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.
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.
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.
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.
If the rainy and cold weather sticks around, I expect to be using Divvy quite often this 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. The 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.
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.
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!)
My 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! :-) Now Oma and I are ready to take on winter together and not be afraid of snow. A 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?
Time to break out the tweed and cashmere – fall is here!
I have a habit of writingeveryyear 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.
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. :-)
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I look forward to many more rides with Divvy in the future!
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.
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.
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.
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!