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!
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. :-)
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.
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
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.
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.
Like a parent, I really can’t choose a favorite among my three bikes Oma, Betty and Coco. But I do go through periods when I heavily favor one over the others. Right now, it’s Betty’s time in the spotlight.
For the past month and a half, I’ve been riding Betty Foy exclusively. (April 7 was our 2-year anniversary!) I missed her so much during winter, as soon as the ice cleared and I got her tuned up, she became my ride of choice day after day. She’s so fun and breezy. I haven’t ridden Oma since the weather cleared two months ago because she still has studded tires and I hadn’t ridden Coco since…let me check the archives…March 31.
That changed on Wednesday, when I pulled Coco out for the day.
And boy, am I glad I did! She’s a lovely bike and those Fat Frank tires are so cushy. I feel different when I’m perched atop her riding straight up. Once I break in the Brooks saddle, the comfort level will be perfection.
As for Oma – getting her studded tires swapped out is on my to-do list for this weekend. So Betty may have to take a back seat again for a while.
On another note, after all my talk of allergies, I finally went to a doctor yesterday and learned that I don’t have allergies at all (good!), but a two week virus (basically a bad cold). I plan to bike today even though I feel like crap because I can’t stand a second day on the L. (There’s a double meaning with “stand” – get it?)
Last week, Betty Foy got a major freshening up for the spring: a complete tune-up and cleaning, plus a new chain, brake pads, cables and a two-footed kickstand. She’s such a lovely bike and rides like a dream, still like new.
I documented her cleanliness, since she won’t look like this again until her next tune-up.
I guess the original chain would have lasted longer, if I had been better with preventative maintenance. I’ll try to be more conscientious from now on, but I’ve always been lazy with upkeep, whether for cars in the past or bikes now.
What is your routine for maintaining your bike(s)?
Last Saturday, I donned my most recent thrifted dress – Ann Taylor, new with tags! – and headed downtown on Betty Foy to celebrate Melissa’s bachelorette party.
(Pardon the light leaks on my film.)
On the way downtown, I spotted my friend Elizabeth riding in the opposite direction.
I would notice that pink bar tape anywhere.
We stopped and chatted for a bit before continuing on our ways. I love surprise meetings with friends on bikes!
When I arrived downtown, I passed Betty Foy to the bellhop at the swanky hotel where we’d be crashing. He checked her into a secure luggage room for the night. Thanks, Palomar Hotel!
As for the rest of the night… That’s classified. I’ll just say that the bike ride home the next morning was refreshing: rolling through the quiet morning streets in the same outfit I wore the night before, a few boa feathers stuck in my hair.
Last Friday was so beautiful, I stopped by Oz Park on my way to work to extend my outside time. I pass by Oz Park daily, but I’ve never stopped before. As a Dorothy with a fondness for red shoes (although I’m more of a cat person) this park was a lot of fun for me.
You may have noticed that I’m sporting a new helmet, along with my new $4 thrifted dress (and massive green hands). This is a sneak preview of the Nutcase helmet – I’ll post all about the helmet soon.
Now that spring is officially here, who else is making more side trips during their bike commutes?