details of my training plan in my last post. Those commenters were absolutely right. But you see, me being me, the details of my training plan ARE a bit sketch. They consist of:

  • Biking for transpo as often as possible (pretty standard, but I’m pushing it more than usual)
  • One medium-length ride during the week (10-15 miles)
  • One long ride at the weekend (20-30 miles)
  • At least one cross-training day (walk/jog or yoga)

This means I’m riding somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-60 miles per week. Since I once read somewhere that riding an equal number of miles per week as you will in your big ride means you’re in good enough shape to make it happen in a reasonable amount of time, I feel like we’re doing OK. If I’m wrong, well, I’m sure the Internet will chime in to let me know.

Anyway, last weekend our training ride was on the Natchez Trace. Since I’ve never been able to transport my bike comfortably by car before, this was my first time biking on the Trace. All I could think was, what took me so long??

IMG_1771

One fun little quirk about going on long rides with me: I’m a total grump for the first 20 minutes. I start thinking about how we’re only 10 percent or whatever of the way in and that means we have to bike for TEN TIMES this long. I brood about the temperature and how much water I have with me and how much that hill we just went down is going to suck on the way back.

Then, somehow magically somewhere around mile 5, I am fine. I become accustomed to the heat and discomfort. I am resigned to the fact that I will be sweating for the next few hours and parts will be fun and parts will not be fun and I am totally OK with it going on as long as necessary. In other words, my Czech/Finnish peasant ancestry kicks in. Being built for endurance vs. speed isn’t a bad thing.

IMG_1772 IMG_1774

So after my typical rough beginning, I was all about the Trace. Even though it was late morning, we saw some wildlife! Namely a turkey, a turtle and a deer, which luckily did not decide to charge us. And…get excited…a dead skunk! Car traffic was very light and the drivers were courteous. There were tons of other cyclists; we saw at least two dozen.

Whitney and I actually considered blowing off work on Monday and going all 171 miles to Tupelo. Of course, that was while we were biking with a tailwind. When we turned around just over 10 miles in, our pace slowed since we had more uphills + a headwind to deal with.

We did stand out quite a bit from the other cyclists on the Trace. We were the only riders  who didn’t have drop bars and clip-ins. Near the end of one particularly long, steep incline, a male road cyclist came up beside us and greeted us with “Way to go, ladies!” I wasn’t sure what to expect (would he be down on us for not wearing helmets? Was this a drive-by pat on the head?) but he somehow managed to be encouraging without being patronizing. “I’ve seen people on $2000 equipment die on this hill,” he confided. Since we were able to keep him in sight for at least 10 minutes after he passed us, we considered ourselves pretty hardcore. “Think of what we could do with $2000 of equipment,” Whitney said.

So here’s what we did with our decidedly NOT $2000 bikes. (Not to mention that Le Peug only has five working speeds at the moment…I’ve got to get on that.)

IMG_1775

I know, not exactly fleet foxes. But by the end of the month we can improve this time a bit—and I also think that, especially with the adrenaline of riding in a group, this is a pace we can maintain for 62 miles. We both still felt good after the ride, like we could have gone longer, and no soreness afterward. And the Clarksville Century course is legendarily easy.

And sometime in the next six months (spring or fall, probably!) I am taking a long weekend to ride the Natchez Trace. Anyone coming with me??

Tagged , , ,

Review: Detours Ballard Market Pannier

20130606-R1-01481-0002

Recently I have been testing a new bike bag, the Detours Ballard Market Pannier, a large shopper that easily transforms from a pannier to a tote to a backpack.

20130606-R1-01481-0018

The website describes the bag as follows:

If you’re rolling up [to the market] on a bike, this is the perfect pannier to take with you. An easily hidden padded shoulder harness lets you wear the pannier as a backpack while browsing the stalls, and two simple yet sturdy pannier clips attach to your rack for the ride home. A lightweight waterproof base keeps your bag dry from street spray, and a removable rain cover protects your goods when the skies cloud over. Interior organization makes this a great option for casual office commuting as well!

The bag comes in red (shown), black and “dalia print,” which is my favorite – grey with a little flower painted on front.

The bag hangs from the rear rack by two clamps.  The system was a bit tricky on my Pletscher rack because I had to raise the rack’s clamp while attaching the bag, but once in place, the bag fit well.  The large rack on my Dutch bike works perfectly with the Detours’ attachment system.

20130606-R1-01481-0008

The bag appears to droop a bit when loaded, but always feels securely attached.

There are adjustable straps on the front, which come in handy when the bag is used as a backpack.

The long handle straps are useful when carrying the bag, but they hang awkwardly when the bag is mounted and could be long enough to interfere with the wheel.  I tied them together and tucked them into the bag as shown below.  Another option is to tuck the straps in the front pouch, but neither solution is very elegant and I wish there were a better solution.

The bag, as you can judge by its size, holds a substantial amount of stuff.  In addition to the cavernous interior, there is a small internal, zippered pocket, plus three external pockets (two small on the side, on large on the front).

The bag I’ve been using for years as a large shopper is my Basil Rosa-Mirte Shopper, but that bag must be hand-carried by a handle – super annoying when trying to shop and/or when carrying a heavy load.  The Detours bag is not as cute, but wins over the Basil for ease of carrying with the shoulder strap and backpack option.

I’d say the Detours Ballard Market is most comparable to the Ortlieb Bike Shopper that I reviewed last year.  In that showdown, the Detours bag wins hands down.  Both bags hold a lot and have smart and easy attachment systems, but the Detours has useful outside pockets, holds more, is easier to close, turns into a backpack and costs $30 less.  The Ortlieb wins only in waterproofness.  The material on the Detours is water-resistent, but the drawstring top leaves it vulnerable.  A full, neon yellow water cover is included, though, so as long as you keep it in the bag, you should be good to go in storms.

The Detours logo on the side of the bag is reflective, but I was disappointed not to see more.  I wish companies would incorporate more reflective markings on bike bags.

20130606-R1-01481-0010

The two clamps on the back are fronted by a fabric panel…

20130606-R1-01481-0015

…which can be zipped up to hide the clamps and protect you from being poked.

When carried, the pannier functions as a long, substantial tote bag.  As you can see, it has a sporty feel.  Not something I would feel comfortable carrying to important meetings or court, but suitable for a regular day at the office.

20130606-R1-01481-0013

For daily use, I prefer a more professional-looking bag like Po Campo.  I’m not crazy about the sporty/bookbag-esque look of the Detours, which does not mesh well with my professional lifestyle.  The black or “dalia print” colors are better professional options than the bright red.  That said, the Ballard Market Pannier is marketed as a farmer’s market bag that could double for casual commuting, and the design is appropriate to that purpose.

Overall, I like the Detours Ballard Market Pannier a lot.  The bag fits a huge amount, while also being easy to attach and detach and convenient to carry, either as a tote bag or a backpack.   For a bike bag that are designed to carry substantial loads, the Detours is the best I’ve come across so far.

And a HUGE bonus of the bag is its nifty transformation to a backpack.  I did not get a photo wearing the pannier as a backpack, so please watch my video to see how easily this works.

Review: Detours Ballard Market Pannier from LGRAB on Vimeo.

The Detours Ballard Market Pannier retails for $69.  The company is based in Seattle, and I’m not aware of any local Chicago stores that carry the brand.

{As always, I received no compensation for this review, other than the bag itself.  Trust me, my opinion’s not that cheap!  ;-)  You can see my entire collection of bags in this video.}

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Video: Bicycle Bag Basics

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.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

United By Blue Organic Canvas Bags

We receive a lot of emails and press releases about bike-related products and campaigns, but this one really stood out to us: Organic canvas and leather bike bags by United By Blue.

United By Blue, which has an established business producing canvas bags, recently created a prototype bike bag line that’s ready to go into production with the help of Kickstarter funding. Basically, by contributing to the campaign, you are purchasing one of their bags pre-production – and the dollar amounts look reasonable in comparison to similar bike bags on the market. As a bonus, for every product sold, United By Blue removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways through company organized and hosted cleanups.

$25 gets you the Organic Handlebar Pouch.

$60 gets you the Organic Handlebar Bag.

$90 gets you the Organic Pannier Bag.

All of the bags come in four beautiful colors.

If, like me, you do not need another bike bag but would like to support the effort, you can give $5 or $15.

UNITED BY BLUE KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN

{We received no compensation for this post.}

Tagged , , , , ,

Review: Bird Industries Bike Garter

When I saw bike garters from Bird Industries available in one of those email flash sales a few months back, I decided to give one a whirl. This particular bike garter had been recommended a few times in our comments section, and I have a few skirts I like to wear on my bike that give me occasional modesty issues. The bike garter is pretty simple: It’s a garter with a clip much like an actual garter, but the clip is meant to grab your skirt, not a stocking. The Bird Industries garter I chose was a bright pink and size large since I wanted to make sure it was not too snug. The inside of the garter has a silicone grip, and it stays put on my leg without pinching (though it’s not the sort of thing you really forget you are wearing).

The clip is not difficult to use, but the way it works was not intuitive to me: instead of pinching the end of the clasp to make the end that opens open, you push it up to open the clasp.

The first time I wore the garter, I fixed the clasp to the hem of my skirt, on the side. It made a bit of a bubble hem, but looked pretty normal.

Skirt with garter clip clipped to the hem—note the slight bubble

You can also attach the clasp to a spot on the underside of the skirt.

rear side of skirt clipped to garter

skirt with the garter clip clipped to the underside of the skirt

Both clasp methods worked to keep the skirt from flying all the way up, and did not impede my pedaling ability. However, neither kept the garter from showing. This is clear on the Bird Industries store, so it isn’t like they’re misleading anyone, but I was surprised by the way exposed garter made me feel. It still seemed that something was showing that ought not to be—and that “something” was bright pink! I didn’t take pictures of this situation for that reason. But it was easily resolved by tucking a small portion of my skirt hem under the edge of the garter at the side. I am not sure I would feel comfortable wearing this garter with a shorter skirt, like the ladies in the Bird Industries photos. Which is odd, because I don’t consider myself that shy about that sort of thing—it took me four years to buy one of these, after all.

Garter clip in action, with garter safely covered.

As I mentioned, I bought my garter clip on super clearance through one of those “final sale” flash shops, but the normal retail price is $12. Overall, it is an effective method of keeping your underwear under wraps, as long as you don’t mind flashing a garter instead.

Do you use a bike garter?

Tagged , , , , ,

Yoga and Bicycling: Pedal, Stretch, Breathe

A wink and a smile.  Peanut butter and jelly.  Gin and tonic.  Some things just go well together.

Such is the case with yoga and bicycling.  Trisha and I discussed this lovely combination in 2009, and I mentioned recently that I’ve begun practicing yoga every weekday morning.

So when I read about Pedal, Stretch, Breathe: The Yoga of Bicycling, a new ‘zine written by Kelli Refer of the blog Yoga for Bikers and published by Elly Blue of Taking the Lane, I decided to order a copy.

While the 44 page booklet is not a comprehensive guide, it outlines interesting links between bicycling and yoga, beginning with the importance of breathing fresh air and ending with the ability “to invite meaningful change into our communities.”  In between is practical information with action steps for integrating the practice of yoga with bicycling.  While some of the information is aimed at those taking long, sporty rides, much is applicable for those – like me – who simply ride for transportation.

The first half of the booklet provides several different yoga poses that either integrate a bicycle into the pose or are especially helpful for bodies subject to the repetitive motion of cycling.  Each pose is presented with a sketch and a description.  The poses can be performed either directly on the bike while waiting at a stop light or with more space pre or post-ride.

My friends Chika and Sara were cool enough to experiment with and demonstrate the poses when we met up for a free yoga class on Lake Michigan.  Below are their thoughts on a few of the poses.

They started with Dancer’s Pose: Natarajasana:  a little hard to balance while standing over a bike, but otherwise easy to do while waiting at a stoplight.  Good for the thigh and ankle, which both get a lot of strain from bicycling.

Heart Opener:  feels good! especially after leaning over handlebars.

Turn Around Twist: not much of a twist feeling…

…but they achieved more leverage by putting the front hand in the middle of the handlebars, allowing for a fuller twist.

Down Dog with your Bike:  feels good, would work as a pre or post-ride stretch, but obviously not at a stoplight.

Down Dog Twist: even better!

The booklet offers several different flow variations for these and other poses.  After completing this series of poses, Chika and Sara said they felt warmed up and ready to go and could see themselves enjoying these poses on their own.  Two thumbs up from my testers.  :-)

The second part of the booklet contains a basic guide to chakras “for you and your bike.”  Some of this I’m not really into, such as “true your wheels and repack your hubs to feel more freewheeling in life.”  But some is inspiring, such as bicycling as a moving meditation.

Consider your bike ride to be a moving mediation.  Notice all the sensations: Air on skin, steady breath, sweat rolling down your brow.  Move with keen awareness of your body and surroundings.

I need a recording of those words read in a calm, yoga-teacher voice to play whenever I get frustrated by heat, cold, potholes, or drivers.

Overall, Pedal, Stretch, Breathe is a unique and thoughtful read for those interested in both bicycling and yoga.  Definitely worth $5, especially considering the money supports cool, entrepreneurial women.  You can buy the ‘zine HERE and read more about the topic at Yoga for Bikers.

Now that I find myself doing heart openers at stoplights, I’m curious: do any of you incorporate yoga into your bicycling routine?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Bicycling booty

There’s something I’ve been meaning to post about here for some time: The “riding makes you thin!” meme. So many times I see it mentioned on bike blogs that so and so can eat whatever they want because they bike.

my homemade macarons

It is true for some people, I’m sure. But I have actually had the opposite experience, and I feel like I can’t be the only one. When I first started cycling in April 2008, I lost a few pounds. Then, as my cardiovascular fitness improved and my commute was no longer a real workout, that weight came back — with a little bit extra, probably due to a combo of increased muscle mass, age-related metabolism slowdown, and the fact that cycling makes me hungry. On someone who is 5’2″ (optimistically!) even a small amount can be noticeable.

That said, bicycling has made other, more important changes in my body. I can run (well, OK, jog) 3+ miles now without being seriously sore/tired the next day, when previously one mile on the treadmill made me feel like dying. My ride to work takes a couple minutes less than it did 3 years ago, and I can ride across town without breaking a sweat (figuratively; this is Tennessee!). I have cycled 30 miles in a day without my legs being sore. It is seriously awesome.

In some ways it it frustrating to feel so healthy and fit, and yet not be the Cosmo-approved width (at least, I assume I’m not—I gave up reading Cosmo at least 5 years ago). But I am short with a medium/muscular build, my legs especially. Cycling doesn’t do a lot to work against nature in that area. Maybe if I gave up sweets and alcohol (not gonna happen), I could be back to the weight I was when I was 23. But the fact is, cycling is a rather efficient form of exercise. You just don’t burn that many calories riding 30-40 minutes a day at a moderate pace, like I do.

In short, I can’t promise you that riding your bike means being able to eat an unlimited amount of cupcakes, or croissants or whatever your treat of choice might be. It might even make your butt bigger. It is more likely to give you T-Rex arms than Michelle Obama arms (tm Elisa!).

But I can promise you that it will give you more energy, build your stamina and get your heart in better shape. And oh yeah, it’s fun. Most days, that’s enough of a bargain for me.

What has your experience with cycling and weight been?

{ Dottie’s take on bicycling and self-esteem is here. }

Tagged , ,

The Best Everyday Pedals

I believe there is no such thing as bad shoes for everyday cycling, only bad pedals.  :-)  Although I rarely wear high heels (preferring not to feel hobbled), I do not want my bike to prevent me from pulling them out on those days when I feel inspired.

My friend Chika recently wore these fabulous high-heeled sandals while riding her new Linus Dutchie.  Although she looked kick-ass, she admitted that the heels were very difficult to bike in, as her foot kept sliding off the pedal.

Chika’s heels

While some may say, “Um, don’t bike in heels,” that’s not how we roll around here.  Instead, I commiserated – been there, experienced that – and encouraged her to consider replacing the Linus’s stock pedals with inexpensive Dimension rubber pedals. Chicagoans: you can buy them locally at J.C. Lind Bikes.

Dimension rubber pedals

I discovered these particular Dimension pedals while borrowing a De Fietsfabriek bike for a group ride.  During that ride, my normally difficult, high pumps stayed glued to the pedals as if by magic.

Prada pumps and Dimension pedals

I soon bought the same pedals for my Oma and they have been going strong for over two years.  The rubber has not lost its grippiness over time and the heavy use has not worn them down.

As I said before, the ability to bike in any shoe is all about the pedals.  Well, okay, maybe these extreme(ly badass) heels of Trisha’s would be difficult even with these pedals.  But maybe not!

What kind of pedals do you have on your bike?  Do your shoe soles ever slip?  Do you have your own recommendation for “best everyday pedals?”

Just Glide

So I realized after posting about tips to beat the summer heat that  there was one thing I hadn’t mentioned: Coast when you can! This is probably because I often forget to do this myself. You know those small dogs who, when held above the water, automatically start paddling?

funny gifs

That’s me when my feet are placed above bike pedals.

But here in Nashville, the upside of all the hills are all the downhills! (Well, I guess technically the downhills are the downside, not the upside, but you know what I mean.) And when it’s hot, I try to remind myself to take a break from pedaling and glide down them.

The joys of having a step-through: resting your feet on the top tube!

Are you a phantom pedaler too? Make me feel less alone here. :)

 

{ gif pulled from gifbin.com }

Tagged , ,

Share your Bike Share stories with us

So as I said last week, Nashville is about to get a kiosk bike share (we do already have GreenBikes, yo). Chicago’s bike sharing program is about to expand enough to be actually useful.

Lots of beautiful, beautiful Velib' bikes in Paris

But we know lots of you live in cities that already have a bike share. Will you tell us about it? We’d love to know whether you use your city’s bike share, and why. Responses may be collated and posted here.

Sweat-free summer? Strategies for cycling

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

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

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

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

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

Tagged , , ,

Colorful Bungie Straps for Betty

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who else loves bungie straps as much as me?

:)

Tagged , , , ,

Guest Review: Cambridge Raincoat Company

A photo from Cambridge Raincoat's website

A lovely raincoat caught my eye a few months ago at a women-who-bike brunch, worn by fellow lady April.  When I mentioned the coat, April was excited to tell me all about it.  I was interested to hear that the raincoat is the clever and stylish creation of a bicycling woman in England, who started Cambridge Raincoat Company.  Since I get so many questions about bike friendly raincoats, I asked April to review hers for LGRAB.  She kindly agreed and the following review is written by April Galarza, who writes at www.ecocanary.com.  Thanks, April!

pastedGraphic.pdf

“Cycling in the rain, cycling in the rain, what a glorious feeling, I’m happy again…”

Now just set that to music and imagine me in rain boots and a trench coat holding an umbrella and swinging around my bike as if she were a lamp post.

Ok Ok, that picture is a bit too Pollyannaish, even for me.

To tell you the truth, for a long time I avoided cycling in the rain. It figures that Chicago has been so very rainy this year!  Even sunny days have included light showers!   I never mind riding in a downpour on Saturdays when I am dressed for gardening; who cares if I am wet on top of dirty?  But biking on work days had become at best a challenge and at worst downright failure to launch.  I braved out a few rain storms, trying to pick days when the rain would be heaviest during my evening commute.  I even covered my bike up with a tarp when I parked it outside my workplace to keep it dry, but honestly, those were miserable commutes—cold, wet and stressful.

Is it just me or do moderate, tolerant drivers turn into speeding-for-the-sake-of- speeding, squeeze-me-off-the-road and turn-in-front-of-me-even-though-I-am-lit-up-like-a-Christmas-tree-and-am-wearing-a-construction-worker’s-vest-over-my-raincoat jerks whenever it rains?  My old rain jacket, a packable hiking windbreaker, the color of a starless night just didn’t cut it. Besides being dark colored, it is short. My legs were completely exposed, resulting in soaked work pants or skirt!

So instead of braving the weather, I turned to the radar game:  “Spin the wheel and hope you get a sunny day,” says the host in his sparkly blue suit, slicked back hair and bright red tie as I put my hand on a wheel composed of 12 slices, 11 of which depict rain clouds and one a dull yellow sun mostly hidden behind a big gray cloud.  I spin the wheel and the dial lands on torrential downpour.  “Congratulations, April, you’ve won a trip to work on the train!”

Then I heard my fellow cyclists on Chainlink saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather for biking, only bad clothing.”

It was time to get some rain gear.  First came new boots.  They are made from post-consumer recycled rubber and Italian silk designed by a Canadian company called Kamik.   They are super comfortable, really sturdy, totally water proof, flexible, eco-friendly (I can recycle them! Kamik has a take back program) and to top it all of stylish!

pastedGraphic_1.pdf

Now all I needed was a good raincoat.  Let me tell you my wish list and then I’ll tell you about the jewel-of-a-find I ended up buying.

  • Really bright color and maybe even reflective features built in (I hate wearing the vest. I feel about as cool as a crash dummy.)
  • Long enough to cover my lap and knees. (I refuse to wear rain pants. I would like to maintain a modicum of dignity riding to work.)
  • Made of a high quality fabric, something warm enough to cut the wind, but breathes well enough to wear on muggy summer days.
  • Style: doesn’t make me look like a racer or a saran-wrapped sandwich.   (I believe you should be able to integrate cycling into your daily life, wearing normal clothes and riding upright at moderate speed).

And now ladies (and gentlemen) may I present the Cambridge Raincoat!

The only raincoat that meets all of my demands and does it with style and flair!

I searched far and wide before I found the Cambridge Raincoat Company.  The American market wanted to dress me like a racer or a hiker but never an upright Dutch-style biker (sorry I’m a writer I couldn’t resist the rhyme…).  I enjoyed perusing traditional London macs and Dutch capes but nothing spoke to my needs.  Most of that rain gear was rendered in dark colors or earth tones.  Few (namely only the racing-style cyclist jackets) had reflective features and among those only the Cambridge Raincoat fit my taste and style and would coordinate with my outfits and make me feel Cycle Chic.

After emailing the owner and innovator extraordinaire Sally Guyer (Sally had the idea for the raincoats and collaborated with Savile Row graduate designer, Elizabeth Radcliffe to create them) who answered my every question and assured me she could ship to the U.S., I was sold!   Now I only had to decide what color I wanted.

The beautiful raincoats are made in a trench-coat style, however they have a decidedly fitted feminine shape, which calls to mind something worn by a 50s silver-screen starlet.  The collar is adjustable and can be worn in three ways, much like my beloved canvas navy-blue short trench coat that I wear everywhere.  The fabric is specially engineered for outdoor activities, being waterproof, wind cutting, lightweight and breathable. Perhaps the best feature of all is the integrated reflective ribbons on the belt, the buttons and the cuffs.  They are an ordinary gray color until light shines on them and then, look out!   At the time I bought my coat, there were four bright colors to choose from: Aspen Gold, Poppy Red, Iris Orchid and Vibrant Green (now there are even more!).  Each one is so chic and exciting that it took me over a week to decide on the one I wanted! Be sure to check out all of them on Cambridge Raincoat’s website!   After much deliberation I settled on the Iris Orchid color, a perfect match for my Kamik rain boots.

After riding in many heavy rainstorms on my bike under the cover of my lovely and impervious iris colored raincoat, I officially gave the Cambridge Raincoat my stamp of approval.  I carry it in my pannier if there is the slightest chance of rain.  I am told that I have an elegant and retro look while wearing it.  I love the bright cheerful color and the reflective fabric on the cuffs, buttons and belt accessory.  Also, the silk polka-dot lining is darling.   There is no better word to describe it.

Logistically it meets all my needs. It covers me from my neck all the way down past my knees. There is an extra hidden button located just below the knee in order to hold the coat closed over your lap while cycling.  Each time I have biked during rainstorms I have arrived at my destination completely dry.  I also feel that I am well seen by drivers.  There is less buzzing and honking and more than a few friendly smiles and wave-throughs.  The coat fits me well so there is none of that unsightly and annoying billowing up around me that I have noticed with other rain gear, such as ponchos.  I did notice that the coat performs slightly better when I am sitting completely upright and pedaling at a steady pace.  If I pedal too hard the coat tends to ride up a little and expose my knees.

Sally has told me that she intentionally designed the coat not to have a hood because it obstructs the periphery vision of a cyclist. I agree with her about not using a hood while biking, but I would like to see a detachable hood in future designs.  I love my raincoat and also wear it when walking to close destinations such as the library and the grocery store or taking my dog, Lola, out to play in the puddles. On these occasions a hood would be very convenient because I could forgo an umbrella and thus have my hands free to carry groceries and hold the leash. Sally has assured me that she will be designing some matching hats soon and I look forward to seeing them!

In the hot muggy days of summer, the coat was a little less breathable than I would have liked but when the cold rains of fall and winter arrived, I was no longer complaining.  It is just as impervious to cutting wind as it is to water.  It turned out to be the perfect top layer for all my winter riding.  Not only was I protected from the wind, I also felt safer during my commutes home during the dark days of winter due to its bright color and reflective features.

Of course the best part of the raincoat is that it is a stylish and fashionable item, unlike the majority of rain gear designed for bikers. I love the cut of it, how it flairs at the waist and complements the retro A-line skirts I like to wear.  I love the three ways that I can wear the collar to adjust to weather conditions and my fashion preferences.

All in all, I am extremely pleased with my raincoat.  As a daily cyclist who uses her bike as her primary form of transportation, the only time I ever dreaded and avoided riding was because of the rain.  Now I embrace it. I love it.  I find myself laughing out loud as I zoom through puddles and, yes folks, even singing a tune or two as I pedal.

A new line of raincoats has just arrived. There are additional colors and features. Check them out today!  Please keep in mind that since this is a U.K. company, the sizing is different.  Refer to this chart for size comparisons. My coat is a U.K. size 12. 

This designed and made in England coat is not cheap.  Readers of LGRAB can get a 30 pound (~$50) discount as long as supplies last by clicking the following link: www.cambridgeraincoats.co.uk/LGRAB

A photo from Cambridge Raincoat's website

How to: bicycling in a long dress

Bicycling in a long dress is possible! In fact, with the right set-up, it’s downright simple. Some may ask, “Why even bother biking in a long dress?” My response is that my bike is transportation and I do not want it to dictate what I wear (except pencil skirts, those are crazy – unless you convert it!).

If you are interested in learning how, read on!

Three major factors determine how successfully you can bike in a long dress: the dress, the bike, and the technique.

The Dress

Must allow enough freedom to move your legs in a cycling motion. The skirt needs to be relatively full or made of stretchy material with a slit, such as the one pictured above. Test the dress’s bike-ability before leaving (or purchasing) by doing some knee-lifts.

The Bike

Must have several characteristics to work with a long dress, unless you tie your dress up by your knees. First, a step-through frame (has anyone done this with a diamond frame??). Second, a covered chain to keep the skirt from being eaten and/or greased up. Third, a skirt guard if the skirt is full, so it won’t get pulled in the rear wheel spokes. Note that this was not an issue with the dress and bike above. Fourth, fenders, otherwise your skirt will rub against the rear tire. Finally, a clean frame is a good idea, since your dress will rub against it a fair bit.

The Technique

For the most part, you can bike as normal. You may benefit from hitching the skirt up a bit, to provide more give around the thighs. Experiment to determine what works best for each dress. You may also want to dismount fully at stoplights, to reduce stress on the seams of the skirt.

Here is a quick video that covers the topic. I did this on the fly yesterday, since I happened to be wearing a long dress. I’m not a professional film-maker, so not the best quality video ever, but I hope simply seeing someone bike in a long dress is helpful.

Have any of you biked in a long dress or skirt? I’d love to hear stories and additional tips in the comments! Please feel free also to share photos, via either html or links.

{For more advice, come out to my The Lady and the Bike class in Chicago tomorrow!}

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Class: The Lady and the Bike!

Attention Chicagoans!  This Tuesday, June 5, 6:30-7:30, I will be teaching a class, The Lady and the Bike, at Next Door community center at 659 W. Diversey.  This class is part of the Chainlink Bike Semester and is totally FREE.

There is so much information to share in one hour and I’m sure people will have lots of questions, so I’ll be hitting a nearby bar afterward for anyone who would like to continue the conversation.

Right now I am still working on my presentation.  (Well, not right now, obviously right now I’m procrastinating by blogging.)   I will use photos to illustrate several of my points, which means I’ve been looking through my archives all morning.  I came across a series of photos that shows the challenges I face when taking timed self-portraits.  I have to wind the timer on my old film camera and then run in place before it goes off.  As you can see, I do not always make it.

…and, finally made it!

Looking back at these pictures 1.5 years later is pretty funny.  Thus concludes this exciting behind-the-scenes look at the making of LGRAB.  :)

Hope to see some of you Chicagoans on Tuesday!

The next class in the Chainlink Bike Semester is Racing 101 on June 19 -taught by a woman!

Tagged , , , , ,

Review: Ortlieb Bike Shopper Pannier

While test riding the Civia Twin City, I also tested the Ortlieb Bike Shopper rear pannier.  My Basil pannier, designed to fit my large Dutch rack, did not fit the Civia’s smaller rack, so Jon gave me the Ortlieb to go with the bike.  The hooks on this pannier can be adjusted to fit any size rack.

The pannier is waterproof.  This is the main attribute, as most of the panniers on the market are only water-resistent.  Personally, water-resistence has been adequate for my needs, as my cargo has never gotten wet, even in thunderstorms, and I always keep a plastic bag handy for extra emergency protection.

The second stand-out attribute of the pannier is the mounting system, which Ortlieb calls the “QL2″ system.  This allows you to attach and remove the pannier with barely any effort and with only one hand by pulling on a small strap handle, while the pannier remains securely attached otherwise.

The system is hard to describe, but it totally works wonders, so I made a quick video to demonstrate.  Note that I was able to detach and reattach the pannier all while holding a camera with my other hand.

Unfortunately, this ease of use does not extend to the plastic zipper, which is ridiculously hard to open and close.  I had to use both hands and pull hard just to get the zipper to slowly move.  Perhaps this gets easier over time, but over the course of three days and at least 10 tries, it did not.  Another awkward thing about the pannier is the way the shoulder straps simply dangle when the bag is mounted.  They are not long enough to get caught in the wheel, but the design should have been improved to provide the straps with a home.

The inside is large and holds about as much stuff as my Basil Design Shopper.  There are a few interior pockets to hold your keys, cellphone, and other objects you need to access easily.  I do not like how the bag narrows at the bottom, but I guess that is to prevent heel strike, although I’ve never had a heel strike problem with other panniers.

The pannier comes in several different colors.  I had the ice blue-gray color, which is the prettiest by far.  (Other options include neon green and black.)  I would like to see Ortlieb apply their awesome mounting system to panniers that are more attractive.  I am not interested in carrying into the office or the store a bag that looks like athletic equipment.  I consider a commuting pannier successful when the design allows for an easy transition from the bike to the rest of my life.

I must point out that all the photos on Ortlieb’s website are of men, making the company look out of touch with the current sea change in bicycle commuting.  As in – women do it, too!  Of course, Ortlieb is entitled to focus their market narrowly, but that does not mean I have to like it.

Overall, the Ortlieb Bike Shopper pannier is a high-quality and functional bag with an excellent mounting system that makes attaching and detaching the bag a breeze, even one-handed.  Unfortunately, this ease disappears when dealing with the zipper and arranging the awkwardly dangling straps.  For someone who absolutely needs a waterproof bag and is willing to invest $100 (a fair investment for years of bike commuting), the Bike Shopper is a good choice.  But if a water-resistant bag is good enough for your purposes, there are many other options that I would recommend, especially if you desire a bag that transitions from the bike to the office with more aplomb.

Tagged , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 43 other followers