Tag Archives: bikes

Nashville!

I’m back from Trishaville, aka Nashville. Although I lived there for only three years and moved away four years ago, Nashville is my favorite city to return to again and again, simply because of Trisha and other friends.  And there’s something about the South that calls to me, although I spent my youth hatching escape plans.

My three days with Trisha were full of awesomeness, of course: used bookstores, a British sitcom marathon, a discount designer warehouse, French breakfast, fancy ice cream, duck fat tater tots, Yazoo beer and live music at the Mercy Lounge (Those Darlins!).  Plus, I finally got to meet Trisha’s brother, Charlie.  Hmmm what else?…

…oh yeah – bicycling!

I got to meet the new Kate Spade Abici, whom I keep calling Kermit Spade, to Trisha’s chagrin.  With Trisha on KS and me on the Bat, we rode downtown and crossed the pedestrian bridge for a view of the Nashville skyline.

Yeah, we’re cool.

I must share, there are a number of weirdo men loitering around downtown Nashville who were quite interested in us.  We handled them effectively with stoney silence, which we’re both really good at when we put our minds to it.

After the bridge, we rode over to Broadway, with its honky tonks and cowboy boot shops.

We really should have stopped to take advantage of the 3-boots-for-the-price-of-one deal – missed opportunity.

Bicycling in Nashville was a great pleasure for me.  The weather is not yet at Southern summer oppressiveness.  The infrastructure is quite supportive of cycling, with wide bike lanes on many medium-sized streets and plenty of winding back roads with almost no cars at all.  Drivers seemed to display the fabled Southern hospitality, although I’m prone to romaticize it now that I don’t live there anymore.  One guy in a work truck blocking the bike lane drawled, “Pardon me, ladies,” which made me inordinately happy.

Today my thighs are sore from all those hills (damn! major props to Trisha for handling those every day) but it was worth it.

I make it to Nashville at least once a year, for Trisha’s birthday, but hopefully it won’t take me a year to return this time.  Chicago is comparatively cold in all ways.

Many more photos from our Nashville adventures and Trisha’s Abici to come.

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Winter Style Encore

Guess what I woke up to on this fine spring morning? Snow! All over the cars and the grass, even as cold rain fell on top of it. I was in no mood to have a surprise winter bike commute, so I grabbed my puffy coat and huffed my way to the L train. I’m itching to wear my pretty spring clothes, not my down coat, for goodness sakes!

Looking for a bright side, I decided to take this opportunity to spotlight some final winter bike photos. Below are two sleek winter cycling looks that readers Molly and Kaitlyn sent.

Molly shows how stylish winter cycling can be in Ann Arbor – at least on the days when she does not wear her sleeping bag-esque winter coat.

Molly in her sleek winter wear

Molly - sleek off the bike

Kaitlyn in Brooklyn rocked the sleek NYC black look, even when wearing rain pants. She blogs at Thoughts of Mint Green.

Kaitlyn in her sleek winter wear

Kaitlyn - sleek off the bike

Looking good, ladies! Thank you for the inspiration!

And now let’s drag winter off the stage with a hook. :)

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Happy Friday!

This has been a splendid week for cycling.  During the past few days, I have encountered:

  • Countless other bicyclists on the streets.
  • Two friends during my commute (Hi Jami and Elizabeth!).
  • A mother riding a box trike with two kids in the front.
  • An impromptu happy hour with seven of the lovely Women Who Bike.
  • No particularly aggressive or wildly stupid drivers.
  • Warm weather!

I’m especially happy to see all the other bicyclists.  We’re a real presence out there.  :)

Still waiting for flowers, though!

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A Shared Bike-Cab Moment

Q: What would cause a bicyclist and a cab driver to share a moment in the middle of a busy Chicago intersection?

A: Nearly falling victim to a supremely stupid and dangerous move by another driver.

On my way home yesterday, as I waited in the middle of an busy three-way intersection to turn left – my light was green but through traffic from the other direction had the right-of-way – a big SUV pulled next to me and then awkwardly inched itself half-way in front of me at a turning angle, effectively cutting me off and placing me dangerously within its turning radius. I was thinking, “What the hell, moron??” and had to walk my bike backward. (True to stereotypical form, the driver was a woman talking on a cell phone.)

We sat there as one, two, three cars went by coming from the other direction. There was one more car, a cab, in the line of right-of-way traffic. Our light was still green. Shockingly, the SUV driver turned left right in front of the cab. She did not dart out quickly; she simply turned as if she had all the time in the world.

For a split second I was sure the cab would crash into the her and both would crash into me. Thankfully, the cab driver managed to stop in time by slamming on his brakes and the SUV continued on as if nothing strange had happened, leaving the cab driver and me stopped in the middle of the busy intersection, staring at each other and shaking our heads in disbelief. Happy to have someone to commiserate with, he made a “What was she thinking????” gesture and I responded with a “I have no idea, but that shit was crazy!” gesture. We shared a moment. Then he continued straight and I turned left, strangely giddy for the rest of my ride home.

I deal with so much ridiculousness on my bike every day, connecting with a driver about the confirmed idiocy of another driver was oddly comforting. It reassured me that I am not the crazy one. It also reminded me that cars are not my natural enemy; rather, stupid drivers are a common enemy to all. I prefer to focus on that part of the incident, rather than think too much about the fact that there are so many drivers distracted by cell phones that they don’t know or even care what they’re doing on the roads. After all, if the cab had crashed into this woman, she probably would not have been injured in her huge SUV and I’m sure she has insurance, so why should she care enough to follow the law and not talk on her cell phone while driving? That would be terribly inconvenient.

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Air Pollution and Bicycling

Breathing behind the exhaust pipes of cars, trucks and SUVs is one of the worst parts of bike commuting. Although passengers in motor vehicles breathe in extra pollution from the toxic chemicals leaching off the car interior itself, a recent study found that bicyclists in Brussels breathe in 5 times more air pollution than drivers or pedestrians. On the other hand, I remember a study that declared bicyclists breathe in less air pollution, but I cannot find a link to it now. What I know for sure is my own experience and I feel like I breathe in a lot of pollution while cycling.

Air Pollution - Image (c) Tom Krymkowski

This subject is on my mind due to a recent experience. Yesterday morning a truck, similar to the one pictured above, passed me and belched out a horrific plume of thick, black smoke from the top. The plume was at least 5 times as big and thick as the picture above. I almost pulled off the road, but there was no escaping, so I ducked my body over my handlebars and held my breath until I made it through the other side. The truck continued hurtling from block to block, releasing a disgusting plume of smoke as it accelerated from each stop sign, before mercifully turning onto another street. Surely, this truck would never pass a city inspection, but nevertheless it was out there on the road, spewing its disgustingness around.

This incident, although rare, was troubling. I hate to think how much pollution I breathe in while cycling through the city. I often say that I love cycling because it’s a chance to get out in the “fresh air,” but I shouldn’t kid myself: the air is not so fresh in Chicago. That is a depressing fact.

I am not sure what to do or say about this problem. Complaining about trucks in general would be hypocritical, since they carry food to my grocery store, deliver my packages, sweep my streets and remove my garbage. Living in the Bike Lane wrote about this problem last year and offered some solutions for both individuals and cities.

What have your experiences with air pollution been? I’m especially interested to read the responses of the country mice versus the city mice.

Hopefully, air pollution will not progress to the point where bicyclists feel the need to don surgical masks, as they do in other countries.

{Image courtesy of Tom Krymkowski via Flickr}

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A Fresh Start with Betty Foy

Last week, Betty Foy got a major freshening up for the spring: a complete tune-up and cleaning, plus a new chain, brake pads, cables and a two-footed kickstand. She’s such a lovely bike and rides like a dream, still like new.

I documented her cleanliness, since she won’t look like this again until her next tune-up.


I guess the original chain would have lasted longer, if I had been better with preventative maintenance. I’ll try to be more conscientious from now on, but I’ve always been lazy with upkeep, whether for cars in the past or bikes now.

What is your routine for maintaining your bike(s)?

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April Showers

April showers are officially here. As winter slowly recedes, the season of rain begins. Unless you live in Portland, in which case it never ended. :)

My trusty rain trench and wool combo

Although I haven’t experienced rain since the snow started months ago, rain is no stranger to the LGRAB world. Check out the 4 pages of posts we’ve written about the subject, under the tag “rain.”

For more direct guidance, there’s Trisha’s how-to advice for riding in the rain, a quick video I made showing how easy it is to prep for rain, and my “April Showers” post from one year ago.

And if you don’t like riding in rain, remember my mantra. Rain: at least it’s not hail.

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Bicycle-Love Fashion

Hi, there! To follow up on the serious and fascinating discussion going on about the Mary Poppins effect, I’ve got some fashion fluff for you.

I’m not one to wear special cycling clothes, but that does not apply to creative bike-themed fashion.  The outfit below, for example (see also, my Makool bike locket).

Maureen of Inspired Cyclist sent me this beautiful printed t-shirt from Target.  How sweet is this??  The t-shirt’s red and pink hearts perfectly match my new Nutcase helmet.

I put the two together with a pink hoodie, black jeggins and cool earrings made from old tire tubes that I bought at the Bike Winter Art Show (can’t remember the woman’s name!).  Then I biked on Coco downtown to see God of Carnage at the Goodman Theatre, which was an amazing play.

Back to my new Nutcase helmet: so sweet!  

I first saw a photo of this design from the Spring 2011 line on City Girl Rides and knew I had to make it mine.  (Do you know City Girl Rides? Good stuff!!)

Nutcase’s website does not list this design and my local bike shop didn’t have it yet, so I emailed Nutcase directly and quickly got a reply email with a link to a shop in Cali that had some in stock.  Score!

The $60 price tag made me hesitate, but I rationalized that if divided into price per wear, it would be pennies a day. ;)


Altogether, I was a very happy cycling lady!  

P.S.  Mr. Dottie was there, too, but evaded my camera.  He sent Sir Raleigh as his LGRAB ambassador.  :)

Anyone else have bike-themed fashion you just love?

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My Take on the Mary Poppins Effect

How much does your outfit and bicycle affect how drivers treat you?

Lovely Bicycle talked about the Mary Poppins effect in January and London Cyclist brought it back to my mind with a recent guest post from Bike Thoughts From A Broad (love that name!).

For those who are not familiar, the Mary Poppins effect is basically the idea that drivers are nicer to women bicyclists riding upright bikes with dresses and flowing hair. I haven’t read much from men about this, but maybe dapper men on city bikes get the same deference.

My daily experience cycling in Chicago supports the Mary Poppins effect. Generally, drivers treat me well enough that I feel somewhat … respected? or patronized? *shrug* Both are fine with me, as long as I’m safe. Of course, there are always the assholes outliers, but for the most part drivers are okay.

My only disagreement with the general hypothesis is helmets. A major contributor of the Mary Poppins effect, others have posited, is riding helmetless and with free-flowing hair, because of both the relative vulnerability and the “regularness” it exhibits. I wear a helmet ~ 98% of the time I ride in traffic by personal preference and I receive as much deference, if not more, than someone without. The key is a fun and distinctive helmet – red hearts! pink starbursts! Having a distinctive helmet causes drivers to recognize me, and it’s hard to be rude to someone you pass daily.

The Mary Poppins effect is especially on my mind now because I experienced a lack of the effect today. Typically I wear a dress or skirt, but today I wore a navy pinstripe pantsuit with a ankle strap on my left leg. Everything else was the same: I rode an upright Danish bike, wore a helmet covered with red hearts and rode with my typical calm assertiveness, but luxury SUV after luxury SUV after car passed me too closely. The effect was decidedly non-Mary Poppins.

Could simply wearing pants instead of a skirt lead to such a noticeable change in drivers’ behavior? Maybe. Was I more sensitive to the idea of the Mary Poppins effect due to my recent reading? Perhaps. But I felt like there was a marked difference in how drivers treated me, during both the morning and the evening commutes.

I’m really interested in what others have experienced. Men, women, pants, skirts, helmet, no helmet – have you noticed a Mary Poppins effect, or lack thereof?

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We {heart} Knitting Lemonade’s Chic Bicycle Crafts

We gotta give a shout out to Kara of Knitting Lemonade for all the crafty bicycle goodness she has on her site this month.

You may remember that I met her by chance at Dutch Bike Co last year when she visited Chicago from Salt Lake City. She then guest blogged about the trials of finding a bicycle to fit taller ladies.

Kara with her Pashley, cape and bunting

Lately, Kara has been creating some fabulous bicycle accessories and sharing her work on her blog. She shows how to make a lovely basket bunting and how to make a super chic riding cape, both of which she test rode on her Pashley.

Bonus: she also found nail polish that matches her Betty Foy!

Craft on, ride on!

{Photo from Knitting Lemonade}

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Chicago Bike Fashion Show – Tonight

My Prada heels on wheels

In celebration of the end of winter cycling and the 14th Annual Bike Winter Art Show, join Chicago’s bicycling community for the closing night party and fashion show. I will be there taking Coco down the (hopefully brief) runway. In addition to the bike fashion show, there will be drinks, a DJ and a performance by the BMX bike dance troupe The Racketeers.

The event will be at the Chicago Urban Art Center in Pilsen, following Critical Mass. More info here.

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Oz Park

Last Friday was so beautiful, I stopped by Oz Park on my way to work to extend my outside time.  I pass by Oz Park daily, but I’ve never stopped before.  As a Dorothy with a fondness for red shoes (although I’m more of a cat person) this park was a lot of fun for me.

You may have noticed that I’m sporting a new helmet, along with my new $4 thrifted dress (and massive green hands).  This is a sneak preview of the Nutcase helmet – I’ll post all about the helmet soon.

Now that spring is officially here, who else is making more side trips during their bike commutes?

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Magical Cupcakes on Wheels

I know I blog about cupcakes a lot – here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here! – but this is an extra special cupcake bike story.

Last Friday, I stepped out of my office at the end of the day and right before my eyes was a cupcake van parked in front of Oma.

I did not know where the magical cupcake van came from, but of course I immediately made a purchase.

When I got home, I googled the company, Flirty Cupcakes on Wheels, and discovered that it’s quite the thing in Chicago.  The van drives around downtown to surprise locations, broadcasts the location through Twitter and Facebook, and then after an hour or so disappears back to the magical land of unicorns and rainbows.  Buying their cupcakes is like catching a butterfly in a net.

The only thing that would make this company waaaay cooler?  Cupcakes by bakfiets.  Somebody get working on that one and you’ll have a loyal fan forever.  :)

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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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Racing, Thrifting and Cargoing

Today was absolutely gorgeous – sunny and 60 degrees! I biked without gloves and earmuffs for the first time since October. Yes!

During lunch I went to the Salvation Army with a friend from work. I wanted to enjoy the gorgeous weather, so I told her I’d bike and meet her there. We did a little “on your mark, get set, go” when leaving the building. My bike was right outside, while her car was parked in the lot a block away. I left her in the dust until, a mere block from the destination, she passed me tooting her horn. BUT she still had to park, pay the meter machine and put a ticket stub on her dash. By the time she got to the entrance, I was waiting impatiently.

Somehow she beat me on the way back to the office, but just barely. And she didn’t get to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. :)

Betty being cocky

I scored big at the thrift store, buying a manual 35 mm camera in great shape, two dresses and a skirt. Finding beautiful clothes for only $2 is such a thrill. I have very little interest in shopping at real clothing stores now.

My favorite thrift store

On my way home, I was in such a good mood and the weather was so beautiful, it seemed a shame to ride straight home. Instead, I stopped in J.C. Lind Bikes, which I pass by every day, to chat with the owner Jon. I left about an hour later with a Yuba instead of Betty – only for an overnight test ride!

Me and the Yuba

I love riding unusual bikes around town, always fun. I’ll write a full test ride review after I try it out more tomorrow. Plus, the story of a certain awesome cycling family I ran into on my way home!

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Cupcake Attack!

My bike commutes this week have been lovely, happy and above-freezing. Spring is around the corner! I can feel it in my bones, this morning’s flurries notwithstanding.

On the way home today, Betty Foy made me stop for cupcakes in celebration of the season. She is bossy. ;)

I then munched an entire fairy cake whilst standing outside.

Cupcake attack!

At $2.25 each, these sweet treats are a bargain compared to oil. What’s your fuel of choice?

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Midday Ride Adventure

As I mentioned last week, my friend Elizabeth (of Bike Commuters) and I got together for a midday joyride recently. During lunch, I cycled to her office and then we set off together down the nearby Lakefront Trail.

A few miles later, we arrived at our arbitrary destination, the Field Museum.

We battled a fierce headwind on the way there and we were both a bit overheated from working so hard. I even took my sweater off, although it was not quite 60 degrees out.

Joyfully, we had a tailwind on the ride back, which didn’t feel like wind at all. I just felt naturally fast and strong. :)

The route was pretty muddy and watery, with all the blizzard snow quickly melting.

So what if I returned to the office a bit muddy with a run in my tights and tangled hair (bad, uncovered Betty Foy chain!) – I felt much more energized and productive the rest of the day.

Funny that no matter how much I cycle for transportation, I still love to joy ride, especially with a good friend. I never (okay, rarely) get tired of riding a bike.

Do you ever get out during the day for a ride?

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Valentines Via Velo

Someone asked me last week if I had any bikey Valentine’s Day plans with Mr. Dottie. I answered, “No, we’re just going to dinner at our favorite French restaurant, Bistrot Margot.”

Then I thought for a second and amended that answer with, “Well, of course, we’ll be riding our bikes there.”

Bicycling is such an ingrained part of our lives – it’s always there somewhere. But unlike driving or taking public transit, biking is not simply another mundane transportation option. It’s fun and adds something special to every occasion!

For this reason, I would say that our little French dinner was a bikey Valentine’s Day, with bicycling being the perfect aperitif (to stimulate the appetite) and digestif (to aid in digestion).

Of course, fancy truffles and flowers are always welcome, too. :)

But above all – bike love!

P.S. February 14 is long gone and so are all those truffles!

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Bringing in the Spring Style

Every bicyclist has his or her own personal signs of spring style – something that clearly indicates a departure from the darkness of winter. My friend Elizabeth’s involves clip-in bike shoes for the first time since fall, fingerless gloves, footless leggings and flouncy skirts.

Love this look! While totally utilitarian, it’s also a stylish celebration of spring that conveys her individuality.

She and I got together today for a lunchtime bike ride to celebrate the high-50’s temperature. (More on that later.)

How does your bicycle get-up change as the weather warms? Do you also feel the need to mark spring with a celebratory style?

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Guy Week at Bike Fancy

Hey, hey – it’s Guy Week at one of my very favorite internet places, Bike Fancy!

Pro photographer and stylish cyclist Martha is turning her lens on the men of Chicago. Although the majority of Chicago’s cyclists are men, I’m not used to seeing them without their backpacks and rain pants, track standing and running red lights. (I poke fun because I love!)

So this is a treat. :)

For those not interested in pictures of guys per se, there’s also an offer off of locally manufactured menswear company Nonetheless.

Guy Week at Bike Fancy – Check it out!

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