Tag Archives: snow

Icy mornings

We have had more chilly, wet weather this past week or so. And while I know it’s nothing compared to the rest of the country, it makes for treacherous biking conditions! The other day I took a few snaps of my own Lake Michigan-style ice installation. And yes, I had to walk it through.

It’s snowing, again, today, and I’m trying to decide how I’m going to get to work. Like Dottie mentioned earlier, last year I probably would have ridden just to prove that I could. Now that I don’t feel that pressure, I may not subject myself and my bikes to the extreme (for Nashville, anyway!) weather conditions when neither of us are set up for them. It’s been cold so long that all my long underwear is in the wash! Confession: these past few weeks I have been cherry-picking the best weather days and riding on those days. And it’s working for me, keeping cycling fun through the slump and the chill of winter. Though, now that that’s said, driving is also stressful when it’s icy. Maybe my own two feet will have to do?

What’s your strategy for cycling through the winter?

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A Rare Winter Ride with Betty Foy

Today I rode to Evanston, a city north of Chicago, to hang out with Holly (who writes the blog Dancing Gypsies), where we had a fun time looking through book shops and clothing boutiques.  Since the distance was long and the streets totally clear of ice, I rode Betty Foy and took the most direct route along a major street. Things I learned on the 9-mile ride:

  • I miss riding Betty Foy.
  • I get a cardio workout riding Betty that I don’t get on Oma.
  • I can sweat a lot even in freezing temperatures.
  • I was in better shape in the summer.
  • There is a reason I don’t usually ride on big roads with fast traffic.
  • Big roads with fast traffic are scary.
  • The city is not that concerned about bicyclists’ safety.
  • Air pollution is a problem. *cough*
  • Sometimes when the route is stressful and it’s dark out and flurries begin to fall, the best way home is riding the train with my bike.

Now Betty Foy goes back in the garage and I go back to my regular commute until the next totally clear day.

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Happy Presidents Day

In honor of Presidents Day, I’m blogging midday. Oooh, fun. Here are some pictures I took at Navy Pier last week. The wind was fierce and snow was heavy, so I was the only one outside there. This is my first roll of film from a * gasp * film camera. I love my DSLR and am still learning what all the controls do, but the simplicity of an old-fashioned camera attracted me – no batteries required. I bought an inexpensive Diana Mini after seeing the kind of pictures it can take at Daydream Lilly. I like the dreamy, moody quality and the double exposures. I have a lot to learn and I think it will work better on a bright day, but learning is what it’s all about.

Okay, I’m off for a long bike ride with Betty Foy. Meeting a friend for Indian food. :)

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Happy Valentine’s Day

All the heart-shaped boxes of chocolate goodness will be half off tomorrow. Treat yourself.

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Toasty Warm Hands!

After a two day bike hiatus while waiting out the snow storm, I was back with Oma today for a perfectly energizing commute in the bright, crisp air. The best winter cycling is a full day after a snow storm, when the skies are blue, the snow is clean and the trails are plowed (at least in Chicago – thanks again Parks Department!). The temperature was 12 F, but as I’ve said before, I prefer a super freezing sunny day over a marginally freezing gray day.

As if the sunny morning could not get any better, I made a major breakthrough: Toasty! Warm! Fingers! Usually at 12 degrees my fingers would be burning; today they were toasty warm. The combo was mittens, glove liners and chemical warming packs. In the past I’ve tried and been disappointed by this combo. Today I wore better liners (Smartwool) and removed the warming packs from their package about 45 minutes before leaving. The packs get much warmer after being exposed to the air for a while. Finally, I put the warming packs inside the mitts, outside the glove liners, against the inside of my fingers. The result was TOASTY! I could feel the heat gently radiating the whole, long ride (1.5 hours this morning while I meandered along the Lakefront Trail enjoying the fresh air and taking pictures). Even on the ride home the packs were still warm.

I’m very excited by this development. I had resigned myself to a lifetime of freezing fingers. I think the complete lack of wind helped my fingers today, but I’m hopeful that even with wind this setup would work well. My biggest worry is that this could be an expensive and wasteful habit, as the packs last only one day each.

Does anyone else regularly use chemical warming packs? Or have any other tips and tricks to share for warm hands?

Also, I keep forgetting to post this video about Chicago’s Winter Bike to Work Day last month by Camille Doty, a student at Northwestern’s journalism school, which includes a short interview with me. Nice to meet you, Camille.

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A Foot of Snow and an Earthquake in Chicago

In the last 24 hours in Chicago, a foot of snow fell and a 4.3 magnitude earthquake hit. The earthquake caused no major damage and I slept right through it. (Now I will have the song “Little Earthquakes” in my head the rest of the day.) My problem is the snow, which will keep me from riding my bike to work. Last year – my first winter cycling – I was more likely to trudge out in extreme weather. This year I feel like I have nothing to prove to myself and can concentrate on simply getting to work, which today means taking the L train.

I am tempted to play on the Lakefront Trail because the sun is gloriously bright. Unfortunately, I have no snow day off from work. Instead I’ll visit the archives and live vicariously through my past. Here’s a post from last winter.

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February 4, 2009
“Cold Sun”

Sunrise over Lake Michigan

Sunrise over Lake Michigan

Sunday’s warmer weather was a fluke and the temperatures are back in the single digits (as in, 0). The bitter cold has been accompanied by a glorious sun, though, so I forgive nature.

Snow, Lake Michigan, Clouds, Sky

Bottom to Top: Snow, Lake Michigan, Clouds, Sky

The clouds were oddly placed this morning, laying low on the lake and letting the blue sky take over.

ICE!

ICE!

Around the Oak Street Beach curve (Chicagoans know what I’m talking about) the icebergs continue. The waves must have been crashing up last night because they’re now frozen. These conditions last only for 50 yards or so. A guy walked by me here and said, wow, way to go. He asked if he could take my picture, which I was cool with (maybe I’ll end up on his blog or something :)). I know I am quite an oddity in the cold on my bike and this morning I had a huge package (dry cleaning) on my back rack, adding to the novelty factor.

Sunrise over Lake Michigan, a little further down

Sunrise over Lake Michigan, a little further down

I love how the sun/sky/lake color changed in the ten or so minutes it took me to get from the first picture to this picture.

I felt very lucky to live in Chicago and use the lakefront trail for commuting this morning!

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Memories… How are you dealing with your weather? Seems like it’s pretty crazy all around.

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Meet Iosif: A Glass of Champagne

On Saturday I mentioned that I met a very interesting person during my commute along the Lakefront Trail. That person is Iosif. Iosif is originally from Siberia, but has lived in Chicago for 12 years. He was at the lakefront on Saturday morning looking for a spot to take a quick dip in Lake Michigan. He regularly swims in the winter. Only for a minute at a time, which makes him feel like “a glass of champagne.” I love that – who doesn’t want to feel like a glass of champagne?! He also informed me that winters in Chicago are worse than Siberia because of the wind.

In a city as big as Chicago, where hundreds of thousands of people go about their lives oblivious to others, I am very lucky to have met Iosif, all because I rode my bike and stopped to take pictures of an ice-covered tree, which he approached me to talk about. After taking his photo, he gave me his email address to send him the digital images and gave his permission for me to post the pictures here. I love technology.

After talking with Iosif, I had a smile on my face all day. Maybe one day I should try out this winter swimming thing, which is undoubtedly way more hardcore than winter cycling!

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Windy and Icy Adventure Ride

Boy, did I have an adventure this morning! The day began like any other. I checked the forecast before heading to the office and read “25 F, sustained winds of 26 mph.” Hmmm. Wind is not something I like to play with, but I really wanted to ride my bike. I clicked for more details: “wind direction north-northeast.” Great! I was heading south to downtown, so the wind would push me merrily along. What about the return trip? Below it said “wind down to 10 mph by late afternoon.” Decision made! Oma and I set off happily…

…and made it about 2 miles. As you can see, the wind was mean and a bit more northeast than north. And there was another factor I failed to take into account: ice. Yesterday we had a small, wet snow – no big deal. On the lakefront, however, the wet snow froze, joined by crashing waves which froze.

My studded tires kept me upright, but after the trail began to resemble an ice-rink and I felt a tiny slip in my front tire, I dismounted. I’m not a fan of falling. Assessing my situation, I realized that every tiny thing was covered with ice and decided to turn around, garage Oma and take the L train. At this point, I met a very interesting person and we chatted for a bit. I’ll have to make that its own post.

I’m glad I tried to bike to work. I had lots of fun and started out my day with an adventure. Although sometimes I have to admit cycling is not practical, I’ll always try before giving up :)

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Cup of Tea?

There are so many cyclists out this winter, on the roads and on the Lakefront Trail. Definitely more than last winter. Makes me want to sit down and have a cup of tea with someone at this random cafe table in the middle of nowhere.

I’m the only one who stopped, though. Maybe next time.

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A Gray Commute

Gray, gray, gray.

I took the Lakefront Trail this morning, hoping to catch the sunrise. Unfortunately, it never happened; the gray just got lighter.  In fact, there was nothing noteworthy about my commute today.  When a bike ride is simply a bike ride – a way to commute – that can be a good thing.

I welcome the more inspiring weather, though, whenever it feels like returning.  I prefer a 5 degree day with bright blue skies over a 25 degree gray day.

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Snow Days in Nashville

Biking news out of Nashville is going to be slow for the next day or two, due to Snowpocalypse 2010. Friday morning, snow started falling and continued for the rest of the day, ending with an accumulation of (gasp!) about four inches (I can hear Dot laughing all the way from Chicago).

My office was closed on Friday, as were all the schools, and many businesses were shut over the weekend.

Snowy day in Nashville

Snow!!

Before you hardier New England and Midwestern souls start laughing too loudly, I should explain that this sort of weather strikes us, oh, only every 10 years or so, so the city has no proper snow plows. This means that streets stay icy/slushy/snowy for days following a snowfall–especially side streets, which are what I take to work. And of course, none of my bikes are set up to cope with this amount of slush, snow or ice.

icicles

icicles

It’s supposed to be sunny tomorrow, with a high of 4o, so fingers crossed some of this snow will be melted away and I can be back on two wheels come Tuesday or Wednesday! I’ve missed my bikes.

Minnie

My car stayed at home this weekend too

Luckily, my neighborhood is walkable. I spent most of the weekend tromping around, trying out the new Thai restaurant that’s just blocks away and having a beer at my local pub — at least, when I wasn’t at home drinking hot chocolate, working on a long-neglected craft project or two, or catching up on “Gossip Girl.”

snowy me

Snowy me

Anyone else dealing with unexpected wintry weather?

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Foggy Navy Pier Ride

Today we engaged in our absolute favorite Saturday activity – cycling to Navy Pier to see a play at the Shakespeare Theater. In my opinion, this is the best theater in Chicago and we never miss a performance. There has been a “heat wave” of just above freezing this week. I doubled-up my tights, wore two sweaters, threw on snow boots and was good to go (my Marc Jacobs maryjanes rode in my basket – I have cycled in these heels, but my feet would have been too cold today). Since most of the snow and ice melted, I was able to pull out sweet Betty Foy for the ride. I missed her effortless pedaling, although the potholes that Oma handles so easily rattled my teeth.

Navy Pier looks much different on a foggy day. To see pictures I took on a beautiful blue day, click here.

Where did you ride this weekend?

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Icy Sunday

Another Sunday ride for alone time, now with my new tripod. 10 degrees F (-12 C) was no reason to sloth around indoors. I took city streets to work every day last week, and hadn’t been to the lakefront since last Sunday. I love to be one with frozen Lake Michigan during the winter. Contemplating the horizon makes city living much more interesting.

It’s really not that cold. Humans are made to withstand temperature differences. I was totally warm, except for my fingers as always. In case you’re wondering, I stay warm in dresses by wearing two pairs of thick wool tights. Under my dress I have a cashmere sweater and over a thick wool sweater coat I bought in Tallin, Estonia and scarf and boots I bought in St. Petersburg, Russia 8 years ago. How time flies.

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Down and Dirty Snow Ride

Sometimes snow is a magical winter wonderland, and sometimes snow is simply bad weather. When I need to get to work and 7 inches of snow have fallen in the last 24 hours – that is bad weather.

I wanted to ride the wonderlandy Lakefront Trail this morning, but even if it were plowed that early – and there’s no way of knowing – the side streets that lead there were impassible.

I almost turned around immediately after setting out, until I saw that the major street I take was perfectly clear. For most of the trip, I was able to ride in the bike lane like normal.

The next semi-major street was mostly clear, but the bike lane was trashed. I refuse to ride in slush – it’s slippery even with studs and you never know what it’s hiding – so I rode in the main lane and let cars go around me.

Oops, look at the time. I need to stop fiddling around with my camera and get to work.

The entire parking lot was shoveled except for my no-parking parking spot. Oma got stuck and I had to pick up one of her wheels to pull her to the gate. Thank goodness for internal brakes and chaincases, because Oma would have been effed up by the time I pulled her out for the ride home.

Turns out the Lakefront Trail was plowed, at least when Mr. Dottie rode it later in the day. Here’s a gem from his Blackberry camera. Dottie jealous!

Anyone else having down and dirty snow rides? What are your tricks and tips?

Update: Oooh, watch this very positive story about Chicago winter cycling from our local news station.

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Carrying a Guitar on a Bike

I embarked on a new adventure this year by enrolling in a guitar class. I was worried about transporting the guitar for two miles, but turns out it’s easy peasy.

Cycling with a guitar on your back is the kind of simple trick that only looks difficult. The case fits on like a backpack and the guitar is pretty light. The bottom of the guitar stops at the top of my saddle, so there’s no interference. The top of the guitar is slim, so it does not obstruct my view looking back.

I already get looks simply for being a woman, on a Dutch bike, in a dress, in extremely cold temperatures.  Add a guitar on top of that and I feel like a regular circus freak.   Life on two wheels: always an adventure.

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Ditch the Coat, Grab the Coffee

My new year of bike commuting is starting out very well. I’ve been taking city streets and feeling zen about everything. At least 10 other riders traveled my route this morning, a high number for winter. I even ran into another rider I know at a stoplight. The weather is dry and cold-but-not-too-cold (teens F). A few simple changes have improved my winter commute even more: ditching the coat and scarf and bringing along hot coffee to sip. This may sound goofy to some, but it works for me.

I’ve been hot in my wool coat, so this morning I critically surveyed my overstuffed coat rack and picked out a Patagonia vest, which worked perfectly over my cashmere sweater. My arms are never cold anyway, and my armpits didn’t overheat today (yes, I said armpits). I also chose not to wear a scarf. Unless it’s super cold out, a scarf makes the situation worse: my glasses fog up at stop lights, my nose gets snotty and my neck sweats. A cold face does not really bother me, especially compared with these complications. Cold digits remain my weakness, which I’m resigned to at this point, but if anyone knows of good electric mittens (not chemical glove-warmers, which were a disappointment), lemme know.

I ~love~ sipping hot coffee at stop lights with the cupholder I bought last month. Words cannot describe how pleasurable hot coffee feels in the freezing cold. Funny how the simple act of drinking coffee from my cupholder draws looks (more than usual) from drivers and people waiting at bus stops. The Soma mug is not great, as Julian of Totcycle warned(wish I’d seen this before!). I traded it with my usual coffee mug, but there’s still some splattering. A sacrifice I’m willing to make for hot coffee.

Everyone’s different when it comes to winter commuting. Some may think it’s crazy to wear only a vest, while others manage to keep their feet warm with regular sneakers, while others sip…whiskey? How about you – trying anything new? (If you live in a warm climate, feel free to gloat.)

p.s. If anyone’s interested in Batavus, Abici or Velorbis, these brands are discounted at Copenhagen Cyclery. If you know of any other sales out there, please post the info in the comments.

p.p.s. I should have said before, huge thanks to Trisha for creating this new site.  I supplied the vague ideas, she did the actual work :)

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Winter Cycling – Good Alone Time

While cycling can be sociable, I love to meander around the city alone. Plenty of time to think and simply enjoy. Today I set out for my favorite thrift shop, Haystack Vintage, and also bought new knee-high snow boots at DSW. As always, a shopping trip was so much more than that. The cold and physical activity was invigorating, and after I bought the most flattering vintage black wiggle dress for $17, I meandered over to the lakefront park nearby to capture the last bits of sun. I never got outside like this in the winter before cycling. The temperature was around 14 F (-10 C), and my fingers and toes were cold, but my body was fine in a dress, turtleneck, wool tights and wool overcoat.

While I was riding, Mr. Dottie went for a run and returned with icicles on his eyelashes, eyebrows and balaklava. Good times. I bought him some Yaktrax for Christmas (equivalent of studded tires for running shoes) but he hasn’t had to pull those out yet.


A lovely Sunday, a happy new year. How is your 2010 going so far?

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Six Miles in Three Inches

On Tuesday morning I woke up to heaps of snow. Not anything like the East Coast is experiencing, but the first real snow for Chicago this winter. One of my rules is not to ride in measurable fresh snowfall, but my girlish fun side took over, enchanted by the winter wonderland and potential for pretty pictures. If I wanted the easiest way to work, I would have taken the L train.

The side streets were not plowed at all, and thus a bit slippery at times, even with my studded tires. Drivers were very patient, though, going slowly behind me as I took up the one-way street to ride in tire tracks. Once I got to the Lakefront Trail, I was surprised that the Parks Department had already plowed it. Thanks, Parks Department for making my commute 100% easier! The streets downtown were, as always, miraculously free of any trace of snow.

Oma embraces snow

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Ice on the Lakefront Trail, Prada on Rush Street

On Friday, after riding city streets all week, the beauty and safety of the Lakefront Trail won me over. Light snow fluttered in the morning, but changed to freezing rain by the evening. Again the temperature was 30-something and my new thrifted wool cardigan kept me warm enough.

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A Secret to Winter Bike Commuting

Here is a secret to winter bike commuting: it’s not that bad. If you look closely at the individual days that make up winter, you’ll see that most of them are pretty nice. Sure, sometimes the windchill is -20 and sometimes a foot of snow falls, but the time between the extreme days is perfectly fine for bike commuting.

Riding in Wicker Park

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