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?