Tag Archives: car-free

Who, knowing the truth, would choose anything else?

This morning I planned to take my usual street route to work. After I got on my bike and felt the sweet sun and cool breeze, however, my instinct took over and led me to the Lakefront Trail. I thought maybe I needed a clear stretch of pavement to go fast and get out any residual aggression from yesterday’s jerk sighting, but after I rode the mile to the lake and my tires automatically slowed upon hitting the Trail, I realized that what I craved was some quiet time with the horizon, safe from all motor vehicles.

The same held true for my ride home from work in the evening. Just what the doctor ordered.

There was a great post on EcoVelo recently about how ridiculous it is when non-cyclists speak of your bike commute as a great sacrifice, when it’s anything but. Riding a bike is almost too fun and too perfect for starting and ending the workday. That really is the big secret, apparently. Who, knowing the truth, would willingly chose anything else?

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LGRAB in Yes! Magazine

Let’s Go Ride a Bike is featured in the upcoming issue of Yes! Magazine, an award-winning, ad-free, non-profit publication that supports people’s active engagement in building a just and sustainable world.  The issue is on building community resilience and one of the features is 8 Crash-Proof Ideas, highlighting people and places building skills now that will come in handy in a future without oil.  We (meaning us and all of you out there) are Resillent Idea 3: Bike Anytime, Anywhere, As You Are.

You can read this part of the article by clicking on the image above.  The issue comes out sometime in the next week or two.  You can purchase it at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods, other book/magazine sellers or subscribe here. I highly recommend supporting this intelligent, interesting and unique publication.

Viva le revolution!

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Bulk Grocery Trip

My bulk grocery trips are not as pretty to look at as my farmer’s market bike trips, but I imagine the former are much rarer than the latter in the bicycling world. Of course, Mr. Dottie and I prefer to buy our food at the farmer’s market, but the bulk store keeps us in fancy olives and upscale beer within my non-profit salary.

We’re lucky that the route to Costco is super simple and relaxing – only a couple of miles down a quiet neighborhood street leads us directly to the parking lot.

And the result of our farmer’s market and bulk food trip – dinner!

There’s quite a lot packed into our panniers and my basket, but the ride was no problem. I load my rear rack with a lot of weight without worrying about it, but I keep my front load lighter, otherwise my steering gets squirrely. I also carried a light shoulder bag with my camera and some spinach.

If we owned a car, we would probably say, “eff it, let’s take the car,” so we’re thankful that we don’t have that option. Makes life more interesting :)

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Bike Cycle: Doomed to Repeat History?

Is the current bicycle boom simply part of a never-ending bike cycle, wherein the press rattles on and Americans ride a little more, but real progress is never made?

I’m contemplating this question after reading an article from 1941 in Click Magazine that I found at a book fair, entitled: “Bike Cycle?  How to Go Places Without Gasoline.”  At first glance, the article seemed to be a bit of vintage fun, like the preceding article, “Your hat in 1941 will show how you feel about the war.”  Step-through frames with baskets!  Women on bikes in skirts!  Men in suits riding to the train station!

However, as I read the article, I realized it was eerily similar to the issues presented today.  Take out the retrograde parts about “men” going to the office and “housewives,” and the piece could have been in the latest issue of Time. The writer seemed very excited about the future of transportation cycling in America, yet 70 years later there’s been no progress.  To me this is horrific in a Twilight Zone kind of way.

Below I present the article in its entirety (apologies to the original copyright holders).  I bolded and italicized the parts that struck me the most and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Bike Cycle? how to go places without gasoline

BIKE CYCLE?  HOW TO GO PLACES WITHOUT GASOLINE

Town and country have both witnessed the return of the bicycle as a pleasure vehicle.  During the Gay Nineties, heyday of cycling, only 10% of the bicycles sold were made for women.  Today women buy over 30% of the bicycles made.  College girls like those on the right helped bring back the bicycle’s popularity. In cities, bicycles must obey all traffic laws.  Bicycle fans want state registration and license tags just like automobiles.

When the phrase “they never come back” was muttered about the American bicycle, the mutterers were muttering too soon. True enough, bicycle sales in America dropped from a high of 1,089,000 in 1899 to 180,000 in 1932. But then the great comeback started. Last year, bicycle sales reached an all time American high – more than 1,300,000 were sold. Cycle paths were built in city parks, and women took the wheel in amazing numbers. As a fun vehicle, the bicycle’s comeback was complete.

"Today, women buy over 30% of the bicycles made."

Now, with gasoline shortages looming importantly on our horizon, the bicycle is making a serious bid for at least some of the jobs being performed by automobiles. It is no longer necessary to release pictures like the one above to make people bicycle-concious. Bike lovers see their two-wheelers usurping most of the duties of the family car – and they might be right.

Men who now use automobiles to drive to the railroad station while they commute from suburb to city daily may follow the lead of commuters like Norman Hill, who pedals two miles from his home to the Maplewood, N.J. station in ten minutes every morning. He parks his bike there all day.

The huge quantities of gasoline now being burned by the cheap second-hand cars many families maintain for children who go to rural and suburban schools can well be saved by sending them to school on bicycles. Bikes are healthier, often less dangerous than cars.

"Suburbanites find they can make two wheels do the work of four."

Housewives who now drive a mile or less to do their shopping may soon find themselves faced with the alternative of cycling or walking to the store. But many American women, like this suburban Pennsylvania matron, find that cycle shopping can be completely practical.

The pleasures of parking and touring the countryside are enjoyed by any bicycle owner who desires them. A pair of shorts are all this girl needs in the way of special cycling clothes. The growth of roadside youth hostels has paved the way for bicycle tours covering hundreds of enjoyable miles.

"...and get an amusing exercise program out of legwork that replaces gasoline."

With the private family car completely eliminated by the fortunes of World War II all over Europe, most people are finding bicycles to be their only form of private transportation.  Gadgets like this side car for Parisian youngsters are becoming more and more common in European city streets.

American schools and factories may soon have to erect bicycle garages like this one in Paris if gasoline shortages on this side of the Atlantic become even remotely as acute as they are in contemporary Europe.  Cycling enthusiasts say this will make for healthier Americans.

"Bicycles have already replaced automobiles in Europe"

Prominent Americans love bikes.  Bicycle enthusiasts take great pride in the prominent Americans who ride bikes.  Civilian Defense Director La Guardia must have seen this picture of Grover Whalen before he appointed him director of the gas-saver drive.

L to R: Lana Turner, Wendell Willkie, Ann Rutherford, Grover Whalen

Click Magazine, 1941

What do you think – Fun piece of vintage bike history or terrible sign of the status quo?  I’m afraid that in another 70 years another article like this will be written and nothing will have changed.

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Easy Summer Commute

I took the Lakefront Trail on the way home, stopping to snap some pics with my little point-and-shoot. Feels like a long time since I enjoyed an easy summer commute on the Lakefront Trail.

Ah, can you feel the sunshine and the lake breeze? That, my friends, is the good life and it’s totally free.

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Riding Solo with Friends

Although it seems like all my friends ride bikes, sometimes I’m the only one in the group riding. I suppose I could ditch the bike and go along with everyone else, but I’m loathe to give up the freedom and fun. Such was the case this weekend.

Saturday was a very full day, starting with a 9 mile ride to the Field Museum, where I met Melissa and Chanh. After looking at dinosaurs, we headed back to my neighborhood for dinner. They had taken the train in from the ‘burbs, so they continued with public transportation, while I set off on my bike and met them at the neighborhood L station. The restaurant was another mile away, so I walked my bike with them.

Field Museum

Melissa and Chanh

Sue the T-Rex

The city from Grant Park Museum Campus

Pomegranate Margarita

Later I somehow ended up going to a nightclub; definitely not a usual activity of mine, especially in my old age. I finally ditched my bike in favor of sharing a cab with everyone. After a very late all-night diner visit (mmm, grilled cheese), I rode my bike home by myself at 4 a.m. I was only a couple of miles away and I actually felt perfectly safe (pepper spray and u-lock just in case).

Night View

Thank you, dear Betty Foy the Bike, for taking me all around the city with such ease. I’m never alone when I’m with you :)

What do you do when you’re riding solo with friends?

{These photos taken with my vintage Minolta XG1 film camera.}

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Take the Long Way Home

Am I the only one who hears the Supertramp song in my head based on the post title? I blame my dad.

Today I did indeed take the long way home. Normally my commute route is a major diagonal street (Lincoln Ave, for the locals). Diagonal streets are favored among both cyclists and motorists because they cut through Chicago’s usual grid – after all, the quickest way from point A to point B is a straight line. Due to the heavy bike traffic, this street is a designated bike route and there are either bike lanes or sharrows the entire way. However, due to the heavy car traffic (and bus traffic and truck traffic), it can be stressful.

There is an alternate street route, which I’d never taken as part of my commute before (Armitage and Racine).

The route is along two secondary streets at a right angle, instead of the one diagonal street, adding a little less than one mile to the ride. For someone outside of a big city like Chicago, these would probably be busy streets, but they’re calm compared to my normal route. One street has a bike lane and the other has wide lanes but no bike lane. With very few stop lights and many four-way stop sign intersections, they’re ideal for bikes.

My ride was much calmer than usual and, surprisingly, I got home in pretty much the same amount of time as usual. Maybe 3-4 minutes longer. I’ll have to take the “long” way more often! Conveniently, this way took me right by a quaint neighborhood wine shop. Sauvignon blanc is the perfect treat after a ride in 94 degrees.

This is going down as an event for the Summer Games, take the long way home.  I’m grateful that I took the opportunity to try something new, thanks to the Games.  I look forward to hearing about everyone else’s adventures. :)

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Simple Pleasures

Sustenance and transportation are two necessities of daily life. People need to eat and need to get from one place to another. How one chooses to fulfill these needs greatly affects one’s life. Our society in general is going about it all wrong. Pleasure, health and happiness can be derived from these tasks. I don’t mean by eating steak and driving a porsche; I’m not talking about anything money can buy, but about simple pleasures.

Just some thoughts after another beautiful Saturday at the farmer’s market, eating fresh food in the shade of old trees and then hopping on the bikes for a quiet ride home. The price for hours of entertainment, quality time, exercise, transportation, fresh air and happiness – nada. For local food (cherries, cheese, arugula, croissant, mushrooms) – ten dollars per person.

I’m no master of simple living, but I know what makes me happy. Bicycles and fresh food are so obviously good, their near-invisibility in society boggles the mind.

What is your take on simple pleasures and how they affect your life?

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Keeping Cool

Riding 5 miles in 80+ degree temperatures does not have to be miserable. Take the opportunity to kick back and relax, keeping cool while keeping your cool. Everyone else can rush rush rush, but you’re too smart for that.

After my Friday work commute

That’s how I roll :)

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Flowers for the Tour de Fat

On Saturday I attended the Tour de Fat, an annual bike festival by New Belgium Brewing, where I ran into several people I know, including frequent commenter Scott and his girlfriend with their gorgeous Velorbis and Pashley bikes (pictured below). Chicago was the first stop on a nation-wide tour. You can read, see and watch more about the Tour de Fat at my write-up from last year.

Before heading out, I decided to decorate my bike. The flowers came from a thrift store wreath and were already strung together. I simply zip-tied each end to the top of my basket and voila – bike basket beauty.

I also decorated my hair. :) This is going down as an event in the Summer Games, “Decorate your bike.”

All bike baskets should be adorned with flowers and/or ribbon!

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Bike Commuting in a Severe Storm

A severe storm hit Chicago unexpectedly late yesterday afternoon. Hurricane-force winds up to 77 mph, torrential rain and hail blew out windows in the Sears Tower and downed trees and powerlines. Guess where I was when this happened? Yup, riding my bike home from work.

When I heard about the approaching storm, I decided to leave work a little early to beat the storm home. Soon after I set out, rain began falling. The further I rode, the heavier the rain and winds became. I could feel a little hail. Stubbornly I pushed on – soooo close to home, I kept telling myself. Half-way home the wind and rain were so strong, I had to slow considerably. Then I rode on the pedestrian-free sidewalk in case the wind blew me over. Two-thirds of the way home, the wind and rain became literally impossible to ride in. I realized that trying to ride my bike was pretty crazy and dangerous. My stubborn nature is usually an asset when it comes to biking around Chicago, but sometimes it makes me stupid. As I locked my bike outside a (conveniently located and cozy) pub, lightening and thunder hit so closely that I screamed.

Safely in the pub, I commiserated with some other stranded folks, emptied the water out of my shoes and rung out my skirt and shirt, and ordered a pint. Nearly an hour later the rain and wind calmed down enough for me to ride the final 1.5 miles home. That’s when I took these photos. A similar storm hit around 10 pm but I was tucked safely inside.

The moral of this story is: don’t try to beat a severe storm home or at least have a cozy pub to duck into if necessary.

I have lots more to say about this day, which included the Bike to Work Week rally, David Byrne’s bicycle forum and hanging out with bikey friends.

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Dottie and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Commute

Wanna hear my story? Don’t worry – no dotties or bicycles were harmed in the making of this commute.

Monday and Tuesday I had to work at a satellite office on the west side instead of my office downtown. From my starting point the satellite office is four miles straight west on one street, Belmont Avenue. See the yellow line highlighted on the bike map below? That’s it.

This should have been a simple commute. However, as shown on the map, I had to cross a river and an expressway. No side streets cross both, only arterial streets. I avoid arterial streets due to the heavy and relatively fast traffic. I tweeted for route advice and the general consensus (thanks!) was to avoid Belmont Avenue. After studying the bike map, I decided on a circuitous route to stay on quiet neighborhood streets most of the way, riding on arterial streets only to cross the river and the expressway.

The ride started fine and I crossed the river fairly easily, although mixing it up with the fast traffic got my blood pumping. Back on the neighborhood street, I rolled along happily for a couple of miles, but when I tried to cross the expressway, I kept coming upon dead ends. I had ridden too far and backtracked down several side streets – all dead ends – until finding the big street again.

Time for the next obstacle. Traffic entering and exiting the enormous expressway is fast, aggressive and not looking for bicyclists, so I cautiously road on the sidewalk until I safely crossed over. Not only did I ride on the sidewalk, I also went against a red light. I saw that no one was coming and knew that as soon as the “walk” signal appeared, the cars waiting to my left would turn right onto the expressway with absolutely no regard for lil’ ol’ me. Something about expressway ramps makes drivers insane.

After crossing I had to pull over to get my wits about me. I couldn’t remember which side street I was supposed to take next and called Mr. Dottie for directions, grumbling about traffic and the time. Soon I found the side street that I thought would take me straight to my destination.

Wrong!

The street suddenly ended and dumped me back on the arterial street. By this time I was already late for work, so I sucked it up and pedaled as fast as I could with traffic, an activity not for the faint of heart. Also not for the faint of heart: stopping in the middle of an arterial with no turn lane while waiting to turn left.

Finally, I arrived at my destination – stressed, sweaty and 15 minutes late. But alive!

For the ride home I decided to take a more direct route down a nearby arterial, Diversey Avenue. This route was simple and better than the morning nightmare, but called for some serious vehicular cycling, moving fast and taking the right lane. I was the only bicycle out there, making me long for companions, regardless of whether they stopped at the red lights. This street is busy and relatively fast, but has a bike lane for part of the way and is a marked bike route on the Chicago map.

Just as I was thinking positively about the route, two SUV’s almost hit me while I was crossing the river, one right after the other. They were stopped in traffic in the left turning lane, I was going straight in the right lane and they did not look before impatiently gassing it out of their lane and straight into my path. That was it for me – bike car traffic city sensory overload for the day.

The next morning I took the Belmont Avenue bus, which carried me straight to work with no stress. I stared out the window and read Anna Karenina. I did not regret my decision.

The city needs to do some serious work to make safe east-west routes, because the current set up is absurd. Lucky for me, I can now return to my usual commute downtown.

After I returned home from my bus commute, I set out on my bike to a board meeting a few miles away. En route, rain started pouring. I pushed on until thunder and lightening showed up, then I admitted defeat, turned around and attended my meeting over the phone. Sigh.

So this brief period of time will go down as the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad commute. I guess everyone has bad commutes sometimes.

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Carry a Load on Your Bike!

On the way home from work today, I met Mr. Dottie for a bulk food run. We were fresh out of the huge jar of fancy olives! We usually don’t grocery shop by bike because we live a block from a nice store, but we will go out of our way for a great deal on peanut butter: that’s where Costco comes in.

Bulk Grocery Run

The magnitude of this trip did not come close to our last haul with the bakfiets. Since we don’t own a bakfiets, most of our trips involve a basket, panniers and a few select bulk products. Our acquisitions today included 24 bottles of Two Brothers local craft brew (on Greg’s back rack), 4 lbs of organic strawberries, 6 lbs of yogurt, 4 lbs of raw nuts, 3 lbs of chicken sausage and 2 lbs of hummus. Yummy!

Beer Rack

The bikes handled the loads perfectly. A good test ride for the bike-camping trip we’re going on with Melissa and Chanh this weekend!

This is going down as a Summer Games, Part II Learning Experience: Carry a load on your bike.

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Sunny Side Up

Given that Jerk Season has become our most commented post in record time, I figured I’d take this opportunity to highlight the sunny side of cycling. The sunny side is much bigger than the dark fringes!

On Wednesday, I had the great pleasure of meeting Cherilyn of Bike Bliss. She, her husband and their 3 sons were visiting Chicago as part of their mini Midwestern tour. A beautiful family all on bicycles! She and I broke away for a leisurely ride along the lakefront and a great discussion of how important the online community is for supporting people – especially women – who may not have a supportive network in their hometowns.

Cherilyn of Bike Bliss

Last Sunday, me, Greg, Amanda, Arielle and a whole fun group enjoyed a picnic dinner party in an urban park. My rhubarb-discovery summer continued with Amanda’s delicious homemade rhubarb pie.

Arielle and her bike Ruby

Amanda, her boyfriend and their bikes

Amanda's Rhubarb Pie

Amanda's awesome picnic basket

I’ll put these rides down as my “Schedule a bike date with a friend or partner — dress up!” event for the Summer Games :)

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Jerk Season

I am tired. Of aggressive and ignorant jerks. Guys in Land Rovers who pass dangerously close. And then roll down the window to lecture me on how I’m not supposed to be riding in the middle of the (small one-way) road. Because they are faster. Therefore I should move over. Never mind that riding up against parked cars is the most dangerous way to ride in the city. They need to pass me and that’s all that matters. Because they are so fast, even though somehow I catch up with them at the red lights.

They tell me to “share the road.” Which means stay the fuck out of their way. Because they have “their side” and I have “my side.” Which apparently is the gutter.

I wish. I wish I wish I wish that these guys (always guys) would leave me alone to get home in peace. And that I could stop my blood from boiling every time they bother me. Stop myself from reacting. Why do I let them get to me?

I am a woman peacefully riding a happy bike. In a dress. In the dark. In the rain. In my neighborhood. What is their problem?

Five months of daily winter riding – not one problem with a driver. Now in the summer all the jerks come out. Maybe Chicago is too aggressive for me. This type of scenario should not be normal.

{I was planning to use these pictures to talk about my lovely ride to see the Evelyn Evelyn / Amanda Palmer show. Too bad all of that changed one block from home.}

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Bike the Drive 2010: Chicago Closes Highway for Cyclists

Have you ever wondered what the world would look like if cities were built to support bicycles, rather than cars? For five hours every year, Chicagoans experience this utopia during Bike the Drive.

Bike the Drive is an annual event organized by the Active Transportation Alliance, during which the city closes the main scenic highway through the city, Lake Shore Drive, to motor traffic and opens it up for cyclists. Nearly 20,000 bicyclists participate!  The huge turn-out demonstrates how hungry people are for cycling, if only they could feel safe on the streets.

Lake Shore Drive via Bike

Lake Shore Drive via Bike

The massive number of participants is amazing, and also the diversity of participants. Sure, there are lots of roadies and daily bike commuters, but also thousands of families with children, middle-aged suburbanites and elderly couples. I imagine a lot of people dust off their old bikes specifically for this event. Hopefully, the ride will remind many of how much fun it is to ride a bike and inspire them to continue to ride.

I rode a total of 50 miles - this dress was airy and hid my padded bike shorts

Greg at the south end of the route, Museum of Science and Industry

Riding companions Dean and Elizabeth

After the ride participants enjoyed a festival in Grant Park, complete with a pancake breakfast and live music.

Grant Park Festival

Grant Park Festival

Again, I must emphasize that this event demonstrates how many people would love to ride bikes more often, if only they felt safe doing so in the road.  The following videos convey more than words can say.  The first video is from last year; the second is from this year. The endless flow of bicycles in both was consistent along the entire route.

For another video of biking the Drive, see here via Steve Vance.

Read Elizabeth’s (pictured above) report at Bike Commuters.

This is totally going down as my group ride for the Summer Games :)

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Kitted Out

Last week I talked about riding slowly to avoid sweating and last year I talked about fresh summer cycling.  However, when the temperature is 90 degrees, changing into work clothes after the commute may be simpler than worrying about sweat marks and riding super slowly, especially when you’ll have to duck into the bathroom to freshen up anyway. Such was the case today, when I “kitted out” after suffering through a terribly sweaty ride in my work clothes the day before.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to introduce my LGRAB team kit.

As always, I have the Nutcase helmet and Po Campo bag. I might get a breezier helmet for the summer to cool my head better – a sporty helmet with lots of air vents. In the alternative, I’ll ride my Dutch bike on the bike path more often to forgo the helmet. Sweaty hair is my least favorite part of bike commuting (well, after cars).

I wear these crochet and leather fingerless gloves for longer hot rides with my Betty Foy. The combination of sweat and cork grips causes callouses otherwise.

My first summer of riding, I bought a lot of clothes specifically for commuting. Any old summer dress or tank and short combo would do, but I like Patagonia’s skorts (looks like a skirt with shorts underneath) and tanks with build in bras. Anything in merino wool is also good.

Keen cycling sandals are ugly as sin, but keep my feet cool and are odor resistant – a huge benefit when they’re sitting around my office all day. They have built in things on the bottom to connect clipless somethings. I ignore those.

Essential eye gear, of course.

The whole shebang.

My skirt and blouse were rolled up in my basket, but I’m gonna start leaving some suits in my office, along with my work heels.

Whether you prefer to ride in work clothes, casual clothes or special cycling clothes, it’s all good. Mix it up. Experiment. Just do what works for you.

Anyone else making accommodations for the heat (or cold, for the Australians out there)?

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April Showers

April showers have arrived to mess up everyone’s weekend plans, but I’ve decided not to give in. After riding home from work yesterday in the rain, I changed into a fresh dress, donned my raincoat and headed out on the town with Elizabeth. Our destination was a music venue several miles north and soon rain began pouring. After meeting up with Ms. Elle and enjoying the show, we rode home through a steady rain at 2 a.m. And guess what? We had a blast.

The thought crossed my mind that most people – unbikey people – would consider riding a total of 12 miles through a rainstorm in the middle of the night to be extreme. For me and my friends, all of this was perfectly natural. It just was, and I really dug that.

Now I’m off for more city adventures. Maybe the rain will hold off during my ride.

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April Showers

Raindrops, say hello to bicycle.  You two are old friends by now.  With bicycle today are her sidekicks: helmet, lights, saddle cover and fenders.  For today’s extreme adventure with you both, I’m fortified with a tweed skirt, tights, boots and trench coat.  With these precautions, I will manage to arrive perfectly presentable for my 9 a.m. meeting.

Dear reader, if you are new to riding in the rain, but would like to try, check out our how-to guide. For more examples of how rain and bikes can go together, click on the “rain” tag below.  If you are an old pro, feel free to leave your tips and words of encouragement :)

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