Category Archives: our bikes

A Divvy Morning

 

Earlier this week, I took Divvy bikeshare to work, since it was supposed to rain in the evening.  Divvy is a very useful tool, and I’m lucky to have the option.  I had to stop and re-dock my bike twice along the route to keep from going over 30 minutes and being charged for the extra time.  That was not too much of a hassle, but I wish the max time were 45 minutes.

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I took the Lakefront Trail to work.  With the nice tailwind, it was smooth sailing, although Divvy is noticeably slower than my bikes (even my Dutch bike) because even its highest gear does not provide that much power.

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Here is where I tried to cross Lakeshore Drive at a pedestrian sign and gave up after the walk sign never appeared in five minutes.  I continued down the path and crossed at a car crossing.

 

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My final 9 mile trip was one hour of cycling, plus extra time for walking to and from the nearby Divvy stations.  Not the best option if I’m in a rush, but not too much slower than more regular bikes.
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If the rainy and cold weather sticks around, I expect to be using Divvy quite often this spring.

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A dash of spring

My wish for bright spring colors came true today, at least a little bit. The amazing 50 degree temperature combined with the bright, lingering sun made the city feel like a springtime paradise.  The sidewalks and lakefront were filled with Chicagoans basking in the glory of the weather.
untitled-6The photos below look cold, but the mere fact that I was able to bike on the Lakefront Trail is a sign of the thaw.   Most of the snow has melted, leaving behind mounds of dirt, salt and debris.
I even warmed up enough to remove my scarf, which looked quite lovely on Oma.
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Unbelievably, I heard on the evening news that Chicago may get over a foot of snow mid-week.  All the more reason to appreciate days like today, I suppose.

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Not afraid of a little snow…

EleanorNYC has a lovely little post today showing “women who look stylish on their bike and not afraid of a little snow.”  This reminded me that to not be afraid of a little snow, I need studded tires.  If there is snow on the ground that has not yet been totally plowed off the salted streets, I’ll only ride my bike with studded tires.

 

These are the bad boys on which I rely: Schwalbe Marathon Winters.  I bought them five or six winters ago and they’re still going strong.

Because I don’t have the time, patience or interest to swap out the tires myself (a longer-than-usual process for my Dutch bike), I brought Oma to a local bike shop a few weeks ago for her yearly tire swap.

When it was time to pick Oma up the next day, I Divvied to the shop.  (Thanks again, Divvy!)

20121225-DSCF5480resizedMy girl was waiting for me, still wearing her medical bracelet.

 

Oma was also wearing a note from my friend Dan, who saw her when he happened by the shop later to have his bike serviced.  An inside joke involving karaoke and Justin Timberlake – fun!  :-)

20121225-DSCF5489resizedNow Oma and I are ready to take on winter together and not be afraid of snow.

20121225-DSCF5501resized 20121225-DSCF5502resizedA lot of Chicago bicyclists get by fine without studded tires – and in fact I never put mine on two winters ago due to the relatively mild weather – but I like having them as an option.  What do you do to take on winter bicycling?

See also,

My Schwalbe Marathon Winter review from 2009

In defense of studded tires

My studded tires getting me through a post-blizzard ride

The return of my winter wheels in 2010

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Fall is Here!

Time to break out the tweed and cashmere – fall is here!

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I have a habit of writing every year about how much I love fall, and this year will be more of the same.  It’s such a perfect time for bike riding, especially for riding in full work clothes without arriving sweaty.

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I enthusiastically pulled out from under my bed the two containers of cold-weather clothes and suddenly I have a whole new wardrobe.  This week I will replenish my supply of black and brown tights, then I’ll be good to go through early spring.  :-)

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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.

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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.

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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?

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The Oma Lifestyle

As I mentioned last month, I’m back to riding Oma almost daily.  And I’m reminded that Oma is not just a bike style, but a lifestyle.

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I slow way down with her and relax into the ride. I coast up to yellow lights instead of accelerating to beat the red.  I enjoy the city sights from my high perch.

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It’s all about opting out of the commute-as-race by sheer force of will.  Even as SUVs speed past me too closely and I breath in truck exhaust, I think happy thoughts and continue slowly pedaling.  Riding Oma helps me maintain a bit of serenity, as the city buzzes around.

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My Second Divvy Experience

When I first wrote about Divvy, I listed reasons that I anticipated using the bike share system, even though I have three bikes of my own.  On Friday, one of those reasons popped up.

  • I take the L in the morning due to rain but the sun is shining by the end of the day.

Leaving for work in the morning in the pouring rain, I did not even consider biking.  By the early evening, the sun was out and I was itching to ride a bike.  Lo and behold, there was a brand new Divvy station right by me.

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Using the bike was super easy.  I had no problems riding in my trousers, thanks to the covered chain.  The fenders protected me from being splashed by leftover rain puddles.

The front rack held my legal file and bag remarkably well.  I was worried about the file slipping out, but everything felt perfectly secure.

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I rode Divvy as far north as possible, before switching to the L to get all the way to my destination in Lincoln Square, where I was meeting friends for dinner.  I can’t wait for the day when Divvy stations cover the city – which should be by the end of the summer!

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I look forward to many more rides with Divvy in the future!

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WorkCycles Have Returned to Chicago!

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned!

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

 

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Winter Beauty

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

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

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

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Colorful Fall Beauty

I woke up this morning to a dusting of snow!  Nothing serious, so I’ll bike to work as usual, but only last week I was enjoying the beautiful colors of a fall commute.

Always surprising how quickly fall fades into winter in Chicago.

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Fun with the Folding Flik

When I visited Nashville a couple of weeks ago, I used the Jango Flik, a nifty folding bike that Trisha reviewed a while ago.  The bike was a lot of fun!  I zipped all around town, at least 12 miles, and the Flik was right there with me, handling up-hills and down-hills with ease.

The size of the bike fits both me and Trisha, despite our height differences, because the handlebars and seat tube are highly adjustable.

The Flik is also light and easy to carry.  I simply locked it up outside at my destination instead of folding it, but yeah – it folds, too.

I have not heard much about the Flik in the last couple of years, which is surprising because it’s such a cool little bike.  Most people with folding bikes seem to go with the classic elegance of a Brompton or similar, but the cute baby alien look of the Flik is kinda awesome.

At one point, while riding with a group of about 6 others, a pedestrian called out: “I like your bike the best!”  Ha.  My companions had some lovely bikes, but the Flik is an attention-getter, for sure.

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Betty Foy Lately

I’ve been riding my Rivendell Betty Foy almost exclusively all summer long.  She is so light and smooth and fast and happy.

One morning, an SUV slowed next to me and – just as I was giving it the side eye – a woman in the passenger seat called out the window, “I love your bike!”  Complimenting my bike is the quickest way to win me over and I called back with a big smile, “Thanks, it’s a Rivendell!”  Her response: “I know; I’ve never seen one in real life before.”  Viola! my arms motioned and then she was gone.

But not all has been rosy with Betty lately.  My fault, not hers!

Last week, I stopped at the grocery store on my way home to pick up a few things.  When I returned to the bike rack ten minutes later, I realized that Betty was not locked.  She was merely sitting next to the rack with the u-lock in her basket.  Yipes!  How horrible to think that she could have been swiped so easily.  (Please tell me I’m not the only one who has done this!)

The next morning, I set out on Betty only to realize quickly that her front tire was totally flat.  This was Betty’s very first flat tire ever, birth date April 2009, and also the first flat on any of my Schwalbe tires.  So sad.  :-(  I do not have a 650B tube and have been too lazy to buy one in the past week, so I have been riding Coco and Oma.  But I miss Betty, so I need to get my shit together.

Sometimes bicycling is so easy breezy and sometimes life throws hurdles in the way or you just do dumb stuff.  As with life in general, amirite?  It all evens out in the end.  :-)

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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?

:)

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Nighttime novelty ride

It really says something about how mild this winter has been that tonight, when I had the chance to ride in the rain in the dark, I was actually sort of excited about it. After all, I haven’t had to walk home or catch a ride home because of the snow even once!

Made me think of all those poor people who live in Hawaii or California and never have to pull out sweaters and barely open umbrellas.

They’ve gotta get bored. Change is good!

 

p.s. hi everyone. It’s been a while! [Insert boring computer story and other lame excuses here.] Short version: I’m back. And there’s a lot going on in Nashville that I can’t wait to tell you about.

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The stylish Ms. Coco

When I was in Chicago, I got to ride Coco. Somehow, Dot and I overlap on the bike size spectrum—just enough so that I can ride most of her bikes as long as the seatpost is alllll the way down and I’m willing to dismount at all stops. Anyway, the lovely Coco and I got along just great while I was there.

Not sure what is up with my hair here. Or why I’m trying to kill myself by balancing on the bike, but sometimes I get a little giddy when I’m having my picture taken.

Every time I ride in Chicago I discover all over again how different it is to ride somewhere that’s FLAT. So flat. Like, the “hills” in Chicago feel like speedbumps flat. It’s a totally different thing. No coasting, but no real exertion either, unless you want to be a speed demon.

(Which, in case you just stumbled on this blog today, we don’t.)

Instead of hills, Chicago has potholes. Thank goodness for sprung saddles, Coco’s big balloon tires and posting skills, is all I’m saying about that.

But the best thing about riding bikes in Chicago is sharing the street with this lady.

I’ll be back in November for my first (Chicago) winter cycling effort in a couple of years. I have some winter boots and plenty of wool tights. Keeping an eye on the weather report to see if I need them—we’ll see how it goes (and so will you, I’m sure!).

Riding Chicago’s Four Star Bike Tour

Last Sunday I rode the Four Star Bike Tour, a massive group ride organized by and benefitting the Active Transportation Alliance. I chose the 35-mile route through the west and south sides of Chicago and my total mileage for the day was a little over 50.

Betty Foy at Promontory Point

I enjoyed the ride a lot. The crowd was too packed together at the beginning and after rest stops, but most of the time I was alone or with a small group. Sunday morning traffic was light and we had the roads mostly to ourselves. The route was pretty easy to follow and I saw many parts of the city for the first time.

The view from Promontory Point

I wore my one sporty bicycling outfit – a wool jersey and padded shorts from Ibex. Although I hate the diaper feeling off the bike, the outfit was super comfortable for the ride and I was happy to have the padding.

A sporty thumbs up

My outfit

I enjoyed bicycling for the sake of bicycling, not as transportation, but I kept wanting to stop places, especially in Hyde Park, like my favorite bookstore or the place with the best croissants. I was determined to stick to the task at hand and ride a straight 35 miles, so I resisted temptation.

Except for a quick detour to Promontory Point for some photos.

Enjoying a quick break

Betty did a great job

I’ve never biked more than 60 miles at a time and rarely more than 10. I was happy to find that my regular daily riding was enough “training” for this longer ride. I even pushed myself to go quite fast, relative to my usual speed, the last several miles because I still felt so good. My legs were tired by the end, but in a healthy way, and my muscles were not sore the next day.

Participating in the Four Star has inspired me to spend some of my Sundays waking up early and going for long bike rides. I mean, not this Sunday, but maybe next? Definitely next year at the 2012 Four Star. :)

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Betty Foy in the Red Eye

“I love owning a semi custom bike because it suits me perfectly and, as a result, I enjoy riding my bike even more,” she said.



Read more about me and others who prefer their bikes custom or semi-custom in Pimp My Ride*, the cover story in this weekend’s print and online editions of the Red Eye.

*Betty Foy would like to point out that she is against sex trafficking.

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Why I Ride a Bike

The weather is warm and sunny, the flowers are blossoming, and the traffic is calm on my quiet side street route. Riding my bike is so much nicer than squeezing onto the L train or being trapped in a car.




Even if the rest of my day is not so great, at least I know that I will enjoy my commute to and from work. (Even if I cut my head off with my self-timed photos :)) That’s why I ride my bike. Most assume it’s an environmental or health statement, but those factors are secondary to having a happy commute. If it were not enjoyable, I would not do it.

Why do you ride a bike?

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Jack White at Nashville Bike Brunch

OK, so I’ve taken advantage of the headline writer’s prerogative to get your attention. To clarify: Jack White did not attend our brunch, but he was totally at the same restaurant. So clearly, if you want to see a celebrity, you have to hang with us. :)

Christina and Kim

Vintage buds

Lauren & me

 

Whitney and Christina

 

Sweet rides

You can see pictures from our first Bike Brunch on July 10 here. Nashville brunches are always on the second Sunday of the month. Our next one is on September 11—check out the calendar here. Cyclists of all types welcome.

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Little Miss Muddy: Coco in the Rain

Trisha showed you her Little Miss Messy coffee-stained Abici and now I’ll show you my Little Miss Muddy Velorbis. On Wednesday I rode Coco, my Velorbis, in the rain for the first time.  I discovered that the gorgeous cream-colored frame shows mud quite clearly.  I’m not good at keeping my bikes clean, but I definitely have to wipe Coco down after the rain.

Although Coco’s aesthetics suffer in the rain, her performance is top notch.  The substantial fenders, chain case, and internal brakes are perfect for keeping me clean and stopping on a dime.  The super cushy Fat Frank tires are a big bonus and make Coco the best among my bikes for riding in the rain.  Normally, I feel paranoid riding on slick roads and through puddles, but the stability and comfort of the fat tires made me feel completely secure. I love those tires.

As for myself, I dealt with the rain fine.  I wore my Patagonia trench rain coat (not pictured below), which caught most of the drizzle.  My wool tights and tweed skirt dried quickly and my helmet protected my hair.

So that’s it. I made it through a 30 minute drizzly bike commute a-okay.  By the time I got to work, I was a little bit more in love with Coco than before.

What aspects of your bike help (or not) when riding in the rain?

 

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