Tag Archives: Azor oma

Surviving this winter

How is one to survive this winter, one of the coldest, greyest and snowiest in history?

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As you can see, I chose to lighten my hair, buy a new red overcoat and bicycle on – except honestly I have not been bicycling a lot, certainly not everyday, as with previous winters.  All I ask for is a morning with temps at least 10 F and no falling snow, but such mornings are rare.  (As I type this, it’s 9 F and snowing.)  When I manage to ride my bike, I feel so much better, physically and mentally.

My plan for combatting winter also includes appreciating the (indoor) culture that Chicago offers: going to ballets, plays, symphonies and art exhibits.  If it were not for the Joffrey Ballet, the Goodman and Steppenwolf and Shakespeare Theatres, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Art Institute (and, of course, my wonderful friends!), I would question daily why I choose to live in this crowded, frozen tundra.

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This time last year, I was already enjoying the sights and sounds of spring with Betty Foy.

How are you dealing with this winter?  How much have you been bicycling?

{P.S. Our friend Elizabeth will be reporting on the National Bike Summit / Women’s Bike Forum here on LGRAB and our Twitter feed this week, so stay tuned!}

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Not afraid of a little snow…

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!)

20121225-DSCF5480resizedMy 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!  :-)

20121225-DSCF5489resizedNow Oma and I are ready to take on winter together and not be afraid of snow.

20121225-DSCF5501resized 20121225-DSCF5502resizedA 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?

See also,

My Schwalbe Marathon Winter review from 2009

In defense of studded tires

My studded tires getting me through a post-blizzard ride

The return of my winter wheels in 2010

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Fall is Here!

Time to break out the tweed and cashmere – fall is here!

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I have a habit of writing every year 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.

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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.  :-)

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A wooden crate as a bike basket

When I posted about riding my Dutch bike last week, Trisha noticed that I have a new crate on the front.  Yes, and I love it!

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

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.

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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.

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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.

Does anyone else use a wooden crate like this?

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The Oma Lifestyle

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.

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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.

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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.

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Roll Models: Samantha of Ding Ding Let’s Ride

The Roll Models series is back!  Today’s roll model is my friend Samantha, cool woman and author of the blog Ding Ding Let’s Ride, which focuses on everyday family bicycling with Dutch bikes and adaptive bikes.

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Describe your bicycling style in three words.

Urban.
Everyday.
Dresses.
Cowboy boots.

(OK – so that’s 4 words, but I wanted to convey that I often wear dresses when I ride, but I’m
not a total cycle chic girly-girl and often wear pants and cowboy boots.  ;-) )

How long have you been riding a bike?

I’ve been riding a bike since I was a kid. I had a lime-green banana-seat kid’s bike, followed by
a 3-speed upright bike with a basket that I rode into my early teens. I didn’t ride much until grad
school when I started up again with a mountain bike. I haven’t stopped for the last 20+ years.

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?

My bike is my primary form of transportation. I commute via bike to work year-round, run
errands and grocery shop on my bike, go on evenings out by bike, and ride to events and
activities with my family on my bike.

What inspires you to keep bicycling?

I love the city of Chicago, and riding a bike is the best way to experience it. I feel better
mentally and physically when I ride, even on cold, dreary, blustery days and I don’t ever want to
give up that feeling.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world – shops, outreach, group rides, etc. -
feel welcoming for you as a woman?

I think the overall attitude in the bicycling world these days is fairly welcoming to women. There
are certain shops or groups that feel a bit like a boys club sometime, but there are also so many
different kinds of bikes, riders, and events these days that I think you can find the place that is
right for you. I’ve never felt excluded from cycling businesses or events because I was a woman.

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What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get
more women to bicycle?

The way to get more women riding is to make cycling safer and it has to truly be perceived
as safer too. I’m not the first one to say that – but I’ll be glad to repeat it. And “Safer” to me
means more truly separated bike lanes with lights, and more education/public awareness of
how motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians should interact on public ways. I really do think that
the next thing the city of Chicago should do is develop a long-term bike awareness campaign
that demonstrates how one should approach an intersection with a cyclist on either side, make
a turn, handle protected bike lanes, door zones, etc. I’m happy about the bike infrastructure
improvements we’re seeing, but now we need to teach people how to use this new infrastructure
and how to walk/bike/drive in conjunction with it.

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it
be?

I would make all the buffered or ‘protected’ bike lanes in this city into truly separated bike lanes
with real dividers – perhaps like the curbs and planters I’ve seen in Long Beach CA.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?

I feel very optimistic about the future of bicycling. I see more people cycling all the time. Each
winter here in Chicago I see more people continue to ride through the cold months than the year
before. That’s a great thing.

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Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?

Start out in your comfort zone. If you haven’t been riding at all, you may want to start out riding
on recreational paths or side streets – don’t expect to ride in downtown traffic the first time you
get on a bike. If you’re looking for a bike, research a few different bike shops – find one that
carries the type of bike you think you’ll be interested in, and one with a staff that is welcoming
and helpful to you and not just trying to push you into any ole bike purchase.

Final words?

There are a lot of women who are biking in Chicago and writing about it so don’t be afraid to contact any of us and ask questions. We all ride for different reasons and with different styles, on different bikes, but we all share the same desire to get more cyclists out there and we are always willing to share our own experiences and knowledge to further that goal.

I certainly second that! Thanks so much to Samantha for sharing her experience, thoughts, and advice with us!  For more, visit Ding Ding Let’s Ride and follow her on Twitter.

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Janet’s Black Faux Fur Helmet

On my ride home from work yesterday evening, I ran into my friends Janet and Dan on the Lakefront Trail.  I love unexpectedly seeing friendly faces in Chicago; it always brightens my day and makes the city seem more and more like home.

As you can see, Dan and Janet have WorkCycle Omas, which they bought after visiting Amsterdam a few years ago.

Janet had on a new helmet by Yakkay, called the Luzern Faux, that she bought locally from Heritage Bikes.  The Yakkay helmet can be mixed and matched with different style covers and this is one option (it also comes in white).  So stylish!

At first I thought it was an actual shapka, not a helmet.  These are very on trend right now (and I do love my Anna Karenina).  :-)

Janet’s whole outfit was perfect for a chilly November night: fur hat, tweed coat, scarf, jeans, leather mittens, and high boots.  Perfection.

I want one now, but alas I already own a black winter helmet.

You can see another Yakkay helmet cover modeled by Martha, one of the lovely women-who-brunch, in this post from last year.  Has anyone else given this a try?

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Philip Larkin’s Fall

Mother, Summer, I

by Philip Larkin

My mother, who hates thunder storms,
Holds up each summer day and shakes
It out suspiciously, lest swarms
Of grape-dark clouds are lurking there;
But when the August weather breaks
And rains begin, and brittle frost
Sharpens the bird-abandoned air,
Her worried summer look is lost,

And I her son, though summer-born
And summer-loving, none the less
Am easier when the leaves are gone
Too often summer days appear
Emblems of perfect happiness
I can’t confront: I must await
A time less bold, less rich, less clear:
An autumn more appropriate.

{see also, Emily Dickinson’s fall}

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Out of Line

While I continue with yoga class every morning to improve my alignment, Oma’s alignment has gotten way out of whack.

No, it has nothing to do with stuffing her pannier full of Chipotle and wine.  One unfortunate event caused her current crooked state.  On Sunday, I stood Oma up on a grassy area in the park.  Due to rain the night before, the ground was saturated and soon Oma toppled and fell on her side with a crash.  I think this was the first time she has ever fallen like that, since her double-footed kickstand is super heavy-duty.

I picked her up, dusted her off, and went on with my business.  But later while biking home, I noticed a problem after about a mile.  (Obviously, I am not very observant.)

See how the handlebars are squared to the front, but the wheel is tilted to the right?

And how the wheel is pointing straight to the front, but the handlebars are off to the side?

Yeah, that’s not good.

And this morning I noticed that my pedals are out of alignment.  The right side is pushed way in and the left side is sticking way out.

Funny enough, Oma continues to ride pretty normally.  Knowing me, I could continue riding her like this for at least a year or two, but I’m determined to fix this problem in a respectable timeframe.

But this is not like when Betty Foy falls and knocks her fenders out of line – that’s a problem I can fix easily and quickly. Oma’s solidness is a double-edged sword.  She refuses to budge from this new position.  I attempted in vain today to kick the pedals and push the handlebars back in line.  I suppose I will enlist Mr. Dottie’s help in the morning or just drop Oma off at the bike doctor in the afternoon.

Has your bike ever gotten out of line?   If so, how did you fix it?

{Please pardon the puns and gratuitous use of my camera’s tilt-shift feature.  A nerdy girl’s gotta have her fun.}

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Early Fall Fresh Air

I have been feeling road fatigue lately and the best antidote is always the fresh air of Lake Michigan and the open space of the Lakefront trail, which is once again a calm and pleasant place to ride a bike, now that the summer crowds have dispersed.

Can’t you almost feel the sunshine and crisp, early fall air?

The absolute best music for a fun and stress-free bike ride like this is Janelle Monae’s Archandroid.

Here I am, being unprepared for my camera’s self-timer once again.  :-)  I wore a skirt and cardigan over my t-shirt for work, then traded those out for shorts and kicked off my heels for the ride home.

I hope everyone is having a beautiful Monday!

Now try to listen to this song without dancing. Impossible!

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Winter Biking Memories

I found an old draft post from December 2010 with the working title, “New Pictures…”

Hey, look, winter!

How funny to look at these on a 90 degree day.  I thought you all might get a kick out of this.  Seems unreal.

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Lake Breezes and Karma

The cool breezes of Lake Michigan lured me to the lakefront trail yesterday morning.  Freedom from the stifling heat of car exhaust and crazy drivers, I relaxed and enjoyed the beauty around me.

These pictures are from this great old Polaroid Land Camera 250.  Very fun to play with.  :)

In the evening, I took city streets, where I witnessed a scene that first had me flaming mad and then had me cheering.

As I waited at a red light at a crowded intersection, a driver in a fancy SUV was turning left and inching into a crosswalk as a mother with a baby carriage crossed with the walk signal.  The mother was saying something to the driver that I could not hear, probably like, “Excuse me, I have the walk sign and I’m here with my baby.”  The driver responded by HONKING his horn, right in the baby’s face!  The mother did not budge and the driver then stepped on the gas to lurch forward and psych out the mother, who was standing no more than two feet away WITH HER BABY CARRIAGE!  (Who are these horrible people???)  As soon as she moved away, the driver sped down the street…

…for about 3 seconds.  A police SUV, which was two cars behind the offending SUV, immediately went after it with lights and sirens.  As a biked by, the SUV was pulled over and two police officers were exiting their vehicle.  The scene was so beautiful, I could have wept.  KARMA!

I think the driver should have been arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, but at the very least I hope he or she received a citation for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.  Drivers need to know that they cannot get away with criminal behavior simply because they are surrounded by a ton of metal!

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The Independence of Bicycling

Boy, was I happy to be riding my bike yesterday evening!  An extra-alarm fire at a furniture store adjacent to the L-tracks shut down the red, brown, and purple lines for several hours spanning the height of rush hour.  (No one was hurt in the fire.)  Mr. Dottie was on the brown line and had to walk the last two miles home, which is not so fun in near 90-degree heat, carrying a heavy work bag and wearing steel-toed boots. I, on the other hand, sailed along home with trusty Oma.

The scene biking past the L station was chaotic, with hundreds of people waiting for shuttle buses and car traffic jammed from road closures.  I may have gotten some envious looks from the poor commuters stuck on the side of the road.  Too bad Chicago’s planned bike share is not up and running yet – I bet lots of people would have tried it for the first time!

Bonus: enjoying the sight and smell of fresh flowers along my route.

While situations like this on public transportation are rare, I prefer to deal with them never.  The ordeal reminded me of the independence that the bicycle provides.  As long as I have my trusty bike and a slim stretch of road, I’m set.  (Just no thunderstorms, please!)

Good work, Oma!

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Enjoying the Spring

Chicago spring is still a bit chilly but overall chill (see how I word-played there?).  Most of my rides have been nice and calm on the side-streets and I’ve been taking time to hang out with friends, read books, drink cocktails, and just enjoy life with Mr. Dottie.

I need to get working on spring cleaning, including taking Betty Foy in for a much-needed tune-up (am I the only one who totally destroys her bike during fall and winter??).  But, you know, whenever…

I hope everyone else is enjoying the spring, too!

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A Day at the Nature Museum

Last week, Trisha visited Chicago for her birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!).  We were together again!

We biked down the lakefront and stopped by the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

Coco and Oma got to be together, too, outside of the garage for once.

While there, we enjoyed a high-quality exhibit, called Bikes! The Green Revolution, that happens to be at the Nature Museum until September 9.

There was a display of cool vintage bikes.

Art work with the theme “bike monsters.”

Photo ops with a penny-farthing, which we were all over once the children got out of our way.

And a photo exhibit of modern cycling style, featuring portraits by Bike Fancy’s Martha Williams.  (Look, there’s me!)

Next, we stopped by the butterfly house, but the many fluttering things disconcerted Trisha a bit too much.

So we rested a bit.  :)

We finished our visit in the gardens, a lovely respite from the city.

Where we listened to highly entertaining bird calls in the bird sanctuary.

 Finally, we got back on our bikes to continue our day downtown.
Another lovely day on bikes in Chicago. Plus Trisha, which makes the day 100x better!  :)
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A Spring Saturday Bike Ride

Saturday morning, I met up with my friend Araidia for a brunch and thrift shop expedition. Of course, we biked, which was half the fun!

There are so many beautiful spring flowers in bloom, we each found one to match our helmets.

Araidia’s a purple Bern…

…and mine a pink Nutcase.

We chatted freely along the way, either riding side-by-side or dropping back into single-file when a car approached. The route and area were new to me, so Araidia led the way.  Since she took us along a very quite path, there were few cars and no stress.

We biked through a college campus…

parks…

…and neighborhood streets.

Our destination was the Albany Park neighborhood. Once there, we enjoyed a Swedish brunch at Tre Kronor and thrifting at Village Discount Outlet, where I scored two dresses and three skirts (including an Elie Tahari and a Ralph Lauren) for $37 and Araidia found the awesome pink bag in the photos.

Here is a short little video of our ride through Albany Park. (The song is Jenny Mayhem, “All the World.”)

I returned home five hours after I left, feeling very good about my day – and entitled to some cake and wine after biking nine miles. :)

Did you spend some quality time on your bike this weekend?

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Tulips and a Dutch Bike :)

Spring is such a beautiful time of year for riding a bike!  Oma enjoyed very much spotting so many of her homeland’s flowers during the ride home this evening.

I put her flowered basket back on for now.  I could feel a substantial weight difference with the front rack and basket today, versus strapping my bag to the rear rack, but the basket set-up is worth it for the convenience and aesthetics.

The back street route I traveled was car-free for much of the time.  Such a rarity in Chicago, which is why I’m happy to go 15 minutes out of my way.

Here’s a more representative “gritty” city shot.  I think I need to start adding more spring color to my wardrobe.  The tulips have inspired me!

I hope everyone had a lovely week of bicycling and is ready to begin the second half of April!  :)

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Made in Montreal Bike Dress

In a recent comment, LC of Naturally Cycling: Manchester made a great point, saying:

I have made a conscious decision of buying less but buying good quality and ethically made. So I would be happy to pay more for an item of clothing if I know (and it’s certified) that it’s made ethically, for example the workers are paid a fair living wage, the materials are of certified origins (i.e. organic cotton, fair trade etc).

If the price tag is high just because it’s ‘fashion’, then no, I am not willing to shell out so much money. But if it means workers have not been exploited then yes.

I totally agree with this philosophy.  Buying fewer things that are high quality and ethically made makes sense all around.  Although I sometimes slip up, I try to apply this reasoning to all my purchases.  (I sort of get a free pass at thrift stores, which is one reason thrifting is so fun.)

In this spirit, while visiting Marche Bonsecours in Montreal, I purchased a dress that was designed and made in the city.  The price was high compared to a mass market dress, but I was willing to pay more to support a local Montreal designer.  Plus, bicycle print!

The designer is Eve Lavoie.  I could not find much about her online, except this shop that sells her clothing.

Do you have a shopping philosophy?

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Package Delivery

Last week, I went to the post office and here is the obligatory cargo photo.  :)

Seriously, my bike was the perfect way to go because the place was only four blocks away, but the packages would have been a bit much to carry in my arms.  I continue to be impressed by the do-anything straps that came with my Oma, although after 3.5 years in the elements, they’re starting to look dry and corroded.  I should replace them soon before they snap at an inopportune moment!

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Wardrobe Malfunction: Tying my skirt

The other day, I wore a full pleated skirt to work, one I had worn while bicycling many times in the past with no problem.  I must have been riding Betty Foy and not Oma those previous times (like here), because this time the skirt kept ballooning up with wind and blowing back.  While the slightly leaned-forward positioning of Betty Foy causes the wind to push skirts down more securely against my thighs, Oma’s laid-back positioning can have the opposite effect.

For a while, I biked one-handed while using the other hand to hold down the skirt, but even that was not enough to tame it.  Eventually I pulled over, grabbed a ponytail holder from my bag, and tied up one side of my skirt, which worked, although it was wrinkled afterward.

Ta-da!

I was really annoyed by this situation at the time.  I know there are lots of people (both bicyclists and non-bicyclists) who think bicycling in a skirt is silly, and I probably looked like Exhibit No. 1 in support of their opinion out there, but I know that bicycling in a skirt is perfectly reasonable.   I do it all the time without incident and never have to worry about changing at my destination.

I should not care what others think, but I am cognizant of being a rarity out there and I want to represent well the idea of everyday bicycling.

In the end, the solution was easy enough – fast, effective and free – and I will simply make a mental note of this particular skirt’s limitations.

See also, Stapling my skirt.

P.S. Since we’ve been talking a lot about pricy specialty bicycling clothes lately, I’ll point out that this skirt, the pearl necklace, and the cashmere sweater all came from thrift stores.

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