Saturday, January 21, 2017

Motivation for Longer Winter Rides - Coffee Outside and Handwarmers

Coffee Outside Burlington at the waterfront skate park.
I made an error when I stated, "I ride for transportation only, in the winter." which, as it turns out, wasn't exactly true. On special occasions I ride for healing, for health, for sunshiny days that lend comfort, and perhaps squeeze in an errand or two along the way. On this particular early Friday morning in January it was by pure coincidence that I could even attend, but I made a thermos of chai, bundled up, and rolled down to the waterfront to meet up for the first time with the Coffee Outside crew.

The Burlington Coffee Outside event has been going on for nearly a year, sponsored by local roaster Brio, who offered their beans to brew in your own coffee toys - and indeed a couple stoves were hissing as I joined the group - but thermoses were also in abundance, should one want to avoid brewing in 25F and sip a hassle-free cup of joe.

I was surprised that 15 people showed up, considering the temperatures, but as I'm learning there are many hardy riders and new folks moving to our region all the time. I met Joy and Sammy, avid cyclists who completed the Tour Divide and decided to move from Massachusetts so Sammy would be closer to Montreal's track cycling scene. Most of the avid local riders were in attendance - I'm thankful these regulars also organize the Solstice Ride and are engaged in advocacy.

After an hour my feet were growing cold so I departed and continued northward along the bike path. I had purposely stuffed hand warmers inside my mittens and I was pleased that year-old chemical reaction still worked after buying a whole box the previous winter, which turned out surprisingly mild.

A few miles later blood pumped into my feet and I took a break on the Winooski River Bridge, a favorite, peaceful and often therapeutic spot. I wished my husband was beside me, staring at icy Lake Champlain, but I understand if you are unconditioned to cold weather cycling then leisurely winter rides sound painful and appealing. I had offered to go for a long walk instead, but we each grieve and find comfort in our own ways to get through tough times. For me that's obviously on a bike, so I pedaled beyond the bridge, stopping for errands en route, arriving home spiritually clear-headed and physically satiated, ready for a difficult afternoon and weekend.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Bicycle Chimes, Round Two

Organizing our spare bicycle parts boxes lately, I stumbled upon two worn chain rings that should've been recycled long ago plus one freewheel lock ring, which is pretty useless these days as it's easier to replace the whole assembly, and at any rate I wonder if anyone replaces separate cogs now or if it's even possible? Thanks to my husband - collector of parts and unpatched tubes (who else does that?) - I now had an ensemble of rings, wire, springs from my exploded kickstand and leftover beads from a previously decorated porcelain star.

Time to be creative! I'd always adored the chimes our son had once put together, so I set about, over the course of two wine-inspired evenings, twisting, snipping, shaping, and testing the metal and beads into a tinkling mobile.

I think it turned out pretty well.

Both mobiles now grace our front porch. We hear their lovely music on windy days.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Egads, That's Blinding!

It's common to encounter a couple of other cyclists as I pedal home, especially on the two segregated paths that make my route extraordinary - I hardly ride with automobiles for 5-miles. In the darkness we know ahead of time when a cyclist approaches as we all use powerful headlights and indeed it is a necessity to illuminate the unlit, mostly wooded paths. We are courteous, acknowledge each other, slow to allow one at a time to cross the narrow bridges, and always keeping to the right side when passing, especially because with bright lights, it's difficult to gauge exactly where each rider is positioned, erring on the side of caution.

And so, I was rather bewildered when an oncoming rider yelled, "Egads that's blinding!" It took a split second for his comment to register because, from the tone of his voice, he wasn't joking around. He was angry! Normally, if I get comments at all, they are complimentary, something to the effect of "that's a nice bright light" or "cool light", so this man's comment took me be surprise. My initial reaction was to say, "Sorry!" and a split second later mumbled, "But I need to see!" which by then, because of distance probably fell on deaf ears.

For the next quarter mile I relived the confrontation, mulling over my response and the ire of the other rider. I am a friendly rider, and love to communicate so thus my quick apologetic and non-threatening comeback. But, we all use similar lights - my light is no brighter than anyone else's and I purposely use the second to brightest setting, about 350 lumens, the minimum light for the dark pathways. I also aim the beam approximately 15 feet ahead, a perfect distance for the speed I travel. It's difficult to tell what was going through the other rider's mind. Mixed terrain could have played a factor, my light momentarily blinding him, causing him to blurt out. But much like driving at night, one must be cautious and not stare directly at oncoming headlights. In hindsight, I shouldn't have responded at all and perhaps the guy was having a bad day.

Have you encountered a similar scenario? Are there unwritten rules, or certain etiquette for passing each other in the dark?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Po Campo Pilsen Bungee - a Purse with Purposeful Utility?

Last summer while I was online, ordering bike parts, other items for sale appeared on-screen, one of which was a deeply discounted Po Campo Pilsen Bungee handbag. I admit, I'm a sucker for a bargain. Seeking a new purse anyway, and enamored with Po Campo's style and utility - and yes, I presume it was targeted advertising because I've browsed the Po Campo website a number of times - I easily pressed the "add to my shopping cart" button and a packaged arrived a few days later.

This is not a review per se, but more an overview because as it turns out Po Campo has dropped this style from their offerings and I think I understand why. But firstly, I am impressed with the bag's quality. The fabric is heavy cotton. The strap is versatile and can be extended to use the purse cross-body style if desired. The purse sits flat - probably its best feature - and the zipper is well made and easily accessed. The interior has a few small organizer pouches and zippered compartment - perfect place to hold my cell phone. As a purse, this is a good replacement for this bag which I have retired.

Po Campo's bags often come with stylish-looking attachments to secure the bag to handle bar or rack, to make it simple for quick trips around town for stylish women on the go. For the Pilsen Bungee style, silver colored buckles connected to strong elastic cord are easily unhooked and wrapped around rack tubing, then re-attached to provided D-rings. In general the system works well, but the stretchy cord and the manner of securing is not fool-proof. The bag shifts around on rough terrain; once sliding off my front rack. The bag is clearly meant for short trips, and for use only on top of a platform rack. Because of these proprietary set ups, I believe this is why Po Campo no longer carries this model. It is not as versatile as their other styles, which hook to handlebars - a safer solution for any cyclist with or without a rack.

For my purposes, the Pilsen Bungee is primarily my purse, so I mostly stuff it inside my Blackburn Central Shoppers pannier. But on occasion, when I run errands on the way home from work and stow additional items inside my pannier, also strapping a paper shopping bag beneath my spare bungee cord on the rear rack, I shift the purse to my front rack. This is when the Pilsen Bungee shines. To have the flexibility to mount the bag in another location, even though it may not be totally secure, is a wonderful feature. At any rate, I can keep my eye on my purse to make sure it stays in place for the short ride home.

After several uses, I replaced the bungee attachment with strong ribbon, because I felt the elastic cord was the bag's primary weakness. It does seem to improve the bag's security. At any rate, I can alter this feature, should I want a different coordinating ribbon color or switch back to elastic in the future.

After not planning on buying a new purse, then stumbling on a bargain, I'm satisfied with Po Campo's Pilsen Bungee. After all, every woman should treat herself to a new handbag every now and then.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Rewind

2016 was a spectacular year of many firsts. From a record number of bike overnights to a new bicycle purchase to B&B touring in Canada, it gives me great pleasure, emotionally and physically, to expand and explore this bike universe, one singular moment at a time.

At 54 years old, let it be said that my thoughts on cycling and motivation are still evolving, and have been affected by recent changes: the rise of winter commuters, broad acceptance of cargo bikes, fat bike craze, improved infrastructure, inexpensive and better light systems, and increasing number of local social events. And, of course, there is the impact of the Internet, not only for the spread of information but also for purchasing, which - for better or worse for LBS - opens up a world of choices and options to accessorize, maintain, and/or buy a bicycle. So, with that said, here's my recap of 2016.

In January and February I surprised myself by periodically commuting during an unusually mild and snow-free winter. I also repaired much loved panniers and re-used bicycle tubes for an interesting do-it-yourself project plus continued my annual ode to bike bloggers, now in it's 4th edition.

During March and April I completed the Errandonnee, started experimenting with my first, nicer poncho in place of typical rain gear, and got caught in an April snow shower. I also bought my first non-tour type pannier, which has fulfilled my needs, though I had to repair the bag later in the year. I completed my first intentional spin during my lunch hour.

In May, after much research, I ordered a Rivendell Clementine, my first new bike in thirty years. I am still getting to know this bicycle so expect to hear more in the coming year.

Adele and I started our September trip with a great cup of coffee.
In June I began the first of a series of four (one for each summer month, a record for me) bike overnight/adventures, two of which included staying in B&Bs (thanks Adele, for another first!): 4-days in Canada, 3-ferry tour,  Grand Isle State Park, and Salaberry de Valleyfield with Adele.

Are you getting sick of me saying "first"? 

View from Day Mountain with The Cranberry Isles in the distance, Acadia National Park.
In July we explored more of Acadia National Park's carriage roads plus two trails in Portland, Maine. We spent more time as a family at our camp, which allowed me the wonderful opportunity to experience what I consider as the ultimate bike commute.

Clementine and Boda Boda.
In August, at about the same time as my Clementine arrived and I installed fenders and a rack, I had an opportunity to try my very first cargo bike and couldn't help comparing the two.  As both bicycles used platform pedals, in September I removed toe clips on my commuter bike and have been happy ever since. Also of note, our youngest son, who gained confidence after taking a bike mechanics class, began fashioning an old mountain bike into a single speed. It's nice to see one of our children taking to cycling and exploration.

Coffeeneuring #7, Battery Park.
The autumn months were a whirlwind of Coffeeneuring adventures, experimenting with a lightweight folding chair, Girls Ride Out fun rides, exploring the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail with my husband, attending fat bike demo day, and, to come full circle, transitioning back to riding in colder weather. And somehow, I managed to surpass the 3,000 mile mark for the year.

Having a year of firsts has broadened my bike horizons. I now own two different helmets (another first), one with less ventilation for the colder time of year. I learned that someday, I would like to have a cargo bike to share with our family, and that winter commuting is only a process, and not a weird transport option. Though 2016 is nearly behind me, the year's events felt like the beginning of something very exciting, an awakening of sorts, and so I look forward to the events that unfold in the new year.