30 November 2009

Another t-shirt idea

"If I were driving a car, you'd still be stuck behind me."

28 November 2009

Why do we hate the people we love?

Some jackass SUV driver beeps at me for seemingly no reason while I'm trying to balance between a pothole and a double-parked car, and I'm instantly all in a fury---

---until I realize it's my boyfriend and he just wanted to say hi.

Stereotyping, while wrong, is pretty useful 99% of the time, but that remaining 1% really bites you in the ass. It's just not worth it.

[True story, some weeks ago.]

24 November 2009


So that's why I never followed through with actually doing cyclocross...

Hey, as soon as somebody invents midnight cyclocross in Chicago, I'm totally there. With my three headlights and four taillights.

Speaking of economic stimulus, any readers in IDOT District 8?

Have the Vadalabene Bikeway lanes been replaced along the Great River Road? Or am I in for a rude surprise when I return next summer?

They can't have not replaced them, right? I mean, it's a state fracking trail. It's been there since the 1970s. The bike lanes can't not be there. There's no way they could just not put them back and leave it that way. Right? Right?

23 November 2009

"Get outta here, ya ugly normals!"

I'm wasting an awful lot of time lately being obsessed with clothes. As though I didn't have anything else to worry about.

The annual member meeting of what used to be the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation was some weeks ago, and for the first time I paid active attention to what people were wearing. I noticed no small number of people dressed for a board meeting, and still others dressed for an evening at the symphony. But there were also a fair number of people dressed about as casual as you can get, short of flopping out of bed and showing up somewhere. Most of the attendees looked as though they'd just gotten off of work, and in all likelihood they had. Some of us probably looked as though we'd just gotten of work and then frantically ridden 5-10 miles to get to the meeting on time, but nobody else really seemed to care. A few were dressed in full cycling regalia or other undoubtedly athletic apparel, but nobody was sneering or laughing at them. People came in, casually hung up waterproof jackets, gracefully set panniers or messenger bags down in the corner, nonchalantly draped helmets and safety vests over their arms, proceeded to mingle with each other as though it were all just the most completely normal thing in the world.

Later that night it occurred to me that at these kinds of gatherings, we don't really give the slightest damn what each other is wearing.

The next night occurred to me that in the Real World of Normal People wearing Regular Clothes in Mainstream Society, we still don't give a damn, or at least we don't waste a whole lot of time pondering how ridiculous a complete stranger's outfit looks.

But on the Internet, apparently---and ironically, if you think about it---the Bike Fashion vs. Bike Regular vs. Bike Specific debate goes on and on and on, and people write novel-length commentaries about what they and their fellow cyclists should be wearing in order to attract more newbies, secure more acceptance, and gain more visibility.

(Ah, but is that literal or figurative visibility? Earth tones are in this year, after all.)

Seriously, why do we care? Aren't there more important things to worry about than what to wear?

20 November 2009

They're coming

DNA from Asian carp found 7 miles from Lake Michigan

On the Great Lakes side of the electrified barrier, mind you.

19 November 2009

Clothing theme rides I'd like to see because I'd totally come

Goth Ride
Cosplay Ride
Slow Spandex Ride
Chicagoland Bicycle Federation T-shirt Ride
Marshall Field's/Carson Pirie Scott Final Clearance Sale Ride
REI Ride
Leather Ride
Vegan Pleather Ride
OMG Did You See Last Night's Episode of America's Next Top Model Ride

18 November 2009


I forgot to tell you about the red fox I encountered on the Lakefront Trail late Saturday night, near the Columbia Yacht Club. Beautiful animal.

[Aren't you glad we didn't drive?]

RTA public hearings for 2010 budget

As seen on PDF.

Monday, December 7
RTA Headquarters Building, Chicago, 9am
Waukegan Public Library, Waukegan, 6pm

Tuesday, December 8
Cicero Public Library, Cicero, 6pm
South Suburban Mayors & Managers, East Hazel Crest, 6pm

Wednesday, December 9
Village of Glen Ellyn, Glen Ellyn, 6pm
McHenry County - 6 p.m.
City of Crystal Lake, Crystal Lake

Thursday, December 10
Aurora Public Library, Aurora, 6pm
Joliet Historical Museum, Joliet, 6pm

17 November 2009

General Carlessness guide to winter [cycling] in Chicago

The thing about winter in Chicago is that it sucks. Bicycling in winter isn't a whole lot of fun, and anyone who tells you otherwise is clinging to their delusion in order to survive, lest they succumb to a greater madness. But you know what, walking in winter also sucks, as does cramming onto a stuffy train in winter, waiting for the bus in winter, and digging your car out of the snow only to find that it won't start in winter. So all things considered, riding a bike is really no more unbearable than any other form of transportation.

This will be only my second (noncontinuous) complete winter as an all-season bike commuter, but it will be my tenth as a car-free city dweller, and I assure you that a lot of the special gear you'll need for winter bike commuting are articles that, if you ask me, should already be included in your wardrobe of "regular" clothes. In fact, they probably are.

Coverings for the head, face, and hands. At the more general end of the spectrum are your basic hats, scarves, and mittens or gloves. I usually prefer earmuffs and an insulated hood to a hat, but it does the same thing. Get the warmest gloves/mittens you can find. They will be ugly; just accept this. The point at which you are biking often enough to develop a soul-crushing hatred of wet fleece is the point at which you should consider getting a balaclava, but until then you can probably skip it unless somebody gives you one. Or you succumb to Bicycle Movement peer pressure. Whichever. In the meantime, a simple fleece scarf will suffice.

A waterproof top layer with ample butt coverage. That cute hip-length jacket is going to ride up as soon as you bend over your handlebars, so maybe that's why you haven't considered winter biking a viable option. Trust me, a longer coat will keep you so much warmer no matter what you're doing, so you may as well get one. Make sure it's waterproof. Don't trust anything labeled "water resistant" because it will probably only keep you dry in the event of fog. Oh, and don't use liquid laundry detergent on your outerwear; it compromises the waterproofing material.

Insulated waterproof boots. You'll thank me later.

Socks. Every winter I'm amazed by the number of people who don't seem to wear socks, or at least not much in the way of socks. Wool will keep you warm. Acrylic might. Cotton will not. Nylon most definitely will not.

A huge bag. You need to keep your hat, scarf, gloves, and extra socks somewhere, you know.

Steel: For real?

I'm accustomed to reading about or listening to people praise the advantages of steel bicycle frames without ever actually specifying what those are (with the exception of extraordinary amounts of nostalgia for some undefined "good old days" that allegedly took place sometime between last century and earlier this decade). However, the n00b is calling BS. He wants to know what it is that makes steel better than aluminum, and under what circumstances. I told him to Google it, but I think he landed in the middle of a pissing contest on bikeforums.net because the next thing I know he was huddled in the corner whimpering and playing with his car keys.

Well, I'm more inclined to just accept the fact that some particular bike is made of whatever it's made of and that's that, but I can easily see him turning into the guy you see riding loops around the park on an all-carbon road bike (because it's faster!) in a sweatsuit and cross trainers. So methinks we need to settle this now.

Why steel?

13 November 2009


It's working!

More Federal dollars for bike projects: Federal Transit Agency seeks public comment on proposed policy change for pedestrian and bicycle access projects

Design and execution is where these projects will stand or fall, of course. [/nitpick]


I think I'm going to remove Fullmetal's $20 clearance plastic fenders made in France until I can afford better ones. It's just not working.

Maybe I'll just go fender-free again for a while. I haven't decided yet.

12 November 2009

SecTrans LaHood: National rail system moving ahead into the 19th century

From Welcome to the Fast Lane:
DOT ready to talk about future of rail

Stop talking and start doing! I know, I know, it's all easier said than done. Anyway:

"In the 1800s, this nation built a rail system that fit its needs at the time and fostered economic growth. Well, our needs may have changed, but this DOT is going to make sure that our passenger and freight rail systems are just as relevant to the future of our economy."

And thus a million midwestern railroad towns will come back to life. Maybe.

[Via NARP Blog.]

Fun things found on Internet while searching for other things because of work, part 94,738


Be sure to check out the featured image.

11 November 2009

When did Yehuda Moon's bike start talking?

10 November 2009

Photographical goodness

Sometimes I have four bikes in my apartment. The scrappy frankenbike by the window is teh boyfriend's. The frame used to be a Specialized Rockhopper.

Best commuting bike in the whole world (Jennifer edition). It takes a few years to make a bicycle look this darn ugly. Now that it's no longer the only full-size one I have, I'm actually rather proud of it.

When I first got the Surly I received desperate pleas to refrain from sullying it like I did the other two, but I did give it some reflective bumblebee stripes just to make it look a little more mine.

Help my boyfriend find a new bike!

He says he wants a mountain bike with road gearing and a rigid fork. I thought those were generally known as "hybrid bicycles," but he's looking for something lighter and with a more aggressive riding position than is usually found on models categorized as such. On the other hand, he seems to be shying away from something that's essentially a road bike with flat handlebars.

I told him to get a mountain bike with a locking suspension fork (you never know how much you miss it until it's gone) and just put narrower slick tires on it, but he quite insists on higher gearing. And bigger wheels. I have a suspicion that the latter is really just a symbolic metaphor (silly men), but maybe there does exist, in actual fact, a noticeable difference between 26" wheels and 700c wheels once you get rolling, and maybe the latter really are significantly faster. I wouldn't be the one to know.

Potential uses include day tripping, social riding, beer running, summer commuting, supported touring, friend visiting, trail riding, overnighting, Bike-the-Driving, neighborhood touring, Amtrak traveling, grocery getting, distance riding, stuff hauling, and general time killing. Cost including sales tax and rear carrying rack needs to stay under a thousand, preferably several hundred under a thousand, as he's between jobs and claims to need a new car as well. (His best prospects are all far, far away from anything resembling a major metropolitan center, so that's probably true. Believe me, I'd be harping on him nonstop about not needing a car at all if that weren't the case.)

I've spent the past few years shopping for a road bike and drooling at dedicated commuter models with internal gears and thus haven't been paying attention to anything else out there lately. Any suggestions?

Active Trans: Celebrating one year of making me want to beat my head against the wall

So that's why His Royal Highness was presented with an award last night...

Law-scoffing car owners are laughing at us, in between working themselves into frenzied fits of extreme paranoia over expanded booting hours.

08 November 2009

They don't make fat-chick saddles for road bikes, do they


In other news, why do people who hate Those Damned Bicyclists always, always, always bring up "Some people have to work for a living!" as their second or third line of defense? What do they think we do all day?

07 November 2009

Bike theft warning

From the UCVC list:

"As a general warning, whoever took [my bike] is using some pretty sophisticated technique for cutting through kryptonite locks (mine was an evolution) quickly and decisively. I've never seen a u lock cut like this, completely smooth with no evidence whatsoever of hacking. My guess is that they were able to cut it in less than 30 seconds, probably by using freon and some sort of diamond tipped cutters.

"The University of Chicago police officer that filed my report stated there has been a rash of thefts over the last 1-2 months on campus. They did catch one guy in the act who apparently stated that his thefts were going to a warehouse somewhere around 127th and Cicero."

Be on the lookout for a hunter green Cannondale XS800.

06 November 2009

Dear stop-sign-running fixie rider at 53rd and Cornell

I'm curious, why did you assume I was slower than you were? Because I wasn't, and that just made things difficult not only for the two of us but also for the drivers in front of and behind us.

PS: Thanks for leaving such a mess for me to clean up (excruciatingly slow though it was), when the driver behind us took it upon herself to blame me for your assholery and lecture me about stop signs as though she had not just witnessed me obeying one right in front of her. It was simply marvelous of you to ruin my Friday evening like that.

Safety PSA

Do NOT stop on railroad tracks. Not even partially on or very close to railroad tracks. Ever. Anywhere. For any reason.

I shudder to look at those pics. Another couple of feet back and she would not have been "slightly injured."

Cyclists: When the the lights start flashing, the bells start dinging, and the gates start moving, STOP!!! I've seen too many people (and by "too many" I mean one or two, but that's still too many; trains aren't cars, people!) breezing around the gates at the surface crossing on Canal between Kinzie and Fulton. I always scream at them to stop, and they always look at me like they don't need me to worry about them, kthxbye. Look, I'm not necessarily worried about you in particular; I just don't want to have to witness a train-person collision. Ugh. *shudder*

Another postapocalyptic dream

In a future age, archeologists will uncover the remains of our civilization and conclude that we must have worshiped automobiles. Literally. How else would they explain the regular offerings of gasoline and other rare petroleum products, the vast shrines where they were kept when not in use, the daily processions along the sacred ways, the frequent human sacrifices to appease their wrath?

05 November 2009

Bike culture

What is "bike culture," anyway? Is it the culture of people who are trying to make cycling safe and effective, the culture of people who are trying to make cycling fun and fashionable, or the culture of Real Athletes who ride bikes for fitness and/or competition?

Or is it actually the culture of people who just get on a bike and go, without much thought of safety, fashion, or fitness, and then some thousand miles later return home and maybe write a thoughtful book about it?

Is BMX part of "bike culture," or is that a completely separate "BMX culture" all on its own?

Can you be part of "bike culture" if you still don't know how to fix your own brakes, at least not without disaster occurring?

Are you still part of "bike culture" even if you're more of a "jock" than a "hipster"?

Why does there seem to be so much overlap between "bike culture" and "computer culture"---are they both part of a larger subset of "geek culture"? And "geek culture" is so huge, then why make fun of geeks as though we're some kind of weird minority in the whole meta-culture?

Skate dates '09-'10

The season begins on Saturday, November 28 for the Chicago Park District ice rinks. Admission is free at all outdoor rinks; skate rental is $5, except at Daley Bicentennial Plaza (enjoy it while it lasts!), where skate rental is $6. The season ends on Sunday, February 28.

At the McCormick-Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park, which is so consistently crowded that I wonder why I even bother anymore (I guess I have fond memories of those first few seasons when nobody out of town had any idea there was an ice rink in front of Park Grille), the season begins on Wednesday, November 18. Admission is free; skate rental is $10. The season ends on pi day, which is known to non-math geeks as Sunday, March 14.

This is all weather permitting, of course. If one almanac is correct, we will have another brutally cold and snowy winter a la '07-'08. If another almanac is correct, this winter will be mild and mostly rainy. If 28 years of experience is correct, it will be both on alternating 4-day periods, except in March, when the period will be about 4 hours.

Remind me to get my skates sharpened; I think they might need it by now.


As seen on YouTube.

02 November 2009

What bike should I wear?

Fritz's post on Cyclelicious reminded me of, among other things, a difficult question that I have begun to ask myself as a multibike owner:

For social group rides or other events where I might be "seen," which bike should I ride?

A. The hybrid, duh. It's your default city bike and has been for years.
B. The folder---its smaller size gives it superior handling when riding fender-to-fender in a large mass, plus it's a great conversation piece.
C. Why are you even asking? The one that doesn't look like pedal-powered ass, of course!

In other news, I must go now to attend to my vacuum cleaner. I only have one, a Regina 12-amp with 3-stage HEPA filtration system that I got some years ago for my birthday. I'm no expert, but I've had no problems with that model, and I'd say that overall Regina seems like a pretty solid brand. Mine came with a hose extender and upholstery brush, as most household upright vacuum cleaners ought to do, but I could really use an attachment for cleaning horizontal blinds. (Good luck finding one of those at your local shop, though.) It's fine for running over the carpet in my apartment once a month and as needed to suck the cobwebs off the ceiling, but it's certainly nothing I'd want to rely on every day in a janitorial setting. In retrospect I would have preferred a model that doesn't need to be emptied and the filters cleaned out quite so often because that's a real pain in the butt. So in my opinion, you should probably ask about the filter cleaning frequency when you go to purchase a vacuum cleaner, especially in winter, when more dust tends to accumulate. Anyway, I think the belt has stretched beyond its optimal limit, and I do have a spare somewhere, but I'm trying to find a video on the Web that shows how to replace it because I can't find the instruction manual. Hopefully I can it fixed in time to clean up those dead leaves that my boyfriend tracked in yesterday, before the exterminator comes through later this week.

[Hey, that was pretty fun.]

So many ways to die...

I do believe, based on unscientific anecdotal evidence, that I am more likely to be struck and killed by a night bus than to be the victim of some other crime because I was riding my bike instead of riding the night bus.

I also believe, based on cynicism and distrust of humanity in general, that this is done on purpose in order to scare bike commuters off the streets and onto the night bus, thereby driving up its ridership, so that when it comes time for the university transportation department to draw up the budget, and they are presented with a modest request for more bike racks, they can say "Gee, we'd love to be able to install more bike racks around campus, but unfortunately, based on the numbers, right now the greatest transportation priority is expansion of the night bus service..."

In other news, the bastard of the day is the one who---while I was walking on the sidewalk, mind you---honked at me and then rolled down the window and yelled at me to "Get the f--- out of the way!" as he was attempting to park illegally on a former driveway entrance to what is now a fenced-in empty lot. I regularly see motor vehicles ticketed and even booted at this location, but I suppose some people never learn (see "distrust of humanity in general" above). Bonus bastard points for dropping an f-bomb near an elementary school during recess.

In other other news, at least I don't have MRSA. Hooray!