Posts from the ‘biking 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! 🙂
the things YOU carry
A big thank you to all of my great friends who took time to share their own photos of the things they carry – on their bikes and otherwise. I love how individual personalities are revealed in such a simple photo, and within the collections of the items they use each day. I also happen to covet some of your stuff! (Lol.)
I might try to revisit this idea again in the future … so if you missed out this time, or want to send a new collection, I’d love to have you send your photos to me: shebicycles at gmail. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
a “Sleeveless in Seattle” jersey review & give-away
A while back, the very nice people from YMX (YellowMan Expression) offered to send me a summer cycling jersey to review – along with another to give to one of my readers. And although I know that the YMX official name for this jersey is the Maori Spiral Cycling Jersey, when I saw the graphic on the back it somehow brought to mind tribal art from the Pacific Northwest. And as my silly mind typically works in baffling and stupid ways – not to mention that I have always been a sucker for really bad puns along with an addiction to romantic comedy movies of the Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks variety – I couldn’t help but think: Sleeveless in Seattle. (OK, I know, I know … slap me upside the head for that one).
After cycling in this jersey for the past few (very warm) weeks, I will confess that it has become a favorite part of my cycling wardrobe. Cycling jerseys, with their fitted, clingy nature, have a tendency to make many of us feel very body-conscious. And not every manufacturer has mastered a flattering cut for a woman’s body. In this regard, YMX really delivers. The jersey is long enough where it needs to be, providing a flattering woman’s silhouette without being binding or too revealing.
The MadKool technical fabric is light, forgiving and oh-so comfortable on the hottest days – and smooth as silk to the touch. While the color combination of the graphics on this particular piece are a little more vibrant than what I (personally) would typically choose, I will admit that I appreciate the visibility factor while on the road, and I love the tribal pattern. Personally, I have my eye on a few of their long-sleeved designs for the upcoming cooler months – for both skiing and cycling. (And if you are a yoga or running enthusiast, they offer a variety of “cross-over” garments – which could be some pretty exciting street-wear as well.)
But there are two areas where I am particularly picky about cycling jerseys – the sleeves/armhole seaming, and the rear pockets. I’ve often found that other sleeveless jerseys can be uncomfortable due to binding/elastic and seaming around the armholes, but the soft and stretchy MadKool binding on this one is exceptionally comfortable. No chafing, super comfortable for several hours over the handlebars.
The top gusset on the shoulder also makes this a very comfortable fit throughout the arms and shoulders. And the triple rear pockets are the ideal length/depth with a secure top binding – exactly what I need when for stowing my camera lens on my back.
By now I am sure I have convinced you that you want one for yourself, right? Well, the good news is that the very nice people at YMX have told me that they will be giving away another to one of my readers (which would be you). So how will this happen? Easy. Simply leave a comment on this post, and to keep with my “Sleeveless in Seattle” silliness, be sure to include your favorite romantic comedy in your comment. For my male readers who may have a partner/wife/girlfriend cyclist in your life who might enjoy a surprise, you can enter too (but you must confess your favorite romantic commedy as well … heh heh). I will pick a winner at random and be in touch with you (i.e., You’ve Got Mail (?)) about forwarding the appropriate information (size, shipping address, etc.) to the folks at YMX.
And if you’d like to be entered in a sweepstakes to win a $300 YMX wardrobe, simply “like” their Facebook page: here.
Now to return to my Netflix queue…… 😉
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 Days 95 & 96: Xtracycle weekend
The best recipe for summer weekend adventure-fun? An Xtracycle … and everything and anything your imagination can add.
Saturday (Day 95) was only a brief out and back on our road on the Xtracycle; one of those days filled with kids, watching the Tour, yardwork, and just general around-the-house stuff. In the evening, we decided to head over to the drive-in theater in Etowah. When was the last time you watched a movie at a drive-in? Seems like there are very few around any more, but this place is great – clean, family-friendly, and a bargain (on car-load nights). We did not ride bikes there I am sorry to say; distance, darkness, and our typical giant crew of kids and friends and girlfriends made it a little impossible. So, it was our gang, including a bunch of college-age kids, all watching Toy Story 3 at the drive-in on a summer night — good times! 😉
On Sunday (Day 96) I finally got to give the scupper-hole kayak trailer a trial run on the Xtracycle. Mark had engineered a great little removable hitch-type of contraption that attaches to the back of the Xtracycle frame; the tow-strap hole slips over the “hitch” pin. Loaded up the boat and headed to the river. It worked beautifully!
About a month ago I had tried loading the boat on the Xtracycle’s Wide-Loader – which was ok, but with the shape of this boat’s hull, the pedal clearance was a little marginal. Hauling the boat with this trailer seems a little heavier and slower-going, especially on inclines, but also more stable and pedal-safe over the distance. And very easy for me to load and secure for hauling.
Mark and I had a beautiful paddle, exploring some side channels that we had never visited before. They seemed to go on endlessly – we never did reach the end. The lush, green tree-cover and shoreline foliage made it feel almost like the Amazon, we joked. Spotted a beautiful Little Green Heron, a couple of Great Blue Herons, a King Fisher and some swallowtail butterflies. Mark said he was waiting for a snake to drop out of one of the overhanging branches (thankfully, we were spared such a treat).
Rode home in the early evening. End of a wonderful summer weekend; loving all of the “living outside”. (And as my friend Darryl says, “loving the bike”!)
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!