My focus lately has not been on blogging, but I have some renewed energy now. In three weeks, I start a new job (an exciting step up in my career!) that will bring me a longer and more scenic bike commute. And to reward myself I bought a beautiful digital camera that has me eager to document my rides.
This morning I enjoyed my regular bike ride to work in the sunshine and crisp air.
Betty has been my constant companion for the last month, although I expect to swap her out for Oma as soon as the snow starts.
And here’s what I wore on my bike, although this was in the middle of the day and Betty, unfortunately, was not around to pose with me. A cashmere sweater and scarf with a leather jacket kept me plenty warm in the low-30 temps.
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.
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.
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.
To the untrained eye, this bicycle may look like my Oma, but it’s actually a stealthy WorkCycles Secret Service. She’s a loaner from J.C. Lind Bikes for a few days while Betty Foy gets her (much needed!) spring overhaul.
When Dutch Bike Chicago closed a year and a half ago (their Seattle shop is still in business), I was disappointed that WorkCycles were no longer sold in Chicago. People often ask me about my Oma, and after DBC closed I had no place to direct them other than the internet.
Happily, this is no longer a problem. WorkCycles have returned to Chicago! Jon of J.C. Lind Bikes (at 1300 N. Wells for locals) worked out an arrangement with Henry of WorkCycles, and now the shop carries a variety of WorkCycles city bikes.
I have a review of the Secret Service coming soon, and I’ll try to test others like the Fr8 and Gr8 at some point, since I know many people are unable to test ride them in real life before purchasing and must rely heavily on online information.
Yesterday I posted pictures I took while playing in the blizzard and I mentioned my bike ride the day after the storm. Here is a detailed account of that ride and a look at the blizzard’s not-so-pretty aftermath.
After pulling Oma out of the garage and into the alley, I began doubting my decision to ride my bike one day after 20 inches of snow poured down on Chicago.
The condition of the first street I came upon did not increase my self-confidence.
However, I had a plan to take arterial streets that I usually avoid due to scary car traffic. I knew they would be plowed and a bit calmer than usual, and I was right.
Once I reached my destination, I just had to find a parking spot…
This bike called dibs way earlier. I’d say he earned it.
Luckily I found a bike rack that was not totally consumed by snow.
Once on foot, I realized that bicycling in the road was much easier than walking down un-shoveled sidewalks.
Well, except for streets like this one. The side streets still had a ridiculous amount of snow.
Overall, the ride was a pretty low-key adventure. My intimate familiarity with the area, bicycling confidence and studded tires helped the situation. For sure, I was happy to return home at sunset, safe and sound and feeling a little bad ass.
Today I biked 10 miles roundtrip to work, plus a couple of miles during lunch, plus a few more miles tonight to see the Decemberists play a live show (so good!). The rides were more stressful and obstacle-course-like than usual, especially when some [censored] honked at me, but enjoyable nevertheless.
Now what’s that news story about a groundhog seeing his shadow?
I did it! I biked to work 10 miles roundtrip with temperatures as low as -4F and a windchill as low as -20F. As far as I’m concerned, any of you could do the same – and I know some of you have already. All it takes is a positive attitude, an adventurous spirit and a few extra accessories. If you put the time into preparation and hype yourself up enough to pull your bike out, everything else should be a piece of cake.
My ride felt similar to any other cold winter ride I’ve experienced this winter. The biggest difference was that the air was very cold on my face, which I usually leave uncovered. I ended up pulling my scarf up to my nose and then pulling it down intermittently to breath comfortably.
Important extra accessories:
Warming packs in my mittens and boots. I never would have made it without these because my fingers and toes get extremely cold.
Safety glasses, a cheap pair I swiped from my husband’s work pile. I need these to cover my eyes, which are very sensitive and water easily.
A scarf wrapped around my face.
With those extra accessories in place, my usual winter wardrobe would have worked fine. However, I got so paranoid by the local news, I ignored my own experience and common sense and layered like crazy. I wore capeline leggings under flannel-lined khakis, a slim wool shirt under a wool sweater under a long down parka, earmuffs under a wool hat under a helmet. Too much, Dottie! No part of me was cold, which is good, but I was so hot and itchy. When I arrived at the office, sweat was rolling down my back and my hair was damp. The parka was way overkill. Lesson learned.
Overall, I consider the experience a success. I’ll never be afraid of Chicago arctic blasts again.
On a very cold Saturday evening, a group of fun-loving city cyclists came together for a midwinter celebration at local Chicago shop, Dutch Bike Co. A time to recharge batteries, talk with cool people and drink lots of wine out of a cargo bike. :)
Among the cool people there (I wish I’d taken even more pictures!) was Janet, a writer and illustrator who rides an Oma and blogs at Tuttle Tattle.
And Steve, who just returned from a whirlwind European trip, including stops in Amsterdam and Copenhagen. You can read about his trip at Steven Can Plan.
The array of bikes parked outside was beautiful, including this Madsen owned by Ashley of new blog One Less Minivan.
Between chatting and sipping, I had time to gawk at all the cool stuff, including Po Campo’s new prototype laptop pannier made by local ladies, Maria and Emily.
Also on display, Dutch seat covers and Yepp kid seats.
And these amazing navy blue and green Brooks saddles. Has anyone seen colored leather saddles like these before? I’m intrigued!
I’m lucky to have such great local bike shops in Chicago. A good local shop can become a meeting place for like-minded folk and help create a feeling of real community, even in a big city. This celebration was all about socializing, talking to old friends and meeting new ones. Such opportunities are rare. Usually in the bike community, every event is organized around either recreation, like a group ride, or advocacy work. I think merely talking with other people who “get it” is an effective, subtle form of advocacy, and a fun recreation to boot.
I encourage everyone, wherever you may live, to approach your local bike shop about hosting a similar celebration. Get the ball rolling in your own community!
(Dutch Bike Co. is a sponsor of LGRAB. It’s also my local bike shop, which I’ve been writing about since long before we had sponsors.)
Trisha’s post yesterday about the difficulty of riding in Nashville after snow has me thinking about the important role that city preparation and maintenance play in winter commuting. If streets are not cleared quickly after a storm, even a modest snowfall can ruin several bike commuting days.
Southern cities are getting more wintry weather this year than they’re equipped to handle. I heard on the news that Atlanta has 8 snow plows; in contrast, Chicago has hundreds. I assume road salt is in similarly limited supply.
Without salt and plows, Trisha has to walk her bike over large icy patches in Nashville
On top of this, Southern bicyclists are likewise less equipped to handle the weather, as there’s usually not enough snow to justify purchasing snow tires or studded tires. This results in more of Trisha’s commutes in Nashville being thwarted than mine in Chicago, despite the much greater snow totals in Chicago. You can see this happen with Bike Skirt Elisa’s commute in Alabama, too.
Meanwhile, this week in Chicago, I took one day off bicycling when the snow was actively falling on Tuesday. The next day, after 5 inches of snow, all but the small side roads had been cleared of snow and ice. Plus, to handle any surprises, I have studded tires.
Streets are reasonably clear a day after a Chicago snowstorm
Unfortunately, the bike lanes are still a complete mess, which is something the city needs to work on improving, but at least I could ride in the main lanes safely.
Unfortunately, bike lanes are mostly ignored in the snow-clearing process
Therefore, it seems like so far this winter, snow and ice have been more problematic for bicyclists in the South than in areas to the north that regularly get snow.
Of course, I have not forgotten about the crazy blizzard action going on around New York and New England. How long does it take after one foot of snow falls before roads are reasonably clear for bicycling?
And for everyone else, feel free to leave a comment stating your location and how well your city has been dealing with wintry weather this year.
My third women-who-bike brunch was the biggest yet, with nearly 20 women gathering together on a freezing Sunday morning to enjoy each other’s company and $3 mimosas. I love these brunches for the opportunity to sit down and have great conversations with so many smart, fun women. Next we’ll expand to happy hours, in the spring we’ll start some group rides and from there we’ll take over the world.
I must say a few words about a post on Copenhagenize that ruffled my feathers. I’m a huge fan of Copenhaganize, but the internet is all about criticizing people for every little imperfection, so I’m taking issue with one small part of one post in the Copenhaganize archive. The post is called “Cycling in Winter in Copenhagen” and starts out nice enough until this part:
“And no bicycle studs were harmed in the making of this blogpost. I never see them here and wouldn’t possibly know where to buy them.
When you have as much urban cycling experience as the people of Copenhagen or a city like Amsterdam, you are pretty much trained to cycle in any weather. I’ll just let my fellow citizens do the talking…”
He then shows numerous photos of Copenhageners riding along in the snow, a beautiful and inspirational sight. However, look closely and you will notice that every picture shows the bicyclists physically separated from motor vehicle traffic.
Photo (c) Mikael Colville-Andersen
May I submit that the use of studded tires by people like, ahem, me has a lot to do with the high risk of serious injury that comes with a slip? As in, if I were to slip on ice during my work commute, it is more likely than not that a car, truck or SUV would immediately run me over.
I am not a fearmonger, but hundreds of huge, speeding vehicles pass me within a couple of feet every day. I have a good idea of what would happen if I were to fall beside one of them. A lot of my cycling friends in Chicago feel okay riding without studs, but I prefer the peace of mind that comes with them, along with the ability to ride on any day and any route, regardless of the weather or the city’s thoroughness in plowing.
My bicycle route: unprotected bike lane full of ice, directly next to heavy car and truck traffic
A calm part of my bicycle route, where unfortunately SUVs love to squeeze by me
Moreover, cycling experience does not prevent one from slipping on ice. I have lifelong experience walking, but I still slip and slide on icy sidewalks. Ice is slippery. Mikael himself has acknowledged “some slip-sliding moments and fishtailing” while riding his cargo bike in the snow. Sure, I don’t mind slip-sliding or even falling when I’m on the lakefront bike path, but a cavalier attitude about such is not advisable when sharing the lanes with cars.
I’m certainly not telling everyone to buy studded tires or advocating for laws requiring their use or creating stickers announcing “you’d look studlier in studded tires.” But in defense of those who use studded tires, I’m pretty sure such use is not based on lack of urban cycling skills or the general inferiority of goofy non-Danes.
My first bike commute of the new year was pretty much perfect. First, during my absence, all the snow miraculously melted in Chicago. The temperature has since dropped down to well below freezing, but the roads remain clear and dry. I celebrated the rare occasion by riding studded-tire-less Betty Foy for the first time in a month. Vroom-vroom!
Half way to work, I pulled over to change the album on my iPod and blow on my numb fingertips, when Maria of Po Campo rode up next to me on her beautiful Soma mixte. Our paths soon diverged, but not before I got a picture!
A couple of miles later, Jami of Balloon Biker pulled up next to me in the bike lane and we rode together and chatted the rest of the way in.
Lovely! Note the skirts, tights and boots that both Maria and Jami are sporting. That’s how Chicago women do it on a bike in the winter!
Unexpectedly meeting up with two bike friends really brightened my morning. As a bonus to my already awesome morning, between seeing Maria and Jami, I passed a woman going the other direction who was riding a Dutch bike with flowing hair, carrying a baby on the front and a toddler on the back. It was so beautiful, I could have wept. She must be Dutch or something, although I would love to be wrong. Anyone know a regular Chicago mom who throws down like that? I was tempted to turn around and catch up with her to snap a picture, but figured that would be weird. Instead, I offer this supermum representation from Copenhagen Cycle Chic:
Women on bikes are taking over – watch out, Chicago.