Monday, November 30, 2015

Riding in the Cold with Moonlight for Company

A star-filled sky is a constant companion on my commutes at 5:15 pm. After three weeks of riding in darkness, I've quickly grown accustomed to and, in fact, prefer riding in near blackness, bike path lit only by my amazing bike light.

I am content, embracing the night, which was wholly unexpected. How had I come to this?

My comfort may stem from a heightened sense of smell and solitude. Fallen leaves emit an earthy aroma and as corny as it sounds, I like this connection to my surroundings. And now that it's dark, most of the after work walkers and joggers are not present. It's just me and 2-3 other hardy riders, all using powerful headlights so when we pass, we momentarily blind each other, but then I'm left again in solitude. A quiet I've grown to love.

The November full moon seemed to come on quickly. One evening I noticed a waxing moon and then suddenly - or so it seemed - a golden, glowing moon rested just above the horizon, casting shadows in the trees, highlighting a few leaves clinging to branches. The stragglers were tenacious, unaware they should be on the ground with their brothers.

I may not see the next full moon aboard my bike, but for now, I'm content with whatever mother nature decides to bestow upon us. I take one day at a time and bask in each frosty, delicious ride homeward.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

DIY Leopard Print Helmet

The finished product, all done up with leopard print duct tape!
I fell in love with a stylish leopard print helmet first spotted on Eleanor's bike shop many years ago. I was tired of my Bell helmet and very disappointed also that after only three years, the bright, highly visible yellow color had drastically faded - in some places it was nearly white. I could have replaced the helmet altogether, however, it was an opportunity to be creative, the helmet should have a little life left, and I still enjoyed the model, especially the rear bracket, a feature which most helmets do not have, providing an extra place to clip a taillight. 

An Xacto knife was the perfect tool to cut duct tape.
I perused the Internet, searching for what others have created and was inspired to use duct tape. It seemed like an inexpensive solution in lieu of sewing a covering. Some folks had torn the shell off before taping, but I felt that would compromise the helmet. I also learned that solid duct tape shows the edges and highlights mistakes - it is a shiny material - so I searched in a couple stores, knowing that locating a patterned tape would be the best solution, when I stumbled on leopard print tape at our local hardware store. It was then that I became excited about recreating the helmet I was fond of at Eleanors.

I removed the visor, rear bracket, and any stickers then cleaned the shell with soap and water. I placed one strip of duct tape at a time, carefully cutting around the vent holes as I went, starting in the back of the helmet so my first practice attempts wouldn't show much. However, it was relatively easy, only requiring a little patience. I was careful to completely cover the yellow. and at any rate, should I make a mistake I could always tear off the tape and start with a fresh piece.

Almost there, just the rim to go.
Total time, about two hours.
Voila! Snap on the visor and re-attach the light bracket and the project is finished. I'm pleased with how the revitalized helmet looks. It's barely noticeable that it was created with tape, a testament to patient cutting plus the pattern lends itself to seamlessly blending in with visor and foam under layer. I plan to replace the white reflective stickers so I will be visible to road users.

So with half a roll of leopard tape left, what's a girl going to do? Hmmm, I have another idea...

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Forgetting the Camera Enhances a Ladies' Ride

I always tote my camera along, for documentation for blog posts, except however, for one evening of Girls Ride Out. 30-40 women amassed in Battery Park for the start. Ladies were affixing strings of lights on bikes when organizer Christine Hill pulls up, toting a trailer with massive speakers, promising booming tunes for this second event. I reached into my baggage for my camera, but instead realized I'd inadvertently left it behind, which turned out to be blessing in disguise. Carefree, I had great fun, rolling along with these women on a 60F dark night.

My favorite part was riding through the parking garage
and laughing my head off.

The video below says it all, put together by Christine Hill. She's doing awesome work, uniting Old Spokes Home and Bike Recycle into one bike-loving community.

Girls Ride Out was last night and we had a blast. Props to City Market for letting us have an impromptu bike light rave in your bike parking area.
Posted by The Old Spokes Home on Friday, November 6, 2015

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Light & Motion Urban 500 Lights Up My Commute

It's difficult to depict the true lighting capabilities of the Urban 500,
but at least the photo shows the unlit, forested bike path
which I ride on for 3 of my 5 miles.
I needed a decent bike light if I was serious about commuting this year in November and possibly into December. I hadn't meant to wait until the last week before Daylight Savings Time ended before I chose a light or, admittedly, even researched a few models, but somehow I had procrastinated until the last moment.

I think I had somehow expected that once November rolled around the temperature would plummet, the rains would set in, and I would contend with icy streets and darkness, two dangerous conditions that would mean the end of bike commuting for the year. But I had to remind myself that one of the perks of switching jobs last winter afforded me the opportunity to extend commuting as late into autumn as I felt comfortable riding.

An example of Light & Motion Urban 500 with orange side lights.
As a coworker noted, the case color is Bianchi green.
It could have been daunting research, but as time was of the essence I perused a local outdoor shop's website first for ideas as a means of limiting my choices. I loved Light & Motion's simple styling and color selection, but I also knew the NiteRider brand would make an excellent choice. My husband has a NiteRider and the beam it casts on unlit bike paths is exceptional. There are many other brands that would be adequate but I refused to get bogged down with too many choices. I read Amazon's reviews of Light & Motion's Urban series, decided on at least 500 lumens brightness, confirmed this choice at the local shop on Friday, went home and thought about it overnight and made my purchase locally on Saturday. As simple as that.

Since I store my bicycle at my workplace outside, easily connecting and removing the light was critical. A beam that would illuminate unlit bike paths was another prerequisite.

After riding for two weeks, I've discovered other handy features: battery charge indicator is green when fully charged, orange when half charged, and red when it needs to be plugged into a USB port. I haven't encountered the flashing red indicator, and don't plan to, as this apparently means only a few minutes of light is left before plunging yourself into darkness. An orange light glows laterally on the side of the case, casting light on the handle bars, handy for finding my bell and thumbshifters. Also, the light pivots 365 degrees, allowing me to fine tune the direction of light. It has a bungee-type strap that securely attaches to handle bars. The light will not shift when riding over bumps.

The best thing is, I can light up bike paths in woodlands in complete darkness on the lesser setting (225 lumens). What a revelation! The beam casts 20 feet into the woods on either side of the path making me feel secure. I observed a wild bunny zigzagging on the path's edge before finally darting into the forest. If I aim the beam approximately 15-20 feet ahead, it accommodates my blazing (ha!) 10 mph speeds. Interestingly, I've yet to utilize the brightest setting, but I know it's there should I need it. Having an adequate lighting system means cars see me and I finally feel liberated, joining the masses of nighttime commuters as we extend our riding season.

I'm loving the Light and Motion Urban 500.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Coffeeneuring 2015 - Seventh Cup on a Sandy Beach

Bike parking with a view. 
I'm lucky that this autumn's weather has been spectacular, ensuring that I finished all Coffee Shop Without Walls brew ups with Lake Views, in grand style. These experiences could have been brutal, get-em-over-quick frosty adventures. Instead, mother nature and a little ingenuity turned 7 outdoor bike rides into 7 wonderful adventures.

My bike is waiting in the sand, just off to the left of the photo.
Before each weekend rolled around, I checked out the forecast, determining whether I would reserve Saturday or Sunday for coffeeneuring. (I took advantage of one weekend where I brewed on both days.) If it mattered, I set aside the warmest time of day. For most outings I had two or three possible places in mind, that way I wouldn't be disappointed if one spot was too windy or cold. I kept pedaling and settled on a place that would provide a sheltered, and thus warm, comfortable spot to brew up a drink, which made all the difference.

Using a stick to prop up coffee filter in my oversize mug/pot.

A thick, rich espresso mocha.

My last brew spot turned out to be a perfect place on a lonely sandy beach where I could listen to the sound of the waves and stare across the lake. It's also a spot that's off the bicycling radar; I pushed my bike several yards down a leaf covered path to an area full of driftwood but with plenty of available sand where I easily tucked myself into a sheltered spot. 

I couldn't resist photographing the orange jacket on the person ahead of me, contrasting with the nearly
leafless trees on the waterfront path. Stick season, here we come!

Coffeeneuring 2015, done!

The Place: Secluded sandy beach in Burlington (and I'm not revealing where!)
Date: Saturday, November 7
Drink: Mocha
Observation, Bike Friendliness: It's wonderful to have the place all to myself. I'm glad I was able to sit on at least one sandy beach.
Total Miles: 14

Thursday, November 5, 2015

AnnieBikes Blog, Five Years Down the Road

It seems too good to be true, 835 posts later, this blog is five years old. I'm pleased that I've stuck with the blog's original intent. Below is an excerpt from my first post.

Welcome to my bike ramblings. I live and breathe bicycles—much to my family's dismay—so this is the reason for my blog.

I am 53 years old and I still love to ride my bike.

Writing has always been a sort of therapy. I journal while on cycling adventures and in recent years began editing a world trip cycling adventure. But through this blog I've also learned the importance of taking photos that tell a story. And through extension, to become comfortable photographing myself. While reading others' blogs I occasionally wanted to know what the author looked like and was thankful to be given a glimpse now and then. And so, I include a photo or two of myself in a post - a hurdle I once had to overcome - now a relatively easy task.

I am still amazed that I've written 835 little stories.

Some ideas come as a response to other bike blog authors posts, or musings while pedaling, or fixing up my own bicycles, or delving into fashion or upcycled bike bags. Often the thoughts come out of nowhere. Honestly, they just appear, but I must be doing something right because I'm still satisfied with scribbling in this blog.

I am not alone.

I never anticipated the value that bike bloggers would eventually contribute to my bike community. I've learned about tires, handlebars, even a kindly soul sent a pair of serviceable pedals, which I now use on my Mount Saint Helens. Readers have provided interesting solutions to my most vexing problems - I love that kind of camaraderie. We have so much to learn and teach each other.

During the last five years, I've realized the importance of bike overnights to my emotional well being. These adventures were not specifically inspired by blogging - I've always loved bike touring - but I really enjoy writing about my adventures afterwards. It amuses me that consistently these posts rank highly overall. It was never my motivation, of course, but if I've inspired someone else to try an overnight then I consider that a bonus.

Taking a break from writing is completely normal.

I've given up transcribing our world trip journal, and while it was interesting to reread a special part of my past, the effort was very time consuming. I still possess the paper editions, so if I never get back to that monumental task, I'm fine with that too. I've also learned to put blogging in perspective. Everyday life is more important.

Challenges are worthwhile.

Through the bike blogger universe, I've discovered little challenges like Chasing Mailbloxes' Errandoneering and Coffeenering outings. This year I adapted Endless Velo Love's idea and rode all 95 miles of Burlington's public streets (blogging it here). Sometimes you just gotta have goals to keep yourself motivated!

Where to next?

I am looking forward to more challenges in 2016, possibly riding all the streets in a neighboring city. Of course I will go on more bike overnights. It's what keeps the flames alive: writing and photographing and riding.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Coffeeneuring 2015 - Sixth Cup at the Earth Clock

Why do I coffeeneur? To keep the wheels turning, the mind stimulated (all the planning requires mental enterprise!), and to enjoy my surroundings. I started the challenge two years ago, visiting as many new coffee shops as I could, which has morphed into a more difficult but satisfying third year, brewing coffee or tea at scenic Lake Champlain vistas.

En route to the Earth Clock, I ride under the golden colored Linden trees. From a distance,
the tree shape reminds me of gumdrops. 

I live in beautiful Burlington, Vermont, situated on seven miles of Lake Champlain shoreline. The Coffeenering Challenge occurs during the height of autumn foliage. It's a perfect opportunity to experience three of my favorite things: riding along the shoreline, admiring the changing colors, and using the camp stove - an exciting mini bike adventure during my favorite time of year!

Coffeneuring roadblock: costumed revelers boarding a Halloween train.
Visiting the Earth Clock has been on my coffeeneuring agenda since the challenge began, but due to frequent lakeside winds and park location, I knew it would take the right circumstances for my stove to function, plus be able to relax and really enjoy the moment.

Halloween afternoon was pristine.

The earth clock was built several years ago on park land and the bike path runs between the stones and lake, providing not only expansive water views, but interesting views of pedestrians and cyclists passing by.

A 40-hour filming venture was in progress and I was momentarily asked to step aside.

And so I brewed my English tea and watched the world go by.

These stones have a commanding yet soothing presence which has as much to do with location as with the shape and placement of stones.

Solstice celebrations take place here and someday I would like to attend. 

The Place: Burlington Earth Clock
Date: Saturday, October 31.
Drink: Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Gold tea 
Observation, Bike Friendliness: It's a contemplative spot to enjoy the lake amidst beautiful granite stones. By far, this has been my favorite Coffee Shop Without Walls experience.
Total Miles: 8