Tag Archives: bicycle commuting

Goodbye to Autumn?

Fall, I fear, is quickly coming to a close in Chicago.  The temps are dropping into the 30’s and we had our first snow on Halloween evening.

With this in mind, I’m reminding myself to be extra-appreciative of the autumn beauty that surrounds me during my bike commutes.  Soon enough, I’ll be surrounded by wintry beauty.
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P.S. A bit more about that Halloween weather.  The wind was so strong that crashing waves tore chunks of asphalt from the Lakefront Trail, forcing me to bike on city streets this week.  Happily, I hear that crews have fixed all the damage now, less than a week later.

My intrepid friend Dan biked home that evening.  He stopped to record this video of Divvy bikes blowing in the wind!  Dan said, “I had put my omafiets (Dutch bike) down on its side to keep it from blowing away and then hunkered down to shoot these videos.”

Hope everyone is having fun and staying safe this autumn!

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Springtime Dusk

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City life doesn’t get any better than this, especially on a workday.  All thanks to my bicycle.

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From winter to spring…

Right now – late March through early April – is the most refreshing time to ride a bike in Chicago.  The visible signs of fading winter and approaching spring make me so grateful, I could weep.  The chill in the air is enough to make my cheeks rosy, not to cause frost bite.  The sun is still up and slowly setting as I make my way home.  And the Lakefront Trail is calm and peaceful, not yet overcrowded.

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I hope you all are enjoying your bike rides just as much!

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A dash of spring

My wish for bright spring colors came true today, at least a little bit. The amazing 50 degree temperature combined with the bright, lingering sun made the city feel like a springtime paradise.  The sidewalks and lakefront were filled with Chicagoans basking in the glory of the weather.
untitled-6The photos below look cold, but the mere fact that I was able to bike on the Lakefront Trail is a sign of the thaw.   Most of the snow has melted, leaving behind mounds of dirt, salt and debris.
I even warmed up enough to remove my scarf, which looked quite lovely on Oma.
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Unbelievably, I heard on the evening news that Chicago may get over a foot of snow mid-week.  All the more reason to appreciate days like today, I suppose.

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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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Fashion Over Function

Perhaps a flowing white skirt was not the smartest outfit choice for a wet and windy day, but sometimes fashion trumps function, and this morning I wanted to wear a flowing white skirt, dammit.

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I began second-guessing my choice as the lake winds whipped the skirt against Betty’s grimy rack and fender, but by that time there was no turning back.

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In a nod to function, here is my head and eye protective gear that rarely makes it into photos.

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By the end of the day, the hem of my skirt was lightly soiled here and there, but nothing terribly noticeable from a distance.  The real danger was the chocolate cake I enjoyed with lunch, crumbs of which inevitably got smushed on my lap.

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Regardless, riding my bike, eating chocolate cake and wearing a flowing white skirt all made me happy, so I consider the dry cleaning bill worth it.  :-)

Score one for fashion.

{I picked this skirt up from a Paris thrift store for 2 euros.  See it styled for summer here.}

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Bicycling as exercise…or not?

I have been cycling almost daily for so long – over five years now! – that I do not think much about the physical aspect.  When I first started bike commuting, I could feel it in my legs for several months.  By now the act is so routine, I sometimes forget that bicycling is exercise.

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Oma and I setting off to work last week

I was reminded of this fact when I returned to bike commuting after almost a month’s break, due to my travels and other factors.  After two days back in Chicago riding Oma in the wind, my legs muscles were sore.  Really, riding a bike as heavy as Oma is more like weight training than cardio.  :-)

Years ago, I read a Dutch woman comment that because she’s been cycling her whole life, her leg muscles are too used to the motions and she has to do separate exercises to keep her legs toned.  I refuse to believe that – I hate squats!

I wonder how others experience the physical aspects of bicycling and how that has changed (or not) over time.  Anyone care to share?

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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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Early Sunset

The sun is setting earlier and earlier now – a clear sign of the shift in seasons.  While I am not crazy about bicycling in the dark, I appreciate changes that mark the passing of time and keep life from feeling too routine. And I can now watch the transition from day to night during my evening commute.

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I hope all of you are enjoying October so far.  Just remember to carry your bike lights with you at all times!  :-)

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Perfect Bicycling Days

As I tweeted earlier, today was absolutely the most beautiful day of the year so far to bike in Chicago.  Simply perfect.  Light wind, warm air, calm water, blue skies, gentle sun, and a hint of a chill to prevent sweating.  It doesn’t get better than this.  On such days, I am super grateful for my bike, which allows me to spend a lot of time outside just going to and from work.

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In addition to biking, fishing is a popular activity on a day like today, as demonstrated above.

I wish all of you similarly perfect bicycling days.  :-)

 

 

 

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Warm Weather Excitement!

After a very long winter/early spring, truly warm weather has finally come to Chicago.  Yesterday was a whopping 85 degrees!

Bicycling in warm weather feels so different from bicycling in the freezing or even chilly weather.  Over the past 6 (7…8…?) months, I’d forgotten how it felt.  And there are lots and lots of other bicyclists out there, all of a sudden.  Love it!

I picked out my lightest silk skirt and blouse to celebrate the occasion.  I retired my black, winter Bern helmet for my happy, pale pink Nutcase helmet.  (Unfortunately, I had a sweaty helmet hair situation by the time I returned home in the evening, as shown above.)  I also pulled out my fingerless gloves, which I wear in warm weather to prevent discomfort from sweaty palms rubbing against cork grips, as well as to absorb some of the road shock.

That’s about it!  Just happy to share my warm weather excitement.  :-)

P.S.  I’m really enjoying reading everyone’s personal take on the issue in the comments of yesterday’s post, Women, Bicycling and Makeup.  Reader Bettina in Germany posted her perspective on her blog, Books, Bikes, and Food (hey, three of my favorite things!).

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Bike With Me: Elston Separated Lane

Yesterday afternoon I had a meeting across town, which led me to a different route for the commute home.  I was able to take advantage of the newish separated bike lane on Elston Avenue.  I first wrote about this lane in the fall, but have not had occasion to bike it since.

Riding in this lane is like butter.  The separation from cars makes all the difference, of course. Other benefits are not being placed in the door zone and the relatively small number of cross streets, alleys and parking lot exits.  I would love a set-up like this on the busy streets that connect my neighborhood to downtown, where I often feel like a hunted animal during open season.

You can see previous videos of me biking along Chicago’s protected bike lanes here:

Dearborn protected lane  – two-way bike lane in the Loop

18th Street protected lane – the most similar to Elston’s bike lane

Kinzie protected lane – Chicago’s first separated bike lane

 

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Bike Winter Continues

Although the lakefront is melting, with temps in the teens and low twenties, spring still seems far away.

Bike Winter 4ever!

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Bright and Clear Winter Biking

What a gorgeous day in Chicago yesterday!  The clear blue sky made the air feel clean and fresh, despite the city pollution.  There was no better way to experience the beauty than on a bicycle.

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I biked to work on Betty Foy, flying along, soaking in the sun (through my SPF 46), jamming to PJ Harvey, and wearing my happy red coat.

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photo_4resizedI also wore my new Chloe boots, a gift from the second-hand shopping gods.  I stayed up late the night before reconditioning and waterproofing the buttery leather and they are good to go.

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During the day, the temperature climbed to the 30’s and after the ride home, I was actually sweating in my (second-hand) cashmere and wool.

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This is the kind of winter bicycling I can get used to.  Winter is not all doom and gloom!

(As I type this, I hope everyone in the Northeast is recovering from the blizzard – yikes!)

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Winter Bicycling: Rational and Enjoyable

Happy February!

This morning, my friend Elizabeth posted a response on Bike Commuters to a dumb op-ed stating that winter bicyclists are “insane” and “suicidal.”  I love how her response is so reasonable.  Unfortunately, this particular poorly written op-ed is only a drop in the bucket of ridiculous stuff written and said about winter bicyclists.

My own personal response is: calm down and stop being so lame!  You sound silly.  Winter bicycling is perfectly rational and enjoyable.

So when I returned home from work this evening after bicycling 6 miles in 10 degree temps (-12 C), I made a quick video demonstrating how simple and normal the whole thing is.  Pretty dorky, but I’m embracing my inner Liz Lemon in remembrance of 30 Rock.

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My bike ride this evening could not have been better.  As I cycled along the lakefront, the setting sun turned the sky soft shades of blue and pink over the placid, icy blue lake.  Salt covered the trail, rendering the danger of ice moot.  I was not cold; I was happy. And here is what I wore.

What would you say to those anti-winter-bike goofballs?

{See also; video of cycling the lakefronthow to dress for winter cycling, and the LGRAB Winter Guide}

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Icicle Bicycle

The morning temperatures this week have varied from 0 degrees to 10 degrees, plus some snow has been falling.  For a good idea of how bitterly cold Chicago is, check out this photo below of a warehouse fire in the city.

Photo by Jose M. Osorio

Photo by Jose M. Osorio

Yeah, that’s cold!

I spent part of the week riding public transportation and part of the week bicycling.  Although I have biked in sub-zero weather before, the convenience of the L train lures me to the easy option when I’m feeling lazy.  Which is often.  A couple friends have been bicycling on days I took the L, so I give my hardcore title up to them.  :-)

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These photos are in an alley.  The streets are much clearer, so biking in snow and ice has not really been an issue.

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When I ride my bike on super cold days, there are some key pieces I rely on, as I’ve mentioned before.

Wool leggings over my tights to allow me to wear skirts and dresses.

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Hand and toe warmers.

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Snow boots that have been serving me well since 2001 (or the brown ones shown above).

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Ta-da!

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I hope everyone is staying warm, whether on the bike or not.

Now how many weeks until spring?  ;-)

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Winter Beauty

Winter is my favorite time to ride a bike in Chicago.  The paths are relatively empty and there are many sunny mornings, when the blues and whites and sands shine brilliantly.

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There has been a little ice and snow this winter.  Just enough to add a bit of sparkle to the city, not enough to disrupt my routine or put challenges in my path.

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I cannot imagine Chicago winter without bicycling.  I think life would be pretty grim this time of year, if I did not have a reason to frolic outside with regularity.  And I would miss out on so much beauty!

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A Freezing Start to 2013

Welcome, 2013!  As I followed my ritual this morning of pouring a cup of coffee and popping open my macbook to check the weather, I was greeted by this sight:

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12 degrees fahrenheit – yeesh.  (That’s -11 celsius.)  Normal for Chicago winter, but by far the coldest day of this season so far.  At least most of last week’s snow has disappeared.

With very little traffic lately due to people being off work for the holidays, I’ve been enjoying my bike commutes along otherwise highly trafficked streets.  I certainly did not want to miss out on cycling today.  Here I am preparing to set off:

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I wore a wool dress with tights.  To this I added the following for non-bulky but highly effective layering: wool leggings and wool leg warmers, wool socks and winter boots with warmers, a light windbreaker and trench coat, cashmere scarf, glove liners and ski mittens with warmers, earmuffs and winter helmet, and sunglasses (safety glasses after dark to protect my eyes from cold wind).  This is very similar to what I wore in my how-to video for winter cycling.

This worked perfectly.  I was like a little moving furnace.  My only problem was forgetting to fill my pockets with tissue to blow my nose, which runs like crazy in the extreme cold.

When I left work in the evening, the weather had warmed up to a relatively toasty 22 degrees and I was sweating under my layers by the time I got home.

How has your 2013 started?

P.S. For more info on dressing for winter bicycling, see The LGRAB Guide to Winter Bicycling, How To: Cycle Sleek Winter Wear, and How To: Dress For Winter Bike Commuting.

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Returning to the bike after a crash

I got back on my bike last Friday.  The morning was beautiful.

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I felt great during the whole ride, including the bits on the street.  Thank goodness for the Lakefront Trail, where I don’t have to worry about cars.  I’ll be taking this route much more from now on, since my peaceful side-street route turned out to be not so peaceful.

Last night I took city streets home – a similar route as usual but avoiding the intersection – but it was too soon.  I was fearful and started crying a bit for no reason as I went along.  Typing that out is embarrassing, but there you have it.  I’ve always been super defensive and cautious, but now I feel like I cannot trust any intersection situation no matter what.  Plus, I think the night and everything felt too similar.  I’m back on the Lakefront Trail today.

For anyone who’s gone through something like this, how did you feel getting back on the bike?

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Another Friday

One week ago, I began my Friday morning at Heritage Bikes

For a quick breakfast…

With my friend Elizabeth…

Then we biked to work together…

And 10 hours later Elizabeth was picking me up from the ER and ferrying Coco and me home.  (She also happens to be the organizer of Chicago’s Ride of Silence).  Thanks, E!

Today I plan to get back on the bike for the first time.  Circumstances forced me finally to change Betty Foy’s flat tire, so I’ll be riding her.  :)

Happy Friday!

 

 

 

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