Sunday, February 25, 2018

Revamping a Vermont Vagabond Mini Messenger Bag

spice up a messenger bag
Add floral motif for a little pizzazz, including color coordinated zipper pull.
Introducing: a revamped Vermont Vagabond mini messenger bag!

I'd tucked away this little find from a consignment shop a couple years ago, knowing I'd refurbish it someday. Vermont Vagabond was a local company that was around about 20 years ago, but sadly is no longer. They made well-constructed but simple items from cordura material and YKK zippers (try finding that brand of zipper now-a-days!) My husband and I still own Vermont Vagabond's small duffel bags that are handy and will probably last our lifetime.

The procedure was simple: decide on fabric to cover the light grey, dingy flap, allot time, and get to work hand-stitching the material. I also machine sewed a button hole to pull the buckle through but in the end reinforced each side with needle and thread.

A handy small messenger bag
My 8" tablet easily stows inside the main compartment or rear slot.
What made this bag attractive was it's smaller size, lightweight material, and offered only a few organizer pockets compared with what I felt was the over-the-top Timbuk2 bag.

 It was also fun to finally apply a coffeeneuring patch that I collected a while ago.

simple compartments are easier
 Just a few pockets for essentials.

The interior has a singular zipper compartment and I filled it with a pre-cut piece of closed-cell foam (saved from packing material) to lend structure to the bag.

There's plenty of extra space for items as the bottom extends to approximately 3". There is also a couple of interior slots for more storage. Plus, there's always the exterior zippered flap.

This little gem is a perfect replacement for the Timbuk2 bag that I got rid of a year ago. I can toss the floral bag over my shoulder, wear it cross body with the adjustable strap, stuff it inside my commuter pannier, or by adding simple hook and loop fasteners (like the previously mentioned Timbuk2) can double as a handle bar bag. And, there's nothing like displaying my love for coffee!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Curious about the Little Dahon 6-speed Boardwalk

The Dahon Boardwalk, circa 2003, folded as small as possible.
In the process of transferring bicycles from our garage to a porch for winter storage, I brought the Dahon into the kitchen, and decided to investigate how this new-to-me folder really operates (previous to riding the Minuteman Bikeway in January).  

There were many concerns: to learn how the bicycle folds, how to store the bike in the provided bag, to wipe down and lubricate key parts, and in general to assess any potential problems I should address before a springtime getaway, and relying on the Dahon as primary transportation. Over the years I've found that by close inspection, running a rag over each part, twisting handlebars, spinning wheels, wiggling fenders and racks, squeezing brake levers, etc. is a task worth doing. If I feel confident the bike operates well, I can concentrate on other aspects of the journey.

I learned that the Dahon's right pedal folds neatly, but the left pedal does not fold at all, part of the original set up. And while the metal fenders might benefit, weight-wise, from plastic construction, I like the structural integrity of a stiffer fender. Like the fender, the rear rack seems well built and sturdy, ready to accommodate a load bungeed to it's framework. There is a lot to like about this older Dahon: it seems well-built, wheels are true with plenty of spokes, and has zippy 1.5" tires.

Concerns: The right brake lever is sticky - I will replace cable and housing. Current grips are inadequate and hurt my hands on longer rides - I have ergo grips on hand, ready to swap out which should create pain-free support. I'm unsure whether current tires will hold up much longer. There are minute cracks in the rubber, but they might be fine for another year. I'll decide what to do, closer to my spring adventure. I've already started to address the lack of braze-ons for a water bottle rack, plus I've picked up a short duffel bag that should strap on the rear rack without hitting my heels or flop dangerously on each side, a definite concern with folding bikes. I also have a handlebar bag that already has proven to function beautifully on the Dahon and has versatility to be a shoulder bag.

Inside the black soft-sided case I found the above documentation. It's funny to note that my model partially resembles the one on the cover.

Here's mine.

And, considering the funky descriptions, I didn't really know whether all the features applied to my model. However, I was able to fold up the large case into a barrel shape that could attach to either seat, handlebars, or wear as a fanny pack. This feature can be handy should I travel with bike folded and stowed in the bag then unpacked and ridden to a destination with the ability to carry the bag as a tiny package.

With the bicycle folded and stored inside the bag, I noted two important things: the bike weighs approximately 31 lbs. and is very awkward to lug in the folded position, bag or not! Also, there are backpack straps attached to the bag, but I couldn't imagine carrying this ungainly, rib-poking bicycle very far...Indeed, probably the best solution is to unfold the bike and wheel it around as much as possible.

Understanding the Dahon's abilities and limitations has allowed me to readjust my expectations regarding travel with a folding bicycle. As with any bicycle set-up, there are pros and cons. Knowing the specifics ahead of time should lend a positive spin on any adventure.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Fat Biking, Because I Can

I took advantage of another Fat Bike Demo Day at Catamount Family Center. This time around our two boys and I rolled on snowy trails - a pleasant and fun way to spend an hour in the great Vermont outdoors!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Bike Blog Love - 6th Edition

There's talk in the bike blogging world that our numbers are dwindling. It may be true. We've all seen blogs fold because, well, life changes. Others are dormant, their authors have jumped onto less intensive platforms like Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook for instant connection and rarely update their blog. A few bike blogs remain though, so folks still enjoy the lengthy process of scribbling, er typing their thoughts. I've cut back on frequency, but tell a tale when the mood strikes. I suppose we get our communication in whatever dose works for us.

"The times, they are a changing."

When I set out to choose a new collection of blogs to celebrate, I realized that I'd fallen in a rut myself, and hadn't sought out any new blogs in the past year to vary my reading. This time I intentionally made new connections through blog links or mentions in online forums. I'm sharing several current standbys and some new-to-me blogs. On that note, I've also looked further abroad - across the pond - for some refreshing, new content.

Bikes For The Rest Of Us

This blog speaks to me. It's not a chronicle of biking life, but a resource of utilitarian bicycles. If a new transportation bike hits the market, and is worth mentioning, the author crafts a very useful rundown, complete with photos and other pertinent information.


Bikelovejones has been around for a long time though I'm a fairly new convert. I identify with her bike aesthetic: riding 1980's mountain bikes for transportation. Once a racer and bike mechanic, Beth is a musician and refurbishes bicycles for a refugee resettlement program. Fatigued with Crohn's disease, Beth has good and bad days. but she strives for the bright side, appreciating the healing power of a bike ride.

CLR Effect

Formally the Claremont Cyclist, I've reconnected with this blogger from California. His photography and writing is often poetic. He also loves bicycle history.

Town Mouse

Town Mouse has been a staple on my side bar for sometime. She is a humorous writer, loves gardening, and gets over her head in bicycle advocacy, residing in Scotland. She is the first to admit she is a fumble fingers bike mechanic, putting off maintenance until the last minute.

Tootlepedal's Blog

Also Scottish, Tom is an avid cyclist, outdoor lover and photographer. He is a born storyteller, enchanting readers with his unique perspective on walks and bike rides. Wildlife flocks to his bird feeders.


An east coast Scotland fat bike rider who creates nice videos.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Winter Commutes - I'm Back!

Overlook Park has bike repair tools
Snow piles at Overlook Park, South Burlington.
A weekend road ride in 45F fueled the hunger for getting back into riding to work. Bike paths still needed to dry out, but pavement was fine, which fired me up to look at alternate, navigable routes.

Lake Champlain view from Overlook Park
Lake Champlain vista, Overlook Park, South Burlington.
My normal route encompasses two bike paths, but thinking outside the box to include neighborhoods and quiet streets could still make for a pleasant ride. After reconnaissance by foot and bus, I formed a workable plan.

what I carry on bike commutes
Staying organized is key. to getting back into  winter commuting, especially with the extra clothing required to stay warm.
I've ridden two days so far this week, a brisk 10F ride and today in 15-35F, linking one path (walking a few short icy spots) and mostly on road. It will take me a while to get back in the groove. I forgot to wear earrings one day and I can't locate my normal cable lock, though a purple chain lock is adequate for my relatively safe workplace outdoor parking.

I know I've come full circle when I arrive home, smiling, and unpack my pannier onto our entryway. floor, and begin the process of putting away my belongings.

After six weeks without bike commuting, I'm thrilled to be back on two wheels. And only time will tell - either that or the furry guy emerging from his burrow tomorrow - as to how often rides happen.