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cycling chicago in november

November 9, 2010

Chicago on two wheels.

As promised, here is a slightly more in-depth report on my weekend cycling in Chicago…

The Weather

First, the most obvious factor of cycling anywhere in the Midwest in November is the cold. It was even colder in Chicago than in my neck of the woods, so I was a little unprepared. (It would start somewhere in the 30s F in the morning and go up to mid or high 40s F in the afternoon). As I’ve noted before, this will be my first winter cycling so I am still learning how to dress for it as I go along. This weekend taught me that key body parts to keep warm are your hands, feet, and head. Dottie lent me a second pair of warmer gloves, I layered wool socks over my tights inside my boots, and I wedged a hat underneath my helmet. Keeping my toes and digits warm made a huge difference. My next purchase – a pair of snug earmuffs that can more easily fit under a helmet than a hat (good call, Dottie!)

When it comes to being outdoors, I abide by this mantra: There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. (I saw this on a sticker once on a storefront in Colorado). So taking a cue from those wise wide words, I am layering and bundling up and looooving these cold days on my bike.

Dottie in Chicago

For more tips on this subject, check out Dottie’s ‘How To Dress for Winter Cycling‘ video from last winter!

The Community

One of the first things I noticed was the awesome community of cyclists Dottie and Greg are part of in Chicago. One our first night together, cycling friends of theirs joined us for the bike film Race Across the Sky (Hi, EA!). The next morning, fellow Dutch bike cyclist and friend of Dottie’s ran into us while we were stopped on the lakefront trail (Hi, Dan!). Later that day, Dottie was ‘celebrity sighted’ while we were waiting at a red light, and so the weekend went…

I was also sad to leave on Sunday morning before the Women Who Bike Brunch that Dottie and several of her cycling friends were attending still that day.

I guess that is one of the advantages of living in a bigger city; you are more likely to find like-minded people who share your enthusiasm for any given activity. I would love to be part of a committed cycling community and am now trying to think of which of my friends I could rope into a Bike to Brunch day (if I know you in person and you are reading this – beware!)

Carousel at Navy Pier.

Navy Pier, Chicago.

The Lakefront Trail

Much of my riding was on the lakefront trail. It was beautiful! The lakefront trail provides breathtaking views of the city, allows you to cover much mileage without the hassle of traffic and traffic lights, and offers the less experienced cyclist a safe and controlled environment in which to Chicago cycling a try. We took the lakefront trail to my conference hotel, to Navy Pier, and from the Goodman Theater to Dottie and Greg’s home. We left the trail and rode through city streets and neighborhoods as well, but if you are not someone familiar with Chicago (and are perhaps only there as a visitor like I was ), the trail appeared to be the most ‘user friendly’ cycling space. And, conveniently enough, there were rental bikes at Navy Pier, which is right on the lakefront trail. (But I can’t speak to the quality or cost of those…)

And while you’re at Navy Pier, make sure to ride the huge ferris wheel, check out the fun mirrors, and enjoy the city skyline in the background. Have fun and say hello to Chicago from me!

View from the top of the ferris wheel.

Dottie taking beautiful pictures

Chicago at night.

Other things I absolutely loved in Chicago: The Brauhaus German restaurant that made me feel like I could be in Munich again; the modern art wing at the Art Institute of Chicago; the best play ever at the Goodman Theater; amazing food and a delicious chocolate latte at Rick Bayless’ XOCO restaurant; and Dottie’s and Greg’s cats.

25 Comments leave one →
  1. November 9, 2010 02:32

    Though I’m sad I missed you on your weekend in Chicago, I’m so glad you had such a nice time. You definitely got the best of our lovely city. :)

    • November 9, 2010 03:11

      Clare – I feel awful now! I totally didn’t think to look anyone else up, I had a one-track mind to get to my conference and present my paper and spent the evenings afterwards just going where ever D & G and the bikes took me. Next time!!

  2. MsAmanda permalink
    November 9, 2010 02:44

    I was just at Target tonight and they had these super cute knitted earmuffs. Completely wool, no Plastic or hard parts. Maybe that would work?

    • November 9, 2010 03:10

      Yes! That sounds pretty good, I will have to hit our local Target up and look for those, thanks!

  3. November 9, 2010 03:01

    I desperately need gloves for biking. My hands get so cold right now!
    These pictures are fantastic. I’m glad you had such a good time.

  4. November 9, 2010 06:17

    This is great! I love hearing about Chicago from an outsider’s eyes. Sometimes I take the city for granted, but it’s really pretty cool. And your photos are beautiful.

    I’m excited to follow along with your first winter riding. :)

  5. November 9, 2010 12:04

    I saw Dottie’s post over on LGRAB the other day. It looks like a wonderful time was had by all! I hope you’re able to create a biking community in your area. Bike to brunch sounds wonderful!

  6. November 9, 2010 12:58

    Oh, I so want to visit Chicago having seen your beautiful photographs and read about it! Seems like such a wonderful place for cycling. :)
    I love your statement about weather….so true!

  7. November 9, 2010 16:49

    Looks like you had an awesome time :) It’s always fun to meet new people, especially if you’ve had some interaction already, and especially if they are like-minded and you get along well :) Seems like there is a lot to like about Chicago, quite an interesting city.

    One more recommendation I can make for winter riding, that might work instead of earmuffs (depending on the day and how cold/windy it is) is a knit wool cap with ear-flaps, possibly that tie down around the chin too – it might fit under a helmet better, and still keep your ears fairly warm. This was the only thing I missed last year during winter, but I got a good one in Lithuania while we were there recently (with moose on it!), so I’m good to go for this winter :)

  8. kateohkatie permalink
    November 9, 2010 19:19

    I’m just oozing with jealousy! Your trip looks so fantastic :-)

    Re: warmth. This is my first winter cycling too (although – seriously? 75* today? REALLY?!), and from the few chilly days we’ve had so far I can really tell that hand warmth will be an issue. I’ve been wearing some handknitted fingerless gloves, but unfortunately since it’s my fingers which are the most exposed when my hands are on the handlebars, they’re really not enough. I need to get crackin’ and knit myself some proper, warm mittens! :-)

    • November 9, 2010 19:24

      For when it gets really cold, some thin glove liners under the mittens to break the bit of wind that gets through the knit will keep you nice and toasty in pretty cold weather too.

  9. Melissa @ HerGreenLife permalink
    November 9, 2010 19:24

    We visit Chicago somewhat regularly, though it’s been over a year since our last visit. I’ve never done it by bike, usually just walking and public transit. I’d love to bike in Chicago sometime, though there are a couple logistical issues: 1) Getting the bikes there — I’ve heard mixed reviews about peoples’ experiences taking bikes on Amtrak and 2) Finding accommodations that would work for our bikes. We usually stay with some friends, but 4 adults in their small apartment is pushing it — not at all sure where the bikes would go.

    Anyway, our visits usually center around the Hyde Park neighborhood (the location of my husband’s alma mater) with a mandatory visit (okay, visits) to the Med Bakery on 57th Street for almond croissants and fruit turnovers.

    • November 9, 2010 21:56

      How about renting bikes for just a day while there? I’m not sure how good the bike rental system is in Chicago but I’m sure that Chicago cyclists could chime in on the topic.

      • November 9, 2010 22:18

        In my experience, bike rentals in Chicago are expensive (around $35/day) and inconvenient, unless you’re staying downtown right next to a Bike and Roll station. It’s too bad…maybe one day their B-Cycle program will be more like Velib.

  10. November 9, 2010 22:01

    Earmuffs are now at the top of my list of “necessary items for cold weather biking” also! Living in the South (which is generally much warmer than Chicago in November!), I apparently have forgotten just what 40 degree weather feels like! We biked to lunch last weekend when it was approx. 44 degrees and I stupidly didn’t wear gloves (what was I thinking???), but even worse was that my ears were so cold it literally took almost 30 minutes for them to feel normal again – and then we had to ride back home. Never again will I make that mistake :)

  11. November 10, 2010 01:22

    “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”

    Brilliant! I’m adopting this philosophy immediately.

    The last photo is especially lovely.

  12. November 10, 2010 02:21

    Looking forward to reading about your winter riding. I have to admit, I’m a wimp when it comes to the cold and not sure I’m going to make it all year. I rode a few times last week and I have to laugh because when I arrived at work, one of my coworkers, stated, “I can’t believe you’re still riding, wow, you really take this seriously! ” I said, “it’s no big deal, I only live three miles away.” Oh, he said, “yea, if I lived closer, I would ride my bike too.”

    • November 10, 2010 03:29

      Correction: not sure i’m going to make it through the winter season.

  13. danapple permalink
    November 12, 2010 02:59

    How did you do so much in Chicago in such a short time? Oh, right, you were on a bike!

    I’m not sure you’ll be happy to know that it warmed up incredibly here this week. It has been a beautiful week to be riding, just cool enough to not get hot, but not too cold to require a jacket.

    Hope to see you back here sometime soon!

    (omafiets rider in Chicago)

  14. November 14, 2010 19:51

    I am always amazed at the ability of Dottie to bike in those cold Chicago winters. She is a good mentor. I am trying to work up the courage to bike this winter myself. Need to get a strategy going.

    Your trip seemed perfect, btw!

  15. Sol permalink
    November 15, 2010 07:59

    I’m really glad you enjoyed our fair city. For any other cyclists who want to visit and ride with our very active cycling community, i suggest checking out It is kind of like facebook for chicago cyclists and is a great resource for cycling visitors.


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