Sunday, January 24, 2021

DIY Purple Do-it-all Tote Bag


Drawstring fabric is leftover satin lining from a coat.
I'm pleased with my current project: a tote bag with added features. When I purchased the tropical-print purple fabric, I anticipated using most of it on the Dahon's custom handlebar bag, but because the purple colors clashed, I used the floral fabric as accent pieces. 

I was inspired by the Eddie Bauer Stowaway Packable Cinch Tote. With a side pocket, handles, and webbing along the upper edge, the style plus construction meant I could incorporate my own design features to accommodate an active bike and travel life. I have numerous tote bags, but I didn't own a bag that doubles as a simple backpack and pannier.

I purposely created a narrow bag to adapt well as makeshift pannier/backpack, suspended by two webbing straps that can be adjusted to various places along the top edge. The straps are also long enough to hook both sides of the bag to the rack, if needed, for extra stability. When not in use the straps can be removed and tucked into main compartment or in the external pocket. 

I like the drawstring style closure to hold odd-shaped items inside. When the string is fully opened, the interior fabric falls inward and becomes virtually hidden, creating an open top tote bag. I like this feature on my Blackburn Central Shopper Pannier.

Tuck it away in an office drawer and use as a way to carry home unexpected items, or as a travel go-to bag. There are so many uses for this wonderful, purple (of course) tote bag!

Friday, January 15, 2021

Head Over Wheels with Excel


Recently I completed an online Excel class to learn the basics. I've used and referenced spreadsheets, but had never learned how to create one from scratch - that you can style them, tickled me to no end!

I have collected daily mileage on paper calendars for many years, just because it's fun to see where I'm at from year to year, and easy to tally mileage with a calculator. Generally, I hover between 2700-3000 miles. I don't use a bike computer (and don't want one) - If I cannot reasonably guess mileage then I reference Google Timeline for a ball park figure, then tack on a mile because of it's less than perfect tracking. I also ride 5 different bicycles, so this system works fine for me.

I thought it would be fun to analyze a few metrics: day of week totals, monthly totals, and cumulative annual mileage - that's all I really care about. I required my data on one spreadsheet for simplicity, and in a reusable format. I adapted my own design after inspecting very detailed options on the Internet - and there were many! I have two sheets: one for data, one for charts. In future years, I will adjust each monthly data column so they align with correct day of the week. 

2020 wasn't a normal year (that's an understatement) as I only commuted to work January - March, but managed decent mileage overall. It's interesting that Fridays were the highest mileage days; I have no clue why. I suspect that in future Monday-Friday workday life, mid-week mileage will even out. Also, I expect an uptick in winter mileage due to using studded bike tires. I plan to continue documenting riding miles the old fashioned way in 2021, then transferring those miles periodically to the spreadsheet.

Do you use a spreadsheet to track your cycling miles? If so, what stats interest you?

Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 Rewind

Rolling into 2020, I knew our lives would change - plans were underway to relocate to a new home by May/June, which eventually happened, so it has been a bittersweet year. In fact, for most of 2020 I've been full of gratitude.

I spent January and February bike commuting to work, per usual, not minding the cold but wary and careful of slick surfaces. Looking down the road, I was mentally and physically prepared for a future double-the-length commute, and in fact I applauded a challenge, primarily because of cycling on a flat, car-free path with Lake Champlain views.

"Furloughed" in March, I busied myself with old and new home tasks and regularly checked in with my mother's household. I exchanged regular commuting miles for bicycle challenges to keep the wheels turning - a savior in an upside down year: Burlington Historical signs, Visit Little Free Libraries, visit Burlington Parks, and my annual Coffeeneuring Challenge. 

2020 was also full of wrenching, getting to projects earlier than anticipated. In April I upgraded my Clementine, swapping handle bars and tires, and a bit later dismantled the Trek Antelope, plus swapped the Peugeot commuter's bars for a more swept back version.

Along with new home sewing projects, I took a deep dive into more creative bikey things. I researched and figured out how to repair old panniers, added a custom bar bag to the Dahon, sewed 3 stem bags, and had fun with a pink reflective vest.

Bicycles and the freedom they provide took on special meaning in a socially distant, brave new world. I was thankful to ride the folding bike for transportation and exercise - or any bike at all - due to a thumb injury, but the Dahon's grip shifters allowed me carefree miles. After a wonderful staycation, quite unexpectedly, I purchased my first hardtail mountain bike, a Trek Marlin 7, in September. The bike added a new dimension to fall foliage rides and avoiding crowded MUPs: meandering in nearby wooded trails alone or with my new dirt-loving, live-in buddy. I'm dreaming of future adventures aboard the Trek. It's bizarre (fortuitous?) that I replaced one Trek bicycle with another in the same year! I have the desire to keep on trucking throughout a Vermont winter - even without a regular commute - recently adding studded shoes on my Peugeot St. Laurent.

For so many, 2020 has been tough, We're fortunate to have secure housing and plenty of food. But it has taught us to be humble, to be giving, and be thankful. Though I'm still seeking a safe employment situation, learning and creativity has been my salvation on top of regular cycling. I've completed an intro to Excel class and have started a personal project, tailored to track my bicycle mileage and specific statistics. 

And, somewhere amidst all the life changes, I almost overlooked two milestones: I've been blogging for 10 years and surpassed 3000+ riding miles in 2020. 

Be well friends.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

More DIY Stem Bags, Get Creative!

I recently completed one of the most satisfying projects of 2020 - three stem bags fashioned from favorite fabrics/recycled gear. I used's Make Your On Stem Bag tutorial, which allowed me to concentrate more on creativity/fabric choice and less on functional design. This venture rivals the previous project, designing a useful Dahon handle bar bag, for most interesting 2020 craft. 

Drawstrings and cord locks purposely don't match - I used up my stash of items.
The pattern was designed for thicker, stiffer outer layer material to hold it's shape, but because I wanted to reuse jacket material (rust colored fabric) and former backpack material (purple material), I sandwiched pre-cut bubble-wrapped envelope packaging between layers to get desired stiffness. It worked really well.

You can also add personal flair - mine included re-using the star ribbon which formerly bookended the jacket zipper. The tutorial has a wonderful comments section, complete with photos and other suggestions.

Astute viewers will notice the right hand bag's straps both attach to the bar. I will figure out if it makes sense for both stem mounted straps to overlap each other.
It is helpful (but not necessary) to include lighter colored lining fabric. I had leftover white ripstop nylon from a previous tent repair.

Standard pattern holds a regular-sized water bottle.
I created a third bag for my mountain bike adventure buddy to match his bicycle.

Though not a difficult project, there were many steps with small pieces. But the process allows for alterations, piecing different colors if desired, and adjusting for wider or longer stem bag. What a great way to re-purpose outdoor gear - future stem bags are definitely on the agenda!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Dedicated Winter Bike 2.0

A dusting of snow has already coated our cycling paths. It has melted, but it's got me thinking about riding throughout the winter again because, at some point, snow will be here to stay - if we're lucky and I hope we are - it also means enough coverage to ski in local parks.

After getting rid of a too small Trek Antelope earlier in 2020 that served for two years as a practice winter bike, (never tried studded tires) I'm ready - I think - for the next step.

I've spent some time pondering exactly what that next bike should be: Do I want a lean maintenance-free machine, converting my step-through Peugeot into a 365 Bike and use currently owned 26" studded tires? I also have an extra wheelset, which means I could swap wheels when needed, though in reality the hassle wouldn't be worth it. Or, I could purchase a cheap single speed fat bike - I've always loved the comfort of cushiony 4" tires. But the coolest thing ever - to be honest I'm dreaming big - would be a 20" fatter tired bike like the Velo Orange Neutrino. which might cone in handy for multimodal commuting, using our local bus service. 

After all my internal ramblings, I've decided to slap the studded tires on the Peugeot St. Laurent and try it out for the snow season. If that's successful, then eventually I might have Old Spokes Home convert the bike into a 365 bike - the model is a perfect candidate.

Dedicating the Peugeot to winter duty still allows a range of perfectly suitable bikes for the rest of the year: skinny-tired fender-less Peugeot UO 14 for fair weather rides, Dahon Boardwalk, and with safe bike parking, the Rivendell Clem could also work. All are unique bicycles that would be efficient commuters (plus give me a variety of riding styles).

I think I answered my own question.

After another snowfall that has lingered for days, I was ready to get out there. Today I mounted the studded tires and rode in more fresh snow that started the moment I left home and continued for the entire 8 miles I was outside! To be honest, it's helpful that I primarily ride on flat trails.

I had so much fun. I can do this!  

Le Peug with studded tires. I removed the front basket for better visibility while using a front mounted light, and sporting an older set of small panniers.