Tag Archives: dutch bike chicago

Focus

Hello there!

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My focus lately has not been on blogging, but I have some renewed energy now.  In three wteeks, 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.

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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.

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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.

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That’s about all I have to share for now.  :-)

I hope everyone is doing well!

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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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WorkCycles Have Returned to Chicago!

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.

Stay tuned!

{J.C. Lind is an LGRAB sponsor and friend. Henry of WorkCycles is an LGRAB friend now, too!   But all of my reviews are absolutely independent.}

 

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Post-Blizzard Bike Ride Details

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.

Want some?

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?

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My Arctic Air Bike Commute

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.

Thanks so much to everyone for your helpful and encouraging comments! I don’t think I would have done it without your support and priceless advice.

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A Midwinter Celebration

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.)

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How Preparation and Maintenance Affect Winter Bicycling

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.

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January’s women-who-bike brunch

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.

What an awesome group! I tried to get everyone’s photo, but did not quite succeed. Here are some cool blogs that were represented: Ding Ding Let’s Ride, This Little Bike of Mine, Bike Fancy, Two Pitties in the City (cutest dogs ever), Po Campo, and Chicargo Bike. If I indadvertedly left anyone’s blog out, feel free to leave a comment to say hi and link to your stuffs. :)

As always, if you’re interested in attending our next brunch on the first Sunday of February, email me at LGRAB [at] letsgorideabike [dot] com.

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In Defense of Studded Tires

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.

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A Very Friendly Bike Commute

Hi there!  We are back and ready for 2011.  :)

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.

Happy new year!

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Winter Street Dynamics

The end of December has brought an interesting mix of personality dynamics among road users.  In my experience, Chicago drivers are much nicer in the winter and so far I’ve had no issues.  They’ve been giving me generous passing room and follow slowly when necessary.  I haven’t seen a lot of cyclists out there, usually sports types who ignore me.  Meanwhile, pedestrians and onlookers have been more outgoing than usual, with a road crew waving at me, a guy enthusing as he crossed the street, “You are brave!  Look at you!  Be safe!” and a Streetwise vendor telling how he loves to see me ride by on my bike every day.

As for travel conditions – although nothing like the northeast blizzards, several inches of snow fell in Chicago over Christmas, piling on top of the existing snow.  The plows cleared the streets decently, but bike lanes are full of snow and slush, while small neighborhood streets are still pretty snowy.  No problem – I stick to main routes, ride outside the bike lanes and feel extra security from my studded tires.

How is the end of the beginning of winter going for you?  Any interesting encounters while riding around?

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Back to Bike

If anyone was wondering about the cliffhanger of Monday’s post, I did not ride my bike to work.  As many of you mentioned in the comments, it was not worth the risk of leaving my bike parked outside downtown overnight.  Of course, as life goes, the snow storm did not begin until later in the night, when I was safely home.

Riding the L train is a great back-up option, though.  As a bonus, at the L station I got to shake Rahm Emanuel’s hand, as he greeted the commoners and kissed babies and such.  I wanted to say, “More bike lanes!” but all that came out was, “Oh, hai!”

Today I was back on my bike.  Yay, bike!  Above is an unglamorous representation of my winter wear, hat, helmet, scarf and all.

Tomorrow I’m flying out to North Carolina to be with my wonderful family for Christmas.  I haven’t seen them since last year, so I’m very excited!  Too bad I don’t have a folding bike to take with me.

Happy Holidays!

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FAQ’s – Part I

Earlier this year, Trisha and I opened a Formspring account and welcomed you all to ask us questions.  We’ve been answering the questions on Formspring individually as they come in.  Now we’re putting the answers together as a cohesive FAQ section, although some of the questions are not so frequent.  :)  This is the first half.  We’ll post the second half soon.

How and when did Dottie and Trisha meet?

Trisha and I met through our mutual friend, Erin, at a group happy hour. The first meeting I really remember was at a Russian dinner party I threw at my apartment. Trisha showed up with a shirt that said, in Russian, “I love Russian.” Awesomeness. Soon after, we went to a midnight showing of Gremlins and I drank too much beer and had to leave before the movie ended (beer buzz + crowded theater + gremlins driving Barbie cars = overwhelming). From then on, we were fast friends.  :)  That was, I think, about 4 years ago when I lived in Nashville for law school.

What saddles do you use on your bikes?

I (Dottie) have Brooks saddles, which I love. On Oma it’s the B67 with springs – the most comfortable saddle ever. On Betty it’s the B17S – no springs and took longer to break in, but still great. Trisha’s Batavus came with a Selle Royale and her Peug has a vintage saddle.

Continue reading

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The Return of My Winter Wheels

Ladies and gentlemen, my winter wheels are back!  After choosing not to ride on Monday due to road conditions, I set out Tuesday morning enthusiastically, but my enthusiasm was short-lived.

The edges of the streets and the bike lanes were still full of slush, forcing me to take the lane.   The rising sun created massive glares on the wet roads and snow, making it hard for me to see and surely hard for drivers to see me.

I almost turned around to ride back home, but instead I turned on a shady side street with less sun but more slush.  Half-way to work, I decided to drop Oma off at Dutch Bike Chicago to have her studded tires put on.  The shop wasn’t open yet, so I locked her up, dropped the key through the mail slot and left them a message.  Today I dropped off the studded tires and then picked up modified-Oma after work (Thanks to the shop manager Vince!  You can read about his own studded tire transition here.)

Finally!  My cycling confidence is back and the ride home was wonderful!

I felt totally confident on my two wheels, even riding through the icy slush.  Although I likely would have been perfectly fine riding without studded tires, I am miserable the whole time if I’m stressing about slipping.

Drivers were especially careful around me, possibly afraid I would slip in front of them (they don’t know about my studs) but whatever keeps them cautious is fine with me.  I smiled and laughed the whole time, in response to my Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me podcast (yay, WBEZ Chicago!).  As a cherry on top, I went by a man riding something like a WorkCycles Fr8 with a kid on back and we dinged bells at each other.

This is going to be a good winter, now that I have my wheels back.  Who’s with me?  :)

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2-Year Oma Anniversary!

Today while riding Oma home, I started thinking about what a wonderful bike she is and how it must be close to our 2-year anniversary. I knew I got her sometime in October 2008. When I arrived home, I consulted the extensive Trisha-Dottie email archives to pinpoint the exact date: October 18! That is today, my friends.

As I’ve made very clear before, she’s the best bicycle a woman could hope for and has changed my life by making biking so fun and easy.

Don’t tell Ms. O that I almost forgot our anniversary; I’d never hear the end of it. She’s still upset that I ride Betty Foy so much.

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Go Green Go Dutch Go Bike!

On Saturday morning, I participated in a group ride along the Lakefront Trail, Go Green Go Dutch Go Bike, put on by Active Trans and the Dutch Consulate in Chicago. The event did not attract a huge amount of people outside the Dutch bike community, possibly because of the threatening skies and mid 40’s temperature, but the fact that we have a Dutch bike community is pretty cool. Socializing among ourselves was fun, including groups from each of the city’s three Dutch/Danish bike shops, Copenhagen Cyclery, De Fietsfabriek and Dutch Bike Co. Chicago is the mecca of beautiful bike shopping in America.

I rode an Oma bike from De Fietsfabriek (full review soon) and my husband finally rode my WorkCycles Oma. Once he stopped trying to launch off, he caught on well to the Dutch bike riding style.

The Copenhagen Cyclery crew.

Continue reading

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Oma Appreciation

Now that other cyclists are out in full force, Oma gets compliments more than once a day.

“I love your bike!” “Awesome bike!” “Now that’s a bike!” “Beautiful, girl!” “Very elegant!” “Good for you!”

Usually I would not be crazy about strange men calling out to me, but all of these radiated a wholesome appreciation for my Dutch bike and the regular-woman-on-a-bike aesthetic.

All these photos were taken with my Diana Mini. You can see more at Ye Olde Flickr.

Have a great weekend! :)

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Heating Up

A fresh drink of water – my parched mouth would have appreciated that during the ride home today. The weather is suddenly extremely hot for Chicago in April, with temperatures in the 80’s the past couple of days. Soon I’ll have to start strategizing for freshening up at the office. After the long winter, I’m not complaining!

I rode along the Lakefront Trail again today. Irresistible with this beautiful weather! These photos are from my lunch break walk along the Magnificent Mile, where there’s a lovely public space for reading and people watching. I took these pictures with a 1979 Minolta XG-1 SLR camera that my mother-in-law pulled out of an old storage box for me. The camera is fully manual and a bit temperamental, with occasional leaks and a light meter that keeps dying, but it’s free, fun and film!

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Cherry Blossom Oma

Oma triumphantly returns to LGRAB, ushered in by cherry blossoms and ladybugs!

During the winter I rode only Oma, keeping Betty Foy in the garage due to her lack of studded tires and protection from the elements. After the first signs of spring last month, I started riding only Betty. I missed Betty’s peppiness and also was too lazy to remove Oma’s winter studded tires.

Today, missing my sweet Oma girl, I finally brought her to the shop for the tire swap. Boy, was she glad to be out in the spring air!

{I adore these cherry blossoms. I believe this is the same kind of tree Trisha captured yesterday, but the ones in Chicago are all white.}

Anyone else tend to ride certain bikes during different times? And then feel guilty for neglecting the other(s)? ;)

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Serendipity

Today I had a serendipitous meeting with Kara of Knitting Lemonade. We regularly read each others’ blogs, but have never met. I was at Dutch Bike Chicago to have Oma’s winter tires swapped out when she came up said, “Are you Dottie?” Yes! I am! How absolutely fun. Kara is visiting Chicago from Salt Lake City for a girls’ weekend and they just happened to stop in while in the area.

She is quite a fan of bikes, having three herself, including a lovely Pashley Princess. Out of her group of friends, only Kara rides a bike. They liked the Dutch bikes, though. Maybe one or two will pick up Kara’s influence.

Great to meet you, Kara! I hope you enjoy Chicago (and the Po Campo bag you bought) as much as I do.

Isn’t this bicycle community of ours pretty amazing? I think so!

{Update: see Kara’s post on the meeting here. :)}

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