Monthly Archives: February 2010

Friday Funny: The Bicycle Repairman

In a bid to make you forgive my appalling lack of posts this week, please enjoy this video from the always excellent Monty Python. Bicycle repairmen truly are my heroes. Especially the ones talented enough to change a bike from blue to red with the twist of a wrench!

Hope everyone has a terrific weekend!

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Off and On with Ms. Oma

Fresh falling and rapidly accumulating snow on Monday and Wednesday caused me to abandon Oma for the L train. I simply don’t like riding in fresh snowy conditions for safety reasons. Smushed and standing up on the train, I was not a happy camper, but I’m grateful to have a public transportation option that takes me door-to-door from home to office.

On Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (looking ahead a bit), I stayed with my love, Ms. Oma. Not surprisingly, I had more energy on those mornings.

Hey, why is it – as Yehuda Moon astutely notes – that people always ask if you rode on the rare days you don’t ride?

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Missing comments?

We hear there are some problems with posting comments — if you’ve been having trouble, could you email us and let us know what the issue is for you, and what browser you’re using? We’ll work on fixes ASAP.

ETA: Fingers crossed, we got it — looks like an out-of-date plugin was causing an error. Thanks to everyone who wrote in with details, especially Bob, whose javascript expertise let us know where on the site our problem might be. Ah, the perils and pleasures of site ownership. :)


Lay to Rest Your Puddle Fears

How to make a mess: mix snow, rain, sleet, and some more snow. Vary temperatures wildly. Add a heaping dose of cars and a dash of city grit. Voila, a mess.

The stage is set for cyclists to become victims of the unattractive skunk tail. If you want to avoid this fate (and you do), make sure your bike is outfitted with fenders. Mud flaps are great, too, and keep your shoes clean.

Once your bike is outfitted with those classy and utilitarian accessories, you’ll be ready to take on all sorts of city messes. Lay to rest your puddle fears and enjoy the view (just make sure the puddle’s not hiding potholes!).

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Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy…

Today I’ve been singing forlornly, “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy…” The grim gray skies try to beat it out of me, but John Denver prevails.

The lyrics and mood reminded me of this post from last year.  I remember I felt like I would never, ever be warm again.  Looking back, the date surprised me – January 13, 2009.  I got beat down much earlier last winter.

Now I feel better about my cold weather despondence. I made it all the way to late February before slumping, and spring will be here in a few weeks (knocking on wood). If I could get this type of sun on my shoulders soon, that would be great!

Am I setting myself up for heartbreak by dreaming so early? How are you getting along: wishing for spring or appreciating life in the moment?

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Guitar Bike: These boots are made for biking

The weather is warm enough to wear fun boots instead of snow boots. Riding home from guitar class, I sang in my head the song we played, with a twist: “These boots are made for biking, and that’s just what they’ll do, one of these days the boots are gonna bike all over you.”

“Are you ready boots?  Start bikin’!”

I know I am a geek :)

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Friday is for fun

And with the return of sun, and above-freezing temperatures in Nashville (at least for the past two days), I am ready to indulge.

The wind in my hair  was exactly what I needed.

End of the ride on Wednesday -- for some reason I choose cold days to take photos!

Other things this week that have helped chase the winter blahs* away:

  • Charlotte Gainsbourg’s latest album, IRM. Beck co-wrote and produced it and it is delightful. Watch the video of the album’s first single here.
  • Delicious Thai food from The Smiling Elephant.
  • Scarf month on Academichic–so many fun ideas! My fave so far, which worked great with my hair.
  • Keeping up with my training schedule to run an 8K (even though I failed to register for the race in time; oops! Ah well, it’s about the journey, right?)
  • The continuing antics of Baby Walter, when he’s not driving me crazy. Here’s a video of his latest favorite activity, although he was somewhat distracted by the camera.

Now, off to work I go. Happy Friday!

*and yes, I meant to say “blahs” and not blues.

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In Honor of Free Flowing Hair

I love the feel of wind in my hair. Wearing a helmet robs me of that joy.

There. I said it.

I’ll spare some time and energy by saying for either side: 1) You won’t feel so good with your brain splattered on the pavement; or 2) Stop wearing the silly foam hats, then.

Now that the generic stuff is out of the way, let’s talk for real.

Trisha's hair enjoying the wind

Springy weather (40 degrees!) has me yearning for the feel of free flowing hair. This yearning is nothing new. My desire is less prominent in the winter, when the helmet warms my chilly head, and most prominent on the hottest summer days, when my hair is matted and soaked by sweat.  Regardless of the weather, I would always prefer the feel of the wind in my hair.  Carefree, childish, happy, free: bicycling gives me all those wonderful feelings and a helmet clamped on my head counters those feelings to some extent.

This must be an issue that lots of cyclists – men and women – deal with, but there is so much emphasis on practicality, statistics and sides.  I’m simply saying, “I want to feel the wind in my hair!”  An innocent wishful statement, nothing more or less.  Heck, I’m currently growing my hair long so some of it can flow about while my helmet’s on.

Dottie's hair trying to grow

As two girls who ride all the time and almost always wear helmets, can we just have a moment of silence for free flowing hair?

…Okay, now you can speak up  :)

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Photographic evidence

As an addendum to the last post. My fellow Southerners will  understand how extreme a statement it is when I say that I am not even surprised anymore to look out the window and see this:

What a winter. At least the sun is out and melting the ice! It might be a bike day after all.

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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Here in Nashville, it’s back to our regularly scheduled programming. Still cold and wintry, but the snow is all gone, so I’ve been able to ride again. The Bat was even talked into posing for a few photos to show off her new accessories — which my brother brought back from Amsterdam as a Christmas present.

I’m still very jealous that he got to Amsterdam first, but these new “On the Road” panniers went a long way toward making me feel better about it. They can carry a lot and fit perfectly on the rack. Great for grocery shopping.

Only problem is, they have to be buckled on and off the rack, which takes time (especially with cold fingers) and I don’t like to leave them on overnight, so I haven’t used them as much as I’d like to. Anyone have ideas for securing them to the bike? I know the canvas could always be cut, but I thought a thin cable lock or chain might be a deterrent — the kind of secondary lock people put on saddles.

One of these is carrying a little more than the other!

My other gift was a “brrring” bicycle bell, which my camera utterly refuses to photograph. Which meant googling “fietsbellen” to find a photo of one just like it! After  going through 9 pages of results (those Dutch have a lot of different bicycle bells!) it finally turned up.

image courtesy of

Mine is minus the battle scars, but I love the Dutch crown emblem. It looks great on the Bat, and is a big improvement over the stock bell that came on the bike.

Have you added anything to your bike lately?

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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.

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.



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!


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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Bikes + Women = Film

Over the weekend, Jezebel posted about Women of Dirt, a new documentary about women who participate in the sport of Gravity Mountain Biking. In a word, it looks amazing. Though this is miles away from the type of riding we usually feature here, I think we can all agree with the statement at the end of the trailer: “Nothing will ever replace my bike.”

Seriously, watch the trailer and tell me you aren’t a little tempted to give off-road biking a try. I dare you.

According to the site, the film will be shown a few times in Seattle — it’s also available on DVD. Anyone seen it? Is there another film or documentary about cycling that you’d recommend (and yes, I’ve heard of Breaking Away)?

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Guitar Bike: Week 5

I missed a couple of weeks of guitar bike photos.  That’s what happens when I’m in a rush. I managed to record today’s departure for class.

My fingers are calloused, I have no natural talent and G is really hard. I’m still having fun, though, and cycling with a guitar on my back is starting to feel commonplace  :)

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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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