Thursday, December 30, 2021

2021 Rewind


2021 will be remembered as the year of forward momentum. With vaccines we were able to venture further afield, visit relatives, and travel a bit - however awkward - for much needed time away.

In January I accepted employment in the women's cycling apparel industry. Working from home is comforting, allows flexibility, and with a yearly company allowance (and provided gifts) I've explored various saddles and shorts/skorts/capris/tights. My favorite saddle, the Butterfly Ti Gel is a keeper on my mountain bike, while the Coolweather Tights - hands down - are my go-to bottoms for spring and fall. This deep dive into the retail world was unforeseen and whether it will be fulfilling long-term still remains a mystery.

I continued my creative projects in early 2021, with a purple tote bag, plus designing a spreadsheet to track bicycle stats.  

On the bicycle front, another Dahon - a sprightly aluminum Eco 3 beauty - is a fine addition to my collection, bumping the total back to six. I still prefer the Boardwalk's relaxed geometry for longer miles, so the freshman Eco 3 may be reserved for light duty rides.

It's also the year I fully embraced the Rivendell Clem-entine, finally setup to my liking. We went on multiple adventures, overnights and one fine Long Island exploration.

I continue to challenge myself each year with something new. It became necessary as summer gave way to autumn, and with busy early mornings, for after work rides to be in the dark. It's been a slow progression, from sunset rides to gradually leaving at 6 pm in complete darkness for an hour's jaunt. It hasn't been easy to stay motivated - indeed icy paths I naturally avoid - but a destination, and the addition of pogies have helped. "Commuting" has never felt so foreign!

I experimented with overnight camping on my Dahon Boardwalk. I am investigating solutions to carry more of the weight on the handle post. Traveling by folder continues to give me immense pleasure.

For several years, as my riding style has changed, I've experimented with bike setups to improve comfort, whether that's changing handle bars, racks, saddles, tires, lights, or saddle bags. I rode lots of trails in 2021 and foresee improvements for comfort on the flat bar Trek...immediate need is a curved, handle bar with more rise for increased comfort.

One of the best things about 2021 was not bicycle-related, per se, but has a profound affect on riding comfort! I started a daily yoga practice, which increased my flexibility, strength, and balance. My worrying back pain eventually disappeared. As it turns out I sleep better too, plus bike rides are more pleasurable with stronger core and shoulders. Yoga is for me!

In spite of anxiety over travel, my husband and I went on three bike overnights: to visit a friend, to test camping on the Dahon Boardwalk, and a 3 ferry ride on Lake Champlain. We also visited Kingdom Trails in northeastern Vermont, and bike toured on Long Island for a wonderful weeklong beach holiday, in addition to visiting family. With our eldest son recenlty moving to Colorado, I expect future western travel!

With personal 2021 challenges (working from home and early weekday mornings to help family), it's quite a surprise that my yearly bike mileage topped 3400 miles! Adding a new stat to my spreadsheet, I also discovered I rode my bike 254 days. Embracing night time and winter rides was key.

Like many people, we're navigating the pandemic landscape, eeking a little travel if comfort allows. Learning to live within a small sphere - albeit isolating at times - is what continues to provide peace. And, of course, never underestimate the power of a bike ride!

Thursday, December 23, 2021

What is a Cycling Lifestyle?

Do you ride occasionally or is riding bikes an integral part of your life?

The cycling lifestyle as opposed to recreation cycling are two very different mindsets. As reported over the past two years, recreation cycling has hit an all time high during the pandemic, but I'm not sure it has increased cycling lifestyle participants. CLR Effect's recent blog post Hobby of a Lifetime touched on how others might perceive a mountain biker with scratched and bloody legs, which got me thinking about my cycling lifestyle traits and what sets many of us apart from a recreation cyclist.

Below are personal qualities that friends and family members fail to understand about me:

  • Preferring to ride instead of driving
  • Riding for errands because it's one more opportunity to ride and provides motivation
  • Choose vacation destination that are great for cycling
  • Often have more than one bike, primarily because if one requires maintenance than a bike is still available for riding
  • Are always thinking about improvements to their bikes
  • Frequently check weather forecasts
  • Riding more during the pandemic because it's therapy
  • When injured, one still tries to ride if at all possible
  • If you can't ride for more than two days, it's torture
  • Will ride in the darkness if that's the only available time to ride
  • Continually challenge myself with cycling: riding through the winter, have coffee outside, try different mountain bike trails

Do you recognize any of these cycling lifestyle characteristics? Do you have any more items to add to the list?

As a side note, I'm seeing our 19 year old son developing many of the above qualities since the start of the pandemic, so perhaps there will be one more person adopting the cycling lifestyle. I'm biased of course, but it seems like the perfect way to cope with loneliness brought on by the current health crisis.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

MoGee Muffs - a Pogie for Beginners?

Trying MoGee Muffs on my winter commuter bike.

I hadn't given a thought to using pogies before - those chunky-looking mitts attached to handle bars, seemingly made for brutal winter weather - until an Adventuring Cycling newsletter appeared in my inbox with a link to an article Geared Up: Falling for Autumn. One of the reviewed items were MoGee Muffsa brand of inexpensive pogies. With arthritis creeping into my hands and several numb fingers, the timing was fortuitous. Last winter - my first with studded tires - I primarily used insulated mittens, which worked out reasonably well, though I couldn't stop for long at 10F. 

The mitts are designed for upright - or slightly curved handle bars as is my case - with a drawstring enclosure to cinch however you want, and easily removed once at your destination. There is ample space to insert bare or lightly gloved hands, but be able to grasp thumb shifter and brake levers. After several rides of 1-2 hours in 20-40F, so far, I'm impressed at how warm my hands are!  It's interesting that even with some air allowed past the closure, allowing cables to freely move, the mitts still provide incredible warmth. I'm looking forward to toasty hands as we sink further into winter.

Our son used the MoGee Muffs for days before he "let me" have them back. Guess who's getting a pair for Christmas?

The only unnecessary feature, in my opinion, are the four exterior pockets. Mitts are interchangeable, right and left - pockets designed for cell phones or goodies. I prefer to store my phone in my jacket pocket to protect it from the elements and from cold potentially draining the battery. I have storage options with panniers. I considered removing the pockets altogether, but since they're unobtrusive and the logo is fairly small, I'll leave them as is for now. 

From my experience, it's easier to extract hands versus inserting, which requires minimal wiggling as I reposition hands back onto the bar. I ride mostly rail trails at this time of year, so I have little use for hand signals and interactions with traffic. I have yet to test fast extraction if there's an emergency, like if you are falling and want to catch yourself, so that aspect has yet to be reviewed. As a one size fits all mitt, my average sized hands are fine. If you have large hands, you might have trouble. 

For instant warmth, especially if you suffer from aching, cold hands, these affordable bar mitts might be the answer. Unless, of course, you have battery heated motorcycle gloves like my neighbor!