Tag Archives: beautiful bikes

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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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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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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A Bicycle Named Millicent

Hello very lovely Let’s Go Ride a Bike readers! This is Maria, of Lulu Letty, here to guest blog for Dottie and Trisha while they’re off exploring France. I am very honored to be chosen as a guest blogger and have the chance to chat about my lovely bike, Millicent. Dottie is a bit of a superhero to me – saving the planet while informing people about the joys of bicycling. Reading her posts and seeing that she could still wear her everyday (or even work) clothes while cycling, truly inspired me to finally buy a bicycle of my own.

While my dream bicycle has always been a Pashley Princess Sovereign (Regency Green), I knew that unless I would be commuting I didn’t want to make that financial investment just yet. So being a lover of vintage and thrifting, I started rummaging through Craigslist in the hope of finding the perfect bicycle. I was pretty lucky that within the first hour of searching, I found my dear Millicent. She was a vintage Sears bicycle from the 70’s and was in great condition. So I went to check her out and take a test drive. I knew immediately that, even though she was burgundy and not hunter green, she was the bike I was looking for. After a paint job and the purchase of a straw basket, Millie and I were ready to start the first of our many adventures together.

Visit the fabulously stylish and smart Maria at Lulu Letty.  For more Millicent photo shoots, see Millicent with breeches , with shorts and brogues,  on a picnic, and during her first ride.

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Emotional Bicycle

Today’s beautiful guest post is from Velouria of Lovely Bicycle, who really needs no introduction.

Earlier this month I tried to sell one of my bicycles – a vintage mixte that I no longer need because a new one has been custom built for me. I say “tried,” because in the end I could not go through with it and decided to keep it. There were just too many emotions tied to this bicycle, too many personal experiences associated with it.

If there is anything I have learned in my year and a half of cycling, it is that a bicycle is more than just a bicycle. When cycling is a part of everyday life, our bicycles become integrated into our memories of everything meaningful and exciting that happens to us. Over time, the bicycle attains the intimate, emotional features of the events and memories it represents.

When I look at my old aqua blue mixte, I see more than just a bike. I see winding paths with overarching trees, I see sunsets over the river, I see the endless sand dunes of Cape Cod, I see familiar Boston street scenes changing with the seasons, and I see events of the past unfolding around me. Those are all things this bicycle allowed me to experience in a new and unique way, and the experiences will always be associated with it.

Some will say that it is foolish to form attachments to objects. After all, it is experience that matters. But experience is fleeting, and since the dawn of time people have sought to keep mementos of meaningful events – something to look at or touch, that would evoke a welcome memory of a favourite moment. Whether we realise it or not, I think for many of us the bicycle plays this role.

Visit the enchanting and informative bicycle world of Velouria at Lovely Bicycle.

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Bike Fun with Girls & Bicycles

On Saturday Mr. Dottie and I had the privilege of spending the whole day with Miss Sarah of Girls & Bicycles and her husband Don. We showed them Chicago, local style. First they came to our place to get fitted on Oma and Sir Raleigh. Despite the height differences, the bikes worked out.

Then we rode a few miles to the Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood, where we had brunch at Toast and walked around. While Sarah scored at the BCBG sale and the thrift store, I finally found a good straw hat at Goorin Brothers hat shop. Eventually we ended up at the gem of the neighborhood, Copenhagen Cyclery. Much riding of awesome bikes and talking of sustainable living with owner Brett and manager Phil ensued.

We all had lots of fun with the Velorbis Mobii.

Then we rode the Larry v. Harry Bullitt.  That bike got the best of me – I could not even ride it a few yards without bailing, lest I fall over.  Something about the steering is very odd, but Don and Greg managed to figure it out.

After the shop, we drank delicious cocktails at The Violet Hour speakeasy.  Our drinks: Swingin’ on the Lawn, The Etiquette, Georgia Peach, Tattooed Seaman, Tequila Old Fashioned, and Juliet and Romeo.

Next we bought wine and picnic food from The Goddess and Grocer and rode our bikes to watch To Catch a Thief in the park with bike friends Elizabeth and Dean, before finally returning home 12 hours after we set off.  A very good day!

Sadly, Sarah and Don – and their crazy foreign accents – are now heading back to Canada.  I’ll have to start planning my trip to Edmonton.  :)

You can see more fabulous pictures of the whole day from Sarah at Girls and Bicycles.

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Beautiful Bicycles: Kangaroo Family Bike

Allow me to introduce you to the Kangaroo, the most sophisticated cargo bike I’ve met. The Kangaroo is a Danish bike, designed specifically – and wonderfully – to carry children. Although I was initially skeptical of a bike made of such modern materials and with such a narrow purpose, after my test ride the Kangaroo now ranks near the top of my bike list.

the Kangaroo

The frame is aluminum 6061, the cargo area is impact-resistent and UV-stabalized polyethylene, and the cover is nylon. Good old-fashioned wood and steel is more appealing to me initially, but these materials go together to create a unique and utilitarian set-up that would not be possible without them. The cover, when fully set up, is wind, water and snow proof, although there is an additional tarp for heavy downpours and outside storage.  The convertible cover is impressively simple to operate, going from fully-enclosed to open-air in about ten seconds.

ready for action

There is only one frame size, but everything is adjustable to allow more than one member of a family to hop on and drive. In addition to the seat, the handlebar system is highly adjustable, able to go up, down, forward, backward and all around. The position of the bars in these photos is a little further from me than I would have them set up for long-term use. There are also several hand positions for comfort, kinda like cargo bike drop bars. The steering responsiveness is also fully adjustable, so the driver can set it how she or he feels most comfortable.

riding

The amazing part of this bike is the cargo area, designed to hold kids with many different set-ups.  The seats look super comfortable and a harness holds the kiddies in.  Here is the main set-up with two seats facing the front.

two seats

The seats are held on with these rails and quick-release levers.  Adjusting the seats take a little more time than adjusting the cover, but no more than a couple of minutes.  The seats can slide back and forth to adjust for necessary leg room or cargo.

seat rails

The seats can be turned around so one or both face the back.

facing backward

One seat can be removed to carry only one child in the center and keep a good balance of weight.

one seat

And the seats can lay totally flat for some nap time.

seat laying down

When turning, the front moves separately from the back and the back leans to the side slightly. The turning radius is amazing for a big trike like this.  I was going around and around in tight circles and weaving in and out of parked cars.  The bike always felt completely stable.  My least-favorite part of riding the De Fietsfabriek trike was feeling a bit topsy turvy over every grade change and pothole, even if it was mostly in my head.  With this bike I deliberately went over a lot of uneven pavement (there’s plenty to choose from in Chicago) and never had that feeling.

turning

tight turning radius

The front has hydraulic disc brakes for serious stopping power, although I cannot say how they feel stopping from high speeds, carrying a heavy load or while going downhill.

hydraulic disc brakes

The rear has a coaster brake, which by itself was suitable for my stopping purposes during the test ride. There is a seven speed internal hub – more than enough for Chicago. Again, I cannot say how this bike would feel up hill. I imagine it would be a hard slog, as it would with any cargo bike.

coaster brake, chain guard, 7-speed internal hub

Need even more carrying capacity? There’s a sturdy rack on the back. For keeping your clothes clean, there are fenders and a chain guard. LED lights in the front and rear are built-in. I prefer dynamo lights that automatically work without batteries when I pedal, but at least LED batteries last a long time.

rack, fenders, LED lights

There is a short-term parking brake on the handlebars. For long-term parking, the front kickstand is sturdy. The number you see on the front is also on the frame and serves as a theft deterrent or at least a way maybe to get the bike back if a thief tries to sell it.

ID number for theft, front kickstand

Overall, I’m highly impressed by this bike. The design is ingenious for kid-carrying, the ride is smooth and the handling is superb. The limitations of my short test ride without kids in the front means I cannot give complete information about using the bike, but I know that when the time comes for me to buy a family bike, I will be going back to test ride the Kangaroo again.

better than a Subaru

For more info, check out this Danish article via Copenhaganize that test rode several family bikes and ranked the Kangaroo as the best, giving it a 5 out of 5 rating. The article also calls it the Volvo of bikes and says it has a suburban look to it. Certainly, the Kangaroo is not sexy like the wood and steel Bakfiets, but that would be the least of my concerns while toting a kid around the city.

The company has another version, the Wallaroo, that is shaped like a two-wheeled bakfiets, but has a similar child compartment on the front. I’d be interested to try that version, as well.

As far as I know, the Kangaroo is carried by only one store in the USA and, lucky me, it’s in Chicago. The store is J.C. Lind Bikes.

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

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Still Enjoying the Long Way Home

My commutes have been so lovely lately. Ever since I took the long way home for the Summer Games, I’ve continued taking the same relatively quiet route to and from work. Now I can’t believe that I never discovered this route for over two years.

The route is all calm two-lane streets with bike lanes. Both the car and bike traffic are much lighter and more considerate. Trees line the way, shading me from the hot sun. Kids wait on the corner for school buses. People walk their dogs.

Bonus: I pass right by one of the best cupcake shops in Chicago.

I feel like my commute is now more like a normal commute in a small or mid-sized city, instead of the hulking beast that is Chicago. The whole experience is totally worth the extra five minutes that my ride takes.

{I took these pictures today with my vintage Polaroid with expired film – that’s why they look funny}

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Evie – Future Batavus BUB Owner

Congratulations again to Evie of the lovely blog, Now for Then. She will very soon be the owner of a shiny new Batavus BUB courtesy of Fourth Floor Distribution.  Evie won the bike by completing two events for each of the three parts of the games.  However, she went far above and beyond merely completing the events; she incorporated the challenges into her life with enthusiasm and wrote about it all so wonderfully.  The fun radiates through her blog.  Here are Evie’s entries.

Bike date – ride with a friend and dress up.

Ride with your family.

Test ride a different kind of bike.

Go grocery shopping by bike.

Explore a new part of town by bike.

Go on a picnic by bicycle.

Evie, you and your bike Carmen are awesome!  I think she and Mr. Bub will get along very nicely.  :)

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Summer Games – Kari, Say Hi to a Cyclist

The LGRAB Summer Games have come to an end and we’re getting ready to announce the final winners tomorrow morning. Many thanks to everyone who played! We’re not done with Summer Games fun here, though. Over the next week, we’ll be posting entries that blog-less people emailed us and also putting together more recaps.

The first emailed entry comes from Kari in Minneapolis. This is such a fun story – enjoy!

Nicole and her custom bike

From Kari:

Yesterday, during my commute home, I complimented a woman on her unique bicycle while we were both stopped at a crossing on the Greenway. As we both took off and she receded into the distance, I realized that I could have asked her for her picture and used this as my second entry for the games! Her bike is super cool (evidenced by the photo below) and I was sure I wasn’t going to see anything that cool or unique anytime soon.

She was already pretty far ahead of me, but I decided that I was going to catch up with her anyway! I booked it hardcore in 3rd (my bike is a 3 speed) and I managed to catch up with her, happy but a little out of breath. She was super nice and obliged me with a photo. I told her about the contest and she said she read your blog, too! Her name is Nicole, and her bike was custom-made for her by her boyfriend, Matt, who works at Calhoun Cycle, a bike shop in Uptown.

It’s a really sweet bike in person (she’s sweet too, btw)! It’s not so clear in the photo, but the bike has a smaller front wheel and larger backwheel, plus a handmade chainguard that manages to look sort of steampunk in it’s handmadeness. I think he made the kickstand from scratch, too. Very awesome! Nicole and I geeked out bike-style about custom-made bikes and how hard it is to find European-style bicycles in America. She told me that she was really happy that I stopped her, since people normally ask her “why her bike is so wierd” instead of commenting on how INCREDIBLY AWESOME it is.

So here’s Nicole! Thanks guys!

{Thank you, Kari and Nicole! I love how this story brings two bike lovers – and LGRAB readers – together.}

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Chicago Countryside

Chicago is the third-largest city in America. Skyscrapers, taxis, tourists, crime – it’s all there. However, jump on your bike and ride a few miles south of downtown for this scenery.

The Chicago Countryside is closer than you think :)

{I could not help posting more pictures from our Sunday ride.}

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Beautiful Bicycles: Civia Loring

Chances are good that you’ve already heard of Civia Cycles, the relatively new company in Minnesota making beautiful utilitarian bikes. Civia’s motto is: Life’s better by bike. We agree!

I recently test rode the Civia Loring. The Loring is the most relaxed of the company’s five models. Civia markets the Loring for “tooling around town, cruising campus, or pedaling to the grocer.” This seems to limit the Loring more than necessary, as it is a sturdy utility bike and they make it sound like a cruiser.

The steel frame and sprung Brooks saddle make for a smooth ride, almost like my Dutch bike, but not quite as smooth. The pace of the ride is also similar to my Dutch bike. I had expected the Loring to be a little more peppy, but the bike demands smooth, steady and slower pedaling action. The swept-back handlebars are comfortable and allow for a somewhat upright riding position. The position is similar to that of my Rivendell Betty Foy.

Civia Loring in all her glory

The Loring has the unique combination (at least unique for city bikes) of an internally geared hub and disc brakes. Both of these components are excellent for riding in rain and snow. I rode the 3-speed version (there is also a 9-speed version). The first gear was useless during my test ride in flat Chicago, but could come in handy for people with hills or carrying heavy loads. Second and third gears felt good. Braking at normal speeds and in normal conditions felt no different than braking with the roller brakes on my Dutch bike.

Rear wheel with disc brakes

Front view of Civia Loring

Carrying capacity is outstanding, with integrated front and rear aluminum racks with bamboo slats. A spring prevents the front from swinging around when loaded. The fenders are also bamboo and work to keep you clean and dry in the wet weather. Other stand-outs are the chain guard to keep your pants and long skirts from getting greasy and mangled, and the two-footed kickstand to keep your bike sturdy and upright. Minus a couple of points for the lack of an integrated lighting system.

Integrated front rack with wood slats

Integrated rear rack with wood slat

Wood fenders and 26" wheels

Civia Loring

The Civia Loring is a high-quality and well-thought-out bike. If you are interested in a beautiful and dependable bike to get you and your stuff around town, you may want to add the Loring to your list of bikes to consider. As always, I recommend trying to test-ride as many different bikes as possible, before deciding which bike is best for you.

For other Civia Loring reviews, check out Ecovelo’s and Fortworthology’s great write-ups.

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

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