Monday, December 12, 2011

April, W North Ave & N Honore St, Chicago, IL

April rides a Trek Belleville step-through she calls Michelle.

What are you wearing? calf-high, high-heeled leather boots I received for Christmas a couple years ago. I started wearing heels again since taking up riding. As the saying goes, it’s much easier than walking in them...and unlike travel by car or train you can go to door to door on a bike.  My coat is a Cambridge Raincoat, which is especially designed for cyclists. It is made of water-proof material and has reflective ribbon on the buttons, cuffs, and belt.  Underneath I am wearing a sleeveless turtleneck I created from an oversized button-up sweater I bought it at a thrift store. It’s made from the softest merino wool and has lovely chocolate brown stripes. My legwarmers are from the same sweater.  My skirt is felted wool, also from a thrift store.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
Make/model color of your bike, and where you got it?
My bike soul mate is a Trek Belleville. I call her Michelle, like the song “Michelle ma belle…” She is cream and blue colored.  I bought her off of Craigslist from a couple moving to Portland but she originally came from Turin Bicycles in Evanston.
Where are you going?  I am on my way home after attending the Women Who Bike Brunch.
Why ride? -Biking is more than a form of transformation. It’s a philosophy and a lifestyle.  I started biking because I wanted an eco-friendly mode of travel, but what I discovered was something so much more.  Biking is fun, healthy and free! On a bike the city opens up to you; you can go anywhere without restraints of “L” stops, bus routes, traffic headaches or parking struggles. Suddenly the city is full of wonderful places worth going to.  When you travel by bike you feel the wind in your face, you smell food from vendors and flowers; you hear music from street performers and kids playing in parks. The world does not rush you by, insular and behind glass, instead you are smack in the middle experiencing it live and in full color. I am also amazed by the Chicago bicycling community.  Thanks to The Chainlink and blogs like Let’s Go Ride A Bike and Bike Fancy (of course) I feel like I’m part of an exclusive fun-loving club.
Favorite ride?  I think every ride is my favorite. I do tend to ride east on Wilson pretty frequently. Milwaukee Avenue, especially south of Montrose is fun because it is like a superhighway for bikes.  I recently took a contract job in Niles and got to commute on the North Branch Trail. It was so peculiar to be battling the traffic on Milwaukee one minute and then to be speeding down a tranquil path through the woods, over bridges and past grazing deer. It was definitely the most peaceful commute I have experienced.   Of course nothing compares to riding the Lake Front Path with the wind in your hair and the lake splashing up beside you. Conclusion: Chicago is a fantastic city for riding!
While riding you …?  Think. I work through plot holes in the novel I’m writing, brainstorm post ideas for my blog or compose cover letters for jobs I’m vying for. Surprisingly, this does not keep me from paying attention to where I’m going and enjoying the scenery.
How can Chicago improve bike infrastructure or make Chicago more bike friendly?
Well, I think we are headed in the right direction with the promised 100 miles of protected bike lanes.  Anything that can be done to make biking as transportation accessible and appealing to regular people especially Parents and senior citizens is a boon to our city. In addition to building of bicycle infrastructure I would advise reduced speed limits on streets with bike lanes and enforcement of the 3-foot passing distance rule. My neighborhood (Jefferson Park) is populated by many senior citizen cyclists, however the majority do not feel safe riding on the streets and stick to the sidewalks.  When Grandma has to “break the law” just to feel safe going to the grocery store, it is a clear indication of a need for change.
I love your legwarmers, where did you get them?
I made them!v  It’s really easy to make cozy wool legwarmers from the sleeves of an old sweater. Simply cut them off near the shoulders. Determine how tall you want them to be. Cut straight across the top. Turn them inside out. Measure a length of elastic (available at craft stores) to fit either your shin or thigh depending on how tall you want them. Hand- or machine-stitch it shut so that it creates a circle. Slide this onto the top of the legwarmer about 1-2 inches from the edge. Fold the fabric down to cover the elastic and create a hem. Stretch the legwarmer and the band around something while you pin it, making sure the hem is even. Then, sew all the way around (a zig-zag stitch works nicely on a machine). Turn them right-side out and voila, you’ve got cozy legwarmers! 


  1. I love this blog and the many great photographs of local riders. I look forward to seeing each and every post. While I've never commented before today I feel I must because I have a slight issue with the terminology used. It's a pet peeve of mine regarding the terms mixte and step-through.

    Technically the Bellville is a Mixte even though the top-tube/mid-tube is single rather than double-tubed. If a frame has mid-stays in addition to chainstays and seatstays then it is technically a Mixte. it doesn't matter if the top-tube between the seat-tube and head tube is single, double, or even more tubes. It's not really the middle stays that makes a mixte -but really the top stays and the elongated seat-tube over the diamond-frame lower section.

    Additionally, since the mid-stays and the top-tube are in a straight line on the Bellville it isn't a true step-through. A true step-through has a much lower top-tube that connects to the seat-tube closer to the bottom-bracket. Most Mixtes are not full step-throughs.

    There are, in fact, hybrid step-through/mixtes with a "swoop" which bends the otherwise-straight line of the top-tube(s) and mid-stays to put the point where it crosses the seat-tube closer to the bottom-bracket and in this way makes it a true step-through. These are rare in the USA although this design was popular in France in the 70's and 80's.

  2. Thanks for your comment and clarification James. Its always hard for me to classify a bike like this. I've had mixte people tell me that the top tube has to be split to be considered a mixte, and other people say that is not the case. I think you have made the best argument thus far.

  3. Ok I finally know what to do with the bag of holy sweaters in my closet ( I was gonna felt and quilt them- but I don't really sew.... ) Leg warmers from my fav sweaters!!!

    Off to read more about that raincoat!

  4. Sadly Trek decided to discontinue the 'mixte' version of the Belleville for 2012. It's offered with a straight top tube only. I really hope they reconsider offering the 'mixte' model again for future production years.

  5. Awesome picture, smile, raincoat, bike name :) and interview!

  6. I really love that raincoat!
    I'll bet with a turtleneck vest matching those leggings that she looks just as cute without the coat.
    You have a great photography eye like my twin, it makes me miss her to check in every day to see what new person you've found looking awesome on a bike.

  7. Cute as a button and what a great idea for old sweaters... leg warmers, who knew.

  8. I really like this explanation for why to ride a bicycle in Chicago. My thoughts exactly! I just didn't know how to verbalize them before. What an amazing city when experienced on 2 wheels!

  9. Thanks everybody! I am excited that you like my raincoat and legwarmers--and even more so to be featured on Bike Fancy! Watch for a full review of the raincoat on Let's Go Ride a Bike (coming soon) and please mention my name if you end up ordering one. I've made friends with the designer, Sally Guyer and she will be happy hear I sent you. Oh and by the way *wink* there's an end-of-the-season sale right now.