50 Million Lb Challenge

I’m getting closer to my dream. You see, when I moved to Chicago I started having pretty vivid dreams of what I wanted from the city. For the most part, they are snapshots. One of them that has lingered with me, and remained foremost in my mind as we looked for an apartment.

I see myself, on a retro bicycle with a basket on the front, riding around Lake Michigan.

There’s something really freeing and magical about riding a bike. And seeing the world from that eye-view is thrilling.


Besides the fun of the wind blowing through your hair and whizzing past slow-moving cars and people, there’s the exercise factor — a huge part of the 50 Million Pound Challenge involves just motivating yourself to get up, get out, and do something to get yourself moving. It helps to do something you like, and to make it a regular part of your daily routine.

So the action plan is, when I am established in the heart of the city, get a bike. It’s free, fun, easy transportation from point A to B, I can run errands when the weather isn’t too bad, and the whole time I’ll be getting in that precious exercise time I so often convince myself isn’t completely available.

But ay, here’s the rub. Nice bikes can be crazy expensive!

I fell head over heels for some of the models featured in this post on Re-Nest — slender, retro, highly functional, outfitted with chic baskets for the items you procure along the way. But for example, the Gary Fisher bike I admired enough to post a pic of at the top here, costs a cool $969.99.


I’ve been trying to convince myself to settle for something more um, reasonable. Schwinn Bikes have a fine made in America, founded in Chicago tradition, and huzzah — the bikes I want are under $500. The 2009 Searcher looks good, right?

Although I would love a new bike, I’m probably going to go vintage. Emily Siegler, co-founder of the absolutely adorbs bike bag brand Po Campo, suggested simply — Craigslist. Duh! So I’m going to look there, as well as through local niche bike shops around town like Shining Bikes.

Are you a city girl bike rider? Have you lost weight because of it? Tell me about it!

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Andrea Williams says:
July 23, 2009, 9:38 pm
I am actually looking for a bike myself. However, I have taken a spin class and the results are amazing. At first you have to get accustomed to the seat. Your crotch will hurt that first week. But I kept at it and ended up becoming addicted to it. You're going to enjoy bicycling. Good luck.
JetSetShopper.com says:
July 23, 2009, 11:09 pm
I have an Electra Townie and love it! www.electrabike.com
Monie says:
July 23, 2009, 11:43 pm
Hi, I have an ezip electric bike. Its great. You can ride on pedal power or electric or both at the same time. The electric comes in handy after a long ride on the way home. I bought it on Amazon. Shipping was included ($299.total) so it was a good deal. I didn't really buy it to lose weight but I've noticed my legs are getting pretty toned. Also I recommend getting a good lock and chain. I have a Kryptonite New York lock and chain. They were really expensive but the piece of mind is worth it to me.
Jeana says:
July 24, 2009, 8:45 am
I recently purchased a bike for many reasons (more affordable than gas, great exercise, great for the environment, etc.). And although some of the better bikes are more expensive, I would still recommend purchasing a nicer bike (mid $300s minimum) if you're planning to use it often and for years to come. I got a cheaper hybrid (path and street) bike which is ok but it's somewhat hard to maneuver, hard to get up hills, and the gears are a little sketchy. Then I rented a Trek bike while on vacation in Miami and fell in love with the easy, pleasant ride. Your bike must be comfortable for you to stick with it. Your local bike shop (LBS) is also a great place to start...just don't let them sell you the most expensive model on the floor :-) And not that anyone wants to spend $17K+, but the Chanel bike is beautiful! A story about it is here: http://www.purseblog.com/chanel-bags/the-17000-chanel-bicycle.html
Ope says:
July 24, 2009, 9:16 am
Do It! I live in NYC and bought a bike on Craigslist. You can get a good one for $100 or less if you look carefully. Just have another $50-$100 set aside to take it to a bike shop for a good tune up, adjustments, etc. I bike to work (a little over a mile) every day and now I bike to most other places too. It has made maintaining my weight completely effortless. And soon you'll be able to do fun group bike rides. I did Bike Around NYC this year and took a 40 mile bike ride through all 5 boroughs. I'm sure Chi-town has similar things. Check out some of chicago's critical mass rides: http://chicagocriticalmass.org/
goldenstar says:
July 24, 2009, 9:49 am
There are several bike cooperatives in Chicago that you should try. Bikes are rehabbed and sold at reasonable prices. Some of the coops have youth training programs and earn bikes. Others send bikes to bike-centric countries so folks are able to afford transportation.
Cecily says:
July 24, 2009, 10:31 am
You're lucky to live in a relatively flat city. :) Try not to fall in love with a bike on looks alone. I love all these huge Dutch-style bikes that have become all the rage, but most of them only have three gears and are quite heavy - not exactly practical when you live in a hilly city, or if you have to carry your bike up several flights to store it. Think about how you plan to use the bike - recreation, commuting, hauling groceries - and then set a price range. There are lots of great bikes out there that can be had for about $350, or even cheaper if you go to a used bike shop. I second the recommendation for Trek bikes, but really, any good bike that has a women-specific design is going to give you lots of pleasure for years to come (as long as you maintain it). Good luck and happy riding!
Jeana says:
July 24, 2009, 10:44 am
I should have mentioned that the $300+ recommendation would be for a new bike (retail price). Pre-owned bikes are much more affordable and are often times in great shape. I wish I would have known this before buying my affordable, but not so great, new bike. Happy biking to fitness!
paradisebird says:
July 24, 2009, 12:09 pm
Hi Afrobella, i live in the heart of berlin and i am also plannig to get a bike for the same reasons you have. i loove these retro bikes but the prices are far out of my budget!! the other problem is-expensive bikes lin often get stolen her in germany and insurance is ridicously expensive, too. so i opt for a second hand bike and perhaps "pimp my ride" diy (in my head is something very colourful..sunflowers..raindrops, spirals, hippie-stylish).... i`ll see. anyhow,i wish you tons of fun, it is so good to be outside doing some cardio, it even does not feel like working out.. i did this before and it also gave my skin this nice outdoorsy glow... do you have any suggestions about a good helmet? they are necessary (i worked as a icu nurse and have seen really bad accidents without helmets)but- they look so not fly- i`d appreciate a afrobella recommendation to this style and safety question. any how will you preserve your beautiful hair under the helmet? just fluff and go? i am unsure what to do with mine.. love from berlin,
paradisebird says:
July 24, 2009, 12:10 pm
oh..sory for the bad typing, i`ll d better next time love, Monika
paradisebird says:
July 24, 2009, 12:11 pm
oh..sorry for the bad typing, i`ll d better next time love, Monika
DJStylus says:
July 24, 2009, 5:40 pm
I saw you pining for expensive bikes then I clicked through and saw the thread get much more reasonable with tips for Craiglist and making friends at a good LBS. Kudos to all the other 2 wheelers in the comments. As a Twitter fan of yours and someone who's been on a car-free diet for almost 6 years, feel free to hit me up with any tips you might need. I'm the dude in the dead of winter that motorists stare at like I'm crazy, but I get to my destination before them AND I'm warmer because I'm generating body heat. I love to share knowledge with other folks that realize that a bike is practical, effective and FUN transportation. Being that wrenching is a form of meditation for me, I've built bikes for myself and saved mad $$$. Not everyone will want to go the DIY route, but there used to be this place in DC that trained neighborhood kids how to refurbish used bikes. They then sold them back to the people in the community. I'm so sad it closed. Closest thing I've seen in Chicago is http://workingbikes.org/. You can get an errand machine for cheap and if you get hooked on it as a form of exercise, THEN you can move on to something more high-end. My stable of bikes still costs only a small fraction of the price of a car! I'll need to forward on safe riding and theft prevention tips too. Go Afrobella!
nolagirl says:
July 25, 2009, 8:21 am
I live less than a mile from work. last year when gas neared $5/ gallon I got a bike. and I got hard legs... then the heat and hummidity hit me ( new Orleans hummidity can knock you out) I love having a bike! the smaller dress size is a plus
Niki says:
July 25, 2009, 3:12 pm
I need to get on a bicycle. I haven't gotten on one since I was about 14 and at 34 now, I am afraid I will bust my tail! LOL But it seems like a fun way to get fit and see the city!
ednita says:
July 25, 2009, 7:41 pm
Hey Bella! When I got my lil' beach cruiser I found this website: www.copenhagencyclechic.com Girl, I'm telling you! You couldn't get me off of my bike after seeing the inspirational fashion every day. Have fun!
susan says:
July 26, 2009, 7:37 am
I am a community youth worker, 50 years old and I have been biking everywhere for 10 years since I moved to Boston. My advice: You don't want an expensive bicycle --- they are the ones that get stolen the most. I got my 1968 Raleigh out of a friend's basement, put about $100 into refurbishing it and putting on milk crate (essential for grocery shopping and errand running. It's still going after 8 years and about 20 miles a day! Make sure your bike has front and back fenders which are essential for puddles and I recommend getting those new expensive tough tires to cut down on flat tires --- lots of glass and things on city streets. There is a great organization in Boston, called Bikes Not Bombs that teaches youth to repair and refurbish bicycles. Besides Craigslist, that would be a great place to get a bike and serve a great cause as well. Finally, don't economize on bike locks (I live on a tight budget but some things are worth saving and putting out for) --- get one in the $60 range. Less expensive ones can be cut through too easily. And wear your helmet at all times. I got a bright red one and put wing and fire stickers on it for the youth and political stickers on for the adults. That way you are a good role model for the young ones and spread smiles at the same time! Oh happy biking. . . can you tell how much I love being a city biker, even in one of the most un-bike friendly cities in the US?
BellaAnais says:
July 26, 2009, 1:29 pm
Hi Bella, I'm also in the market for a new bike and have been searching far and wide for the perfect one. I found the below bike company through Urban Outfitters and think I might go with one of their lower priced custom colored bikes. I think the idea of putting your own colorful design touch on the bike is pretty cool. http://www.republicbike.com/ I too am hoping that getting on a bike will help to increase my fitness. I rode a bike with my nephew yesterday and it was so much fun watching the the trees flow by. It was relaxing and I felt so carefree! Good luck with your search and thanks for sharing!
BelleNoelle says:
July 28, 2009, 2:36 am
Hey Bella, I am a stay at home mom with a husband and two kids and we get around with only our bikes. No car. Now I'm not stick thin, but I do credit my being able to maintain my weight during both pregnancies to riding well into my 8 month with both kids. I'm a NYC transplant now living in a college town so I know riding in the city can be harrowing. Please forgo the expensive bike if you plan on locking it up outside for any length of time out your eyesight and don't forget your helmet! It's not cute, but neither is a busted skull. Oh yeah, I second the bike collective. Love your blog!
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