Category Archives: our bikes

Bicycle Favoritism

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.

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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?)

Happy Friday!

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The Valve Variations

My fun with Kermit Allegra Spade (official name!) has been put on hold, thanks to a maintenance snafu. Kermit Allegra was originally slated to be my ride across town on Sunday. Filled with zeal, I decided that I’d check her tires before we left.

Walter is an attention whore

KAS did not come with a manual, but I felt especially confident because I have not only a standard Schrader valve pump, but also a Woods/Dunlop pump. What ever was on this bike, I thought, I’d be ready. Then I removed the cap to reveal something completely different. A Presta valve.

Presta valve

Unfortunately I did not stop there and turn to YouTube. It was clear that SOMETHING had to be done with the little brown top before air could be put in the tire. I opened the valve–but made the mistake of putting pressure on it. Whooooooosh, went the air. Flaaaaat, went my tire.

Flat tire

Le Peug and his old-school Schrader valves smiled in triumph and carried me off on the ride. Now I’m in the market for yet another pump to join the crew in my front hall closet.

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Nashville!

I’m back from Trishaville, aka Nashville. Although I lived there for only three years and moved away four years ago, Nashville is my favorite city to return to again and again, simply because of Trisha and other friends.  And there’s something about the South that calls to me, although I spent my youth hatching escape plans.

My three days with Trisha were full of awesomeness, of course: used bookstores, a British sitcom marathon, a discount designer warehouse, French breakfast, fancy ice cream, duck fat tater tots, Yazoo beer and live music at the Mercy Lounge (Those Darlins!).  Plus, I finally got to meet Trisha’s brother, Charlie.  Hmmm what else?…

…oh yeah – bicycling!

I got to meet the new Kate Spade Abici, whom I keep calling Kermit Spade, to Trisha’s chagrin.  With Trisha on KS and me on the Bat, we rode downtown and crossed the pedestrian bridge for a view of the Nashville skyline.

Yeah, we’re cool.

I must share, there are a number of weirdo men loitering around downtown Nashville who were quite interested in us.  We handled them effectively with stoney silence, which we’re both really good at when we put our minds to it.

After the bridge, we rode over to Broadway, with its honky tonks and cowboy boot shops.

We really should have stopped to take advantage of the 3-boots-for-the-price-of-one deal – missed opportunity.

Bicycling in Nashville was a great pleasure for me.  The weather is not yet at Southern summer oppressiveness.  The infrastructure is quite supportive of cycling, with wide bike lanes on many medium-sized streets and plenty of winding back roads with almost no cars at all.  Drivers seemed to display the fabled Southern hospitality, although I’m prone to romaticize it now that I don’t live there anymore.  One guy in a work truck blocking the bike lane drawled, “Pardon me, ladies,” which made me inordinately happy.

Today my thighs are sore from all those hills (damn! major props to Trisha for handling those every day) but it was worth it.

I make it to Nashville at least once a year, for Trisha’s birthday, but hopefully it won’t take me a year to return this time.  Chicago is comparatively cold in all ways.

Many more photos from our Nashville adventures and Trisha’s Abici to come.

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Seven on Sunday

Here’s my twist on the “Ten on Tuesday” meme:

1.)  I’m even more annoyed at the pharmaceutical industry this week, because Allegra would be the perfect name for the Kate Spade Abici if allergy meds hadn’t made it there first.

2.) Loving the coaster brake on the Abici, but still working on my gracefullness skills when it comes to starting and stopping with it. Though the handbrake helps, starting in particular can be a bit awkward (especially if I am on a hill). I plan on posting about this at length later, once I get my thoughts together, but would be happy for any tips.

3.) I admit it: I watched the royal wedding before going to work on Friday morning. Friends, scones and mimosas were involved. Kate’s dress was beautiful.

4.) I need to get out of my comfort zone more. During a ride home from happy hour on Friday, I spotted a new bike lane on Edgehill that’s probably not that new since it’s been a few months since I rode that way. A good reminder to continue to push my biking horizons.

5.) One of the items that’s kept me from the blog lately is working to help plan the Tour de Nash. It’s just three weeks from now, on May 21, and two of the four rides are completely free. It’s a great way to tour Nashville’s greenways and bike lanes—you should all come out.

6.) My homestate of Alabama is reeling from the mile-wide tornados that struck on Wednesday, the most deadly natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina. As the story develops it becomes more and more obvious how bad things are down there. My uncle is a state trooper who works the Tuscaloosa area, and the photographs and stories from that area are heartbreaking. There are a lot of small communities outside Birmingham that are equally bad off. Almost half a million people in North Alabama are still without power after a major TVA plant was destroyed.  If you want to help, you can donate to the Red Cross (text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10).

6.) And now, to end on a more positive note: Dottie is here! We are happily biking, shopping & eating (rinse and repeat!) and made a visit to the Mercy Lounge to see Those Darlins. One more day of fun before she has to go back to Chicago. We haven’t been as good as we should have been about taking pictures (yet) but hopefully we’ll make up for it tomorrow when we do our Abici photo shoot.

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Something new: Abici dream!

A new bike joined the Nashville bike lineup last week, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Loyal readers of LGRAB know that I’ve been longing for an Abici ever since I rode one in Chicago a year and a half ago courtesy of Copenhagen Cyclery.

Now I’m riding one in Nashville thanks to Adeline Adeline, a fave bike shop of ours and a sponsor of Let’s Go Ride a Bike. Like Dottie’s Coco, my Kate Spade Abici is a good old-fashioned barter in exchange for advertising. That said, my experience on the Abici will be reported honestly.  There’s no agreement that I will talk up the shop or Abici or write about the bike. You will see her on this blog for sure — just like Le Peug and the Bat — but my reflections on owning this bright green, single-speed coaster brake bike are completely my own.

So far, the bike is kitty approved.

And on the sunny day that I picked it up, after assembly at my LBS Halcyon, we were a great match.

Dottie is coming this weekend to document the bike in the fashion that it deserves. I’ve installed my coffee cup holder on the handlebars. Get excited folks. :)

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A Fresh Start with Betty Foy

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)?

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Bachelorette Party by Bike

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. :)

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Oz Park

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?

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Cupcake Attack!

My bike commutes this week have been lovely, happy and above-freezing. Spring is around the corner! I can feel it in my bones, this morning’s flurries notwithstanding.

On the way home today, Betty Foy made me stop for cupcakes in celebration of the season. She is bossy. ;)

I then munched an entire fairy cake whilst standing outside.

Cupcake attack!

At $2.25 each, these sweet treats are a bargain compared to oil. What’s your fuel of choice?

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The End of Hibernation

When I took these photos two weeks ago, I was marveling at the lovely spring thaw.  In comparison to the scenery today, these photos look downright chilly.  Now the snow is almost totally gone (knock on wood!) with only a few ice patches.

I loved my ride on Betty Foy today, so smooth and peppy – and sunny!

I also loved all the bicyclists coming out of the woodwork after hibernation.  There are so many more bicyclists on the streets now than when I took these photos two weeks ago, that’s for sure.  I always enjoy this time of year, when the streets begin to  fill out with other cyclists.  Although having my run of the bike lanes in the winter has a certain charm, sometimes it feels lonely.

I’m looking forward to taking some longer rides once the weather warms up a bit, like a cupcake tour of the city – stay tuned for more info on that brilliant idea, inspired by Bike Skirt. :)

Is anyone gearing up to bike again after taking most of the winter off?  If so, welcome out of hibernation!

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Spring Fling

My premature spring fling with Betty Foy has come to an end.

After today’s snow, I will be resuming use of Oma and her studded tires for the foreseeable future.  Betty Foy has been shoved back into storage, but I sure enjoyed the few days she and I spent together!

P.S. Check it out – Mr. Dottie and Sir Raleigh popped up on Bike Commuters today.  :-)

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Coco’s Geometry

Because of the icy weather, I have not been riding Coco, my Velorbis Studine Balloon, as much as I desperately want to, choosing instead my studded-tire bike.  I can count the substantial rides I’ve taken with her on one hand – not enough for a real review, but enough to talk a bit here and there as I get to know her better.

After my first work commute with Coco a couple of weeks ago, I talked about her ride.  In that post, I mentioned how Coco’s geometry is different from Oma’s, even though the two look like similar style bikes.  The photos below demonstrate how Coco’s distinctive geometry affects my riding position.

As you can see, my hips and legs are aligned almost straight down, while my torso is slightly leaned forward.  My posture is straight, but not totally upright.  You can compare to my positioning on Oma here.

I thought this geometry difference would cause my legs to work more, but thus far I have not noticed a difference in the amount of energy required for pedaling. If anything, Coco may be a bit swifter, although I’m still trying to determine if that’s all in my head.

The geometry does make slight differences to the details of my ride. For example, starting from a stoplight is easier. My foot on the raised pedal simply goes straight down to propel the bike forward; I don’t have to simultaneously push down and forward on the pedal while my other foot pushes off the ground. Another detail is that I can stand up on the pedals for a boost of energy, which I cannot do on Oma. Also, good posture is easy to maintain; I don’t have to keep telling myself to sit up straight and roll my shoulders back as I do when riding Oma.

These subtle differences are hard to describe, but they make riding the two bikes not as similar as some may assume.

I do realize I’m firmly in the “splitting hairs” territory that EcoVelo recently wrote about. To me, at least, Coco and Oma are like apples and oranges. :)

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Coco’s Ride

I rode Coco to work Monday, before Tuesday’s snowfall sent me back to Oma and her studded tires.  I was so giddy to have a new bike, I decided to take Coco on a spin to the lakefront during lunch with my camera and a roll of film.

I haven’t ridden Coco enough yet to provide in-depth opinions on how she performs, but I’ll offer some initial thoughts.  She feels great!  The ride is similar to Oma’s and nothing like Betty Foy’s.  She weighs a bit less than Oma and is a bit more sprightly, but speed (or lack of it) and comfort are on pretty much par.

There are some notable differences.  First, Coco’s balloon tires are super cushy and help me laugh in the face of Chicago’s potholes and train tracks (one of my biggest fears).  Second, Coco has only three gears.  I ended up using all three gears during my ride, depending on incline (ramps in and out of the Lakefront Trail) and wind direction, and the range felt spot on.  Third, Coco’s geometry is almost straight up and down, but a tiny bit bent forward to reach the handlebars, whereas Oma’s geometry is a tiny bit leaned back with legs pushing a tiny bit forward.  I thought this would make riding Coco feel substantially different after a few miles, but my body felt the same while pedaling and once I arrived at work, no more or less fatigued or energized.

I probably don’t even need to mention looks.  She’s a beauty that I love to gaze at.  Beauty should not be underestimated when choosing a bike.  If you’re going to ride a bike every day, it should call out to you.  Coco certainly accomplishes that!

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The Name Game

My new bike is perfectly lovely so far! Yesterday I took her to work and back and also for a lunchtime joy ride. I’ll write more about those rides later. For now I’m still mulling over her name. I briefly considered Chanel based on her rich and sophisticated look, but that would be a bit silly.

Maybe she is more of a crunchy granola hippie type, with her fun and rustic Fat Frank tires. What name would that be: Hope? Sunshine? :)

No, that’s really not her personality. She’s sweet and sophisticated. I think she may be a Chantilly.

Chantilly is my top choice, but I’m not ready to make anything official. I know there are quite a few Rustine fans, but that makes me think of my mom’s big, butch dog, Rusty.

Whatever her name, she certainly gets looks and compliments from all around, including from two midwestern tourists asking directions to H&M, two fur-coated women laden with shopping bags as they left the Chanel boutique (“and look at that bell!”), and a guy in lycra on a nice steel road bike, who said his wife would love it.

Sadly, Chantilly (?) will be staying home today. Snow is falling with several inches expected and the roads look treacherous. I could take Oma with her winter tires, but after a very stressful ride home in the falling snow on Friday, which included being buzzed, nearly right-hooked, honked at, and a car sliding next to me, I’m reminded why I hate riding in the the falling snow. Sure, fresh snowflakes are pretty, but the logistics of riding in the city don’t work out for me. So I am off for the L train. Once the snow stops and the plows have time to clear the roads, I’ll be back out there.

Update 1/13 – Coco it is!  Thanks for the suggestion, neighbortease.  I may hang on to Chantilly and say she’s Coco for short.  I’ll have to wait and see what comes naturally.

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2-Year Oma Anniversary!

Today while riding Oma home, I started thinking about what a wonderful bike she is and how it must be close to our 2-year anniversary. I knew I got her sometime in October 2008. When I arrived home, I consulted the extensive Trisha-Dottie email archives to pinpoint the exact date: October 18! That is today, my friends.

As I’ve made very clear before, she’s the best bicycle a woman could hope for and has changed my life by making biking so fun and easy.

Don’t tell Ms. O that I almost forgot our anniversary; I’d never hear the end of it. She’s still upset that I ride Betty Foy so much.

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The Sweetness of Riding a Bike

I’ve talked before about how bicycling can help you to enjoy the simple pleasures of life and boost your body confidence. Put the two together and what do you get? Cupcakes, of course! Also, cookies, gelato and whatever sweet treat you like best.

That’s right – a major benefit of riding a bike is enjoying the sweetness of life. Many people tend to live in a never-ending state of stifling guilt, wherein they eat something decadent, feel bad about it, hate their body and berate their lack of willpower. Whether they can summon the energy to go to the gym is a make-or-break determination of their self-worth. What should be a simple enjoyment becomes a torture.

That is no way to live.

Here’s an alternative: ride a bike; eat a cupcake; smile.

Get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Let your body work for you as part of your everyday routine, not as “exercise.” Then reward your body with a sugar high. You deserve it. And ease up a little on yourself – perfection is an unworthy goal. Everything will balance itself out in the end.

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Flowers for the Tour de Fat

On Saturday I attended the Tour de Fat, an annual bike festival by New Belgium Brewing, where I ran into several people I know, including frequent commenter Scott and his girlfriend with their gorgeous Velorbis and Pashley bikes (pictured below). Chicago was the first stop on a nation-wide tour. You can read, see and watch more about the Tour de Fat at my write-up from last year.

Before heading out, I decided to decorate my bike. The flowers came from a thrift store wreath and were already strung together. I simply zip-tied each end to the top of my basket and voila – bike basket beauty.

I also decorated my hair. :) This is going down as an event in the Summer Games, “Decorate your bike.”

All bike baskets should be adorned with flowers and/or ribbon!

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I {Heart} My Bicycle

I love my Rivendell Betty Foy for her steel strength, smooth ride, quickness, lightness, easy step-through and good looks. Most of all, I love that she loves me back. It’s obvious!

Feel free to say what bike you ride and what you love, even if you’ve said it before. Let’s get some Friday good bike vibes going :)

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Playing favorites

For the last few weeks you may have noticed me riding Le Peug more often.

But I like to be fair (I was the kind of child who worried about stuffed animals being lonely if they didn’t sleep with me every night, which is why I only ever had one), so for the past couple of weeks it’s been the Bat’s turn.

The minute my butt hit the seat, I thought, no wonder I brought this bike back from the UK. Smooth, stylish, sturdy, easy to shift, built-in lights and zero maintenance. Why would I want to ride something else? Why have two bikes, again?

Funny thing is, I know I’ll feel the same way the next time I get back on Le Peug. Light, nimble, sporty and fast. Why would I want to ride something else? Why have two bikes, again?

Anyone else have trouble picking a favorite bike?

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365 Days of Batavus

April 18 marked the one-year anniversary of the day I met the Bat in Littlehampton, England. Dottie was with me for the first ride, of course!

Bikes by the sea

You can read all about that day here.

The bike made it to U.S. shores in early May of 2009, courtesy of my lovely parents (story here). Since then, we’ve enjoyed all four seasons together, as shown in the photos below.

Summer

Dottie and The Bat on our Garden Party Ride

Fall

The autumn leaves . . .

Winter

And back to spring!

I really need to take more scenic photos of my bike this year

One year in, I still think the Bat was the best bicycle bargain ever. My fellow Americans, the pound is pretty low again these days. It might be time to start trolling the clearance sections of your favorite British bicycle shops and contemplating a summer vacation. :)

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