Posts from the ‘accessories’ Category
utilitaire 7.12: the good, the bad, & the windy
You know you’re battling a decent headwind when you have to pedal going downhill. Such was the case for the day’s Utilitaire ride (which actually took place yesterday, but I was to lazy to post last night).
The destination was to be #1: Work. And while I am not technically employed by the Red Cross, my volunteer “job” with them is about as close as I get to having to go “to work”. Heading out today I knew there was rain in the forecast, so as most cyclists know, the best insurance against having it actually rain is to pack rain gear. I also decided to just leave the “real” camera at home, as I didn’t want to mess with waterproofing measures (and I apologize in advance for another series of iPhonography in this post, as well my lengthiness today … hit the delete button if you wish.)
I battled a nasty headwind all the way in. Gusty, brutal and not so much fun. Decided to stop for coffee and catch up on a little bit of reading before hitting the office.
From coffee stop to the office, the scenery is always fascinating to me. I like riding through the old industrial district, passing by the old Hardwick Woolen Mill. Last month, a fire destroyed the Cleveland Chair Company. The reports have pointed to arson. Demolition of the remnants of the building(s) have turned the scene into a huge and textured pile of ruins. (And at this point I was hitting myself for not bringing along my other camera).
riding by the ruins of the Cleveland Chair Co. and the old Hardwick Woolen Mill
I spent the rest of the day at the office, scrubbing disaster response case files – making sure the paperwork is in order and that all of the information has been correctly entered into the computer system. While I was at the office, I got some very sad and troubling news that had been announced the day before. Restructuring and funding cuts from both the American Red Cross and United Way are eliminating key positions in our Chapter. Our tiny paid staff has now been reduced to two. Two.
The Bradley County Emergency Aid (funded by United Way, closely connected with our Red Cross Chapter work) has been cut, along with the women who have worked so tirelessly helping people in crisis in our community. Just as troubling, we are losing our ARC Volunteer Coordinator – the amazing woman who schedules our disaster team rotations, recruits and arranges for training of our volunteers, and holds our volunteer staff together at the seams. It’s shocking, troubling, and I can’t even begin to envision what the future holds for our local Chapter. It is difficult enough to recruit capable, willing and trained volunteers to fill all of the positions – from teaching CPR/First Air/AED to fundraising to disaster response – but if they expecting the volunteer coordination duties to be taken over by our stretched-too-thin volunteer staff, I can’t even begin to imagine what is to come. I think it spells disaster, ironically.
Needless to say, it was a tough afternoon in the office. It’s difficult to see anyone lose their job, even harder when it happens to friends and people I have so much respect for.
Left the office and headed back into town in fading light. Decided to hook up with my son (on his way home from tennis practice) and my husband (on his way home from work) for a quick bite to eat. No sooner did we sit down, I receive a weather-alert text on my phone: hail-producing severe thunderstorm warning. Yay. Storms were already spawning hail, lightning and even a tornado warning directly west of us, and the fun was now heading our way.
So, do I attempt to beat the storms and head home as planned on my bike, or do I give up the night riding and toss the bike in the back of my husband’s car and hitch a ride home? I had my rain gear. I had insurance. I decided to ride.
Now a quick word about night riding. I won’t go into a full-blown review of bicycular (I like to make up words) lighting – we have a boxful of various lights in our household, but I will tell you a little bit about the lights that work very well for me.
On my helmet, I use a Light & Motion Vis 360, which I absolutely love. As the name says, visible from all sides – front, rear, sides. Spotlight in the front (with amber sidelights), and blinking rear light (also with amber sidelights). On and off the helmet in a snap, long light life, USB rechargeable.
On my bike, I use a Niterider MiNewt 600 Cordless (which replaces an older corded MiNewt Mini that is still in our stash), along with a couple of PB SuperFlash Blinkies on my seatpost and messenger bag. The MiNewt 600 is a big improvement on the corded Mini; although a little heavier, it is brighter, cordless, easier to mount on and off of the bike, also USB rechargeable.
My own philosophy on night riding is kind of two-fold:
- In town, among streetlights, storefronts, traffic, it’s imperative to be seen. Lots of lights front and rear, top and bottom, and my high-vis yellow jacket with reflective striping do a good job making me visible.
- Outside of town, when I hit the rural two-lane backroads, sparsely populated with no streetlights, and effectively pitch-black under a cloudy sky with no moonlight, it’s not only a matter of being seen, but being able to see. I find that the two-light system works best for me here – my headlamp to a point further in the forward distance, and my bike-mounted light giving me a bright pool just ahead to better see pavement conditions and road debris.
nightriding: in town and on pitch-black rural roads
Needless to say, the ride home was exhilarating. The winds that were my foe on the way into town in the morning had now become my friend as a tailwind. It was like flying home, without much effort. Record time, I think. Outside of town I flushed a couple of deer in the roadside woods – fortunately not onto the road in front of me. The sky would momentarily light up with lighting in distant clouds, and the thunder would rumble a few moments later. It was an exciting adventure. But I arrived home before even a drop of rain fell.
Perfect timing; it’s what happens when you pack insurance. 😉
And just when I said I wanted to be brief….
Well, this is simply a shout-out to a bunch of my cyber-cycling pals, and especially to my twitter friend from Seattle, @SognRider, who started a great campaign to encourage cycling and showcase cool cycling caps. Every Tuesday has officially become #CyclingCapTuesday. And I look forward to it each week (even though I wear my caps on other days as well). But I loved the idea – a fun and creative way to promote cycling – and I always enjoy seeing some of the fine cycling “millinery” being worn by my friends. You can too … just visit the Tumblr site, or follow the hashtag on Twitter. And put your cap on!
I really like wearing cycling caps. They’re light and comfortable, they offer a non-obstructive little sun visor, they can provide a little extra warmth on cool days (especially with earflaps), or rain protection (if you have a waterproof cap), and of course you can’t help feeling a little bit “jaunty” while wearing one (lol).
While I have some really great caps that I’ve acquired over the past several years, I recently decided to try an make one of my own. I just happen to have a ridiculous accumulation of “salvaged” wool from … well, let’s just say another “pastime”. (My friends LP and MaryLou know of what I speak – because they will end up inheriting the excess someday. 😉 ) The pattern came from one of the best cap-makers out there, Little Package. It’s a simple sewing project; you can easily make one in less than an afternoon with average sewing skills. And what better way to up-cycle that old wool shirt with a hole in the sleeve?
So @SognRider, thanks for the fun each week (and also for helping me make a dent in my wool stash) – I applaud you! 🙂
things we carry
I’ve seen several other cyclists post pictures and discuss the stuff they carry by bike – especially among my commuter friends. It’s interesting to see. The stuff of daily work, laptops, cell phones, keys, locks, cycling caps, spare parts, cameras, snacks, books, Moleskines … It’s as varied as the bikes they ride.
And I’ve recently been following a couple of very visually interesting sites: What Do You Carry and Things Organized Neatly. They’ve made me think about the things I carry every day, and the ways I typically carry all of this stuff I cart around – especially when I’m on my bike. I always have some bike “emergency” items (multitool, spare tube, levers, etc.) stashed in a small saddle bag – but for my daily-use stuff of every day life, I typically use a Rickshaw bag, a Chrome messenger bag, an Ortleib Back-Roller pannier … or, of course, any bag/purse/tote on my Xtracycle. They all serve me extremely well, form and function.
While the contents are not always so neatly organized, I thought I’d lay things out just to see what I carry nearly every day. It was an interesting exercise. Here’s the (rather ridiculous) list of the inventory:
- a snack (today it’s an apple)
- sunglasses (usually on my head)
- camera (varies – but today, my 7D with 24-70mm f2.8L and 50mm f1.8)
- “Wreck This Journal” by Keri Smith (an ongoing project … long story)
- eyeglass cleaning cloth
- lip balm
- reusable shopping bag
- three Lamy fountain pens (different nibs and ink colors)
- Moleskine journal/sketchbook
- journal pen/brush assortment
- Flapper Girl coffee cozie
- watercolor field set
- green tea mints
Sorry, no bacon. Or beer. If you have any interesting photos of the things you carry by bike, I’d love to take a look and share them on my blog. Neatly organized or not. 🙂
Thanks to my awesome friend Rick and the great people at Xtracycle, I am now sporting a brand spanking new set of Freeloaders on Tenzing, my Xtracycle. (In Xtracycle-speak for anyone not familiar, the Freeloaders are the rear sling-type “bags” on the rear rack.)
The “transplant” was a breeze, and I am really impressed with the new and improved design features. Topping my list of favorite improvements:
- heavy-duty coated fabric, making the interior pocket quite waterproof
- easy on and off – thanks to clips on the tabs (see below)
- small weep-hole for drainage at the bottom of the sling
- end gussets in the heavy-duty coated fabric, rather than mesh
- sleek profile, uncluttered design
There are two small features of the old Freeloaders that I will miss. The old version had a small mesh zipper pocket on the face of the inner compartment. I really liked this little pocket for stashing small things I wanted to keep visible, and it was a perfect size for a spare tube. The other change is more cosmetic – rather than the red reflective patches on the back end flaps, the clip tabs have woven reflective stripes … not sure if this will make much difference with visibility/luminosity, but I’d be curious to do a night-time comparison.
When all is said and done, the improvements in the new Freeloaders make these another design triumph for Xtracycle, hands down. The fabric and the clip attachment system can’t be beat. Functionally, I expect them to perform even better than the old, especially with the improved water-resistance and interior weephole. And the cleaner, sleeker look/aesthetic is beautiful. Well done, gentlemen!! (And thanks again, Rick!) 🙂
I’ve spent the past two days “testing” them out – a grocery run, and hauling camera gear out among the Holsteins. Same amazing functionality, beautiful new look … I am a very happy hauler, but I’ll let you be the judge. 😉
We watch things come and go … and come back again. “Vintage” and “retro” are everywhere – from fashion trends to digital photo apps and beyond. My son now wears glasses a la Buddy Holly, and despite his iPodery, he’s been collecting old vinyl records and plays them on a turntable. Myself, I’m smitten with the lo-fi grainy look of photos from plastic toy film cameras, and have always loved vintage bikes.
And so, when I spotted this Stem Captain analog headset clock in the bike shop, I knew this was a toy I had to have. While digital trip computers and hi-tech toys may be the order of the day for “serious” bikes, I felt that this was just the right accessory for Elisabetta.
#330daysofbiking update & some photos
I probably should have waited one more day for the end-of-the-month update, but the pile of photos was getting out of hand.
So, the official count as of today: 138 days on a bicycle, out of 151 days. Two-hundred and sixteen days remaining. The month of August was a tough one – missed 6 days of riding – between the heat, the trip to Chicago, and schlepping the college-bound boys. But now, everyone is back in school, the weather should be turning cooler, and there are many beautiful riding days ahead.
Spent the past week riding a lot with Mason before he headed back to APSU. It was perfect, and I will miss his company. 😀
So … a few of the images from days past. (The remainder, and more, can always be seen in my #330daysofbiking set on Flickr.)
#30daysofbiking Day 8: rainy day grocery run on the Xtracycle
Riding in the rain; grocery run on the X. Sometimes rain is lovely to ride in, and today was one of those days. Everything is so newly green, and it is good to have some of the pollen washed out of the air. When I left for the store, it was a light rain, not much wind. As one of my Portland friends has said before, riding in the rain can be very cathartic. I agree.
There is often alot of discussion about the best gear and clothing for riding in the rain. From a commuting standpoint, I’ve managed to come up with my own Top 10 list of things that work for me on the rainy days …
- Fenders, front and rear. The one “accessory” that probably does the most to keep the road splash to a minimum.
- A great lightweight and well ventilated rain jacket. After owning several, my favorite is my Mountain Hardwear Conduit Silk jacket. It has kept me as dry as a piece of toast in a few of the most torrential downpours; it’s lightweight, breathable, comfortable, has “pit zips” and a nice hood, and most of all I don’t feel like I’m wearing a sauna suit.
- A pair of rain SHORTS. Yes, shorts. I have both the Gore BikeWear Alp-X shorts and pants, and I almost always wear the shorts. If it’s warm enough to be raining, it’s warm enough to have a little bit of shin exposed – and very easy to towel off. I find that as long as my seat and thighs are dry, I’m much more comfortable (and less sauna-suit like) wearing the shorts. I love these things. I’ve also worn them with a light synthetic (quick-drying) base layer underneath, and still prefer them to the pants.
- A good dry bag. When I’m on the Xtracycle, I love their DryLoader bag for hauling everything from groceries, to camera equipment, to extra clothing. (Sorry, I couldn’t find it on their website, so don’t know if it’s still available?). I also like lightweight sil-nylon drybags, typically used for backpacking.
- When I’m not on the Xtracycle, my Ortlieb Backroller panniers are indispensible; I seriously use these on an almost daily basis – easy to access my “stuff”, holds a ton, and completely waterproof (because you never know when a shower might pop up).
- Shoes, shoe-covers … hmmmm. My verdict is still out on this. I have some neoprene shoe covers that I wear over my road-biking shoes, primarily to block wind and keep my feet warm on really cold days. I don’t typically wear them for commuting, but opt for a pair of Columbia Dragonfly Lea hybrid travel/hiking shoes, with a “waterproof” upper. I’ve found they do a decent job of keeping my feet warm and dry, and I don’t have to mess with shoe covers.
- Gloves. I have yet to find a pair that I really like. If they’re truly waterproof, I find they are too warm. If they’re not waterproof, it’s just cold, squishy and nasty. This year I’ve been using a pair of Seirus Hyperlite gloves … which are just ok. Mostly, I end up gloveless, unless it’s really cold.
- Hat vs. helmet cover. Another tough one. I have a Gore Bike Wear helmet cover, which is just ok. My head has ended up wet while wearing it. I also have a small Gore Bike Wear waterproof cycling cap (to wear under a helmet) – and I actually like this a little bit better. In the end, my hair is very short – so it’s easiest to let it get a little wet and just towel it off when I stop.
- Illumination! On dreary, rainy days, I believe in heading out “fully lit” (LOL!). Blinkies everywhere. On the bike, on my helmet, on my panniers – the more, the merrier (and the safer, in my opinion). The Blinkie Superflash is my favorite. I think we own over a dozen of these little guys – can clip them on to virtually anything and everything.
- A good brain. Riding in bad weather can be tricky at best, dangerous or fatal at worst. Roads are slick, visibility is often bad. WEAR A HELMET. Obey traffic signals. Use your brain. Be the model cyclist.
There are probably a number of things I have left off of my list … but these are the top things that come to my mind on days like this.
I had a lovely ride, got the groceries home (and my cereal and crackers were completely dry, thanks to the DryLoader :). Somewhere along the home stretch, the sun started peeking out. Felt like I was being smiled upon. 😀
birthday bicycle goodies (Yakkay, PoCampo & Ortlieb)
I just turned 49. So I bought myself a party hat.
Really, one of the geekiest, least-appealing (to me, anyway) aspects of bicycle commuting is the wearing of the bike helmet. As I’ve written about before, I AM a believer; I won’t ride without a helmet, but it doesn’t mean I love how I look in them.
Last year I read about a new helmet design by Yakkay – a street-inspired helmet design with interchangeable covers (hats). I loved the idea, loved the pictures I saw, and I knew I really wanted one. Sadly, they were not yet available in the US. As this winter started kicking into gear, colder temperatures on the way, I re-visited the idea of purchasing a Yakkay, and hooked up with a wonderful gal, Lavinia, from LondonCycleChic. With her help and a few clicks of the mouse, I got my beautiful new “birthday” hat, complete with removable fleecy ear covers and snappy tweed cover. Even better news, the LondonCycleChic folks tell me that they are working on “opening a little US antenna in March 2010” … which I figure will be just in time for me to order a sweet summer cover. 😀
Anyway, they were great people to do business with, and I really look forward to them expanding stateside. You can also follow one of their peeps on Twitter (@CazCyclechic), and they have a terrific LondonCycleChic blog, full of great London cycle fashion photos and articles.
Another great birthday gift came from my Dad and his wife – nifty little Po Campo handlebar bag. Po Campo is a Chicago-based company (my “home town”), and my Dad was kind enough to send me a gift certificate which I used to pick out this great little black and white bag.
Although it’s not very big, it’s just enough to carry a wallet, phone, and a few small essentials for quick commute to an appointment or other errand when I don’t need to carry much. I also like the front pocket – perfect for easy access to my phone. (Not while riding, of course). Mostly, I love that it is on the front of the bike – rather than on the back or over my shoulder – easy to see and easy to access.
The final piece of commuting gear I have finally acquired – and really, more essential than the rest – are a set of Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic waterproof panniers. I cannot count how many times I have been out – at the Y, around town, errand-running – and I have gotten caught in an unexpected rain shower. Stuff gets soaked – wallet, phone, extra clothes, camera, books, etc. I can tuck this into a side-loader on the Xtracycle, or I can put it on the rear rack of my commuter bike or the eBike. And everything stays dry – no matter what I encounter or find I have to ride through.
Aside from the waterproof-ness, things I especially like (putting it way ahead of other panniers we’ve owned):
- Great easy-access top opening – no zippers or flaps to mess with. Simply roll down the top (constructed much like a typical dry-bag, with plastic strip on edge), and clip the strap over the top.
- Slim profile, multi-pocket inner organizer – perfect to stash a wallet or phone, doesn’t take away from the main large storage space.
- Superior rack attachment system – the top hooks can be customized with inserts, to fit a variety of different diameter rack rails. They don’t just “hang” on the rack rails, they actually close around the rail (see photo below). The 2 top hooks can be adjusted (spacing between the two hooks), and the bottom QL2 hook is fully adjustable/rotatable as well – invaluable features I’ve not found on other panniers.
- Two large reflective “spots” on both side panels of the bags, making them interchangeable on either side of the rack. I’ve also found that I can easily attach a Blinky to the top of the shoulder strap when the bag is mounted on the rack – perfect positioning.
- And did I mention they are fully waterproof?
I love the ease of access to the main compartment when it’s mounted on the bike. Nice wide opening, quick and easy to access and load. I don’t know the exact specs on the capacity, but they can hold a lot. And the bag is a breeze to take on and off of the rack. You simply pull up on the top handle-strap (which is attached to the quick-release tabs on the top hooks), and pull straight up.
Finally, a nice shoulder strap (that is secured to the front of the bag when not in use), makes it great to carry in and out of your destination – from the office to a quick stop at the store.
And did I mention they are fully waterproof?!
Out of everything next to the Xtracycle, I don’t know how I managed without these for so long. Indespensible, in my opinion – because you never know when wet weather might hit. Design-wise, I don’t think I will ever buy another brand of pannier – these are just so well-designed from every angle.
So that’s it. I’m older now. But also a tiny bit more stylish (I think) when I’m out on the bike!
timbuk2 bicycle tote review
Pros: Comfortable Strap, Good Strap Length
Cons: Color Not As Expected
Best Uses: Running Errands, Commuting
Describe Yourself: Modern
Primary use: Personal
Very nice tote – bought primarily for the bicycle design. Like that it is reversible. Only reason I did not give it 5 stars is that color of the bike design does not “pop” quite as much as expected (or as the photos show) – I bought the citron/grey. Aside from that, very nice bag – wide opening, sturdy comfortable straps, heavy duty for carrying weighty items, and waterproof!
They may not get me to Oz, but …
Decided to try out some new cycling shoes for around town on the Xtracycle. These have intrigued me for a while now: the Keen Commuter – a hybrid sandal/cycling shoe featuring a full-length SPD-compatible plate, along with AEGIS Microbe Shield™ technology (free of environmentally harmful substances) to prevent odor-causing bacteria/fungi in the footbed. Seemed like a great combination for summer riding.
I also prefer riding with cleated shoes, but road cleats just weren’t practical for running errands, popping into the store, etc. The recessed SPD configuration makes these beautifully walk-able for off-bike. They are cool and very comfortable, and, well … dorky in that outdoorsy kind of way.
Pedal choice was a toss-up. I knew I wanted a dual-use pedal: platform on one side, clipless (cleat-compatible) on the other side. Debated between a Shimano and the Wellgo, but finally decided on the Wellgo. The Wellgo has a wider (BMX?) profile, and the platform has 8 substantial screw studs. So if I need to pedal in a pair of sneakers or other shoes, I can still get a pretty solid grip on things.
Specs on the Wellgo: magnesium body (weight-saver), sealed bearing, Shimano SH-51 cleat compatible. All for a very reasonable price – around $60.
So far, I’m well pleased with the combination. Haven’t put many miles in yet, and a real test will be coming up in about a week when Mark and I plan to head toward the mountains for a weekend bike camping trip. But so far …
The Pro’s: cool, comfortable, walk-able and versatile commuting shoe – with or without socks. Wide and solid pedal platform, decent profile for street use, great versatility (clipless/platform). Studs/pins on platform side allow for great traction for riding in non-cycle shoes.
The Con’s: Open design of shoes tends to lose some desired stiffness, although not as much as I expected. However, I did find it necessary to loosen the clipless tension on the pedal – felt like I would twist right out of the shoe when releasing if the tension was cranked down.
Will continue to evaluate over the course of summer and more miles. But for now, I give the combination two thumbs up! Not as cute as a pair of Ruby Slippers, but what can you do?