Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Riding through a Gauntlet of Emotions

Doing the best that I can do right now.

Leaving from my home office after a less than stimulating work day, it was imperative to get outside, (now a strange form of exercise when I used to bike commute). Indeed, 5 pm never rolls around fast enough for me. I alternate evening walks with my husband with solo bike rides on the Burlington Greenway, listening to soothing sounds of waves or relishing the quiet stillness, encountering only a few walkers. This is usually the me time that I crave.

But after wonderful cross-country ski snow, a warming trend has softened compacted firm snow on our trails to slippery mush. I came to grips with this reality this evening, fleeing local water-filled, icy trenches for roadways with cars, (so noisy!), studded tires rattling on asphalt, wondering if it was worth pedaling at all. I passed a beautiful odor-free dead skunk, weaved around puddles, feeling that I was unprepared and emotionally caught off guard after navigating frozen snow-filled paths with confidence for 3 months. Then a car sprayed me as I pedaled through a neighborhood - nobody's fault, I realize - but nonetheless it seemed like the nail in the coffin. What the heck was I doing out here on roads?

Shortly afterwards, I headed to the waterfront path, determined to take my chances heading home on a car free route. It was quite slushy and slippery at times. I had to concentrate to maintain forward momentum and keep the front wheel straight, and even so there were periods when I had to put my foot down, walk a bit, before setting off again. It was then that I realized all the balance skills I acquired from riding on packed snow came into play, lending confidence. Without pedestrians to dodge, I challenged myself to keep at it for as long as possible. There were also stretches of bare pavement - more than I had anticipated - that gave a welcome reprieve from intense bike handling.

As I crested the bridge over the Winooski River, I felt euphoric - this bridge always has that effect on me - because it's the homestretch, because it feels like I'm flying in the darkness. I could walk home from there if needed. As I navigated the last half mile home, I thought about how this particular ride, through a gauntlet of emotions (better word than "gamut" don't you think?), seemed an apt metaphor for 2020 and now 2021. We're all dealing with change, highs and lows, but we keep moving forward, as best we can.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

In Love with the Bern Muse Winter Helmet

Bern Muse helmet in action.

As previously mentioned, my goal was to ride throughout the 2020-21 winter. Along with getting the right footwear and longer length windproof jacket, I found a comfortable insulated helmet: the Bern Muse. 

I tried on numerous brands of ski helmets at our local Sierra Trading Post - to keep the cost down, especially if I was adding a third helmet to my collection! I immediately fell in love with a purple colored Scott brand, but the padding was too thick, which pinched my head. The Bern Muse is geared towards burly helmet protection with a lightweight liner, in the classic visor style - indeed the overall helmet weight was half of the heavier padded options, which I knew would translate to less neck strain on longer rides. Definitely a better trade off - getting the right fit was critical as I wanted the helmet to be part of my routine winter setup.

The color scheme is not my favorite (only choice in my size), but the removeable liner and full coverage ear flaps won me over.

The back of the helmet has a clasp for goggles.

Since November, I've tried various weight balaclavas, neck warmers, and beanies underneath so I'm not overheating on rides. I've settled on a lightweight balaclava or thin wool beanie plus a thin neck warmer  to use as a makeshift mask when passing other riders. Goggles have helped during snow blinding conditions for depth perception or to keep my face warm, but generally I have a love/hate relationship with goggles in conjunction with mouth/nose coverage - feeling like I can't breathe in addition to partially fogged goggles. 

The Bern helmet completes my necessary winter riding trifecta: adequately covered head, hands, and feet - items that should serve me well for years to come.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

My Favorite Winter (Cycling) Boot - The Storm Chaser

I've found the best easy slip-on winter boot that's perfect for walking, driving, and has brought my winter cycling to a new level: LL Bean's Storm Chaser Boot. 

With a thick sock the footwear is loose enough to trap heat - indeed I can wiggle my toes - yet with a stiff sole and heavily insulated interior, plus a waterproof exterior, is perfect for whatever a Vermont winter throws our way.

This is the first time that my feet are warm and dry while riding a bike. I'm amazed that I generate heat - if you're a cyclist you know how difficult it is to keep extremities warm. Yesterday, I cycled for 1.5 hours in 10F weather and was pleasantly warm, even while struggling homeward against a biting wind. Now that's a good boot!

Decent, grippy tread plus a removable inner sole that provides arch support.
Comes in a variety of styles and colors.

I'm thrilled when I discover new gear that aids in my outdoor enjoyment. What have you found that helps you appreciate winter?

Sunday, January 24, 2021

DIY Purple Do-it-all Tote Bag


Drawstring fabric is leftover satin lining from a coat.
I'm pleased with my current project: a tote bag with added features. When I purchased the tropical-print purple fabric, I anticipated using most of it on the Dahon's custom handlebar bag, but because the purple colors clashed, I used the floral fabric as accent pieces. 

I was inspired by the Eddie Bauer Stowaway Packable Cinch Tote. With a side pocket, handles, and webbing along the upper edge, the style plus construction meant I could incorporate my own design features to accommodate an active bike and travel life. I have numerous tote bags, but I didn't own a bag that doubles as a simple backpack and pannier.

I purposely created a narrow bag to adapt well as makeshift pannier/backpack, suspended by two webbing straps that can be adjusted to various places along the top edge. The straps are also long enough to hook both sides of the bag to the rack, if needed, for extra stability. When not in use the straps can be removed and tucked into main compartment or in the external pocket. 

I like the drawstring style closure to hold odd-shaped items inside. When the string is fully opened, the interior fabric falls inward and becomes virtually hidden, creating an open top tote bag. I like this feature on my Blackburn Central Shopper Pannier.

Tuck it away in an office drawer and use as a way to carry home unexpected items, or as a travel go-to bag. There are so many uses for this wonderful, purple (of course) tote bag!

Friday, January 15, 2021

Head Over Wheels with Excel


Recently I completed an online Excel class to learn the basics. I've used and referenced spreadsheets, but had never learned how to create one from scratch - that you can style them, tickled me to no end!

I have collected daily mileage on paper calendars for many years, just because it's fun to see where I'm at from year to year, and easy to tally mileage with a calculator. Generally, I hover between 2700-3000 miles. I don't use a bike computer (and don't want one) - If I cannot reasonably guess mileage then I reference Google Timeline for a ball park figure, then tack on a mile because of it's less than perfect tracking. I also ride 5 different bicycles, so this system works fine for me.

I thought it would be fun to analyze a few metrics: day of week totals, monthly totals, and cumulative annual mileage - that's all I really care about. I required my data on one spreadsheet for simplicity, and in a reusable format. I adapted my own design after inspecting very detailed options on the Internet - and there were many! I have two sheets: one for data, one for charts. In future years, I will adjust each monthly data column so they align with correct day of the week. 

2020 wasn't a normal year (that's an understatement) as I only commuted to work January - March, but managed decent mileage overall. It's interesting that Fridays were the highest mileage days; I have no clue why. I suspect that in future Monday-Friday workday life, mid-week mileage will even out. Also, I expect an uptick in winter mileage due to using studded bike tires. I plan to continue documenting riding miles the old fashioned way in 2021, then transferring those miles periodically to the spreadsheet.

Do you use a spreadsheet to track your cycling miles? If so, what stats interest you?