Right now – late March through early April – is the most refreshing time to ride a bike in Chicago. The visible signs of fading winter and approaching spring make me so grateful, I could weep. The chill in the air is enough to make my cheeks rosy, not to cause frost bite. The sun is still up and slowly setting as I make my way home. And the Lakefront Trail is calm and peaceful, not yet overcrowded.
I hope you all are enjoying your bike rides just as much!
My wish for bright spring colors came true today, at least a little bit. The amazing 50 degree temperature combined with the bright, lingering sun made the city feel like a springtime paradise. The sidewalks and lakefront were filled with Chicagoans basking in the glory of the weather. The photos below look cold, but the mere fact that I was able to bike on the Lakefront Trail is a sign of the thaw. Most of the snow has melted, leaving behind mounds of dirt, salt and debris. I even warmed up enough to remove my scarf, which looked quite lovely on Oma.
Unbelievably, I heard on the evening news that Chicago may get over a foot of snow mid-week. All the more reason to appreciate days like today, I suppose.
How is one to survive this winter, one of the coldest, greyest and snowiest in history?
As you can see, I chose to lighten my hair, buy a new red overcoat and bicycle on – except honestly I have not been bicycling a lot, certainly not everyday, as with previous winters. All I ask for is a morning with temps at least 10 F and no falling snow, but such mornings are rare. (As I type this, it’s 9 F and snowing.) When I manage to ride my bike, I feel so much better, physically and mentally.
My plan for combatting winter also includes appreciating the (indoor) culture that Chicago offers: going to ballets, plays, symphonies and art exhibits. If it were not for the Joffrey Ballet, the Goodman and Steppenwolf and Shakespeare Theatres, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Art Institute (and, of course, my wonderful friends!), I would question daily why I choose to live in this crowded, frozen tundra.
EleanorNYC has a lovely little post today showing “women who look stylish on their bike and not afraid of a little snow.” This reminded me that to not be afraid of a little snow, I need studded tires. If there is snow on the ground that has not yet been totally plowed off the salted streets, I’ll only ride my bike with studded tires.
These are the bad boys on which I rely: Schwalbe Marathon Winters. I bought them five or six winters ago and they’re still going strong.
Because I don’t have the time, patience or interest to swap out the tires myself (a longer-than-usual process for my Dutch bike), I brought Oma to a local bike shop a few weeks ago for her yearly tire swap.
When it was time to pick Oma up the next day, I Divvied to the shop. (Thanks again, Divvy!)
My girl was waiting for me, still wearing her medical bracelet.
Oma was also wearing a note from my friend Dan, who saw her when he happened by the shop later to have his bike serviced. An inside joke involving karaoke and Justin Timberlake – fun! :-) Now Oma and I are ready to take on winter together and not be afraid of snow. A lot of Chicago bicyclists get by fine without studded tires – and in fact I never put mine on two winters ago due to the relatively mild weather – but I like having them as an option. What do you do to take on winter bicycling?
Hello! I am just back from a quick trip to Denver this weekend to visit Melissa. Yesterday she and I grabbed bikes out of the garage (I rode her husband Chanh’s Huffy and she rode her Raleigh “Black Beauty”) for a relaxing ride around the neighborhood.
So, yeah, in Denver a ride around “the neighborhood” can be pretty darn amazing.
This beautiful scenery is in the city. After leaving Melissa’s house and crossing a calm and well-marked street or two…
…Melissa led me down a lovely trail through a huge park.
As you can see, winter bicycling in Denver is not like winter bicycling in Chicago. The bright sun and extremely clear sky were super bright, especially coming as I was from the dark and grey world of Chicago. Good thing I had my big sunglasses.
A couple of details: the cool bell on my bike and Melissa’s cute biking shoes.
The park area where we were biking actually used to be an air force base, which this huge plane commemorates.
Some areas built up in place of the old base look a bit too suburban pre-fab for my taste, but overall it is a beautiful environment.
We took a break from our ride to enjoy a refreshment at a beer garden. I love the beer culture in Denver!
Finally, we got a quick picture together before heading home.
The day before our bike adventure, we explored the town of Golden, Colorado on foot.
Where I guess they appreciate bicyclists!
This town is where Coors is brewed, but we chose to visit a couple of smaller breweries instead. First, Golden City. Their sign cracks me up.
Then an ice cream intermission for this little guy (his first!).
(He’s like – “Why are you poking me in the head, Auntie Dottie?” Because I can, baby!)
And then a walk in the fresh air to the second brewery, Mountain Toad.
Good times! We make a good bike-riding, beer-drinking, baby-playing team. :)
As I write this, I am back in Chicago: snowy, freezing, and Melissa-less. So sad! I’m sure I’ll be back in beautiful Denver again in the next year.
Five! That’s how many Chicago winters I have biked through. I counted over and over because five seems too high, but my math is correct.
Biking through my first winter, 2008-09, seemed so dramatic – I was amazed at my achievement. That was a particularly snowy winter, and I biked through all kinds of extreme weather to prove to myself that I could.