Monday, February 12, 2024

Ideas for 2024


2024 plans should rock, another year filled with travel, cycling, and visits with family. 

  • I'm recovering from an accident - breaking ribs (falling down stairs - ugh) - but I'm confident I'll be healed in time for a mid-March excursion to the Philly Bike Expo, and if the weather is agreeable, riding on Philly's trail system. 3 weeks out, I'm feeling much better, walking a bit, riding on an indoor trainer, and lately taking it easy on a nearby rail trail on my Dahon. It feels like spring in Vermont so that's aided my recovery, allowing some fresh air. 
  • In the meantime, I'm creating a stem bag and an under rack pouch on Jack the Bike Rack, moved from Miss Rachel to the Specialized Hard Rock where it fits better. The pouch will allow extra storage for smaller items like my sleeping pad and liner, without risk of items accidentally coming loose on rougher rail trails (it happened on the Erie Canal adventure) while my sleeping quilt is secured on top.
  • I continue to dabble with Gouache painting, exploring techniques. I love bright colors and this medium lends itself well with bold, opaque paint. I'll post images on Instagram: @annie.bikes
  • The Bassi Rachel will get a Soma front rack. The Jack the Bike Rack wasn't an ideal companion - sat too high, obstructing vision - so I'm opting for a double rack and panniers setup on this gem. I'll add fenders to the Hard Rock to finish off its capabilities as a touring machine. 
  • Touring ideas (take two) include a loop connecting the Cross Vermont Trail and the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, doable from home! Both trails sustained significant damage from 2023 floodwaters but should be in good shape this year - fingers crossed. It's an opportunity to ride varied terrain, crossing the width of Vermont twice. I plan to load up the Hard Rock and see how it handles its inaugural tour, likely in September.
  • Additional vacation plans. In June I'll visit our eldest son in Colorado. He and his girlfriend will show me Fort Collins's bike trail network. 

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Aesthetics vs Practicality - Frame Bags and their Worth

The single frame bag in my possession, and it's a tight fit. I don't love it, but wallet and lock fits. I carry extra water in the stem bag.

Frame bags were created to allow carrying capacity in all shapes of mountain bike frames. And no wonder! With unique angles, and racks unable to withstand loads on uneven terrain, frame, seat and bar bags meant camping and touring on rough terrain was doable. Among other long distance events, it certainly enabled participants to ride the Tour Divide.

Packing light, Otlieb setup. Carrying the bare essentials in three compartments. Not bad if you can be comfortable in stable weather.

The bike bag industry was born! The big name brands capitalized on this market, but also lots of small makers created fun prints, colorways, and made (still do) customized frame bags. Panniers seemingly fell out of favor, taking a backseat to handlebar bags, frame bag, seat post bags, fork bags, gas tank and stem bags. Phew! Along with that, travelers sought out minimal camping equipment. Hammocks, lightweight sleeping bags and bivvy bags became popular.

Going stylish with matchy, matchy bags from Outer Shell.


Over the top. They look cute, though.

While handy compartments allow ease of access to munchies, food, and electronics if that's your thing, how do you grab a water bottle, or better yet, keep items dry? I'll never understand how camping with many small compartments makes sense, when ducking into a tent during a sudden rain storm. How can one quicky extract items or unlace the bags? I'm skeptical that the bags are completely waterproof. In addition, how do you ensure safety when dashing into a grocery store? There are a lot of zippers tempting thieves... 

I'm happy to see that panniers are making a comeback on mountain bikes. Four panniers has always been the best use of space, and I admit some of those extras, like a top tube or stem bag are brilliant additions, and the added bonus is they can be transferred to other bikes. However, personally I can't see using a frame bag for touring. But isn't it wonderful to have so many choices?

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Riding in Winter - Reset the Mindset

Slow down, be safe, and if you live in northern latitudes, boost vitamin D.


Winter riding conditions in Vermont were waylaid by a month, something that I have mixed feelings about. Dry, warmer temperatures means it's easier to navigate with lights during after work rides. (I rode the Dahon a lot in December.) I venture further and ride multiple routes, and feel safer on dirt paths and trails. For as long as I can. 

On the other hand, frequent snow storms and plummeting temperatures within a week is a shock, and a different mindset takes over. Studded tires go on; snow goggles, bar mitts, and down parka come out; path choices dwindle, and I ride less in the dark, preferring weekend daylight and once a week rides to the office for better visibility. 

Staying warm is less of an issue because of previous years testing my cold weather stamina and figuring out appropriate gear. It didn't take long to adapt to riding on snow either, quickly reminded to lower gearing, loosen grip on the bars, and avoid erratic turns. (Kind of like a metaphor for life: sometimes you need to slow down but keep moving!) 

A destination is also a necessity, preferably at least a 10 mile loop, which seems to be the magic distance for enough exercise. 

Upon reflection, while my biking body prefers warmer temperatures, cold is more seasonable and allows me also to cross-country ski. Plus, sunset is nearly 5pm!

Saturday, December 30, 2023

2023 Rewind

2023 was the year that, finally, felt normal again. But, a new normal, which, if I've learned anything from the pandemic, it's easier to adapt when things go sideways. I still went on vacation - two in fact - and a couple overnights, but they weren't without hiccups, that were replaced with equally fun plans.

2023 Highlights

With a warmer winter, January and February was all about cruising at night on studded tires, and equally riding the Dahon on dry paths, while dreaming of spring adventures.

I concentrated on major upgrades to the Dahon in March, and April/May were a flurry of getting the Rachel ready and riding the Erie Canal Trail!

My husband and I made an effort to ride different trails in both Vermont and Canada, because July's record flooding wiped out sections of the newly opened cross Vermont's Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, canceling that planned weeklong July cycling vacation. We hope repairs are made in time for a 2024 second attempt.

In August, I drove to the Northeast Kingdom to ride my favorite mountain bike trails. While there, our bike mechanic son let me know a prized Specialized Hard Rock was available. You bet I said "yes"!



September's vacation turned out to be a perfect assortment of riding in Canada with a friend, then turning towards New Hampshire and the Atlantic Coast. Again, we pivoted in one day, initially planning to ride several Pennsylvania rail trails, but the weather was atrocious south of Vermont. It's always worthwhile to have alternative ideas.

In the autumn, because it's my favorite time of year, I ride more often, completing the Coffeeneuring Challenge, enjoying foliage rides, and adventures with friends.

On the creative front, I sewed a monster tote bagrepurposed a purple bag, and started painting again.

As 2023 comes to a close, I'm proud that I followed through with 2023 intentions. I also proved that my 61 years old body is still capable of hauling camping gear on longer bike tours, and partly because of that Erie Canal adventure, I surpassed an annual mileage milestone, breaking the 4K barrier (~4150).

Friday, December 22, 2023

Gratitude

As we roll into the holiday season, I can't do what I do without the support of those around me. To my gracious, loving, helpful, and supportive husband, thank you for all you do to keep our lives in balance, for having coffee ready every morning to prop my eyelids open and get out the door to help support my mom in her home. I'm thankful for both sons, the eldest flying home for a weekend to celebrate his dad's birthday, the younger for his patience and bicycle knowhow, for upgrading my fleet, not laughing when I ask stupid questions, for slowing down when we ride together. For the beauty around our home, river view, two bike paths, wildlife, spotting deer on night rides, eagles and herons, turtles butting against our home that we gently guide on a different path, and the colorful diversion that I'm finding within myself, exploring painting again. The role that the bicycle plays in my happiness is another constant, a steadfast companion that keeps me on even ground - to you I'm eternally grateful.