Tag Archives: autumn

Ups and Downs of Bike Commuting

I’ve written before about the ups and downs of bike commuting. A year later, I’m revisiting the theme based on the ups and downs I experienced during the past two days.

Down: Last night, as I was riding up Lincoln Avenue, a major bike route, a woman in a van yelled, “Ride in the bike lane, retard!” Wow, really?? For the record, I was riding on the outside line of the bike lane because otherwise I would be in the door zone. Regardless, anyone who would yell such awful and ignorant words at anyone is a miserable person. Incidentally, wouldn’t Chicago be so much better if everyone felt safe to ride their bicycles, including the developmentally disabled? I think so!

Up: Tonight, a woman standing on the sidewalk whistled and called out, “Hey, I love your bike!” while the men with her nodded in appreciation. The fact that they were outside a cool live music venue and not a tool-central type of bar doubled the impact of the compliment. I smiled and called out, “Thank you!” :)

I’m pretty sensitive, so I can’t help but be affected by such incidents, but really, no matter what someone may or may not yell at me, I always prefer my bicycle over any other form of transportation. If someone offered me free daily door-to-door Towncar service with complimentary muffins and NPR, I would turn it down without hesitation.

If you doubt me, check out the scenery from my ride this morning.

The temperature was in the high ’30s, but with a dress, a wool sweater, tights, boots and gloves, I was set.

For some reason, a lot of the “citizen cyclists” seem to have packed it in for the winter already, leaving me and a bunch of guys on road bikes. Just as I was thinking, “Gosh, everyone out here is in spandex going really fast,” my friend Dan rode by on his WorkCycles Oma and stopped to chat. (You may recognize him as top hat guy from the cocktail ride.) I love that in a huge city like Chicago, I still run into people I know regularly via the Lakefront Path and bike lanes.

A little later, a guy on a WorkCycles Opa rode by and rang his bell. I don’t know if he’s a reader (hi!) or merely a fellow Dutch bike appreciator, but it was great to see!

Back to the “ups and downs” of bike commuting. This I know for sure: I’m totally enjoying the up of autumn before the down of a long winter. Oh, who am I kidding? I kinda love winter, too!

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Women-who-bike brunch

My inaugural women-who-bike brunch took place on Sunday. The focus was on enjoying good food and even better company, while bikes took a backseat as a tool for transportation and for connecting us all in the first place. To this end, a dozen awesome women rode their bikes without ceremony, in their regular clothes, and proceeded to chat for three fun hours. Here is but a sampling of the awesomeness that ensued.

Women who bike - photo by Martha Williams

Rebecca! of Active Trans

Emily! of Po Campo

Samantha! of Ding Ding Let's Ride

Martha! of Bike Fancy

Janet and Patty

The group checks out Po Campo prototypes

Me - photo taken by Martha Williams with my film camera

Are you a woman in the Chicago area who would like to join us in the future? Email me at LGRAB [at] letsgorideabike [dot] com. If you’ve sent me your email before but did not get the message about the brunch, please re-send. I might have indadvertedly left some people out.

I must sound like a broken record but women who bike are pretty much without fail smart, fun and cool. :)

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Simply Bike at LGRAB

This weekend a very special guest stayed chez Dottie, S from Simply Bike. I was very excited to meet her in person, after following her for a long time on Academichic and now on the newer bike blog.  Obviously, we have a lot in common and as I predicted, we got along extremely well and I had so much fun. As a bonus, she and Betty Foy were perfect together.

Riding bikes was a big part of the visit, since she had a conference about 8 miles away along the lakefront and I dropped her off and picked her up each day.  Other notable activities: the Race Against the Sky movie, a big German meal at Chicago Brauhaus, a ferris wheel ride at Navy Pier, fresh Mexican at Rick Bayless’s XOCO, Checkov’s The Seagull at Goodman Theatre and warm donuts from Dinkel’s Bakery.

I love getting out and enjoying Chicago to the max.  I always try to take advantage of everything the city has to offer, but hosting an out-of-towner gives me an extra push.

Saying goodbye to such a cool lady was sad.  All of us fun, smart bike ladies should colonize a new city, where we can hang out and ride bikes together all the time.  :)

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Final Outdoor Farmer’s Market Trip

October is drawing to a close far too quickly and today was the last outdoor farmer’s market of the season. Luckily, Chicago’s Green City Market continues year-round indoors. Still, I will miss spending time outside in the fresh air of Lincoln Park. This is my last hurrah post with pictures I took using my vintage film camera.

After the market, I met up with Melissa and Chanh for the somewhat lackluster Rally to Restore Sanity (the main event was in D.C.). Afterward, we went to lunch. They were dressed up for Halloween as a redneck and a hippie. The waitress, after remarking on their costumes, turned to me and said, “I know who you are. From the Wizard of Oz. You’re Dorothy.” Hmm, I thought, this is actually how I dress everyday (in my new thrifted outfit). Aloud I said, “Yes, I am Dorothy.” A true statement, but not in the way she understood it. :)

And now, In Memorium: Summer 2010 Farmer’s Market.

Bicycling to the Farmer’s Market
Simple Pleasures
Farmer’s Market by Bike
Farmer’s Market on Film

How are you spending the last weekend of October?

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Another day of bike commuting

Another day of bike commuting in Chicago: enjoying the perfect fall weather, getting honked at for the audacity of taking the lane to turn left, being the only vehicle to stop for school children in a crosswalk while cars whizzed by, having most drivers treat me respectfully, feeling healthy and happy on my bicycle, and wearing purple for Spirit Day.

You may have noticed that Oma is missing her huge wicker basket. I go through accessory phases and currently I’m feeling the Basil pannier. I took off the easy-to-remove front rack for a little change. I’ve had the Basil pannier for over a year, but I’m still amazed by how much it can hold – at least as much as the basket – and how it never looks dirty.  Magic.

On another note – have you answered the “Your City” bicycling survey yet? So far there are over 50 fascinating responses. If your city has not been mentioned yet, represent! If your city has been mentioned, see what others have to say and then give us your perspective.

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A Refresher Course on Fall Cycling Style

Fall is the most fun season to dress for, in my opinion, whether on a bike or not. Tights, scarves and boots all come into play, but in a fun and casual way, not the oppressive way of winter.

Last year we wrote a How To for fall cycling style. In Paris, Trisha demonstrated the effortlessly chic look that’s so spot on for this time of year.

Trisha demonstrates fall cycling on a Velib in Paris

Note the main ingredients that we discussed in last year’s advice column: a dress made season-appropriate with a pair of fun tights and a breezy cardigan. Such an outfit is a perfect mix of style and substance. Tres velo chic!

What’s your ideal fall cycling outfit?

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Blue Chicago

While bright oranges, reds and yellows get all the attention in the fall, smooth Chicago blues should not be overlooked.  Something about the crisp autumn air makes Lake Michigan seem very still and peaceful, while the early-setting sun casts my long shadow on the empty beaches.

Ah, can you almost feel the fresh air?  Riding my bike along the lakefront sure makes city living more enjoyable.

The picture below is the first I took today.  When I got home and reviewed all of my pictures together, I noticed a theme.  Not only the color blue, but look – the guitarist has a shadow.

Aside from admiring the water and chasing my shadow, I encountered a couple of people on my way home. A guy cycling by me said, “You win best-dressed.”  Not that I was trying or that being the best-dressed person on a bicycle is hard, but thanks.  :)  Skirt suit – purchased three years ago at Target on clearance for $20.

I also ran into John Greenfield, the guy we’ve organized our cocktails rides with in the past.  You should definitely check out John’s excellent writing at Vote with Your Feet and his book about drinking and biking from coast to coast, Bars Across America.

What colors, changes and people are you encountering on your rides?

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Seasons on Two Wheels

Our third autumn of life on two wheels is here in full force. From the suddenly deserted beaches of Lake Michigan to the leaves burning with color, everything around me during the bike commute signals the changing of seasons and the passage of time.

Other than during my girlhood, I never took so much notice of or pleasure in the weather as I have in these last two and a half years of riding my bike every day. It’s amazing how a simple change in transportation mode can lead to a powerful change in life.

How are you experiencing autumn on two wheels?

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Scottish Cycle Chic in Chicago

Jennifer is a bike commuter in Edinburgh, Scotland and an LGRAB reader. She owns both a WorkCycles Oma and a Pashley. When she mentioned that she was taking a vacation in Chicago, I was excited to suggest that we get together.

On Wednesday, we met up for a few beers with my friends Patty, Brian, Elizabeth and Dean (all bikey people, incidentally). Then yesterday Jennifer and I spent the day together with Oma and Betty. This turned out to be quite an adventure!

After a hearty Mexican lunch, we set out for the Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier via the Lakefront Trail. The wind was exceptionally fierce, crashing waves onto the path all around us, and the rain unexpectedly picked up during the ride, but it was still great fun.

I assume this mounted police officer was there to make sure no one tried anything stupid, like surfing.

Our raincoats mostly protected us. When we got to the theater my tights dried quickly and Jennifer cleverly let her long tunic top become a dress, while her jeans hung to dry in the coat check room. Then we warmed up in the pub over whiskey and Baileys before settling in for a great production of Romeo and Juliet.

After the play, we walked along Navy Pier a bit as the wind whipped around us, speculating as to how difficult our journey home would be, since the tail wind we enjoyed on the way there would be a head wind.

We walked over to the ferris wheel for a ride but it was closed, apparently due to the high winds.

As we figured, the head wind was killer and the 7-mile ride home was slow, cold and dark – but pretty funny! We could not help laughing at the absurdity of the situation: the trail was deserted and the two of us, in our dresses and on our upright bikes, were the only ones intrepid enough to brave the weather.  

Undeterred, we swung by my place to pick up Mr. Dottie and continued our ride to the Lincoln Square neighborhood, where we enjoyed dinner at a very lively German restaurant. Schnitzel, mashed potatoes and steins of beer work wonders to warm a body.

The rain picked up full force for our late ride home and poor Jennifer’s jeans got soaked all over again. Luckily, she was just an L train ride away from the warmth and comfort of her hotel room.

Many thanks to Jennifer for being great company and such a good sport! What could have been grounds for complaining instead became a fun, invigorating, laughter-filled adventure. ‘Cause cycling ladies are cool like that. :)

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Commuting to the Courthouse

This past week I rode my bike to work every day, as usual.

Yesterday I had a court hearing in the morning and I wore my professional outfit on the bike commute – a Brooks Brothers skirt, blouse, hose and shoes. As soon as I got to my office, I threw on the matching suit jacket that was waiting for me and walked one mile to the courthouse.

Thank goodness for the perfectly cool fall weather that made all of this possible without sweating. Also, major props to my new Liz Clairborne shoes from DSW. They are super comfortable for walking (I wore them every day in France), have no-slip rubber soles for biking and still look decent enough for work.

Nothing hip or especially fashionable here, just a real outfit on a real bike commute. :)

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Home

I’m back from France, feeling lousy from a cold, jet lag and the inevitable disappointment of real life.  Just as I was contemplating my escape to a life in Paris (step one: learn French), I rode my bike home along the Lakefront Trail in the crisp autumn air and remembered why I love Chicago.

It’s good to be home.  More coherent ramblings to follow.

P.S. For anyone interested, I’m posting a lot of France photos on my other blog, Dream Camera.

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Joy Ride

Mr. Dottie and I did not leave town for this American holiday weekend, but the city can be beautiful and relaxing if approached with a fresh eye.  When we woke up early Saturday to a bright, clear and crisp 51 degree morning, we headed straight for our bikes.  A leisurely ride along the lakefront and through a butterfly sanctuary was the perfect start to the weekend.

This was a true joy ride.  The weather was perfect and I was excited to don tights for the first time of the season. Goodbye, Summer! I’ll miss you in December, but for now I’m ready for autumn.

How are you spending the holiday?

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A Typical Tuesday

My commute to and fro today was lovely, other than having to yell “JERK” at some jerk, who honked at me for being in the road and then cut me off to turn right.  I guess I should not be surprised, since some people (*cough* men *cough*) are often jerks in general.   The anonymity of driving naturally magnifies this tendency.  They should get their ridiculous testosterone under control and stop bringing me down.

Anyway, my ride really was (mostly) lovely.  There is finally some relief from the oppressive heat and I can feel autumn trying to break though.  Although I know it’s too soon to get excited, I can’t help it – I love autumn!

How’s everyone else doing?  I’ve been so busy lately, I feel a bit disconnected from my fellow bike commuters out there in internets land.

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Winter?

I think today was the coldest of the season, dropping down to 32 degrees F. We donned our winter Bern helmets and safety glasses for a trip to a home improvement store. I got caught up in the holiday ribbon section, where I picked up some trimmings for Oma (more on that later).

Waiting for Winter

Despite the chill today, the weather tomorrow is expected to be sunny and up to 54 degrees F. I feel like I’ve spent a month bracing for a winter that never comes. By this time last year, snow was on the ground. Not that I’m complaining – I’ll be on my bike enjoying the sunshine!

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Sir Raleigh and Betty Foy

In celebration of the mild weather, Sir Raleigh and Betty Foy went for a date ride today – chaperoned by me and Mr. Dottie, of course. I think they are a perfect match. (Tip: you can now see a bigger version of each picture by clicking on it.)

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Scenes From My New Commute

My new commute is not very different from my old one.  The biggest difference is that my office is not by the lake, so it makes sense to take city streets the whole way instead of the Lakefront Trail.  The other big difference is that  I don’t have to ride through downtown.

The streets I take have either bike lanes or marked shared lanes.  As you can see below, I’m able to slide past car traffic in the bike lane.

Car Traffic

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Chicago’s Navy Pier

I ride by Navy Pier every day during my commute. Today the weather was gorgeous – sunny in the 60’s F – so I decided to stop and explore the pier before heading home. I enjoyed it all, even my $5 icecream cone :) This is a great place to go for families, friends and dates.  I love being a tourist in my home city, which you may have noticed. 

11-14 navy pier sign

11-14 ferris wheel

11-14 rides

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Ups and Downs: Balance on a Bike

My ride today was filled with wild variations. A super harsh headwind in the morning and a powerful tailwind in the evening. A calm, safe ride on the Lakefront Trail most of the way and a stressful, congested ride through downtown the rest of the way. Starting out a bit too cold and ending up a bit too hot. Life is full of ups and downs, and dealing with it on my bike helps me appreciate the balance. I really think bike commuting can be as mindful and therapeutic as yoga sometimes.

11-11 betty

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A Very Good Day

The highlights:

  • I got a job as an in-house attorney for a charitable organization!
  • I am now the proud owner of a sweet camera, the Nikon D3000.
  • I rode home with Ms. E A, and this week I met several other cool bikey people.
  • The new Tori Amos winter album was released.

Here are some photographs of my day.

Betty Foy Glory

A very good morning

Sunrise

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Bike, Sun, Beauty, Happiness!

Forget winter – today was the best day of the season with clear blue skies, a bright sun and warm breezes.   I did not even mind working on a Saturday since my commute was such a joy.  Otherwise, I would have slept in and missed the morning after a fun late night out with the lovely Ms. Elle of Dancing Gypsies.

This is what I call a perfect commute.

11-7 sun and betty

The Sun and Betty

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