Category Archives: Uncategorized

Chicago Cherry Blossoms

I’m so happy to be back in Chicago for springtime.  I’m more of an autumn person, but I must admit that the city looks most beautiful during the short time period when cherry blossoms bloom.

This year is way ahead of schedule.  Last year, the blossoms did not appear until May and the year before, not until mid-late April.

Another lovely change is being able to bike without tights, which is always exciting after six months of covered legs.

I’m so lucky to enjoy this beautiful scenery and weather on my bicycle every day.

Are the flowers blooming along your bike route?

Winter gives way to spring

These two windows were directly next to each other along my bike commute route in Chicago.

Seems even the shop owners are divided on whether we’re experiencing winter or spring. I’m going to optimistically say spring, but then again I don’t return from Scotland until the first official day of spring, so I don’t have to worry about it. :)

Are you feeling more winter or spring where you live? And will anyone kinda sorta miss winter when it’s officially over?

To Scotland!

Photo by Martha Williams of Bike Fancy

I’m off to tour Scotland (and a bit of Ireland) for the next 10 days.  I have posts scheduled for the next couple of days, but after that I don’t know how often I’ll be able to pop in here. Trisha will hold down the fort and I’ll certainly have lots of stories and photos to share when I return.

Cheerio!

Happy Friday!

Enjoy the ride!

Let’s Go Ride a Bike 2011 Year in Review

[Ed note:  We found this draft in the archives, which we were tweaking so much, we forgot to finalize and publish.  Better late than never!]

Holy crap it’s 2012. We’ve had an eventful year over at Let’s Go Ride a Bike.

Travel

Dottie visited Nashville in April to celebrate Trisha’s birthday and photograph her new Abici.

We went to NYC together and organized a social at Adeline Adeline.

Dottie B-cycled in Denver and toured breweries by bike in Fort Collins.

Trisha visited  Chicago for Dottie’s 30th birthday bash, and again the next month to try out the Chicago bike commuting lifestyle.

 EventsThe 2nd Annual LGRAB Summer Games!Trisha started a brunch for Nashville cyclists—we meet on the second Sunday of every month. Cruising to brunch in Nashville

Twelve Women-Who-Bike brunches happened in Chicago, on the first Sunday of every month.

LGRAB friend Ash of One Less Minivan organized monthly Critical Lass rides, which Dottie joined, beginning with the first in May.

Sara and Dottie organized a Cupcake Ride of select Chicago bakeries, ending with a rose garden picnic.

Dottie also joined in on a Seersucker Ride.

We both checked out the Tour de Fat festivals in our respective cities of Nashville and Chicago.

Trisha takes refreshment after the Nashville Tour de Fat

Beyond the Written Word

We started a podcast series and have posted three interviews on our iTunes page: with the men of Grid Chicago, the women of West Town Bikes, and Trisha and Dottie of LGRAB. :)

Trisha added Kermit Allegra to her bicycle stable.

We also continued our videos via our YouTube page and posted several this year: riding Chicago’s first protected bike lane, a busy Chicago commute, a calm Chicago commute, Chicago’s second protected bike lane, and a ride along the Lakefront Trail.

Cheers to another year of happy bike rides, friendship and fun! We can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store.

Bicycling to the Bookstore

One of my favorite things to do on a weekend is get out of my jammies, bike to the bookstore, and return home to my jammies and a day of reading new books.  (I’m a wild woman, I know.)  The ride to my favorite bookstore is about 3.5 miles roundtrip – the perfect distance for an easy ride that nevertheless allows me to feel like I’ve accomplished enough physical activity for the day.

As much as I love this bookstore, I would shop there less often if I could not ride my bicycle, because 3.5 miles is a bit much to walk in the cold and the store is not along my public transit route.  Even if I had a car, parking is nearly impossible to find in that neighborhood.  Lucky for both me and the store, I have my bicycle.  :)

Last Saturday I went a little crazy in the sale section, but they had so many excellent books for under $5.  By looking at my haul, you can get a big hint about where I’m going for my next trip.  (Mr. Dottie and I leave in one week!!)

Of course, I did not carry my books directly on my rack like this, but a canvas bag smushed down by bungie straps is not so photogenic.

Is there anywhere you enjoy going, but would rarely frequent if you could not bike there?  I think businesses in the city are well-served by a growing bicycling population.

Happy relaxing weekend to all!

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Another Windy City Commute

The shining sun this morning lured me out to the Lakefront Trail, away from my usual route to work.  Once I got onto the trail, I realized that there was an extremely strong headwind, the kind that slows me down by half.

I started to feel grumpy (this was pre-coffee, people!) but I stopped myself and decided to focus on all the good.  My path was clear, the sky had a subtle pink tint, and the spindly trees looked cool.  I could turn my face up to the sun and feel the slight warmth on my skin.

And turning the corner near the end of my ride and seeing this view is always good for morale.

In the afternoon, I treated myself to this bad boy for my hard work and as a fortification for my ride home.

Sometimes the wind turns on me as a cruel joke during the day, so I was a little worried about taking the lakefront home in the evening, but I couldn’t resist and this time I had the wind at my back.

That is the story of my windy city commute today.  Bike commute number 1,174 – approximately.  :)

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Breakfast at Heritage Bicycles

If someone asked me last year what kind of business I would most like to see open in my neighborhood, I might have said {deep breath} a combination bike shop and coffee shop that sells steel frame mixtes made in Chicago, cupcakes, and fancy coffee, with a friendly atmosphere and a communal table where I could gather my bicycling friends.

I mean, that’s awfully specific, but I could have said it.

Bicycles + Coffee = Love

Either someone read my mind or I am not the only lover of bikes, coffee, community, and local goods, because exactly this kind of business just opened a hop, skip, and pedal from my home. This magical place is Heritage Bicycles.

Excited by this development, my friend Elizabeth and I met there for breakfast this morning.  I learned that Heritage is a sort of sister store to the popular Bowery Lane Bikes in NYC.   The owner, Michael, was a founding partner of Bowery Lane.  He and his wife decided to bring the concept to his native Chicago.

"Coffee Guy" Cameron and owner Michael

Unlike Bowery Lane, Heritage is way more than simply a bike manufacturer and seller.  The place is also a full-fledged cafe, communal hang-out spot, and bike workshop.

Heritage perfectly executes the mixed-use concept.  Potential cafe customers should have no fear of being stuck in a crammed and greasy workshop while trying to enjoy their cappuccinos.  Everything about the space is beautiful, from the light-bathed reclaimed wood to the mirrored walls and sparkling chandeliers.  There is no reason to limit cafe visits to bike-related errands.  Anyone looking for a relaxing neighborhood spot would love Heritage, regardless of any interest in bicycles (although perhaps uninterested parties could be persuaded by the beautiful display bikes).

The coffee and food live up to the gorgeous space and inviting atmosphere.  With pastries from local favorite Southport Grocery and coffee beans from Portland’s Stumptown, the fare is as good as – if not better than – other independent coffee shops in Chicago.  Waaaaay better than Starbucks, it should go without saying.  While I’m partial to Chicago roasters Metropolis and Intelligentsia, the Stumptown brew was delicious.

On the other side of the business, potential bike shop customers should not write Heritage off as all style and no substance.

Separate from but open to the cafe is a bike workshop room.  There are two bike mechanics on staff and interns from non-profit West Town Bikes’ educational programs.  The crew will assemble Heritage bikes and perform maintenance work like a regular bike shop.   The place seems low key, the opposite of pretentious.

There is another small area that stocks accessories, including clothing, saddles, books, and Yakkay Helmets.  (You can also shop online.)

And the bikes?  Why, they’re the best part, of course!

In addition to carrying the Bowery Lane made-in-NY bikes, Heritage has its own Chicago model, the Daisy,  a mixte starting at $695 for a single speed, $795 for a 3-speed, and $850 for a 7-speed.  I haven’t had a chance to test ride her yet, but she is lovely.  Split top tube, Velo Orange Belleville bars, brass bell, sprung leather saddle, cork grips, chain guard, fender = love!  The best part?  She’s made of American steel and welded, painted, and assembled in Chicago.

After seeing the shop, chatting with Michael and Cameron, and enjoying breakfast, Elizabeth and I set off for work well-fueled.

I foresee that I will mention stopping by Heritage for coffee a lot in the future, especially since it’s along my commuting route. For sure I will stop by for their Grand Opening party this Saturday, 6 – 11. Heritage Bicycles is located at 2959 N. Lincoln.  Note: I think the shop will be closed the rest of the weekend and then open for normal business starting next week. See you there?  :)

For all of you who don’t live in Chicago, you might want to consider moving there, where all the cool kids are.  In the meantime, you can get your paws on these bikes through the power of the internets.

{Chicago’s bike geeks are all excited about Heritage.  Read Elizabeth’s take  on Bike Commuters and another write-up on Grid Chicago.}

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Everyone in Nashville should have taken a bike ride today

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If we don’t show that we appreciate 55 degrees in January, they might take it away!

Bike·a·Bee: urban beekeeping meets city cycling

I recently received an email from Jana Kinsman, a long-time reader and year-round Chicago cyclist, about a very cool project she is beginning with the help of Kickstarter called Bike·a·Bee.

With Bike·a·Bee, Jana aims to bring beehives to community gardens all around Chicago. She will be an urban beekeeper who visits every hive herself by bike. The entire operation will be car-free.

Jana Kinsman of Bike·a·Bee, photo by John Greenfield of Grid Chicago

She had me at bicycles and honeybees, but I especially enjoyed hearing that “honeybees are a female-run society. The queen bee is in charge, and all of the worker bees are female. Drones, the males, are essentially around for mating purposes :)”

Love it.

In order to make all this work, Jana needs to raise money to pay for the operation, including a bike trailer and beehives. Her goal is $7,000 and she must raise the entire amount by February 7th.

This is the kind of stuff I want to see in my community, so I decided to support the project personally as a bike trailer backer. When the project gets going, there will be an LGRAB logo on the trailer. Fun!

Anyone can become a backer by investing $1 or more to help get the project going. Other rewards for becoming a backer of the Bike·a·Bee Kickstarter project including bee postcards, bee stickers, bee posters, and bee honey! Plus, you’ll get the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes with helping a project start and watching it grow.

By helping fund Bike·a·Bee, you are casting a vote for sustainability and urban agriculture as much as you are earning some sweet gifts! As Bike·a·Bee launches, we’ll begin creating webisodes to document our process and share the story. You’ll be there as we set up our first hives in the spring, check on the bees throughout the summer, harvest honey in the early fall, and tuck them in for the winter. You’ll be with us from the start because, without your support, a project of this scope wouldn’t be possible.

As of this posting, she has raised $6,236 of her $7,000 goal.

Let’s help push her to her goal and beyond!

{For more information about Jana and her project, read the excellent interview by John Greenfield on Grid Chicago.}

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New Year’s Resolutions

I came across a great collection of New Year’s resolutions as depicted by graphic artists today, thanks to design blogger Swiss Miss. There are dozens of inspirational, gorgeous posters at the link, but when I saw this one I had to share it here.

I don’t generally make specific New Year’s resolutions, but I do try to set aside some moments to think about what the last 12 months of experience might have taught me that I should use to shape the next 12. (Stay tuned for our post reflecting on 2011 for LGRAB.)

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Why or why not? Has anyone resolved to start trying to ride their bike for transportation in 2012? (If so, you definitely need to click through and download this for your computer wallpaper!)

One Year’s Difference

Exactly one year ago today, I posted about biking in the snow after several inches fell over Christmas, adding to the snow that had already fallen throughout December.  The temperature was in the teens.  My studded tires had been on Oma for two weeks.

This year, snow is non-existent.  The temperature is in the mid-30’s.  A raincoat over a sweater is enough to keep me warm and protected.  I’m still riding my Betty Foy and have not yet bothered to pull out Oma’s studded tires.  This kind of weather is more like the winters I experienced when I lived in Nashville.

I’m certainly not complaining about this surprising situation!  (As long as it’s not due to global climate change or anything.)

There are fewer bicyclists on the road now, which makes me think that many people automatically put away their bikes when the winter months roll around, without considering whether conditions are actually bad enough to justify it.

For those still on their bikes and new to winter cycling, check out the LGRAB Guide to Winter Bicycling.

Happy Holidays from North Carolina!

I’m in North Carolina for Christmas again this year, visiting my mom, dad, sisters, nephew, and in-laws. No bicycling, just lots of eating, drinking, and laughing.

Happy holidays to you and yours! :)

The Mr. Dottie Family Farm

 

Winter Group Rides – Critical Lass

Chicago’s monthly Critical Lass ride continues on, even in the dark cold!

Usually I avoid winter group rides because biking for a long time at slow speeds in freezing temps is a great way to freeze my extremities off.

The ladies behind Critical Lass understand these problems and have adjusted the winter rides accordingly. For the next few months, the ride will be short (3-4 miles) and end at neighborhood bars that are close to home for as many of the lasses as possible.

This plan worked perfectly for December’s ride. A hardy group of 16 lasses showed up and spent much more time drinking pitchers of beer in a cozy pub than pedaling in the cold.

To stay up-to-date on the different dates and locations for Chicago’s Critical Lass ride, check out the Facebook page.

What do you think about winter group rides? Have you been on one this year?

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Best Albums of 2011

I’ve had a bad cold for the past week and haven’t been riding my bike much. So when Dottie suggested we entertain the blogosphere with our own Best of 2011 lists, I was on board. Using the terribly scientific method of “which list is easier to come up with” we’ve decided to do albums first. So without further ado…here are our lists.

Dottie’s Favorite Albums of 2011

Night of Hunters by Tori Amos – Making classical compositions her own with fresh arrangements and poetic lyrics, Tori creates a modern song cycle about a shattering relationship. Gorgeous, lush, heartbreaking, and simmering with darkness, this album is as dense and rewarding as a great novel.

The Old Magic by Nick Lowe – How his voice can sound both weathered and smooth is a mystery, as is his ability to write lyrics that feel familiar but are totally free of cliche.  While some may call the sound retro, to me it’s a breath of fresh air.

The King is Dead by The Decembrists – Sometimes I need toe-tapping, foot-stomping music.  This album gives me that in a brilliant package.  I grow weary of bearded indie rock music that currently dominates, but The Decembrists get a free pass for being the best, always.

Wild Flag by Wild Flag – Fun, energetic, loud, guaranteed to get me thrashing around my living room.  They’re always in total control of their tight sound.  Riot grrrl forever.

Bad as Me by Tom Waits – Dude, it’s Tom Waits.  That voice!  Those beats!  Weirdness!  Usually, you either love him or find listening to him impossible.  Guess which side I’m on.

Ceremonials by Florence + the Machine – This is even better than her smashing debut, an addictive combination of STRONG vocals and mesmerizing rhythms.  I keep playing it over and over again.

Biophilia by Bjork – Gorgeous, creative, playful, like nothing else out there.  Sounds like it could have come from a different universe, in a good way.  Planet Bjork.  This is my favorite album of hers in 10 years.

Passenger by Lisa Hannigan – I almost swept this one off the list because it’s so calm and unassuming, but then I listened to a bit of one song, then another, then another, etc., and realized that every song triggered a slightly different feeling in me, all positive.  So this quiet beauty stays on my list.

The Light of the Sun by Jill Scott – Smart, engaging, and smooth.  Starts with some great uptempo songs before easing into a long series of slow, thoughtful songs.  While the album as a whole is somewhat melancholy and less playful than her previous albums, it’s never maudlin.  I always feel better after a listen.

50 Words for Snow by Kate Bush – Pure strange beauty.  The sound is like soft snow falling all around, a magical snow that warms instead of freezes.  The shortest song is 7 minutes and the longest is over 13 minutes – one of many indications that she pandered to no one, least of all music executives, staying true to her own artistic integrity.  Thank goodness.

Favorite bonus release of the year: Box Set by Neutral Milk Hotel – The band’s last release, 1998’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, which I discovered in 2008, is one of my all-time favorites, behind only Tori Amos’s Boys For Pele.  Listening to it affects me more than any other album, novel, movie, painting, or poem.  So one of the highlights of my year was news of a new Neutral Milk Hotel box set with several unreleased tracks.

 

Trisha’s Favorite Albums of 2011

So Beautiful or So What by Paul Simon. What can I say about the genius of Paul Simon that hasn’t already been said? This really is his best album since Graceland. The harmony on “Dazzling Blue” is right up there with classics like “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.”

Oh Land by Oh Land. This first U.S. release from the Danish singer/songwriter is polished, fun and smart, full of interesting musical riffs that will make you want to move. The rare album where I’m never tempted to skip a single track.

Wounded Rhymes by Lykke Li. OK, I have a thing for Scandinavian pop, although the Swedish Li’s album is much darker and weirder than Oh Land’s. From the danceable “Get Some”—one of my favorite songs of the year—to the eerie “Sadness is a Blessing” and the wordless “Ladies’ Love,” the tracks on these albums are varied, complex and show influences from Bat for Lashes to Kate Bush to Bjork.

The English Riviera by Metronomy. Fun, ’80s inspired electronic pop that doesn’t feel dated. I also love bands who swap out their lead singers. Check out the amazing dissonant harmony on “Everything Goes My Way.”

Torches by Foster the People. By the time I figured out what “Pumped Up Kicks” was about, it was already entrenched in my head. If tapping your foot to a song about a high school shooting is problematic for you, try one of the other equally addictive songs from Torches, like “Helena Beat.”

Bon Iver by Bon Iver. No surprise here, but damn he’s good. I wore out his first album and this one is equally listenable, moody and haunting.

21 by Adele. Another obvious selection—but another rare case where hype matches the quality of the work. I loved 19 and saw Adele in concert here in 2008. It made me a lifelong fan; her voice is just as beautiful in person. This album is even better than her first.

A Creature I Don’t Know by Laura Marling. Folk musician Laura Marling is just 21, but her beautiful voice and intelligently constructed albums and songs seem to belong to someone quite a bit older. She sounds like no one you’ve heard before, and her albums (this is her third) are the type that reward repeat listens.

The Head & the Heart by The Head & the Heart. More folk! Full of beautiful harmonies and creative arrangements that range from spare to orchestral, this first album is a keeper.

Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars. Another album that’s been in the spotlight this year, for a reason. The title track is my favorite, but they are all standouts. One of the reasons I love Americana and folk so much is that it usually emphasizes vocals—namely harmony—over raging guitar solos and the like. Joy Williams and John Paul White’s voices were made for each other. Can’t wait to hear them at the Ryman in January.

Honorable mention: A few songs I’ve loved this year whose albums aren’t on the list. “Lights” by Ellie Goulding; “Begging Me” by Florrie (from an EP); “Bluebird” by Christina Perri; “Another Like You” by Hayes Carll; “Shell Games” by Bright Eyes.

 

Share your top 10 list or fave album of the year in the comments—part of the reason we’re doing this is to discover new favorites!

Lights in the Dark

Now that the sun sets completely by 4:30, I’m sad that my evening commutes are always in the dark.  On the bright side, this gives me the opportunity to enjoy all the beautiful lights that are now decorating downtown for the holidays.  Kind of makes my commutes feel magical.

Of course, I have my own lights, too, but those are not pretty.

Maybe this will be the year when I finally take the time to figure out how to string Oma with Christmas lights. :)

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Chilly but cozy in Chicago

Hello, there! Sorry for the week’s break from posting. I have a bunch of topics piling up, so there will be more frequent blogging now.

Trisha is visiting Chicago again (for a work conference) so we got to commute downtown together this morning and afternoon. We enjoyed our ride on the Lakefront Trail. The weather created a gloomy but atmospheric setting, with misty rain, fog and a placid lake. This effect was exaggerated on the way home, since it was raining a bit and completely dark by 4:30 p.m. due to daylight savings time (I hope everyone has good lights!).

Ever the optimists, we used this as an excuse to tuck into a Scottish pub for fish & chips and whiskey. That’s one reason to like colder weather!  :)

Trisha and Coco

Me and Betty

Lakefront Trail

Sadly, the rain is supposed to pick up tomorrow and we’ll probably be taking the L train.

More tomorrow!

Lazy Weekend

This is all that’s going on chez Dottie the last couple of weekends.


Plus books and old TV shows on Netflix.  At least I biked a little bit – to get the cupcakes.

And yes, I am a cat person, why do you ask?

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Cool Weather, Weekend Plans, New Bike

Fall is here and she’s not playing around. Yesterday I wore a wool sweater, wool skirt, tights, gloves and earmuffs and never got overheated. The past couple of days have been chilly, with morning temps in the high-40’s, low 50’s. Seems a little early in the season for this kind of weather, but I’m enjoying the crisp air.

This weekend I plan to go on a long ride to the Chicago Botanic Gardens, so cooler weather is welcome, as long as it does not rain.

The long ride will give Mr. Dottie the opportunity to really try out his new bike. No one correctly guessed what kind of bike it is, although a couple got close. It’s a Civia Bryant with a belt drive.

Civia Bryant

He’s been obsessed with belt drive systems for a few months, as one would expect from an engineer, but currently there are not many options on the market for belt drive bikes. This week he found a greatly discounted and lightly used floor model Civia Bryant at a local shop and finally made his decision. He’ll be making some changes, including fenders, racks, mustache bars, Brooks saddle, and generator lights. I’m sure they’ll be very happy together and I look forward to seeing it all come together.

Happy weekend!

LGRAB Summer Games: Players & Prizes, Part 4

It’s time for the final dose of inspiration and prize-winning from the Summer Games.

Linda at The Auspicious Life in Portland rode to the Willemmette River  and Sauvie Island for some fresh raspberries (jealous!), outings that speak to the spirit of the Games.

She read The Lance Armstrong Performance Program: “I don’t plan on riding in any races or going up the Pyrenees anytime soon. But there were some good tips that led me to reevaluate my seat position and had some advice about shifting and breaking that will come in handy.” Linda, who just started biking last year, also went on her first group ride and enjoyed the sensation of stopping traffic. :)

Andrea M. in Toronto took our tasks and ran with them, completing nearly all of them by the time the contest was over! She “rinally” cleaned her rusty chain on her Opus.  took a picture that screams summer, rented, rode and reviewed one of the Bixi bicycles, went on her first group ride on a new bike trail and filled out a form asking for bicycle parking. Whew.

Reader Sara B. wrote about all her Summer Games events in one post. She read Cycling for Everyone, a book she “will turn back to repeatedly.”  She test-rode a Camp folding bike, rode somewhere new to pick up her CSA (yay for CSAs!) and took a summer snapshot.

Sara's summer snapshot

Hyedie H. of the delightful Cupcake Ride blog, also in Toronto, took a summer picture, too. Loving these beautiful landscapes!

Hyedie also went on a group ride, fixed the brakes on her grocery getter and wrote a letter to her councilman about saving the downtown bike lanes, which a new mayor in Toronto seems to be threatening. Maybe we should all join her and Andrea in that one…

The ladies from Loop Frame love played along, too, although Jen in Seattle was the only one to complete all four event, including test-riding an Xtracycle, fixing the handlebars on her son’s trail-a-bike, organizing a group ride to some of Seattle’s new Neighborhood Greenways and photographed her summer commute “at its best.” 

Jen on the Xtracycle

Meanwhile, Deb in Edmonton read It’s All About the Bike (and gave it a glowing review—I want to pick this one up!), rode in a Critical Lass and proofrided her Brooks saddle (another thing I definitely need to get done myself) and cleaned the chain on her Raleigh Sports.

Reader Sumehra entered by email, and included some fantastic photos from the events that she completed, including going on a group ride — a seersucker social! — performing some bike maintenance, and test-riding a Bridgestone Mixte with flat tires. :) (She normally rides a custom Rivendell, yum.)
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And the winners this round are . . .

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