Today is the first day of fall – my favorite season for bicycling.
Fall uniform: light sweater, tweed skirt, tights and boots
Fall cycling is lovely and requires little-to-no preparation. Jumping on your bike in slacks or tights and a sweater will work most days. Nevertheless, I notice a steep decline in bicyclists once the dreadfully hot days of summer are over, so obviously some people need convincing to continue riding their bikes. In light of this, we put together a How To Dress for Fall Cycling guide a couple of years ago and a quick Refresher Course last year.
Whether you plan to stick it out for the long haul or simply make the best of fall weather before storing your bike for the winter (both reasonable options), I wish you a happy and healthy fall bicycling season.
Picking up on Trisha’s post yesterday about craziness and courtesy on the road, I have a little courtesy to share from this evening’s commute.
On my way home, an SUV driver stopped for three older gentlemen at a crosswalk. This is so rare in Chicago, that could be the whole story, but there’s more. I was biking from the other direction and also stopped. Two of the gentlemen shuffled by and the third saw me waiting and gave a polite bow while motioning for me to go ahead of him. I thanked him with a smile and set off, as another in the group called out, “Hey, want to take me with you?” Ha, cute! (Note to men: do not attempt unless you are in a group of adorable elderly men, otherwise you’ll just be a creepy.)
A few miles later, I heard a little girl say to her mom, “I like that bicycle!” as I passed. Aw, double cute! Ladies of all ages appreciate the Betty Foy.
Another plus from the day – the weather was glorious. I enjoyed basking in the morning sun as it rose over Lake Michigan.
The sweet little interactions and the beautiful weather made up for the traffic craziness of the day, like the four drivers who opened car doors in my path. Good thing I was not riding a little closer to the parked cars, sheesh.
Anyway, a little courtesy and sunshine go a long way to brighten my day. :)
Now that Labor Day is behind us, the crowds are starting to thin out on the Lakefront Trail. I’ve avoided the trail most of the summer because dodging hundreds (thousands?) of other trail users is not my idea of fun. I plan to take the trail much more often during the fall, when I can relax and enjoy the crowd-free and car-free goodness.
I have missed the beautiful view of Lake Michigan and the fresh air that comes off it. So far early fall has been perfect in Chicago – hopefully we’ll have at least two good months before winter begins.
In other news, a new bike joined my household today! The bike is Mr. Dottie’s, which is good because he loved to tease me about our 3-to-1 bike ownership ratio. I wonder if anyone can guess what kind of bike he bought. Hint: it’s not the same brand as any of mine.
Although snow has not yet arrived in Chicago, wintery cold has.
Yesterday evening, following two days of Thanksgiving hibernation and feeling the need to get out in the fresh air, I jumped on my bicycle for a freezing but rejuvenating ride along Chicago’s northside lakefront. That really hit the spot. Although my fingers and toes burn and my nose sniffles and my eyes water, everything about riding in the winter makes me feel alive in a way that sweating during the summer does not.
The 30 F temperature felt substantially colder with the 20 mph winds off Lake Michigan and constantly taking my gloves off to operate my camera. Once I got home, a slice of warm, homemade-by-me apple pie and glass of scotch warmed me up right quick.
“You are a lovely change of pace,” a guy bicycling by me called out yesterday morning. We had just launched off from a stop light with about 6 other cyclists and I moved over to the right after seeing that he needed to pass in my rear view mirror. I don’t know if my helpful maneuver or my skirt and pink helmet elicited the remark, but it made me laugh and say, “Thank you!”
A change of pace is really what I needed, after a too-eventful week. To that end, I chose to ride the Lakefront Trail yesterday evening and this morning. Even though it’s quite out of the way and adds about 2 miles to my otherwise 4 mile work route, sometimes it’s totally worth it for a lovely change of pace, free of cars.
p.s. I’m not trying to hold out on my new bike news, but I don’t want to post about it until I have it and there’s an unexpected delay, so probably by early next week.
I’m going to continue with my “ups and downs” theme from Tuesday because it fits so perfectly.
On my way home from work last night, taking busy city streets, I rode by a group of people giving out free lights to cyclists. Up!
Dressed for 35 degree biking (thanks for the belt, Trisha!)
Not a half mile later, a driver passed me and then immediately swerved hard to the right to go around another car waiting to turn left. The maneuver put his speeding car dangerously close to my front wheel, causing me to scream and slam on my brakes. Soon the driver was stopped behind 10 other cars waiting for a red light. As I rode by, I looked in and saw a 30-something guy tapping away on his iPhone. This was too much for me to bear, so I tapped on his iWindow. He looked up with surprise and rolled it down. I said, “That was very scary back there.” He reacted with complete cluelessness and I calmly informed him that he very nearly hit me when he sped around the car just a few seconds ago. He apologized profusely and said that he never saw me.
Holy hell!! If that’s even true, it does not make me feel better. I kindly suggested that he pay attention to the road and then I turned onto a side street, anxious to get away from the rush hour madness and allow my hands and voice to stop shaking. These drivers are totally out of control. DOWN!
But wait! Don’t give up on humanity yet: this is an overall positive post.
After that debacle, I met my friends and fellow oma-owners, Janet and Dan, for hard apple cider and sweet potato fries at a neighborhood pub. Up!
Afterward, this amazing husband-wife team demonstrated doubling up on a bike, with Janet sitting side saddle on the back rack and Dan pedaling. They made it look so easy and elegant! Then I got a chance to ride on the back rack – my first time doubling up. It was so much fun! Learning this skill is now high on my to-do list. Janet has graciously offered to be my trial passenger this weekend. Stay tuned for more detail as this progresses. There will be video. UP!
I’ve written before about the ups and downs of bike commuting. A year later, I’m revisiting the theme based on the ups and downs I experienced during the past two days.
Down: Last night, as I was riding up Lincoln Avenue, a major bike route, a woman in a van yelled, “Ride in the bike lane, retard!” Wow, really?? For the record, I was riding on the outside line of the bike lane because otherwise I would be in the door zone. Regardless, anyone who would yell such awful and ignorant words at anyone is a miserable person. Incidentally, wouldn’t Chicago be so much better if everyone felt safe to ride their bicycles, including the developmentally disabled? I think so!
Up: Tonight, a woman standing on the sidewalk whistled and called out, “Hey, I love your bike!” while the men with her nodded in appreciation. The fact that they were outside a cool live music venue and not a tool-central type of bar doubled the impact of the compliment. I smiled and called out, “Thank you!”
I’m pretty sensitive, so I can’t help but be affected by such incidents, but really, no matter what someone may or may not yell at me, I always prefer my bicycle over any other form of transportation. If someone offered me free daily door-to-door Towncar service with complimentary muffins and NPR, I would turn it down without hesitation.
If you doubt me, check out the scenery from my ride this morning.
The temperature was in the high ’30s, but with a dress, a wool sweater, tights, boots and gloves, I was set.
For some reason, a lot of the “citizen cyclists” seem to have packed it in for the winter already, leaving me and a bunch of guys on road bikes. Just as I was thinking, “Gosh, everyone out here is in spandex going really fast,” my friend Dan rode by on his WorkCycles Oma and stopped to chat. (You may recognize him as top hat guy from the cocktail ride.) I love that in a huge city like Chicago, I still run into people I know regularly via the Lakefront Path and bike lanes.
A little later, a guy on a WorkCycles Opa rode by and rang his bell. I don’t know if he’s a reader (hi!) or merely a fellow Dutch bike appreciator, but it was great to see!
Back to the “ups and downs” of bike commuting. This I know for sure: I’m totally enjoying the up of autumn before the down of a long winter. Oh, who am I kidding? I kinda love winter, too!
On Sunday evening, 25 Chicago cyclists joined together to ride and drink in style, demonstrating that bicycling in a suit or dress and heels is easy. The temperature was about 40 degrees with a stiff wind, but otherwise a lovely autumn evening, perfect for bicycles and sidecars. Thanks to everyone who came out! You all looked fabulous and I wish I could have taken everyone’s picture! And special thanks to Mr. Dottie for putting on a suit – very rare. :)
THE COCKTAIL PARTY
To all Chicagoans: See you next time! Date TBD. (Likely to be co-hosted again by John of Vote With Your Feet.)
To all others: Start planning your own cocktail ride. It’s so fun and easy!
This weekend a very special guest stayed chez Dottie, S from Simply Bike. I was very excited to meet her in person, after following her for a long time on Academichic and now on the newer bike blog. Obviously, we have a lot in common and as I predicted, we got along extremely well and I had so much fun. As a bonus, she and Betty Foy were perfect together.
Riding bikes was a big part of the visit, since she had a conference about 8 miles away along the lakefront and I dropped her off and picked her up each day. Other notable activities: the Race Against the Sky movie, a big German meal at Chicago Brauhaus, a ferris wheel ride at Navy Pier, fresh Mexican at Rick Bayless’s XOCO, Checkov’s The Seagull at Goodman Theatre and warm donuts from Dinkel’s Bakery.
I love getting out and enjoying Chicago to the max. I always try to take advantage of everything the city has to offer, but hosting an out-of-towner gives me an extra push.
Saying goodbye to such a cool lady was sad. All of us fun, smart bike ladies should colonize a new city, where we can hang out and ride bikes together all the time. :)