Tag Archives: bike winter

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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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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Warm woolen mittens…stuffed with Grabbers

I love warm woolen mittens.  They are cozy and perfect for crisp fall weather.

(and whiskers on kittens! because why not.)

But woolen mittens are not cutting it any longer, as December approaches.   My fingers and toes are extremely sensitive.  While other cyclists seem to get by fine with a regular pair of gloves, my fingers and toes start to freeze/burn after ten minutes in 30 degree temps, even wearing wool glove liners with down-filled ski mittens (fingers) and wool socks with leather snow boots (toes).

The only solution for me – I’ve tried everything over the years – is warmers.  I buy Grabber brand (made in the USA and non-toxic) by the caseload from Amazon, making them 50 cents a pair.  A fair price to avoid daily misery and still much less expensive than the L train.

A pair lasts long enough to use for the morning and evening commutes, if stored in a ziplock bag during the day.  Grabber also makes toe warmers, but they are pricier and not as warm, so I save them for my regular shoes and  stuff hand warmers in my roomy snow boots.

Now if only I could get Amazon to deliver them in brown paper packages tied up with string…

How do you keep your fingers and toes warm during winter?

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Bike Winter Fashion Show – Friday!

Chicago’s annual Bike Winter Fashion Show will take place this Friday, as part of the closing party of the Bike Winter Art Show.

I will be participating in the fashion show for vintage shop Lucite Box, owned by bicycling-and-brunching lady Holly. Last week, the group got together for a dress rehearsal, complete with hair and makeup magic by Christopher Conner.  Then we had a photoshoot by bicycle style photographer Martha Williams of Bike Fancy fame.  She is the best!

Model Lisa, Photographer Martha, and Vintage Clothier Holly

I’m in love with the Pashley Princess Britannia I was riding, courtesy of Boulevard Bikes. (I have a long and documented obsession with Pashleys.)

And I may have to buy this vintage 60’s tweed cape suit.  (As well as the blue velvet dress I chose as my evening look!)  Check out Lucite Box for some fabulous vintage clothing and housewares.

Me and Pashley by Martha Williams

You gotta check out the preview photos for all the lovely ladies at Bike Fancy. They look amazing! Such a fabulous collection of portraits.

Martha at Work

In Chicago? Great! Come out to the Bike Winter Fashion show this Friday night, 7-11:30, at Gala Gallery, 1000 N. Milwaukee.

The official description:

The 15th Annual Bike Winter Art Show closes on March 9th at the Gala Gallery located at 1000 N. Milwaukee Ave. Join us at the Bike Winter Art Show for a night of bicycle enthusiasm, cycling camaraderie and rider revelry that’s sure to shake off the winter blues. The benefit kicks off at 8 pm with a family fun puppet show performed by Jabberwocky. The main event, a runway fashion show, starts at 9 pm and is sponsored by Rapid Transit Cycles. After the fashion show, deejay Montay spins the beats. The event is free and open to the public.

More info on the Facebook page.

P.S. After Martha finished with my photos, she spotted this little girl bicycling in the park. Sweet!

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The Start of Fall Bicycling!

Today is the first day of fall – my favorite season for bicycling.

Fall cycling is lovely and requires little-to-no preparation. Jumping on your bike in slacks or tights and a sweater will work most days. Nevertheless, I notice a steep decline in bicyclists once the dreadfully hot days of summer are over, so obviously some people need convincing to continue riding their bikes. In light of this, we put together a How To Dress for Fall Cycling guide a couple of years ago and a quick Refresher Course last year.

Incidentally, last night I attended the Bike Winter kick-off meeting. I really don’t want to start thinking about winter yet, but I enjoyed hearing tips and questions from the large group of attendees, both seasoned winter bicyclists and people who plan to try it for the first time. If you’re already thinking this far ahead, check out Bike Winter for lots of great info, as well as the LGRAB Guide to Winter Bicycling and my video on how I dress for winter biking.

Whether you plan to stick it out for the long haul or simply make the best of fall weather before storing your bike for the winter (both reasonable options), I wish you a happy and healthy fall bicycling season.

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Arctic Air Bike Commute…Or Not?

The ride home today was cold, a dry and bitter 15 degrees.  Nothing compared to the cold expected for tomorrow morning, though.  -4 to be exact.  That’s -4 fahrenheit, -20 celsius.

The headline on the Chicago Tribune today:

An arctic cold blast from Siberia will barrel through the Chicago area tonight, driving temperatures below zero for the first time in a year and creating dangerous wind chills that could hit nearly 30 below.

Alright, team – who’s gonna ride their bikes with me tomorrow?  :)

I’m not one for riding to prove anything, but I’m attracted to the idea of pushing the limits with the temperature.  When we had an arctic blast last year, I set out to ride and gave up after less than a mile, as my hands started to hurt unbearably.  I rode directly to the nearest L train stop, locked Oma up and took the train the rest of the way to work.  I blogged about my defeat here.

But I learned from my mistakes and came up with a game plan to avoid that downfall tomorrow.  Pretty simple, actually: lots of layers, a scarf wrapped around my face and, the piece de resistance, hand and foot warmers that I will remove from the package an hour before leaving.  Maybe even two warmers per mitten.  That was my biggest problem last time – I didn’t open my hand warmers until I’d already set out, not knowing that they need time to warm up.  Also, I might ride Betty Foy, since the pavement is bone dry and I could go faster, thereby creating more internal heat and cutting the commute time by 5 minutes or so.  I’ll have a tail wind on the way to work, at least.  The ride is only 5 miles.  I think this will work…

…Or not.  Who knows?  I may wake up in the morning and think, “forget this madness.”  I’m not going to lay my reputation on it.  The wind chill scares me a little bit.  But there’s no shame in trying.  :)  Stay tuned.

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The LGRAB Guide to Winter Bicycling

Do you want to be as happy this winter as Mr. Snowman?  Ride your bike!  There’s nothing like spending time outside engaged in physical activity every day, enjoying the crisp air and scenery while everyone else hibernates.

We won’t claim that winter cycling is always a big party, but it’s certainly not the nightmare scenario that most seem to imagine.  As with any activity, knowledge is power: the more you understand about biking in the winter, the more comfortable you’ll be and the more you’ll enjoy yourself.

As we enter our third winter of biking and blogging, our archives offer a wealth of information for new and experienced winter cyclists alike.  Hence we bring you the LGRAB Guide to Winter Bicycling.

Seriously?

Yes!

What should I wear?  A spacesuit or footie pajamas with ski goggles or what??

That’s the easiest question to answer: absolutely, but only if you can rock it.  Otherwise, you may want to stick with your normal winter clothes.  Once you see the basics of how to dress for winter cycling, you’ll say, “aha” and move on.  You may even find that dressing for winter cycling can be effortlessly chic.

Like all superheroes (be prepared: co-workers will call you that), you will have a weakness.  For example, freezing fingers, but it is possible to keep hands toasty warm.  Embrace your weakness and then overcome it.

What about the awful weather?  Rain, snow, wind, ice, freezing cold?

Take it one day at a time.  Some days fluffy snow creates a winter wonderland and bike paths are perfectly plowed.  Other days the snow is dirty and nasty and in the bike lane.  At the extremes, you may set out on your bike and then give up due to ice or extreme cold. No shame in trying!

Your winter may consist of a lot of cold rain, but luckily women don’t get Jane-Bennet-ill from cold rain anymore, especially if you know what to wear.  Just make sure that your brakes are in good shape.  Then on the rare days when it snows, riding could be a fun adventure.

If the weather on a particular day is really bad, simply choose not to ride that day.  The most important thing is that you honestly differentiate reasons from excuses.

Or maybe you live in Southern California.  If so, #@!% you.

I slip walking down the sidewalk.  What chance do I have on a bicycle?

A really good chance, actually.  The roads, maintained by the city, are in much better condition than sidewalks.  Once plows come by after a snow, main streets in the city are generally clear and dry.  Depending on your city’s climate and your preference for sidestreets and bike trails, you may benefit from studded tires.  Or if there’s just a bit of ice, you could simply walk your bike through the slick patch.

Doesn’t it get old, riding in the dark all the time?

Sometimes riding home from work in the dark everyday is a drag, but sometimes it makes everything seem quiet and calm.  Just make sure you are cognizant of safety and security concerns and have good lights.

I see you have fancy bikes.  I don’t.  So…?

While our Dutch bikes (WorkCycles and Batavus) are great for winter riding, due to enclosed brakes and chains, a fancy bike is not necessary for winter riding.  In fact, some people intentionally use old beaters for winter.

Most bikes in good condition would make decent winter bikes, although some may require more caution and more maintenance.  Be aware of what kind of brakes and tires you have and ride with caution in bad weather accordingly.  If you have old steel rims, seriously consider replacing them.  Decide whether you would benefit from studded tires.  Remember that fenders are your friend and install some.

If you plan to ride extensively in the winter, investing in a solid bike is worth it.

Will I be the only crazy person out there?

Maybe you’ll be the only bicyclist out there, maybe not.  You may find and appreciate a whole winter cycling community or just enjoy the alone time.  Even if there aren’t many other winter cyclists, you’re bound to meet colorful characters and bloodthirsty dogs simply by spending a lot of time outside.

But can I really do it?

If we did it, you can!  For inspiration, check out a retrospective of the first winter biking.  Is winter cycling a simple act or sheer will? Both!

Hey, it’s really cold.  Why am I doing this again?

Because winter bicycling will change your life.  You will better appreciate the differences between summer and winter cycling (for example, not smelling like B.O).  You will feel the yin, the yang, etc.  By season’s end, you will shed grateful tears over the first buds of spring, the first delicate bird’s nest.  Also, for hot legs.  Obviously.

How can I verify that you’re not lying to me for kicks?

You really can’t – welcome to the internet!  But other resources are out there pretty much verify our advice.  See, Bike Winter. Also, those other bike blogs listed to the right.

Anything else I should know?

The secret to bike commuting (hint: it’s not that bad).

If you have questions or would like to leave your own winter bicycling tips, please share in the comments!

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