Tag Archives: bike commuting in Chicago

Autumn Greetings!

Hello!  A beautiful autumn bike commute today inspired me to check in and share here.  As I’m sure many would agree, autumn is the absolute best time for cycling.  The temps are cool enough to avoid sweating, but not yet freezing.  Despite the perfect conditions, the paths and bike lanes are relatively empty.

This morning, I set out with a cardigan and light gloves, but shed those as I heated up during my 9 mile ride.

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My commute includes the beautiful Buckingham Fountain every morning.  Lucky me!

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Chicago still looks like summer, but there is a definite chill in the air, with morning temps hovering in the mid-high 50’s.

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I suppose this friendly city guy is saving up nuts and cigarette butts for the winter.

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I hope everyone is enjoying the cooler weather!  I plan to be around here more often, so feel free to check in every now and then.

p.s. We are working on the technical issues (such as broken pic links) of our current web home; bear with us.

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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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Wool and Leather in the Rain

This evening I had a dark ride home in light rain.  I was caught without my raincoat or any other special rain accessories, but my normal outfit worked well.

My wool trench coat kept me warm and dry.

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My leather boots served the same purpose for my feet, plus sported a reflective strap for extra visibility.

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My beloved bag was unfazed by the wet weather, thanks to dark leather and pre-treatment with Cadillac Shield Spray.

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My Brooks saddle was protected by me for the ride, but got a bit wet while I took pictures.  I know some people baby their leather saddles, but mine is holding up well, so I’m not too worried.

DSCF4171resized For the most part, light rain does not bother me much.  And soon rain will be replaced by snow!

P.S. Really hard for me to avoid a November Rain reference in this post.  :)

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Focus

Hello there!

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My focus lately has not been on blogging, but I have some renewed energy now.  In three wteeks, I start a new job (an exciting step up in my career!) that will bring me a longer and more scenic bike commute.  And to reward myself I bought a beautiful digital camera that has me eager to document my rides.

This morning I enjoyed my regular bike ride to work in the sunshine and crisp air.

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Betty has been my constant companion for the last month, although I expect to swap her out for Oma as soon as the snow starts.

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And here’s what I wore on my bike, although this was in the middle of the day and Betty, unfortunately, was not around to pose with me.  A cashmere sweater and scarf with a leather jacket kept me plenty warm in the low-30 temps.

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That’s about all I have to share for now.  :-)

I hope everyone is doing well!

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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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The Oma Lifestyle

As I mentioned last month, I’m back to riding Oma almost daily.  And I’m reminded that Oma is not just a bike style, but a lifestyle.

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I slow way down with her and relax into the ride. I coast up to yellow lights instead of accelerating to beat the red.  I enjoy the city sights from my high perch.

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It’s all about opting out of the commute-as-race by sheer force of will.  Even as SUVs speed past me too closely and I breath in truck exhaust, I think happy thoughts and continue slowly pedaling.  Riding Oma helps me maintain a bit of serenity, as the city buzzes around.

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Yoga on the go

My exercise goal for August is decidedly less intense than Trisha’s century ride training.  I have to attend two Bikram yoga classes a week with my friend from work.  The 90 minute classes heated to 105 degrees are not exactly fun.  The best feeling comes when the class is over and I can sail away on my bicycle for the six mile ride home along the Lakefront Trail.  The transition from the oppressive heat of the yoga room to the cool lake breeze of the trail is beautiful and makes me enjoy riding my bike even more than usual.

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Plus, there’s always this view.

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My bike set up on yoga class days is basic.  Okay, a little bag lady-chic.

 

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I strap my mat to the back rack (and then sometimes forget it there for a couple of days, creating deep indentions in the mat).

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I stuff my work bag, change of clothes, towel, water bottle and lock in my front basket.  My basket is low down and anchored to front stays, which helps this load feel light and not interfere with my steering.

My cockpit area is looking a bit too cluttered.  Perhaps I should remove my scarf or flower or handlebar bag or camera mount…

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Once the (heavily discounted) introductory month is over at the Bikram studio, I will probably go back to Vinyasa, as a more enjoyable yoga for me.  But I expect to miss, at least a little bit, the relief of escape by bicycle that practicing Bikram provides me.  :-)

More on yoga from the archives:

Yoga and Cycling – our first post about the topic, over four years ago

Fashion Friday: Biking to Yoga – a description of my biking-to-yoga routine from last summer

Pedal, Stretch, Breathe – review of a booklet on bicycle-focused yoga moves

 

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Dusk

Dusk is day’s most beautiful time.  If I can manage to bike home in the aftermath of the setting sun, I’m a happy woman, a calmer woman.

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For comparison, here’s a look at my wintry dusk commute on the Lakefront Trail from a few months ago.  Of course, during winter the dusk arrives a few hours earlier!  The photos above were taken around 8:30 p.m., while the winter ones must have been closer to 4:30 p.m.

For a melancholy take on dusk, I leave you with Carl Sandburg’s “Dreams in the Dusk.”

Dreams in the dusk,
Only dreams closing the day
And with the day’s close going back
To the gray things, the dark things,
The far, deep things of dreamland.

Dreams, only dreams in the dusk,
Only the old remembered pictures
Of lost days when the day’s loss
Wrote in tears the heart’s loss.

Tears and loss and broken dreams
May find your heart at dusk.

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Bike Detour

Yesterday evening I was at Millennium Park in downtown Chicago for an outdoor concert – an event that signals for me the beginning of summer.  The park is near Lake Michigan and usually a quick ride through a garden brings me to the Lakefront Trail for my ride home.  However, last night I was greeted by this construction site where the garden used to be.

Yikes – I hope they are constructing an even more beautiful garden!

Fortunately, the city set up bike detour signs to guide me along an alternate route.  This turned out to be a fun mini-adventure because I never knew of this path.

The path followed the Chicago River…

…with a fancy tunnel to cross under Lakeshore Drive

…which brought me to a bridge over the river

…and led me to the Lakefront Trail.

As I biked up the trail, the sun finished setting.

I ended my journey home on neighborhood streets.

If I wanted to get all deep, I could take this as a reminder that what may at first seem like an imposition could turn out to be an opportunity to try something new.

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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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Looking Back on Winter 2012-13

Five!  That’s how many Chicago winters I have biked through.  I counted over and over because five seems too high, but my math is correct.

Biking through my first winter, 2008-09, seemed so dramatic – I was amazed at my achievement. That was a particularly snowy winter, and I biked through all kinds of extreme weather to prove to myself that I could.

My second, third and fourth winters all seem like a blur now (except I distinctly remember bicycling the day after the great 2011 blizzard!), but it’s all documented in the LGRAB archives.

This winter started not so great, but I did not let that stop me.  And there was soon cheerful news, as Chicago celebrated the installation of its first downtown protected bike lane.

There were some seriously freezing days, when I was very thankful for my hand and toe warmers.  But many of the days were sunny and not too extremely cold.

wore skirts and dresses almost every day, along with tights, of course.

Most of all, I took time to appreciate the unique beauty of biking through winter.

 Now I am ready for spring!

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How about you – did you bike through winter?  Was it your first time?  What stands out to you the most, looking back?

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Wintry Beauty

Dusk.  Lake Michigan.  Frozen waves.  Two days after a storm dumped 9 inches of snow on Chicago.  Just another work commute.

 


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By the time I made my way up the trail, the sun had finished setting.  As you can see, despite the heaps of snow, the trail itself is totally clear – plowed and salted.

There is something about bicycling outside on a particularly beautiful winter day that gets me every time.  During these magical moments, no other season can compare.

This is a reminder to enjoy and appreciate the wintry beauty while we can, even while excited for spring.

{A different look at the beauty of wintry Lake Michigan two years ago.}

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20 Miles in a Zac Posen Dress and 4-Inch Heels

On Sunday, I biked 20 miles in a Zac Posen dress and four-inch high-heeled ankle boots.  My day was full, including a trip downtown for a Joffrey Ballet performance and to the Logan Square neighborhood for my friend Sara’s Oscar party.  Getting ready in the morning, I considered throwing on jeans, flat boots and a wool sweater, but decided to stay strong and dress appropriately for the occasions.

The (second-hand) dress conveniently zips all the way down the back from both ends, allowing me to create more leeway from the bottom while on my bike.

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The weather was sunny and 30 degrees.  For the ride, I threw on a cardigan, trench, cashmere scarf, gloves, and winter helmet.  The trench coverage was helpful because the dress did ride up a bit while biking.

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Once I got downtown, I was able to take the Dearborn protected bike lane for the final mile and a half.  The city has a special snow plow to use for protected lanes and the lane was plowed, but sloppily and some areas were more clear than others.

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And look!  An SUV parked in the lane.  This was the second one I saw.  The city needs to: 1) create better signage; 2) build real barriers; and 3) ticket these drivers.

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Okay, back to my happy place…

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The ballet, American Legends, was beautiful and thought-provoking as always, as was the view from my first-row-balcony season ticket seat.  (Thanks, Groupon!)

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Leaving the ballet, I mounted my camera on Betty Foy’s handlebars and made a video of my ride on the Dearnborn protected lane and the connected Kinzie protected lane.  I’ll post the video soon.

The Oscar party was fun (despite the host’s lame “jokes”) and I enjoyed biking home on empty streets at the end of the night, 12 hours after I left.  My dress and heels were fun for the day, but I was happy to change into flannel pajamas.  :-)

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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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