Tag Archives: Beautiful Bicycles

Beautiful Bicycles: WorkCycles Secret Service

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I recently got my paws on a WorkCycles Secret Service Step-Through bicycle from J.C. Lind Bikes in Chicago. (The bike is also available in a diamond-frame version.)  Naturally, I have lots of thoughts after riding the Secret Service around for a few days.  If you’re interested in learning more about this Dutch bike, read on!

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For those of you who are not familiar with WorkCycles (where have you been?!), they are a true Dutch bike company  with unfailingly high quality. Dutch bikes, of course, are known for their practical utility.  WorkCycles shines on that front, offering bikes loaded with bells and whistles that make for a comfortable, all-weather ride.

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I have been interested in trying the WorkCycles Secret Service for years, because the Secret Service is billed as a lighter, tighter, more compact version of the WorkCycles Oma – aka my big baby girl.  As such, I will frame my thoughts about the Secret Service as they relate to the Oma.

First of all, the Secret Service profile is noticeably slimmer.  This is a result of slightly lighter tubing, narrower tires and handlebars that swoop back less dramatically.  The body positioning while riding the Secret Service is straight up, with legs motioning down and not slightly forward as with the Oma.  Oddly, I was not able to place a foot on the ground comfortably at stoplights; I had to dismount instead.  Note that I test rode the 53″ Secret Service and my Oma is a size 57″.

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The sturdy steel frame and sprung Brooks saddle together make for a smooth ride – almost like my Oma, but not quite as smooth. The pace of the ride is also similar to my Oma, but definitely a bit peppier.  I don’t think I got anywhere faster than I would have on my Oma, but I used a bit less energy.  Some people are thrown off by the front handling of the Oma, feeling that the front wheel way out front is too unweildy.  Those people would not have that issue with the Secret Service – handling is definitely more nimble and responsive.

Like any respectable Dutch bike, the Secret Service holds a substantial amount of cargo.  The integrated rear rack is rated to carry around 65 pounds, while the built-in bungie straps are useful for fastening all sorts of stuff on the rack.  There is an option to increase the cargo capacity significantly by adding a front rack that is rated for up to 50 pounds.  (Same as Oma.)

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Shimano roller brakes in the front and rear are excellent in any weather.  Since they are covered, they are not affected by rain or snow.  With roller brakes, your days of taking twice as long to screech to a stop in bad weather are over.  (Same as Oma.)

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The sturdy wheels are 28″ with Schwalbe tires.  Schwalbes are the best!  The ones on my Oma have never gotten a flat after almost 5 years – knock on wood.  (Same as Oma, but the tires are narrower on the Secret Service.)

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For gearing, there is a Shimano internal hub with 8-speeds.  The bike is also available with a 3-speed hub.  This Shimano Nexus shifting system is a joy to use – transitions are super smooth and allow for changing gears while completely stopped.  (Same as Oma.)

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There are several components that work together to keep your clothes clean and safe. The chain case will prevent your clothes from getting dirty, greasy or eaten by the chain. The fact that the chain is fully covered majorly cuts down on maintenance and helps make this an excellent all-weather, all-season bike.  (Same as Oma, but with a center cut-out and overall lighter look.)

The skirt guard will prevent your skirt or coat from getting caught in the wheel spokes while riding.   (Same as Oma, but smaller and see-through.)

The sturdy two-footed, center-mounted kickstand holds the bike up no matter what. A sturdy kickstand is especially helpful while loading and unloading.  (Same as Oma.)

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Heavy duty fenders are included – an essential for all-weather riding, especially in nice work clothes.  Remember: friends don’t let friends get skunk stripe.  (Same as Oma.)

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The bike is equipped with integrated front and rear lights, which are essential for safe daily riding.  The lights are hub dynamo, which means they are powered by your pedaling and batteries are not needed – a huge benefit!  I really cannot overemphasize the usefulness of integrated lights.  Few situations are more dicey than biking home in the dark after your battery-operated light runs out of juice or is stolen.  (Same as Oma.)

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A sprung Brooks B67 saddle is standard.  This saddle really contributes to the smoothness of the ride.  I can attest that these are absolutely the most comfortable saddles out there, after a short breaking in period of only a few days.  (Same as Oma.)

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The rear wheel comes with a wheel lock, a useful extra that immobilizes the bike – unless someone wants to carry her away.  (Same as Oma.)

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The platform pedals work well with all kinds of shoes, helping to prevent slippage.  (Same as Oma.)

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There is a built-in tire pump that I find to be an odd addition, as I much prefer to use a floor pump.   The chain case makes fixing flats on the go a huge pain and Schwalbe tires rarely get a flat, so a mini pump does not seem very useful.   (Oma does not have a pump.)

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In summary, the set-up of the Secret Service is the same as Oma’s, except the the skirt guard, chain case, and tires are slighter; the handlebars are not swept back as far; the tubing is a tad thinner; and the weight is a bit lower. In exchange for a smaller size and peppier response, the ride is not as smooth and the overall feel is not as luxurious as Oma’s. Those who find the Oma ill-suited because she is too big or heavy would do well to check out the Secret Service. (I’m talking to you, shorter peeps!)

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The WorkCycles Oma is firmly in a class of her own. She reigns as Queen of Citybikedom.

The WorkCycles Secret Service is a first-rate bike with excellent quality, utility and beauty, but could be considered in the same general class as the following:

Gazelle Toer Populair
Pashley Sonnet Bliss
Velorbis Victoria / Dannebrog
Pilen Lyx

Riding the Secret Service reminded me more of those four bikes than of the Oma. Oma is like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Float or a glider rocker on wheels; the other bikes are like very nice bikes.

I would recommend the Secret Service over the Oma for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the size of the Oma, who dislikes the sometimes-unweildly front handling of the Oma, or who travels longer distances or encounters the occasional hill.

As always, I recommend trying to test-ride as many different bikes as possible before deciding which bike is best for you. If you’re in Chicago, you can head over to J.C. Lind Bikes in Old Town (and soon, because he’s getting only one more small shipment of WorkCycles for the rest of the year).

Finally, here is a quick video I put together that hopefully gives you a better idea of the bike.

P.S. Read about our visit to the WorkCycles shop in Amsterdam here.

{As always, we at LGRAB receive nothing for our reviews except the joy of spreading beautiful bike love.}

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Step-through bike frames for tall women

Two years ago, Kara of Knitting Lemonade wrote a guest post for LGRAB, describing her search for a chic bike that would fit her 6 foot frame.  Today, jamonwheels, a reader taller than Kara, asked:

I am finding it impossible to find a step through bike frame comfortably large enough from my large frame. I am 76 inches tall [ed. note: over 6'3], very tall for a woman, with a 36 inch inseam. Help! Are there really no frames for women larger than 19 inches?

I do not know much about taller bikes, so I checked out a few models that came to mind.  The WorkCycles Secret Service and WorkCycles Oma come as large as 24 inches (61 cm).  The WorkCycles Gr8 and WorkCycles Fr8 have a seat tube adjustable for riders up to 6’4.  The Rivendell Betty Foy comes in 24 inches (60 cm).  Note that the Betty Foy no longer is made in the 62 cm size.  The Pashley Princess comes in 22.5 inches (57 cm).  The Velorbis Victoria comes as large as 22 inches (56 cm).

A few brands I checked that do not have step-throughs tall enough for someone over 6 feet: Civia Twin City, Heritage Daisy, Public, Linus.

I’m sure there are other bikes out there.  Please share any and all suggestions in the comments!

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Heritage Bicycle’s The Chief – Legacy Edition

Eye candy alert!  Today Heritage Bicycles announced a new creation, the Chief Legacy Edition.

What a beauty!  The basic Chief is also available at a much lower price point.

This bicycle is made even more alluring by the story of how it’s made.

Here at Heritage Bicycles we take pride in creating locally handcrafted bicycle frames. Using local steel from the mills of Chicago, we use top grade american high-tensile steel, welded into smooth riding and looking bicycles built to take on the rigors of city life. We do all of our handiwork in-house. From design to welding, painting, and assembly, we employ hard working american craftsmen, right here in Chicago, IL.

Very cool to see this work going on in Chicago.

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Mid-life Cri-cycle

Last month, reader Bethany made a delightful comment on my Velorbis Dannebrog review, sharing the tale of her new Velorbis, which she labeled her “mid-life cri-cycle.”  I responded that if she wanted to send a photo, I would love to share it with everyone here.  Today I checked my email and there it was, “Bethany’s Velorbis,” totally brightening up my morning.

Bethany and Her Velorbis Dannebrog

Bethany’s original comment:

Mine just came in and I love it! My 50th birthday present, I call it my mid-life cri-cycle. I chose the Velorbis over a heavier Dutch bike since we have plenty of hills in Kansas City. The flat lands everyone thinks of don’t start for another 200 miles or so. And who wouldn’t fall for the color. I just had to have it!

This bike is the most comfortable bike I ever ridden. It leaves simply no excuse in my mind for not riding a bike, as long as you have two legs that move. I look forward to the day when bike stores everywhere have these bikes. Until then, I give high marks to My Dutch Bike in San Francisco, where I bought my Velorbis.

I ride 4 miles each way to work and park it in the administrative area of my office. I found a lovely back street route. I’m proactive with the bell–people backing out don’t always see me–and take my lane. So far so good.

Thanks, Dottie, for introducing me to Dutch bikes, and transportation biking. I started following your blog after I read about you in Yes! Magazine.

Yay! Love it. Thanks for sharing, Bethany.

Does anyone else have a “mid-life cri-cycle?” What kind of bike would you choose?

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J.C. Lind Bike Co. and Pilen Preview

I know I’m spoiled by Chicago’s collection of bike shops and unique bicycles. The least I can do is take full advantage and share my experiences through this blog.

In that spirit, below is a photo of me saying goodbye to a Pilen this afternoon, after a three day test ride. I’ll provide a full review here soon, but spoiler alert: I loved it!

(As an aside, today was 90 degrees and a black t-shirt is great for disguising sweat spots. I’m going to regret saying this in a few months, but – damn, who else is ready for fall? I’m so tired of sweating.)

Anyway, back to the Pilen. It’s a Swedish bike, the newest addition to J.C. Lind Bike Co.

J.C. Lind is a sponsor of LGRAB, but I’m saying this as a friend and bike-lover: any bicyclist in Chicago who has not visited the shop and gotten to know Jon Lind is missing out.

If you’re in the city, you really should stop by and chat with Jon, test ride some bikes, and check out the cool accessories. People always ask where they can buy a Nutcase helmet or Basil pannier like mine – that’s where! The shop is in Old Town, on Wells Ave between North and Division. If you’re far from Chicago but looking for a cargo bike or unique city bike, you can visit his shop virtually. The impressive list of bikes includes Christiana, Batavus, Gazelle, Linus, Civia, Golden Lion, Kangaroo, Yuba and Pilen.

Jon is so friendly and he’s in this business for the love of bikes and bike culture. He really cares about bringing the best cargo and city bikes to Chicago – just what our city needs!

If you stop by, tell him Dottie says hi. :)

I’m glad this blog gives me an excuse to try out bikes. Someone tell me I’m not the only one who lusts after new bikes, knowing full well that I have neither the money nor the space for any more.

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June’s Women-who-bike Picnic Brunch!

Sun, women, bikes, brunch, sangria, fresh mown grass = a perfect Sunday morning.  This month’s women-who-bike brunch was a picnic on the lakefront, with everyone bringing a dish to share – and boy were there some delicious baked goods!  Although Chicago has scores of great brunch restaurants, the picnic was so much better than being cooped up indoors.  After about 8 months of cold, Chicagoans know how to enjoy the summer!

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves now.













Thank you, awesome women, for choosing to spend your Sunday morning with the group!
As always, women in the Chicago area who would like to join the brunch (or one of the happy hours – next one on Monday, June 13) should email me at LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com.
Hope to see you there!  :)
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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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Beautiful Bicycles: Gouden Leeuw Oma

While having Betty Foy serviced last week, I borrowed a Gouden Leeuw Oma from J.C. Lind Bikes (a sponsor of LGRAB) for a couple of days.

Although the Gouden Leeuw may look a lot like my Workcycles Oma, the two are very different bikes. My Oma is a full luxury brick house, while the GL Oma is relatively diminutive, much lighter and $700 less. Also, the GL Oma is a single speed with coaster brakes.

Aside from those factors, there are many similarities.  The GL Oma has a powder coated steel frame and all of the accessories that I demand from the best city bikes.

Fully enclosed drivetrain. The full chain case acts as a barrier between the chain and the outside world, meaning both the drivetrain and your clothes stay clean and protected. Fenders! Essential to keeping yourself clean and dry in any weather.

Front and rear battery powered lights.  I prefer hub lights that receive energy from pedaling alone, but these battery powered lights help keep both the weight and the cost down.

A wheel lock to provide extra minimum security and a skirt guard to keep your clothes from getting sucked into the wheel.

A comfortable saddle. This Brooks saddle is an upgrade that I highly recommend as the most comfortable saddle ever. A rear rack to carry heavy loads with strong rubber straps to hold down all sorts of packages.

A double footed kickstand to keep your bike upright when parked, especially helpful for loading and unloading cargo.  This kickstand model is better than a regular one-footed design, but is not totally sturdy and I much prefer the two-footed center kickstand on my Oma.


A minimalist cockpit features comfy rubber grips and a bell.  There are no cables or other distracting elements because there are no handbrakes and no gear shifters. I prefer coaster brakes (where you pedal backward to stop) combined with a front hand brake. The coaster brake set up alone on this bike is not my favorite for city cycling.

The bike comes in two frame sizes. I am 5’7 and I rode the 50 cm frame for riders 5’2 to 5’8.  The other frame is 57 cm for riders 5’8 to 6’2.  The 50 cm fit me fine after raising the seat and handlebars, but I felt like I could have ridden the 57 cm.

Riding this bike around Chicago was fun, smooth and swift. The gearing was spot on and I never felt limited by one gear (although I never rode up any hills).  I felt like I was perched atop one of those European bikes from the early 20th century, on which you sit straight up but keep your hands down low. A jaunty ride that made me want to talk with my terrible British accent. ‘ello!


Overall, I liked this bike. While it lacks the indestructible feel of my Oma, it’s a good choice for someone who appreciates the design and utility of a Dutch city bike, but not the weight or the higher price tag. All of the bells and whistles that make for a utilitarian city bike are there, rolled into a classic and stylish design.

I’m not sure about the price, though. $900 is substantially less than most other Dutch bikes on the market and it’s an okay asking price for a bike with so many features, but at that price point there are other excellent bikes that I would consider, such as the Abici, Pashley Poppy or base Civia Loring. The Gouden Leeuw may be as good as those bikes, but without the name recognition and reputation, it’s impossible for me to say. I don’t know if this is the kind of bike that can be used and abused and still counted on a decade later. I’m also not a fan of the coaster brake set up and would want to add on a front hand brake.

I would love to hear from any Gouden Leeuw Oma owners out there. I know of some who were lucky enough to snap them up during the Groupon deal at an amazing price.

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Beautiful Bicycles: Yuba Mundo Cargo Bike

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently test rode a Yuba Mundo from J.C. Lind Bikes for 24 hours. Yuba is a utility bike company based in California and the Mundo can carry up to 450 pounds of cargo on the back while riding like a regular bike. As some of my co-workers noted today, this is the station wagon of bikes (as opposed to Oma, which they’ve called my Cadillac).

The bike is not super heavy for its size and is equipped with 21 gears on a derailleur system to help make any load do-able.

You change the gears by turning the grip shifters on the handlebars.

Fenders cover both wheels to help keep you clean and dry.  A spring above the front tire keeps the handlebars stabilized and prevents the bars and the wheel from flopping to the side.

This bike requires maintenance to keep the v-brakes, derailleur and huge exposed chain clean.  Not a big deal, but a factor that does not come into play with traditional Dutch and Danish cargo bikes. Note that the frame could be built up with disc brakes and internal gear hubs, but that would cost extra.

The frame is covered with braze-ons, like the water bottle ones below, to make attaching racks and other add-ons easy.  The top tube is unusually thick, which was annoying at first because my knees kept knocking against it as I pedaled.  But after a few minutes, I adjusted to carrying myself a bit differently and the bumping stopped.

The frame comes in only one size, but the bike is highly adjustable to allow multiple family members to ride it by changing the seat and handlebars.

The one thing that I would change is the step-over height, but maybe that’s a necessity of the design.  Mounting and dismounting in my skirt was inelegant, to say the least, and an easier step-over would be especially beneficial when hauling a load, I assume.

The riding position is pretty straight up, as you can see, although I moved the handlebars more upright to match my preference and the bars could be placed lower and further forward for a slightly more aerodynamic feel.

The main attraction, of course, is the long tail, which is rated to hold up to 450 pounds of cargo.  In addition to the rack itself, rails extend out below the rack to make hanging and strapping stuff along the side super easy.

If I owned the bike, I would permanently attach two saddlebags (those suckers are huge!), one on each side, and distribute bigger loads evenly between both sides.  I think it would be awesome to ride this bike around all the time, never having to worry about my ability to carry any load, while at the same time not feeling weighed down by a big cargo bike when not carrying anything.  This bike also has kid seats that clip onto the rear rack, so if you’re comfortable carrying kids on the back, it’s the most versatile kid/cargo carrier that I’ve test-ridden.

Since I borrowed the bike on the spur of the moment, I did not get to try it with a load.  I wanted to go grocery hauling or do something cool, but I really did not need groceries or to spend any more money.  I carried two bags and a heavy lock in the saddle bag, so there was some weight, but nothing monumental.  I know that greatly limits the helpfulness of this review – sorry about that.

I rode along the lakefront in a stiff headwind this morning, and while the bike was not speedy, it was not heavy like my Dutch bike would have been. The 21 gears are really awesome to use.  The thick 26″ wheels and long wheelbase make the bike draggy, but are essential for carrying sturdy loads.

Handling in general is superb for a cargo bike.  The Yuba rides like a regular bike – granted not like the best bike in the world, but like a smooth and sturdy hybrid.  I got used to the feel of the bike after a couple of minutes and after that could have forgotten that I was riding a strange bike, if it weren’t for all the stares I got from pedestrians.  I’m sure a heavy load would affect that to some degree, but the quality of the ride unloaded is a good sign.

The Yuba Mundo really stands out for its ability to haul massive loads, while functioning like a regular bike when all you want is a regular bike.  If you want to haul stuff on your bike but find the idea of a bakfiets-type bike cumbersome and/or too pricey, the Yuba is definitely worth checking out. Priced at $1095 for the set-up I rode, it’s a relative bargain.

My test ride review can only scratch the surface of this bike, so I encourage you to try it out in real life, if possible (available at J.C. Lind for Chicagoans) and check out Steven Can Plan to hear from an owner. In particular, check out his “Rules for Yubering” and impressive all-Yuba Flickr set.

I know there are quite a few of you out there who ride a Yuba or the similar Surly Long Haul Trucker Big Dummy, so I’d love to hear from all of you about your experiences, especially with carrying substantial loads.

Questions? Leave them in the comments. I may not be able to answer them all, but hopefully someone with more intimate Yuba experience could jump in.

{J.C. Lind Bikes is a sponsor of LGRAB. That’s not why I decided to test this bike, but I should point out that relationship.}

{Also, tying this back to yesterday’s post, I took these photos using the film SLR camera I bought for $25, I’m wearing the wool-silk skirt I bought for $2, and I’m displaying my Irish pride for St. Paddy’s day.}


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Spring Feistiness

Regardless of the actual season, my mind is determined to spring forward. I know because spring feistiness is slowly replacing winter fortitude.

As I mentioned calmly this morning:

THE SNOW IS MELTING!

THE TEMPERATURE IS WARMING!!

THE SPRING IS COMING!!!

After publishing that optimistic message, I swaggered outside in a dress, tights and windbreaker – and the air promptly greeted me with a frosty 27F embrace. Reality rolled her eyes at me.

That’s what happens when my head gets stuck in the clouds. What’s that you say? Something about it being only February 15? I can’t hear you with all these clouds in my ears!

But I soon warmed up, along with the weather as the day progressed, until my ride home was in the high 30’s. Road conditions were hugely improved over last week. Although melting snow in the alleys and puddles froze overnight, the streets and occasionally the bike lanes were clear and dry.

Last spring's feistiness - throw on a windbreaker and gloves and that was today's outfit

I rode Betty Foy, my (relatively) fast bike. About half-way to work, a messenger-type guy bombed past me. A burst of mischievousness caused me to dial up the energy. I was compelled to catch and keep up with him, which I did the rest of the way to work.

Vroom, vroom! ;)

I won’t lie, I was huffing and puffing, but hopefully not loudly enough for him to hear me.

I don’t remember ever getting that impulse during the freezing winter, but long-time readers may remember that I posted about this feistiness/ego last spring.

It’s good to feel feisty again. Winter biking is sooooo 2010 – I’m ready for a new challenge. Let the sweet, fresh air of cold Chicago spring fill my lungs! (Even if it’s still a month away and the temp was -6F only five days ago.)

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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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How To: Cycle Sleek Winter Wear

As winter glides along, I continue to enjoy the beauty of the snow and the invigorating freshness of the cold air.  One thing that begins to feel oppressive about the season, however, is the heft of my usual winter wear.  As I wrap the same wool scarf around my neck, pull the same clomping snow boots on, and zip the same puffy vest up for the hundredth time, I heave a bitter sigh.  That’s when I know it’s time to get creative.

If you’re getting tired of all the bulky accessories that go with winter cycling and are biking less because of it, please read on.  A sleek and streamlined winter cycling outfit is possible, it only requires a bit more thought and care.

  • Legs: The trick here is simple: two pairs of tights, a thick wool pair underneath a regular opaque pair.  No one will know and it’s way warmer than a pair of jeans.  Then you can simply wear whatever skirt or dress you want to wear.
  • Feet: On top of the tights, a pair of thick wool socks.  However, this alone is not enough for me, personally.  Even with snow boots, my sensitive toes freeze quickly.  The only solution I’ve found are toe warmers.   With toe warmers, I’m free from both snow boots and freezing toes.  I can wear fashionable boots for the first time since October!  I get a lot of questions about the ones I’m wearing here – they’re from Nine West 5 years ago, not expensive at all.
  • Torso:   Once again, wool saves the day.  A long-sleeved thin merino wool shirt, topped with a super thick wool cowl neck sweater.  Add a wool caplet and done.  No coat needed.  But the trick here is a seriously thick wool sweater.  Invest in a good one, by which I mean dig around in thrift shops for hours until you hit the jackpot.  I bought the sweater pictured a decade ago and it’s still like new.  I bought the hand-knit caplet from an Etsy crafter.
  • Neck: Now you can leave the scarf at home – the cowl neck on the sweater can be pulled all the way up to cover the nose, if necessary.  If you don’t have a cowl neck sweater, use your happiest and least itchy scarf.
  • Ears:  A wool winter hat takes care of the ears.  Earmuffs would also be a good choice.
  • Hands:  Okay, I’m still stumped on this one, forced to wear ginormous ski mittens.  I just took them off for the pictures.  Like my toes, my fingers are susceptible to freezing.

The great thing about cycling is that you can actually get away with a bit less clothing, since your body will create its own heat.  This get-up might not keep me warm if I were standing at a bus stop, where it always seems like I’m waiting for an eternity, but it’s perfect for my bike ride.

Of course, a lot about how I dress for winter cycling depends on how I’m feeling on a particular day.  Sometimes I don’t give a care and end up in long johns and a puffy down coat.  No shame in that!  But when I feel the need to take it up a notch and escape the winter doldrums, I like to know that it’s possible, without leaving my bike at home.

If anyone would like to pull together a sleek winter look of their own based on this advice or show others how they’re already doing it, please send a picture and description to LGRAB [at] letsgorideabike [dot] com.  I’d love to create a group round-up, similar to my recent post on winter footwear. (Hint: If you do this, you’ll be one step ahead in the LGRAB Winter Games.  More details soon.)

Any questions or tips of your own? Please leave them in the comments!

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A Midwinter Celebration

On a very cold Saturday evening, a group of fun-loving city cyclists came together for a midwinter celebration at local Chicago shop, Dutch Bike Co. A time to recharge batteries, talk with cool people and drink lots of wine out of a cargo bike.  :)

Among the cool people there (I wish I’d taken even more pictures!) was Janet, a writer and illustrator who rides an Oma and blogs at Tuttle Tattle.

And Steve, who just returned from a whirlwind European trip, including stops in Amsterdam and Copenhagen.  You can read about his trip at Steven Can Plan.

The array of bikes parked outside was beautiful, including this Madsen owned by Ashley of new blog One Less Minivan.

Between chatting and sipping, I had time to gawk at all the cool stuff, including Po Campo’s new prototype laptop pannier made by local ladies, Maria and Emily.

Also on display, Dutch seat covers and Yepp kid seats.

And these amazing navy blue and green Brooks saddles.  Has anyone seen colored leather saddles like these before?  I’m intrigued!

I’m lucky to have such great local bike shops in Chicago. A good local shop can become a meeting place for like-minded folk and help create a feeling of real community, even in a big city.  This celebration was all about socializing, talking to old friends and meeting new ones.  Such opportunities are rare.  Usually in the bike community, every event is organized around either recreation, like a group ride, or advocacy work.  I think merely talking with other people who “get it” is an effective, subtle form of advocacy, and a fun recreation to boot.

I encourage everyone, wherever you may live, to approach your local bike shop about hosting a similar celebration.  Get the ball rolling in your own community!

(Dutch Bike Co. is a sponsor of LGRAB. It’s also my local bike shop, which I’ve been writing about since long before we had sponsors.)

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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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Beautiful Bicycles: Meet My New Bike!

Drum roll, please…

After a teaser several weeks ago, I’m happy to report that a new bike has finally joined the Dottie household:  A Velorbis Studine Balloon: designed in Denmark, made in Germany and sold in Chicago at Copenhagen Cyclery.

Rust-colored Schwalbe Fat Frank balloon tires, creamy white steel frame…

Integrated rear rack with briefcase hook…

Wheel lock, double kick stand, chain case…

Bell, comfy rubber grips…

3-speed Sturmey Archer internal hub…

Brooks saddle, rattan basket, fenders, all around super classiness…

Alas, no integrated lights, skirt guard or fancy leather grips, but that’s what keeps the price at a reasonable $1,295.

I want to be perfectly clear about my acquisition of this bike.  I did not buy the bike, but it is not a tester or a freebie.  Rather, it’s bartered using good old-fashioned economics.  Companies advertising on LGRAB usually pay a certain amount per month.  Instead of money, Copenhagen Cyclery is “paying” with a bike.  I view it as a fair exchange for something Copenhagen Cyclery wants (advertising) and something I want (a gorgeous bike).

I also want to be perfectly clear that the exchange includes nothing about my editorial content.  Copenhagen Cyclery will get an ad on the sidebar, nothing more.  There’s no agreement that I will talk up the shop or Velorbis or write about the bike.  Naturally, the bike will show up as part of my usual posting, just as my two other bikes show up, but I hope that you all will continue to trust that I have not turned into a corporate shill.

Incidentally, if other bike shops or companies are interested, Trisha is open to entertaining offers for an Abici or similar light and classy creature.  ;)

Now that all of that’s out of the way, we can focus on the real important stuff. Like, what should I name her? She reminds me of cream and sugar, a cafe au lait, but how does that translate to a name?

(p.s. Squeeee! New bike! :))

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FAQ’s – Part II

Earlier this year, Trisha and I opened a Formspring account and welcomed you all to ask us questions.  We’ve been answering the questions on Formspring individually as they come in.  Now we’re putting the answers together as a cohesive FAQ section, although some of the questions are not so frequent.  :)  This is the second half.  Read the first half here.

Amsterdam is flat. Chicago is flat. Is Nashville flat? What effect does topology have on how bike-friendly a city is? I suppose Portland is not flat.

I don’t think Portland is flat, no. And Nashville definitely isn’t! IMO that is not the biggest consideration for bike-friendliness, although it may be an obstacle in developing a large bicycling culture since hills can be intimidating. You will develop the necessary muscles, and there’s always the downhill stretches! And hey, as Dottie pointed out in a recent post, there’s no shame in walking your bike up a hill if you need to.

Don’t your feet get sweaty when wearing heels? Even when I wear just flats its definitely not as comfortable as when I wear socks + some sort of sneaker

No, my feet are actually cooler when I’m not wearing socks and sneakers. Maybe you could throw a bit of talcum or baby powder into your heels before you set off and see if that makes a difference.

Continue reading

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FAQ’s – Part I

Earlier this year, Trisha and I opened a Formspring account and welcomed you all to ask us questions.  We’ve been answering the questions on Formspring individually as they come in.  Now we’re putting the answers together as a cohesive FAQ section, although some of the questions are not so frequent.  :)  This is the first half.  We’ll post the second half soon.

How and when did Dottie and Trisha meet?

Trisha and I met through our mutual friend, Erin, at a group happy hour. The first meeting I really remember was at a Russian dinner party I threw at my apartment. Trisha showed up with a shirt that said, in Russian, “I love Russian.” Awesomeness. Soon after, we went to a midnight showing of Gremlins and I drank too much beer and had to leave before the movie ended (beer buzz + crowded theater + gremlins driving Barbie cars = overwhelming). From then on, we were fast friends.  :)  That was, I think, about 4 years ago when I lived in Nashville for law school.

What saddles do you use on your bikes?

I (Dottie) have Brooks saddles, which I love. On Oma it’s the B67 with springs – the most comfortable saddle ever. On Betty it’s the B17S – no springs and took longer to break in, but still great. Trisha’s Batavus came with a Selle Royale and her Peug has a vintage saddle.

Continue reading

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Cocktail Party Ride – Fall 2010

On Sunday evening, 25 Chicago cyclists joined together to ride and drink in style, demonstrating that bicycling in a suit or dress and heels is easy.  The temperature was about 40 degrees with a stiff wind, but otherwise a lovely autumn evening, perfect for bicycles and sidecars.  Thanks to everyone who came out! You all looked fabulous and I wish I could have taken everyone’s picture! And special thanks to Mr. Dottie for putting on a suit – very rare.  :)

THE RIDERS

THE RIDE

THE COCKTAIL PARTY

To all Chicagoans: See you next time! Date TBD. (Likely to be co-hosted again by John of Vote With Your Feet.)

To all others: Start planning your own cocktail ride. It’s so fun and easy!

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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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Where has your bicycle journey taken you?

We may be back from France in body, but not in spirit.  Therefore, our fabulous guest blogging continues just a bit longer!  Today we have the lovely Sigrid from My Hyggelig.

My Hyggelig
began as
A place to share
A place to be positive
A place to be creative
A place to focus on happiness.
Along the journey
bicycles, bicycling, and bicyclists,
something always close to my heart,
began to become an important and enjoyable focus.

It is interesting how an interest
can open a world
enhance the everyday
bring like-minded people together
and create new journeys…

My interest in Dutch-Style bicycles in particular
has taken me to…

…Denmark
where I have found
that there can be happiness and beauty
in a cold and wintery climate:

thank you Mikael

…The Netherlands
where I can wander the streets of Amsterdam everyday
and enjoy a vacation trip with Marc via Dutch Bicycle:

thank you Marc

…Edmonton
where a chat with
Miss S
helped seal the deal on the Pash…Edmonton

thank you Sarah

…San Francisco
My Hyggelig
Where Meli-g takes me on all her adventures
And lets me know it is okay for home to be where the heart is.

thank you Meli-g…Soon my friend, soon….

…England
where I was along for Trisha’s Batuvus adventure.

thank you Trisha

…Chicago
where D.O.T. inspires me
when it is -20 below, grey, and windy
or 98 above, sunny, and humid…Chicago

I love this picture, Dottie looks like a Scandinavian Ice Princess
Thank you D.O.T.

On a business trip to San Francisco
I had a lovely morning
test riding and talking bicycles.

On a vacation trip to Sweden
I spent two of the loveliest afternoons of all time
test riding a Skeppshult and a Kronan

And in Minneapolis
I make small local trips
more about the journey
than the destination.

Fitting bicycles into my daily life,
where ever I may be
or want to go
brings me unique experiences
and lasting memories.
Finding happiness in the ordinary
by making it extraordinary
is what my life in Minneapolis has taught me.

Where has your bicycle journey taken you?

Continue the journey with Sigrid at her beautiful blog, My Hyggelig.

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