Tag Archives: Workcycles

Not afraid of a little snow…

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!)

20121225-DSCF5480resizedMy 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!  :-)

20121225-DSCF5489resizedNow Oma and I are ready to take on winter together and not be afraid of snow.

20121225-DSCF5501resized 20121225-DSCF5502resizedA 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?

See also,

My Schwalbe Marathon Winter review from 2009

In defense of studded tires

My studded tires getting me through a post-blizzard ride

The return of my winter wheels in 2010

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Beautiful Bicycles: WorkCycles Secret Service

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I recently got my paws on a WorkCycles Secret Service Step-Through bicycle from J.C. Lind Bikes in Chicago. (The bike is also available in a diamond-frame version.)  Naturally, I have lots of thoughts after riding the Secret Service around for a few days.  If you’re interested in learning more about this Dutch bike, read on!

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For those of you who are not familiar with WorkCycles (where have you been?!), they are a true Dutch bike company  with unfailingly high quality. Dutch bikes, of course, are known for their practical utility.  WorkCycles shines on that front, offering bikes loaded with bells and whistles that make for a comfortable, all-weather ride.

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I have been interested in trying the WorkCycles Secret Service for years, because the Secret Service is billed as a lighter, tighter, more compact version of the WorkCycles Oma – aka my big baby girl.  As such, I will frame my thoughts about the Secret Service as they relate to the Oma.

First of all, the Secret Service profile is noticeably slimmer.  This is a result of slightly lighter tubing, narrower tires and handlebars that swoop back less dramatically.  The body positioning while riding the Secret Service is straight up, with legs motioning down and not slightly forward as with the Oma.  Oddly, I was not able to place a foot on the ground comfortably at stoplights; I had to dismount instead.  Note that I test rode the 53″ Secret Service and my Oma is a size 57″.

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The sturdy steel frame and sprung Brooks saddle together make for a smooth ride – almost like my Oma, but not quite as smooth. The pace of the ride is also similar to my Oma, but definitely a bit peppier.  I don’t think I got anywhere faster than I would have on my Oma, but I used a bit less energy.  Some people are thrown off by the front handling of the Oma, feeling that the front wheel way out front is too unweildy.  Those people would not have that issue with the Secret Service – handling is definitely more nimble and responsive.

Like any respectable Dutch bike, the Secret Service holds a substantial amount of cargo.  The integrated rear rack is rated to carry around 65 pounds, while the built-in bungie straps are useful for fastening all sorts of stuff on the rack.  There is an option to increase the cargo capacity significantly by adding a front rack that is rated for up to 50 pounds.  (Same as Oma.)

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Shimano roller brakes in the front and rear are excellent in any weather.  Since they are covered, they are not affected by rain or snow.  With roller brakes, your days of taking twice as long to screech to a stop in bad weather are over.  (Same as Oma.)

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The sturdy wheels are 28″ with Schwalbe tires.  Schwalbes are the best!  The ones on my Oma have never gotten a flat after almost 5 years – knock on wood.  (Same as Oma, but the tires are narrower on the Secret Service.)

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For gearing, there is a Shimano internal hub with 8-speeds.  The bike is also available with a 3-speed hub.  This Shimano Nexus shifting system is a joy to use – transitions are super smooth and allow for changing gears while completely stopped.  (Same as Oma.)

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There are several components that work together to keep your clothes clean and safe. The chain case will prevent your clothes from getting dirty, greasy or eaten by the chain. The fact that the chain is fully covered majorly cuts down on maintenance and helps make this an excellent all-weather, all-season bike.  (Same as Oma, but with a center cut-out and overall lighter look.)

The skirt guard will prevent your skirt or coat from getting caught in the wheel spokes while riding.   (Same as Oma, but smaller and see-through.)

The sturdy two-footed, center-mounted kickstand holds the bike up no matter what. A sturdy kickstand is especially helpful while loading and unloading.  (Same as Oma.)

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Heavy duty fenders are included – an essential for all-weather riding, especially in nice work clothes.  Remember: friends don’t let friends get skunk stripe.  (Same as Oma.)

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The bike is equipped with integrated front and rear lights, which are essential for safe daily riding.  The lights are hub dynamo, which means they are powered by your pedaling and batteries are not needed – a huge benefit!  I really cannot overemphasize the usefulness of integrated lights.  Few situations are more dicey than biking home in the dark after your battery-operated light runs out of juice or is stolen.  (Same as Oma.)

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A sprung Brooks B67 saddle is standard.  This saddle really contributes to the smoothness of the ride.  I can attest that these are absolutely the most comfortable saddles out there, after a short breaking in period of only a few days.  (Same as Oma.)

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The rear wheel comes with a wheel lock, a useful extra that immobilizes the bike – unless someone wants to carry her away.  (Same as Oma.)

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The platform pedals work well with all kinds of shoes, helping to prevent slippage.  (Same as Oma.)

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There is a built-in tire pump that I find to be an odd addition, as I much prefer to use a floor pump.   The chain case makes fixing flats on the go a huge pain and Schwalbe tires rarely get a flat, so a mini pump does not seem very useful.   (Oma does not have a pump.)

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In summary, the set-up of the Secret Service is the same as Oma’s, except the the skirt guard, chain case, and tires are slighter; the handlebars are not swept back as far; the tubing is a tad thinner; and the weight is a bit lower. In exchange for a smaller size and peppier response, the ride is not as smooth and the overall feel is not as luxurious as Oma’s. Those who find the Oma ill-suited because she is too big or heavy would do well to check out the Secret Service. (I’m talking to you, shorter peeps!)

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The WorkCycles Oma is firmly in a class of her own. She reigns as Queen of Citybikedom.

The WorkCycles Secret Service is a first-rate bike with excellent quality, utility and beauty, but could be considered in the same general class as the following:

Gazelle Toer Populair
Pashley Sonnet Bliss
Velorbis Victoria / Dannebrog
Pilen Lyx

Riding the Secret Service reminded me more of those four bikes than of the Oma. Oma is like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Float or a glider rocker on wheels; the other bikes are like very nice bikes.

I would recommend the Secret Service over the Oma for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the size of the Oma, who dislikes the sometimes-unweildly front handling of the Oma, or who travels longer distances or encounters the occasional hill.

As always, I recommend trying to test-ride as many different bikes as possible before deciding which bike is best for you. If you’re in Chicago, you can head over to J.C. Lind Bikes in Old Town (and soon, because he’s getting only one more small shipment of WorkCycles for the rest of the year).

Finally, here is a quick video I put together that hopefully gives you a better idea of the bike.

P.S. Read about our visit to the WorkCycles shop in Amsterdam here.

{As always, we at LGRAB receive nothing for our reviews except the joy of spreading beautiful bike love.}

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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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Visiting the Mothership: WorkCycles in Amsterdam!

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Me, Henry, Trisha and Pascal in Amsterdam

When I purchased my most beloved WorkCycles Oma, little did I know I would be visiting the mothership four years later, hanging out at the home of the founder and his family.

Lucky for me, Henry, the owner of WorkCycles, is a very cool guy.  When I told him Trisha and I would be visiting Amsterdam, he was absolutely welcoming. He and his wife opened their home to us our first night in town.  After a scenic bike ride with his children, a delicious dinner, and a crash course in navigating the city, he sent us off on two lovely WorkCycles for the remainder of our visit. It was so nice to spend time in someone’s home after being on the road for so long!

With Henry

With Henry

Henry maps out Amsterdam for us after dinner

Henry maps out Amsterdam for us

Biking Amsterdam in the rain with Henry and his family

Henry and his family

We were both so impressed with Pascal’s riding skills—at just four years old, he was navigating the streets on his own like a pro. Henry’s wife is from Japan, so both children speak three languages: English, Japanese and Dutch. Which made conversations with 2-year-old Pia especially interesting!

Henry's adorable, bike-loving children

Henry’s adorable, bike-loving children

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Pascal’s custom ride

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Pascal: best, youngest cyclist in Amsterdam (nay, in the world!)

Here we are with our adopted WorkCycles. Cycling Amsterdam like locals rather than on bright red rental bikes was cool, and being totally comfortable with handling Dutch bike helped us navigate the crowded bike paths with ease.

Trisha and her loaner WorkCycles

Trisha and her loaner WorkCycles

Dottie on our first ride

Dottie on our first ride

Hug a bike today!

Hug a bike today!

Now here is a special tour of the WorkCycles shop. This place was warm, welcoming, and packed full of goodies!

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Bike specials of the day

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Love the creatures on the WorkCycles shirt

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OMG! A BABY OMA!!

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WorkCycles Bakfiets

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Family of four? WorkCycles has a bike for that!

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Starter bikes

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The front office

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Leather bike saddle stools – WANT!

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Bike bags and bakfiets sans bak

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Pretty little bikes all in a row

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Communal table

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Heavy duty bike pulley

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Heavy duty front rack

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Suspended WorkCycles frame

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More WorkCycles!

On the day we returned our bikes (so sad) the weather had turned out chillier than we anticipated. Perfect timing to get some cozy WorkCycles hoodies—which have been favorites for both of us ever since.

Booking it home after we'd returned our bikes—thank goodness for the hoodie.

Booking it home after we’d returned our bikes—thank goodness for the hoodie.

If you are ever in Amsterdam, we highly recommend a stop by WorkCycles!

Visit the WORKCYCLES website.

Visit Henry’s blog, BAKFIETS EN MEER.

Thanks, Henry!

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Our trip to Amsterdam—cycling thoughts

It’s been months since we got back from our first visit to Amsterdam. It’s safe to say that both Dottie and I loved the city even more than we expected to, and not just because of the biking. We were impressed by the city’s beauty and charm, the friendliness of its people and the deliciousness of its food. But first things first: Here’s a little bit on how we felt about biking in the City of Bikes.

To start, if you are wondering whether Amsterdam’s reputation as such has been overstated, I can tell you emphatically that it hasn’t been! Bikes are literally, absolutely everywhere. Drivers are in the minority and in general act accordingly.

One of Amsterdam's beautiful bikes

One of Amsterdam’s beautiful bikes

When your bike is one of many, it seems even more important to make it stand out. Many Dutch bikes were decorated or had custom baskets, etc.

A Mac Bike rental

A Mac Bike rental

Sunflowers seemed to be a popular theme.

Amsterdam bike

Amsterdam bikes

Henry at WorkCycles set us up with bikes (more on that in another post) and our first ride in the city was with him and his family, including 2-year-old Pia and 4-year-old Pascal, who rode his own bike alongside us through a light rain.

Henry and his family

Henry and his family

 

Dottie's bike was called Bonnie!

Dottie’s bike was called Bonnie!

Hug a bike today!

Hug a bike today!

My WorkCycle

My WorkCycle, who was sadly nameless! I propose “Trisha.” ;)

Dot & Bonnie

Dot & Bonnie

The infrastructure was pretty much a cyclist’s dream—lights, turn lanes, bike paths, signage.

Bike sign graffiti

Bike sign graffiti

Bikes get their own signals

Bikes get their own signals

Bike path!

Bike path!

Bike keys

Bike keys

But we thought that the most bike-friendly thing about Amsterdam was the terrain. Neither dully flat, nor obnoxiously steep, in general the terrain seemed to be made up of  what felt like gently rolling hills, which give you opportunity to coast without ever seriously taxing your legs. It really seemed like we could have biked forever.

The city

The city

Dottie on one of the city's beautiful bridges with her WorkCycles bicycle

Dottie on one of the city’s beautiful bridges

We did find the city’s circular structure and canals slightly tricky to navigate at times, but biking in Amsterdam never felt less than completely safe.

I check the map for the 10th time.

I check the map for the 10th time.

But it wasn’t entirely stress-free. Coming from a city where bike parking is not exactly at a premium, at times it was frustrating to spend as much time trying to find somewhere secure to park the bikes as I might have to spend stalking a parking spot at the Green Hills Mall on Christmas Eve!

Sometimes bike parking was frustrating—no empty spots on the rack!

Sometimes bike parking was frustrating—no empty spots on the rack!

A lot of Amsterdam cyclists seemed pretty sanguine about the whole thing, often just parking their bikes  on the sidewalk and locking the wheel to the frame, à la Sheldon Brown. We didn’t feel comfortable doing that with our WorkCycles, so often Dottie and I would split up and head in opposite directions to find our spots.

bike parking spot

Bike parking without bike racks

Bike parking along the canal

Bike parking along the canal

So much bike parking.

So. much. bike parking, but it’s still hard to find spots!

Bike Parking!

Despite the parking issues, bikes are absolutely the most efficient and economical way to get around a compact city like Amsterdam. We did take the tram and the subway during our trip. While both were convenient and easy to figure out and use, they were extremely expensive: 2,70 Euro for one hour of transit, or 7,50 for 24 hours. While I’m sure residents have the option of buying less expensive monthly or yearly passes, riding your bike is free and probably takes about the same amount of time, if not less.

The Amsterdam Tram

The Amsterdam tram

The tram map

The tram map

One tip, if you do take the tram and buy your ticket on board: Don’t try to buy it from the driver! There’s an entirely separate person in the middle who dispenses the tickets. Ah, to live in a country where public transport was sufficiently valued as to pay two separate workers per vehicle . . .

The tram payment person—not to be confused with the driver!

The tram payment person—not to be confused with the driver!

Basically, biking around Amsterdam is easy, fun and makes you feel like a local (well, if locals had to consult maps every five seconds). It lived up to everything we imagined, and then some.

More Amsterdam posts on the way in the next couple of days!

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Step-through bike frames for tall women

Two years ago, Kara of Knitting Lemonade wrote a guest post for LGRAB, describing her search for a chic bike that would fit her 6 foot frame.  Today, jamonwheels, a reader taller than Kara, asked:

I am finding it impossible to find a step through bike frame comfortably large enough from my large frame. I am 76 inches tall [ed. note: over 6'3], very tall for a woman, with a 36 inch inseam. Help! Are there really no frames for women larger than 19 inches?

I do not know much about taller bikes, so I checked out a few models that came to mind.  The WorkCycles Secret Service and WorkCycles Oma come as large as 24 inches (61 cm).  The WorkCycles Gr8 and WorkCycles Fr8 have a seat tube adjustable for riders up to 6’4.  The Rivendell Betty Foy comes in 24 inches (60 cm).  Note that the Betty Foy no longer is made in the 62 cm size.  The Pashley Princess comes in 22.5 inches (57 cm).  The Velorbis Victoria comes as large as 22 inches (56 cm).

A few brands I checked that do not have step-throughs tall enough for someone over 6 feet: Civia Twin City, Heritage Daisy, Public, Linus.

I’m sure there are other bikes out there.  Please share any and all suggestions in the comments!

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Janet’s Black Faux Fur Helmet

On my ride home from work yesterday evening, I ran into my friends Janet and Dan on the Lakefront Trail.  I love unexpectedly seeing friendly faces in Chicago; it always brightens my day and makes the city seem more and more like home.

As you can see, Dan and Janet have WorkCycle Omas, which they bought after visiting Amsterdam a few years ago.

Janet had on a new helmet by Yakkay, called the Luzern Faux, that she bought locally from Heritage Bikes.  The Yakkay helmet can be mixed and matched with different style covers and this is one option (it also comes in white).  So stylish!

At first I thought it was an actual shapka, not a helmet.  These are very on trend right now (and I do love my Anna Karenina).  :-)

Janet’s whole outfit was perfect for a chilly November night: fur hat, tweed coat, scarf, jeans, leather mittens, and high boots.  Perfection.

I want one now, but alas I already own a black winter helmet.

You can see another Yakkay helmet cover modeled by Martha, one of the lovely women-who-brunch, in this post from last year.  Has anyone else given this a try?

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August’s Women-Who-Bike Brunch (with kids!)

For our August brunch, the Chicago Women-Who-Bike gathered in Lincoln Park south of the zoo for a scenic picnic.

There were lots of cool ladies with cool bikes.

This month, kids were specifically invited – and enjoyed the nearby petting zoo after brunch.  Happily for them, there was plenty of grass to run around on and trees to climb.

Their moms were rocking some VERY cool multi-passenger bikes.  This Bike Friday Two’sDay Tandem is an awesome little machine.  You can read more about it on One Less Minivan.

Then there was this chic black Madsen with a heavy duty front rack.

This WorkCycles Bakfeits regularly carries three boys.  Read more about it on Chicargo Bike.

Super fun Nutcase helmets!

Taking off…

Betty Foy looked on with respect and admiration.  These women and their bikes are way badass.

If you are a woman in Chicago interested in joining the group, you are very welcome!  Email me at LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com for details.  The next brunch will be Sunday, September 9, at the Nature Museum to check out the final day of the Bikes! The Revolution exhibit.

{P.S.  There’s a great discussion going on in the comments sections of yesterday’s Bicycle Booty post – check it out and share your thoughts!}

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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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Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake has been a hero of mine since girlhood. Must I explain her awesomeness? She rides a bike, has a cat and is always surrounded by sweets!

The newest issue of my favorite magazine, Lula, is Strawberry Shortcake themed – a periodical after my own heart – and features a modern interpretation of Ms. Shortcake on the cover. When I saw this red dress on Friday, I instantly thought of my own modern Strawberry Shortcake interpretation. The fact that the dress is fair trade by Mata, made by a women’s cooperative in India, sealed the deal.

Now I have the dress, but what about that huge cupcakey thing on her head?

No, wait: Better than a strawberry cupcake – my pink Nutcase helmet is eerily perfect! Looks like Trisha’s not the only one who refers back to childhood heros for helmet inspiration.

All I need now are strawberry-shaped wheel spokes.

Happy Monday!  Make it silly :)

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Beautiful Bicycles: My Workcycles Azor Oma

One year ago I purchased a Workcycles Azor Oma, and that decision has changed my life for the better. I already cycled to work daily, but with Oma I was able to integrate cycling more easily and fully into my life. I no longer needed to coordinate my outfits around grease and chains. I was able to cycle through the harsh Chicago winter with no worries about frozen drivetrains. I left behind annoyances such as falling chains, deflating tires, and compromised braking. Now I simply get on my bike and go. It’s really a lovely way to travel.

7-18 profile 9-4 outfit

3-21-dress-bike29-1 oma dress

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Featuring: Martha and Her New Oma

Fellow Chicagoan Martha (chibikegal) commented that “after stumbling onto your lovely blog, I was motivated to re-start my search for a beautiful bike.” Soon she purchased a shiny new Azor Oma made by Workcycles, the same as mine. She very kindly responded to my request for pictures and her cycling story. Read on for the goods, including a bike-themed wedding cake, $10 train station bikes, and a glimpse of Henry of Workcycles as a high school student.

Martha and Her New Oma

Martha and Her New Oma

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