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.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Outdoor Ventures Jacket - My New Favorite Garment

I've been looking for sometime for a longer length shoulder season jacket that would provide protection from the elements. I bought the Outdoor Ventures Women's coat two months ago and have been so pleased with it's features that it has been my go-to jacket ever since.

I purchased the purple color, which is a lovely dark plum rather than bright purple. The softshell material has a flecked texture with fused fleeced interior. The hood is roomy; zippered front zips to high protective collar. 

I purchased the drawstring waisted version - more for style rather than anything else. The fit is roomy enough to wear another fleece jacket underneath. Sleeves are plenty long to use while bike riding.

I love the double zipper and snap-front placket. The jacket is easy to wear on bike rides, and in conjunction with the rear split hem provides ample coverage, especially in windy inclement weather.

Two fleece-lined on-seam pockets are a great addition. 

The jacket is windproof and weather resistant. To test it's rain proof capabilities, I wore the coat in a steady rain. It leaked a little around the shoulder seams after an hour, but otherwise held up remarkably well. It was muddy but I sponged mopped the jacket clean. Tag says you can machine wash and line dry.

For a low cost, weather resistant, stylish coat - for walking, hiking, skiing, or cycling - the Outdoor Ventures jacket is great value.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Motivation During a Dark Season


I much prefer moving under my own power. With the experienced I've gained the past five years from winter bike commuting, I have the courage in a 2020 jobless pandemic to continue cycling as the days shorten. It helps to have an objective, of course, otherwise pedaling in 25 degree weather just for exercise is hardly a reason to bundle up, when a long walk or hike would suffice. In another time, I could visualize riding into Burlington to hang out at coffee shops (we moved to suburbia in 2020), but in another time I would've been employed, bike commuting, visiting coffee shops only on weekends during the Coffeeneuring Challenge. So, in this upside down world it still makes sense to ride - for mental and physical equanimity - motivated by errands. I have also embraced night riding again to avoid a crowded waterfront path, but dropping temperatures should soon deter less hardy riders and walkers. 

I'm thankful that between mountain biking on nearby trails and embracing night riding, I have the psychological and physical tools to get through this crazy time.

If you need encouragement, check out the Midnite Bicycle League Challenge.

How is everyone doing as the cold, wind, and darkness descends? Any tips to help other riders continue cycling?

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Coffeeneuring 2020 - Seventh Cup at the Fishing Pier

Focusing on Gratitude

I'm trying to be positive in a world upended by chaos, by concentrating on little things, like being thankful for still being able to ride a bicycle. This is at the root of who I am as a person: I find joy in moving slowly, smelling leaves, listening to bird calls, gazing at Lake Champlain in all its year-round moods. Isn't it amazing that a simple machine can provide so much joy?

Thank you bicycle! 

And thank you MG for hosting the 2020 Coffeeneuring Challenge.

7 full cups of gratitude:

  • Special time with son exploring area's mountain bike trails
  • Spending time with a cycling friend
  • Personal comfort in solitude 
  • Grateful to be living near water
  • Ample time to explore our new community and autumn's colorful foliage 
  • Very thankful for any sunshine on my face
  • Gratitude for the power of two wheels

The Place: The Fishing Pier
Date: Friday, November 12
Drink: Barry's Tea with milk and sugar
Observation: When the temperature drops below 50F, thankfully the hordes on the Greenway disappear.
Total Miles: 15

Monday, November 16, 2020

How to Revive Beloved Panniers

Before and after images: at left, original Overland system: top hooks with straps and tension buckles (and tiny rings that are supposed to hook under rack)  - difficult to use, though secure once placed. At right, the improved replacement Lone Peak system: locking top hooks with easier to remove common bungee and hooks.

Both Lone Peak front and cavernous Overland rear panniers have been rugged companions for both my husband and myself on a yearlong trip. Since then for local commuting and occasional short tours, we've worn out the smaller and easier to use Lone Peak pair, because their top hooks lock onto the rack - a brilliant design - but are easy to remove, using typical bungee and hook design secured to the rack bottom.  

Before tossing panniers (and helmets) I remove any hardware to repair future projects or to keep our existing equipment in decent shape. My husband needs rear panniers. Good panniers are expensive. I discovered that Lone Peak still sells their wonderful parts so in conjunction with a few pieces in my stash, I drilled additional holes in the rear bags, and with a lot of patience, I replaced the difficult Overland system with new Lone Peak hardware.

After a good wash, the Overland panniers look almost new!

High quality, made in USA, 1994 Overland panniers, We own a third back up pannier (the 4th was attached to a bike that was stolen) and another set of locking top hooks should we need to press an additional pannier into service.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Coffeeneuring 2020 - Sixth Cup at Battery Park

This photo says it all: sunshine and a perfect Lake Champlain view.

Benches for everyone.


Sporting a new longer length, windproof jacket and toasty, lined helmet.

Tea and dumplings. I like that the new coat has a two-way zipper. 

Round two: teatime at North Beach, sheltered from the wind.

Focusing on Gratitude

When the colder weather sets in, exacerbated by multiple cloudy days, it's a gloomy time of year. An extra boost of vitamin D often helps take the edge off - that - and getting outside as much as possible during the day. I'm very thankful for any sunshine on my face, especially this fall!

It was a blustery 35F degree afternoon. And so, I bundled up, testing a new jacket, winter helmet, newly completed handlebar bagalong with a return to riding the Dahon for the first time since July. I picked up tasty Hong's Dumplings and picnicked at Battery Park, one of Burlington's prime Lake Champlain vistas. It turned out to be a tough location to avoid the wind altogether, so I gobbled my lunch, sipped tea, then headed towards home, with an impromptu detour to sandy North Beach where I found a relaxing, sheltered spot to finish my drink. 

Ah, thank you sunshine. I'd needed your kiss.

The Place: Battery Park
Date: Friday, October 30
Drink: Barry's Tea with milk and sugar
Observation: After a hiatus, I love zipping along on the versatile, highly maneuverable folder.
Total Miles: 17

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Dahon Boardwalk DIY Custom Handlebar Bag

One of the main reasons I created a custom handlebar bag for my Dahon is because my particular model, a Boardwalk from 2003-4, lacks an integrated front truss block. I would prefer a Brompton- or Tern-style type of luggage option secured to the frame, but it is not possible without a built-in frame connection. But I had an idea. Much like the current snack bag/water bottle solution and rear panniers, which both are easily removeable, I knew I could also construct a front bag that would take advantage of the elongated handlepost, distribute more weight up front, plus have similar properties for portability (train travel, stowing inside a vehicle, etc.). I purposely avoided adding a front rack to keep the bike as lightweight as possible.

I used a purple Jansport laptop case for basic structure, but because of small carrying capacity, it was necessary to add additional pockets - thus the "rucksack" idea to include top zipper flap, lower easy to reach pockets plus one rear pocket to hold tent poles or whatever I could stuff in there. I used one buckle (gleaned from an old helmet) that's easy to clip, and with a long enough cinch strap who knows what else could be tucked onto the exterior?
I also required further prerequisites - enough to make my head spin - but I view those challenges as an opportunity to further customize the bag: a space to carry tent poles, plus include easy-to-open pockets and fasteners (I have weakened, arthritic thumbs). In the back of my mind I'd like enough cargo space to tour on the Dahon and to maximize it's potential, the items I needed was more upfront capacity. 

Thus, this was my first project that required multiple drawings and revisions. I eventually settled on a rucksack style in the front, and daisy chain webbing (for maximum attachment points) plus one pocket in the rear to hold tent poles. 

The purple colors are slightly mismatched (and do not photograph accurately) but I suspect all will fade in time. Once removed, the bag also doubles as a hand bag by simply attaching a shoulder strap to D-rings (as shown in upper right image) .
Over the course of a month, I finished, pausing in between steps to make sure I sewed each step in the correct order. As with other projects, I place the bike near my sewing space for continual adjustments and measurements. 

I experimented with stuffing items inside main pocket to understand volume.

I also checked out how including tent poles will work. They fill the curvature of handlebar nicely, one of the funny little aspects of the Dahon's bar. without compressing space in main pocket. and do not stick up dangerously high, approximately 4".

A side view for overall impression. Not too big visually, but extends capacity on a folding bike.

I tested the capacity on a recent Coffeeneuring outing, happy there's little sway without additional hook and loop fasteners - but the option is available should I need to add more attachment points in the future. Because most of the weight is suspended from the handlebars, I probably wouldn't lug more than 5 pounds, but that's 5 pounds less on the rear wheel!

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Coffeeneuring 2020 - Fifth Cup at Macrae Farm Park


Overlooking western flatlands of Colchester with Lake Champlain in the distance.  

It's a cliff, so best to be cautious when taking photos.

Old road leads to fields. 


Macrae Farm Park. Water is very low. 

Another favorite mug.

Focusing on Gratitude

Setting off mid-afternoon on my mountain bike, I headed for the nearby hills again to explore more trails. I swerved around golden trees, bumped over roots, and discovered yet another route to the top. The summit overlook called me and I spent a few minutes taking in the scenery.

I kept going, however, because a coffeeneuring girl is always on a mission!

The maze of forest trails is often confusing, however heading downhill either ends up at a sandpit, a ridgeline above the bottoms lands, or an exit to a neighborhood, where then I get my bearings so I'm not concerned about getting lost, I heard motorized dirt bikes for the first time, so it was clear I was headed for the sandpit. After I skirted their antics - they kindly gave me right of way - I traveled a recently pockmarked track, chewed up by horse hooves, towards Macrae Farm and it's namesake park. The multi-use trails are a gem, not overused, and I'm curious about the public land and it's history. 

In the bottomland I aimed to see where Old Town Road ended up. A friend said it connects with Pine Island Road. During high water the Winooski River floods portions of the park, but 2020 has been a very dry year, so it was an opportunity find out where the road led to. 

As I hopped the bike over multiple tree roots, I wondered whether the road had once been more of an artery - clearly there's more history than meets the eye. I ended up in a bright green grassy field, double-tracked, with mountain bike tire tracks in the puddles. Enticed, I kept riding and stopped to admire a temporary shelter full of colorful chickens, photogenic in autumn sunlight.  I followed the track for a short uphill stretch, quickly morphing into a nice gravel road, exiting into a farmyard full of outbuildings. I recognized the area as the end of Pine Island Road, as my friend suggested, a place that had raised goats, and where we once brought old Christmas trees to feed the goats. What struck me though, was the thousands of chickens squawking, strutting around fenced off areas, but for some reason a smaller number were housed in the field below. 

I didn't see or hear any goats.

As the sun was low on the horizon, I headed back to Macrae Farm Park and enjoyed hot tea on the riverbank. Coincidentally, I also visited Macrae Farm Park in 2019, and it was also my fifth outing!

Though I'm currently unemployed, which adds a certain amount of stress, I'm very grateful to get to explore our new community and the wonders of autumn. From enjoying walking loops with my husband beneath golden, crimson, and ruddy oak trees - especially colorful this year - to riding and exploring area trails and roads, to watching birds in our backyard, I'm truly trying to make the best of it. 

The Place: Macrae Farm Park
Date: Sunday, October 19
Drink: Stash Lemon Ginger Tea
Observation: The park was quiet at sunset. I want to come back with my husband for a walk.
Total Miles: 11

Friday, October 23, 2020

Coffeeneuring 2020 - Fourth Cup at Rossetti Natural Area Beach

Days later, I'm still shaking sand out of my shoes...

After riding a gravel path, entrance to the beach is just beyond the walkway. The natural area is a wetland, home to rare Back Oak trees.

Finding a perfect spot to lean my bike.

Ah, good place to relax on the sand and nurture the soul.

I'm glad my girlfriend taught me how to use the phone camera timer! 

Clams have been slowly disappearing from Lake Champlain due to a zebra mussel infestation., so I'm happy when I at least spot clam shells. 

I'm unsure if this an example of the protected Black Oak tree.

I've been using favorite pottery mugs so far in this challenge.  Around this particular mug is a series of figures, including one on a bike, throwing spears at a SUV.

Focusing on Gratitude

I'm scrambling to pack in as many coffeeneuring outings as possible during peak foliage! With that immediate goal, I zipped to Rossetti Natural Area and spent a lovely half hour sipping coffee and watching Canadian geese paddling off shore before completing a circuit homeward.

I was in the mood for coffee instead of tea, so I brought along my Stanley Thermos, using the coffee press apparatus, pressed at home with added milk. I leave the grounds in the bottom though, which makes the best strong brew. 

I'm very grateful to be living near water.  I'm very lucky to have a backyard river view. but we're also a  five minute walk to Delta Park and a 10 minute ride to Rossetti Natural Area (also visited in 2017). Over the years, if it's not clear by now, I've gravitated towards Lake Champlain in all seasons because it sustains my soul like nothing else.

The Place: Rossetti Natural Area
Date: Monday, October 19
Drink: Espresso with foamed milk
Observation: Autumn colors are stunning!
Total Miles: 7