Tag Archives: biking in Chicago

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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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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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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Divvy! Divvy! Divvy!

Divvy bikes are taking over Chicago!  On Wednesday, I had plans with my friend Sara for dinner and a movie after work.  Just that morning, I saw a brand new Divvy station near my home and before heading out to meet Sara, I realized that  I could easily Divvy the whole night long.

There’s the starting Divvy station:

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The Divvy station across the street from the restaurant:

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And the Divvy station a block from the movie theater:

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Here’s Sara with her Divvy-colored Pashley.  :-)

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And coming full circle at the end of the night, I returned my Divvy.

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I’m excited as new stations continue to pop up daily.

Chicago is doing Divvy so right!

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Bike-a-bee founder attacked while bicycling

Jana of Bike-a-bee, who I wrote about last year,  was attacked this week while riding her bike in Logan Square.  A passenger in an SUV leaned out the window and grabbed Jana by her backpack, dragging her on her bike for several seconds.  When she crashed into a parked car and hit the ground,  she could hear the men laughing as they drove away.  They have not been caught, but the police have upgraded the incident from hit-and-run to aggravated battery.

This incident is horrifying, a sad reminder of how awful some people can be and how vulnerable we are on the roads.

You can donate to help Jana with her medical and physical therapy bills and lost income.

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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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Summer Rain

I was rained on during my bike commute today, and I did not mind at all.

Heading home, I took a different route than usual and soon happened upon a garden.  I pulled over to walk the paths and enjoy the thousands of roses.  As I said goodbye to the flowers and set out toward the lakefront trail for my 7-mile ride home, rain started falling.  I briefly considered ducking into a cafe, but the heady smell of fresh summer rain urged me on.  While tourists and beach-goers hustled for cover, I cycled on with a smile.

The shower was short-lived and by the time I got home, my light summer dress had completely dried.  No rain gear necessary.

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Blur

Some words of summer (and stuff) from the poet Andrew Hudgins.

Storms of perfume lift from honeysuckle,
lilac, clover—and drift across the threshold,
outside reclaiming inside as its home.
Warm days whirl in a bright unnumberable blur,
a cup—a grail brimmed with delirium
and humbling boredom both. I was a boy,
I thought I’d always be a boy, pell—mell,
mean, and gaily murderous one moment
as I decapitated daises with a stick,
then overcome with summer’s opium,
numb—slumberous. I thought I’d always be a boy,
each day its own millennium, each
one thousand years of daylight ending in
the night watch, summer’s pervigilium,
which I could never keep because by sunset
I was an old man. I was Methuselah,
the oldest man in the holy book. I drowsed.
I nodded, slept—and without my watching, the world,
whose permanence I doubted, returned again,
bluebell and blue jay, speedwell and cardinal
still there when the light swept back,
and so was I, which I had also doubted.
I understood with horror then with joy,
dubious and luminous joy: it simply spins.
It doesn’t need my feet to make it turn.
It doesn’t even need my eyes to watch it,
and I, though a latecomer to its surface, I’d
be leaving early. It was my duty to stay awake
and sing if I could keep my mind on singing,
not extinction, as blurred green summer, lifted
to its apex, succumbed to gravity and fell
to autumn, Ilium, and ashes. In joy
we are our own uncomprehending mourners,
and more than joy I longed for understanding
and more than understanding I longed for joy.

-Andrew Hudgins

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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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Spring Joy Ride

On Sunday, I enjoyed a joy ride with my friend Maria, since we were both far from our mothers.  The weather was a bit chilly – in the mid 40’s – but the sun was shining and it’s mid-May, for goodness sake, so I wore a happy spring outfit and threw on hose to keep my legs warm.

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We biked down the lakefront trail and stopped to watch a sailboat race and enjoy some mimosas.  You can see our location on the tip of the harbor from my iPhone GPS below.

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After drinks, we decided to bike to the theater to see The Great Gatsby in 3D (two thumbs up!).  We wanted to avoid weekend traffic, so we chose to weave our way through the inner lakefront trail and neighborhood streets to get there.  I don’t think I’ve ever talked about the inner lakefront trail before.  The inner trail is a path that runs parallel to the lakefront trail for a couple miles through Lincoln Park.  The inner path is unpaved in many areas and is not plowed in the winter, but it’s generally a good option to escape the crowds or the winds by the lake, as long as you are not in a rush.

I filmed a bit of the joy ride to share here.  Enjoy!

Spring Joy Ride from LGRAB on Vimeo.

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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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Bicycling to the Ballet

Yesterday I had the pleasure of bicycling downtown to see the Joffrey Ballet’s Othello.  The ride was about 7 miles each way, along the lakefront trail.  The theatre is close to south Grant Park, which looked very nice on this beautiful day.

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And at my destination, here is the view from my regular seat in the front row of the balcony.

What these photos fail to show is the wind.  It was really, really windy – even by Chicago standards.  This resulted in a super fast bike ride down the lakefront trail on the way to the show (I arrived 10 minutes earlier than I expected) and a strenuous bike ride back home with the wind in my face.  I popped Betty into an easy gear and focused on spinning.  I got quite a workout!

Also, the photos don’t show the black spandex shorts I wore under my dress – necessary, as the wind blew the light silk around like crazy.  :-)

Did anyone else have a fun ride this weekend?

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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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