Tag Archives: beautiful bikes

Oma Appreciation

Now that other cyclists are out in full force, Oma gets compliments more than once a day.

“I love your bike!” “Awesome bike!” “Now that’s a bike!” “Beautiful, girl!” “Very elegant!” “Good for you!”

Usually I would not be crazy about strange men calling out to me, but all of these radiated a wholesome appreciation for my Dutch bike and the regular-woman-on-a-bike aesthetic.

All these photos were taken with my Diana Mini. You can see more at Ye Olde Flickr.

Have a great weekend! :)

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Heating Up

A fresh drink of water – my parched mouth would have appreciated that during the ride home today. The weather is suddenly extremely hot for Chicago in April, with temperatures in the 80’s the past couple of days. Soon I’ll have to start strategizing for freshening up at the office. After the long winter, I’m not complaining!

I rode along the Lakefront Trail again today. Irresistible with this beautiful weather! These photos are from my lunch break walk along the Magnificent Mile, where there’s a lovely public space for reading and people watching. I took these pictures with a 1979 Minolta XG-1 SLR camera that my mother-in-law pulled out of an old storage box for me. The camera is fully manual and a bit temperamental, with occasional leaks and a light meter that keeps dying, but it’s free, fun and film!

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To the Bike Path, My Happy Place

For the first time in a couple of weeks, I retreated to the lakefront bike path for my commute to and from work. Taking the car-free path adds about 1.5 miles to my normal 4.5 mile ride, but the beauty and stress-free commute is worth it when I’m not focused on getting to work quickly.

In stark contrast to the winter, when I have the path to myself, lots of people are out and about. Most of the cyclists on the path are lycra racer types, with a smattering of tourist on rental bikes, plus joggers, roller bladers and dog walkers. Despite the crowds (which have not yet hit summer congestion heights) I love taking the path.

As I’ve discussed before, without the path I never would have attempted to ride all the way downtown to work when I first started cycling. Even now that I am a seasoned city street rider, I still appreciate the protection and beauty of the bike path, where I feel safe enough to let my hair flow freely without a helmet* and just chill out without cars breathing down my neck.

{*Riding 10 mph on a Dutch bike cautiously without cars, I have decided that this is not risky. Please resist the urge to argue with me otherwise.}

I’m so lucky to have a happy place to retreat to when needed (thought not quite as luxurious as CYLRAB Adrienne’s happy place). :)

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Black and White Spring

Did I dress today to match the blooms? Maybe ;)

Happy to be reunited with Oma, I enjoyed sitting as straight and tall as possible on my Sunday ride, parading down the crowded Chicago streets. Everyone was out this weekend, including lots of people on bikes, though no other dresses that I saw. This spring feels like the most beautiful ever, but I think that’s because I’ve been slowing down to appreciate it more.

Sadly, when I arrived at my favorite shop, Haystack Vintage, this is all that remained.  Closed with no warning that I saw. After standing dumbly in front of the store for five minutes, Oma said, “Such is life” and brought me over to the bookstore.

Simple pleasures like riding a bike, wearing a pretty dress and smelling flowers make Life beautiful, even if life with a little “l” is not going perfectly.

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Simple Spring Enjoyment

Today’s agenda: Riding a bicycle, laying in the grass, soaking in the sun, watching a ladybug.

The best things in life are free, n’est-ce pas? :)

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I Never Get Tired of My Bike

Saturday began as a rainy mess. I ventured outside on foot for lunch and a chai latte, but scurried back inside to read all day. Suddenly, at 5 o’clock in the evening, sun began pouring through my living room window. This change in scenery demanded a sunset bike ride. As quickly as I could swap my lounging attire for a spring dress and grab my cameras, I was on Betty headed for the lakefront.

Two hours later, I was back on the couch for dinner and a Netflix movie, feeling much rejuvenated.

You’d think that after riding my bike to and from work every day, I might get tired of cycling. Yet I savor the weekends for the time it allows me to ride my bike. I can’t explain why, but I never get enough of my bike.

Anyone else constantly turn to your bike for amusement, even after a full week’s commute?

p.s. To the girl who rode by and said, “Let’s Go Ride a Bike!” – Hello! In the second before you called out, I was thinking, “What a pretty girl on her bike.” :)

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A Good Friday Commute

Thanks to the holiday, Mr. Dottie and I were off work today. That doesn’t mean we didn’t commute, though. In celebration of our friend Elizabeth’s birthday, we accompanied her on her ride to work. Good thing she left early, because we spent lots of time goofing around and stopping for cappuccino. That’s how we roll, especially when it’s 80 degrees outside for the second day in a row.

Happy Birthday, E! Remember, you only turn 29 twice.

I hope everyone else had a good Friday :)

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Beautiful Bicycles: De Fietsfabriek Bakfiets

Look what I found! An amazing cargo bike from De Fietsfabriek, a Dutch bike shop that I ride by every day during my commute. I got to borrow the Bakfiets overnight for an ambitious Costco bulk food shopping trip, 9 miles total riding distance.

This beast means business. The De Fietsfabriek Bakfiets is the Dutch company’s biggest cargo bike (except the Stretch Limo?). I recommend the Bakfiets for those who regularly haul a lot of cargo or a troop of children, or who want to use the Bakfiets to promote their business in some way (that’s my way of saying that at times I felt like the Good Humor Ice Cream man).

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Beautiful Bicycles: Velorbis Scrap Deluxe

When my friend Ms. Elle called to ask if I wanted to meet up at Copenhagen Cyclery after work, I was quick to agree.  She has been loyal to her vintage bike Cilantro, but decided to explore less “rickety” options.

While she quickly fell in love with the Velorbis Studine (they make a hot couple – see above), I flirted with the Velorbis Scrap Deluxe, a bike I’d never ridden before.

The Scrap Deluxe’s stand-out feature is the set of cream Schwalbe Fat Frank tires.  Aside from being eye-catching and unique, the tires deliver a soft ride over even the most rutted Chicago streets.  There is a bit more drag and weight with these tires, but not as much as you’d think.  Overall, a fair exchange for someone interested in comfort and class.

The bike comes with a Brooks sprung saddle, which breaks in quickly and provides the ultimate in comfort for both short and long rides.  Plus, a Brooks saddle makes any bike look better: an ugly bike gets a distinguished touch of class and a beautiful bike is pushed over the edge into dreamy elegance.  This is a case of the latter, obviously.  Matching Brooks leather grips and a leather mudflap complete the look.

The five speed internal Sturmey Archer hub makes riding on hills, in headwinds and carrying cargo manageable.  I’ve heard here and there that Shimano is a slighty better quality hub, but I don’t have enough experience with Sturmey Archer to compare it to my Oma’s Shimano.

Finally, this handsome Dane has all the attributes that make this style of bike so practical and appealing.  Front and rear integrated generator lights shine brightly when you pedal, no batteries required.  The rear light remains shining even when stopped for a few minutes.  Internal brakes and gears keep the ride safe and smooth in rain and snow.  Fenders and mudlfaps protect your clothes and shoes.  The front wicker basket and rear rack carry lots of cargo – I recommend a bouquet of flowers and a case of beer, respectively.   The shiny “briiiiiiing” bell is tres charmant.

As with all Velorbis bikes, the seating position is straight up, and legs push down and only slightly forward to pedal.  This seems to require a bit more effort than pedaling my Oma, especially when starting from a complete stop, because I can’t take advantage of my thigh muscles as much.  However, I have to attribute this to my personal riding comfort.  After a year and a half of riding Oma, my body is used to pedaling her and my leg muscles have developed in response to her particular needs.

Before testing the Scrap Deluxe, I assumed the ride would be similar to the Retrovelo Paula, since both are elegant city bikes with Fat Frank tires.  I was wrong.  The rides are totally different.  The Scrap Deluxe has a smoother and sturdier ride, more akin to my Oma, while the Retrovelo Paula is sportier.

As always, I highly recommend that anyone considering a bike like this test ride as many as possible.  Only you can decide which is the best choice for you.

In North America, you can order the bike from the lovely Copenhagen Cyclery. I think they’re currently the only NA dealer, but please correct me if I’m wrong. The price is $1,895 (If you think that is too expensive for a bike and own a car, please state the cost of your car when commenting ;) ) For those who really need a more budget-friendly option, Velorbis has a new Studine Balloon in gorgeous cream for around $1200 – similar to the Velorbis Studine Classic.

One last note about the Velorbis Scrap Deluxe – riding this bicycle is sure to get you noticed   ;)

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

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Spring Forward

Months of short days and drab colors wear a girl down. Eventually she needs yellow sun and blue skies. Enter SPRING!

There is no denying the proof in the pictures: winter is behind us; let’s all spring forward :)

Happy Sunshine!

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Vintage Beautiful Bicycle: A New-Old Raleigh Gran Sport

Once upon a time in a far away land, there lived a shiny new bicycle named Raleigh Gran Sport.

The Beginning... 1973

The ravages of time, evil stepmothers, poisonous apples, etc. caused Gran Sport to become a bit shabby.


Until one day a prince came along to whisk him off ebay (this is a modern fairy tale).  No mice or crustaceans helped with this transformation: it was all the prince, other than the wheel building.


Now Gran Sport is way cooler than ever before, complete with internal hub gearing, roller brakes, generator lights, mustache bars, Schwalbe tires, and the ultimate classy-bike-combo of Honjo fenders, Nitto rack and Brooks saddle.  And they lived happily ever after.

More pictures and a complete list of parts used after the jump.  The bar tape has been shellacked and the cables more nicely secured since these pictures were taken.

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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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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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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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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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Cutest Helmet Ever: DIY

Check this helmet out – what an idea! The author of Oh Joy!, a top style-lifestyle inspiration blog, happens to be a very chic cyclist. When she couldn’t find a polka dotted helmet to suit her needs, she made one out of a Bern Muse helmet and sticky decals.

Oh Joy's Polka Dot Bern

She is also the proud owner of a Velorbis Victoria. Classy!

Oh Joy's Velorbis and Bern Helmet

Read about her project direct from the source HERE, including the link to buy the polka dot decals.

I’m tempted to get a red helmet and attach black dots. I have a thing for ladybugs! :) Couldn’t hurt project get-drivers-to-treat-me-like-a-human, either.

Anyone else into personalizing helmets?

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Getting There is Half the Fun

The Day. I spent Sunday in downtown Chicago with Melissa, ice skating, warming up with afternoon tea service and generally enjoying the beauty of the season.

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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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