Winter has fallen. Snow is not unheard of in my corner of the world, but it doesn’t often stick for an hour let alone a day. Flurries were expected yesterday but the weather has a mind of its own. It has been snowing all day and now it’s as if confectionary sugar has been scattered everywhere. I have learned not to get too attached to the snow. Instead I seize the moments however sleeting and take a quick ride or at least a few pictures and marvel at its beauty. The bright blanket of white that both confuses and awes young and old alike.
Snow has a quiet quality until it mixes with freezing rain. As it begins to transform into icy pinheads you can hear it in the trees and its audible droplets turn the powder into sheets of ice as soon as they hit the ground. The freezing chorus whips into song as the wind blows. I don’t fancy riding on it when it’s icy. I prefer the powder. Admittedly wearing a mask and riding in the snow means I can’t see a flake in front of my face. Very few people out in it because we just don’t know how to drive in this weather since we seldom have to do it.
It could be gone by the morning. It’s a welcome change from the usual weather du jour. The forecast says more is on the way and it won’t be turning to rain until Monday. I like the possibility that it will linger a bit longer. Like a guest you didn’t even know you missed. I’ll give credit to the pandemic for making me more aware of the subtleties in changes. Everything small feels miraculous and worthy of note.
In other news, I got my first dose of the vaccine today. That is notable since this day was all about getting to the site to get the shot. I was considering biking to the clinic or taking the bus, but my guy drove me. In Portland there were vaccinations scheduled to be administered at the Convention Center and in Vancouver at the Clark County Fairgrounds. Both were closed due to the snow. I wasn’t nervous about getting my vaccine but when the nurse told me that the other sites were closed I felt waves a gratitude that it worked out for me. This whole thing has been like gambling. In 29 days it will be March 13th when life in the pandemic started. My school building closed and the whole pandemic-quarantine-bubble existence kicked off.
Who knows what’s around the next corner? Let’s not even guess. The snow is beautiful. I had a brisk ride in the powder and I got my first dose of the vaccine that didn’t even exist until recently.
My people initially came from Greece. My grandparents were born in villages near Thessaloniki and they emmigrated to the United States in the 1920s. There’s a very involved history I could go into here, but I don’t think we know one another that well yet. That’s a post for another day. Let’s say that I’m Greek on both sides. As I tell my students, “My mother is 100% Greek and my father is 100% Greek, so I’m 200% Greek.” My students usually groan and say that’s not possible and we laugh.
Some members of the family were smart and moved to San Diego. That was not my part of the village. My part of the family tree went to Detroit and Chicago or as they are also known, cold and colder. Not having any say in the first move of my life, from Detroit to a little town called Anderson, Indiana, I didn’t really care. Anderson was great for growing up and biking around on my banana seat-flower-power Schwinn. I don’t remember much rain. I do recall that my parents and I were on the road almost every weekend going to or coming from Mo’town or The Windy City visiting the grandparents from the old country. Personally, they really would have loved San Diego. Why didn’t they go there? Why?
When I did have a vote in moving it was out West to Oregon, not San Diego. All of this to say that it has rained for nearly the entire month of January and frankly I would like to stake my claim to some territory in a sunnier part of the world. I get into a sun trance and I think about the hottest days I’ve ever experienced and they’re almost all in Greece. There was one in Yuma, but that place is just hellish hot, so I don’t really count it. It has to be sunny and yet pleasant enough to bike. I don’t want sun stroke!
It’s a classic line. Everyone complains about the weather but no one really does anything about it. The fact that we can’t travel because of the pandemic means that we’re all just a bit edgy out here in the Pacific Northwest. Some people claim to love it. There was a time in my life that I didn’t mind because it is as beautiful as a postcard. Green as a leprechaun’s hat, but still a whole lot of rain made it so. Be careful what you wish for since only as recent as September 2020 we had air quality issues due to massive fires. I don’t want that, of course. I just want to see the sun every few days. Can we get some balance in the forecast? Let’s bring in a lawyer. Here’s my offer: How about rain at night or less rain on my commute. I want one weekend a month of sun and sunshine on at least three holidays in the winter months. It doesn’t have to be consecutive days. I’m not unreasonable. Every other weekend should be sunny and bright. My husband always says, “Cheer up, fire season will be here before you know it.” He always takes weather’s side. He loves the rain and cold. It’s a fundamental incompatibility.
The most annoying part is the Dark Sky app. I need to get rid of it. It’s more accurate than reality. “Rain starting in a few minutes.” Yes, then rain. Rain for the hour. Usually, it is ridiculously accurate. My favorite alert (say that bit with sarcasm) is the one that says, “Rain stopping in 10 and starting again in 15 minutes.” Those are enough to send me into a fit of rage. Does that mean there’s a 5 minute window of no rain? It feels like I signed a contract with Zeus for an eternity of rain. Zeus is the boss of the skies, y’know. I bet he’s an investor in the Dark Sky app. Zeus is such a short tempered, impulsive god. We have Titan Prometheus to thank for the clouds. Humans needed a sign it was going to rain. As it goes, Prometheus decided to use lamb’s wool as the sign of rain. Clouds! When Zeus would send rain to the mortals, Prometheus would throw the lamb’s wool into the sky as a sign that rain was coming. But then Zeus brings on the rain and gets busy wielding some of deed and forgets he left the faucet on in the Northwest.
January is the weather-trifecta. Cold, wet and wind. I don’t enjoy riding in the cold below 40ºF. But I do it. Then if you add rain to the list and a light, variable wind, well, then the bike ride is about surviving. I should saddle up and Zwift instead, but I don’t. I brave the elements so I can claim some commuting points. You know the line, “Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” Mondays are no big deal, but 27 consecutive rainy days do get my down. Every day of January feels like I’ve been under a rain style shower head.
There are those who say that I should “dress for it” and I do. There are some who say I should drive on those days. The problem is that sometimes the forecast shifts as easily as gears on a bike and you end up with a day that seems like “all is right in the world.” I find myself forgiving everything that came before. It’s like I’m in a really dysfunctional relationship. “Yeah, I took them back. They apologized and said they’d try to do better.” The sun shines and the mountains are bold and bright. Steam rises off the bike lanes and and I know that I couldn’t possibly live anywhere else.
Or San Diego.
Get out there and ride.
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Not too much shiny and bright about 2020, however, there are some great products I discovered. This is a post I’ve always wanted to do. I don’t have any codes or special discounts. I can only say that I don’t like parting with my money so if I like gear enough to recommend it, that’s gold. It takes me more than a season to decide IF the product in question merits the investment. Dear reader, this post includes my unvarnished, honest opinions about products I strongly recommend. Some are newish and some have proven their value over time. Read on for details and links..
Products with Punch
Let’s start at the top. I am a helmet wearer. I always have been. Many helmets have been on my head. This year I found one that is sparkle and delight. The Thousand Helmet is elegant and I have never, ever owned a helmet that garnered more compliments. People always call it a hat as in, “I love your hat!” as I breeze by. The algorithms must have aligned because one day in a search for “chic bike helmet” it popped up. I couldn’t stop looking at all the colors in the Heritage collection. When the page opens in your browser, you’ll be asked to take a quiz about your perfect helmet. I love a good quiz, but you can also close the quiz and just browse around. If I’m ever on the cover of Vogue I’ll request one of these with my kit. If you pay attention to bike details on TV shows you can appreciate that in Emily is Paris one of these helmets is featured. Super cool!! And they are just that. It’s a helmet where form meets function and you’re proud to have it on your noggin. There’s a spot where you can put a U-lock through a pop-lock. The site says, “Access the hidden channel behind the logo mark, and pop your U-Lock or chain lock through. Backed by our Anti-Theft Guarantee.” But here’s the thing, I like wearing my helmet, so I never really got in the habit of locking it up with my bike. It’s a great feature and maybe as the days get warmer and I can sit outside and enjoy a
Sizing is the only trick with buying a helmet online. I bought a medium following their measurements and I wish I had bought a large. The adjustment wheel makes it very easy to size down a bit but if you wear a beanie on colder days you’ll appreciate a few milimeters of head space. If between, always order up. I have heard that they have a great exchange policy, but email to get more information. I chose to try the other helmet called The Chapter with a magnetic light on the back. I love it as well. Since I got the white one I figured it would be better for riding in the winter or with a beanie, so I bought the large for extra space.
People notice me which means the helmet helps them see me on the road. Read more about the company and their goals. Helmets only last forever if you never use them. The helmet I’m wearing in the lower left is an older one that had many dings and dents. I moved it along in its cycle of life.
Next up, the bod. If I could make a coat, this would be it. For years I wore the traditional rain jacket. Then a few years ago I decided I wanted something bigger, bulkier, warmer. I am Mediterranean and I do not like being cold. Mia Meloncoats are the best coats I have ever owned. I wish one of the two I own would wear out (after three years) so I could get another one. They are beautiful on and off the bike, but most importantly, they are warm and waterproof. They have lots of styles and you should shop what works best for you. I wear the STELLA MODERN RAIN JACKET – MICRO FLEECE INTERIOR the most. The other one is similar to the Anna, but mine is an older style which I no longer see on the site. There are often sales and there is a store in Vancouver B.C., however, they have great customer service and if you’re not sure what’s best or how it will fit, then give them a call.
If you want the traditional biker rain jacket, I’m also a big fan of Showers Pass, jackets, and rainpants. I’ve had mine for years and they are a great investment.
Best t-shirts ever! They are massively creative with all sorts of animails, and in my opinion, you can’t have enough bike related t-shirts. I live in bike t-shirts. When you wear these you feel fierce and playful. Dark Cycle Clothingis located in Tampa, Florida and I signed up for their monthly t-shirt release. I had some challenges with sizing, but they were so helpful I decided to maintain my subscription for another year. I still think they need a Yorkie.
Pizza is the most important food group. Right? I like pizza all the time so when I saw this on Instagram I took a bite. Safety Pizza!How do you improve on safety and being seen? You get a Safety Pizza because it has PIZZA in the name and why not? I love this slice of safety and singular function. Reflectivity. You can organize the “toppings” however you choose. Super fun!!
Put a bird on it. A phrase made famous by Portlandia, but design-wise, Portland Design Works captured the essence for cyclists. Great products of all kinds for all types of riders. How can you find fault with a company that sells sticker sheets, donut bar tape or bird inspired water bottle cages? You can’t! Gear like this makes me smile each and every time I use it. I have one of their bottle cages on all my bikes.
Fits like a glove, then buy it! If a glove keeps your hands warn and cozy, buy two pairs! There is no such thing as the perfect bag or the perfect winter glove. Our extremities prefer gentle conditions and I am here to say that I’ve spent money on pricey gloves and still felt my fingers freeze. After years of research, I can say one thing for sure. It’s personal preference. Gloves that claim to be wind breakers and laugh at cold temps, often leave me cold. Endura is possibly my favorite mid range glove for most winter cycling. They outperform my Gortex and they are my go-to glove. I lost one hi-viz glove a year ago and I’m still bummed about it. I bought a black pair to replace but for some reason I still have the single high-viz. Many bike shops carry the brand and if your favorite bike shop has an online store check it out.
Still with me? Good for you! Thanks. Let’s start wrapping it up. Two more. I love Chicago. Because I have family in Chicago, I consider it a second home. When I visit I always Divvy and I visit bike shops and I entertain thoughts of living there. Chicago is about 8 years younger than Portland or the Northwest when it comes to biking, but this organization, Bike Lane Uprising, is trying to delineate the bike lanes and bike lane usgae by keeping people safe. You can support them by sposoring lights for others and while you’re at it, buy yourself a set. A sweatshirt is good too. These lights, are amazing! For $10 you can sponsor a set that might save someone’s life. Being lit is extrememly important on a bike, walking or running, so make an investment. You can’t have enough lights and this set is a blinding good deal!
Lastly, the bag. I am obsessed with panniers. I know. What a shock! This year I got closer to the perfect bag, for me. The Brooks Suffolk rear pannieris “made from high-quality polyester with a waterproof polyurethane coating to protect your gear while you ride.” That’s what they say and they are spot on. It’s hard not to say, “Brooks Suffolk,” without a British accent! Jolly good bag! This pannier I bought on impulse. Give me a break. I hadn’t been out shopping for anything in three months, so I was ready! They aren’t cheap, $130 for a single bag. I was at the eBike Store and I’m drawn to bike bags like like a magnet so I started looking it over and I was impressed by how the pockets were all on the outside and I like that for access the garage door opener, my phone, water bottle and work related fobs and keys. Boom, sold! They deliver. I like them so much, that a few months later I bought another. Not too big, or small, just right. Waterproof and simple to use. Similar to an Ortlieb in how the bag attaches, and I won’t shine you on. I have used them like a fangirl since day one. They still look brand new and yet neutral enough to go with any bike, or rack.
Gear is important to making your ride comfortable, safe and likely to happen again. With mass production of so many things, it’s hard to know what really works for discerning riders in certain climates or any climate. One thing about the pandemic is that I’ve looked to the gear I already own instead of looking for something else. If you have gear that you don’t use or didn’t make the cut for you, try donating it. In my area, I’m lucky because Bike Clark County takes donations and I know the gear that doesn’t work for me may help someone else.
The gear mentioned in the post are equipment I’ve own and use regularly. That’s the real test. 2021 is the year to get in gear. I hope this helps.
If I haven’t said it, thank you for reading and being part of my blog. I appreciate your LIKES and comments. Thanks for taking a moment. Happy New Gear, I mean Year.
Fall is glorious. It’s prime time for riding because the temperatures aren’t too hot or too cold yet. It’s that golden time of the year when it seems like every sunrise and sunset is Mother Nature’s attempt at showing off.
The skies have these marvelous mood swings and a ride that starts out sunny could end up in a ferocious storm. Every moment seems more impressive than the last.
I keep my rain gear close at hand and just go. I enjoy the seasons changing it up and skies spreading their wonder and I pedal on breathing in and out and in and out. Thrilled to ride.
If bliss or being “blissed out” is a type of happiness resulting in a state of utter contentment then I’d say that biking rapture is being lifted out of oneself in such a way that it’s a sort of elevated state of being.
It’s so rare in life when something exceeds expectations that it’s often something we don’t talk much about. Usually we’re looking for the negative. From the moment I walked into the eBike shop to this very moment when I’m composing this blog post I can honestly say I’m overjoyed with my bike. It’s as if I am on a trampoline and I jumped and I’m still enjoying being suspended in the air with my arms overhead and my legs kicking up alongside. I’m that happy. Rapturous!
Where do I begin? Two months ago I added to my fleet of bikes. Now, with a thousand miles on my Specialized Como 5, I can tell you that this bike exceeds all expectations. It ticks all the boxes and if anything I’m still in the phase of learning what else she (the bike) can do.
With over a 1000 miles on my new bike after two month I think the Specialized Como 5 is da bomb! Okay, hold up. The truth is I have had two flats on the back tire and that’s no fun. For some people that alone is a deal breaker. My bike tires are still just tires with tubes and it’s a machine people, and machines require attention. There are also factors that are not your fault. I blame the debris in the roads. The first flat happened a few weeks after I had the bike and it was a giant nail in the bike lane. The second was possibly due to lack of inflation. You have to remember that you are going faster on an ebike and it’s not uncommon to pick up some extra road flotsam on any route. It’s also a sign from the gods that I need to up my game and learn how to fix a flat. I’d rather pay someone. I did opt to have those armadillo tires put on. Hopefully I’ll never have to talk about it again. Right?
The cheating issue is silly but it’s almost the first thing people say about an ebike. “But isn’t that cheating?” Is a carbon fiber road bike cheating? I also like to remind people that an ebike is only cheating oil companies. If the whole point is less car traffic and less dependence on cars, then ebikes could save the planet. Also, if you don’t work on a pedal assist bike then you’re not going anywhere. You have to pedal, otherwise you’re going to slow down and fall off. It’s not a Vespa. You have to work.
I get a better workout in less time and I don’t have to worry about making it up a hill at 6PM on my way home with my head pounding or a gallon of milk in my pannier. Also, I’d like to talk about headwinds. They are a fact where I live and at this time of the year it is not uncommon to have a headwind in the morning and one on the way home. A little “e-juice” helps give you extra power to deal with the winds right on your handlebars. It’s a great feeling. I’ve put a thousand miles on a bike in less than two months because all I’m doing is riding. Isn’t that the point. Ride on! The Specialized Como 5 has a great range so even if I wander outside my usual routes I can use the app, Specialized Mission Control, to make sure I have 5 miles left to get up the hills home. Just like they say on the website, “It’s you, only faster.”
When people say that phrase, “follow your bliss” I always think of riding a bike. I think of open roads and the only obstacle in my way is time. The ride on an ebike is rapturous. You feel outside yourself like I imagine a bird in flight. Summer is all about the open road and time to spin. That’s my plan. More rapturous riding on all my bikes, but the Como is you only better and faster or as fast as you want to be.
One more thing. I do want to thank that outstanding people at the eBike Store for all their help and support. When people love what they do it shows and these people are pedaling with you all the way. They want you happy with your bike. Such good people who want to get everyone on eBikes.
Take some time and enjoy a ride, ebike or your choice. Get out there. Your future self will thank your for it.
What are you biking plans this summer? Tell me more in the comments. Thanks for reading.
My profession is library. I’m a middle school librarian and I get to read amazing books. Today I finished To Night Owl From Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer. There are many beautiful revelations in this novel and one favorite is the quote about finding something in life than “animates your soul.” It’s all along the same lines as “Follw your bliss” or “happy place” and yet it delves deeper.
March 7th we had what I hope was our last flake of snow until next winter. Temperatures seem to be leveling out and while I know there is rain on the way I’m happy to see a change in the seasons.
Riding my bike is my happy place. Bike rides are my bliss. Being in the saddle and challenging myself daily “animates my soul” to borrow that phrase with appropriate attribution. Every week I have a goal of 75 miles and the last two weeks I went over 100 miles each week. Last night I was looking at my Strava stats and saw this minus 13 miles.
I was close to 100 for the week and a 1,000 for the year to date. Just 10 miles would accomplish both. I put my book down for an hour and went for a ride on a stunning Spring day and let the clear skies and emerging season wash over me. Then there’s that moment when you’re senses catch up with your brain and remind you that this is it. This is you soul getting filled up with all that’s wondrous and beautiful about surviving the winter. The buds are starting to burst, the days are getting longer and the wheels on the bike go round. Adding up the miles to the next 1,000.
Wherever you are in the world I hope the weather is mild and you have an opportunity to get out there and ride.
Some cyclists do miles and miles more, some less, but this is me and my first Strava 5000. When I say that I mean that it’s the first time I’ve seen the quantitative results of riding nearly every day. I had a good week and even though there was some rainfall I managed to get out in the weather and get 165 miles for the week. I hoped I’d hit the 5K mark, but I wasn’t going to push it. Really. I was going to do my normal riding routine and if it worked out, then okay, if not, there’s next week. What I usually have going for me if the fact that I tend to ride every day.
I learned a few years ago that sometimes weather complicates matters. You can’t control anything. I was going to keep doing my riding thing and maybe, just maybe I’d see 5000 miles for 2018. When I hit 4000, I immediately started thinking about 5000. It was like something in my brain switched into competitor mode and I was going to show myself that I could do it. I stuck to my routine and even with three days off, I was going to ride. Thanksgiving Day, I rode Zwift for about a dozen miles, but all in all, I stuck to my normal schedule of cycling. I don’t think we drove our car 5K this year, but I rode my bike.
How does it feel? It feels amazing, like summiting the Tetons or seeing Mt. Hood on a clear day. Or like that moment when a plane takes off and you feel uplifted. Take-off. It feels like I accomplished something special and unique. The only competitor in this game is me. I did my best and kept the goals realistic. Last year I did 3200 miles and this year I upped it by 100, but then I started to see that if I went a little farther, a little longer, I could do more. I’m the tortoise and I bike slow and steady and I won the race against myself. It’s a new personal best.
Yesterday in Portland. The fog started rolling in but I was not deterred. Got lights? Heck yeah!
There are athletes on Strava and I don’t think of myself as an athlete. I bike for myself and the environment and I put one pedal in front of the other every day and with five weeks left in the year I hit a milestone. There will be more miles, but right now, today, there’s 5001 and some of those miles were in faraway places. I pedaled each one. There’s that saying about there’s no such thing as luck. It’s just opportunity meeting preparation. I think for me it’s a spoke of good luck. Tomorrow is another day and my usual 20 and that’s what moves me forward. How about you?