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.
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?
It’s no secret how much I love to ride my bike. Some days I think about just riding from sunrise to sunset, however, there’s the whole job situation. It’s Autumn where I live and it has been the most spectacular weather ever. The leaves have been turning kalidescopic colors and the sun glistens and gleams and keeps on shining so I’ve been doped up on delightment every day. I was remided of the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. If you remember the Hare is about speed and running the race full throttle with “lightnng” speed. The Tortoise, however, just keeps a steady pace and ends up winning the race.
The moral of the story is have a fleet of bikes to make you a better competitor.
The truth of the matter is that I’ve always been Tortoise. I wish I was the speedy Hare. I envy other Hare types, but I’m not. If only I was fast enough to take a nap and then speed by the peloton in Mark Cavendish fashion and win, win, win in the end. The fact of the matter is that I’m all Tortoise. Regardless of how much I train or the amount of carbon fiber in my bike frame, I don’t know speeds of 18-22 MPH. I enjoy a good sprint, but I’m not going to kill myself and I’m never going to pass a biker on the other side of the road and neglect my bikey responsibilities of waving. I’m a slow and steady 12-16 MPH. The moral of the story is have a fleet of bikes that you want to ride so you’ll keep riding no matter the season. You don’t even need a fleet, really. Just one or two that always make you happy enough to ride, rain or shine.
Slow and steady is winning too. Plus the scenery never disappoints.
I felt like Lucy from Peanuts today. Ever have those days when you can’t help yourself from sharing your wisdom? Those days when you’re possessed by the need to shower others with what you’ve learned from years of doing it your way? The last few days have been like that for me.
I rode my bike to the chiropractor the other day. I park my bike at the front by the desk. For whatever reason I took a pic while I was waiting because I thought the light was exceptional and it was Car Free Day and I was in fact car free! While I was getting some realigning of my own my bike attracted some of the folks waiting for their appointments. As I followed my doc out to the reception area there were three people hovering over my bike.
One woman in her early 70s was intrigued by the color and how the racks “looked like they were made to go with the bike.” I explained that they were! She thought my bike was “very pretty” and wondered about the apparatus on the handlebars. What goes in there?
“My phone!” I tell her. ”
Oh, well, I’d like one of those for my golf cart,” she exclaims. Where did I get that?
Then another woman asked about that silver thing. She pointed at it as though she thought she knew but then decided she’d see if I knew the answer. “This is a Faraday bike,” I explained, “and there’s motor up front in the wheel and that silver thing is the controller. It’s where I turn on the bike and lights.”
“This is an electric bike?” Overcome by astonishment. There were Ohhh’s and Ahhh’s and then the Golf Cart lady announced that this was a “cheater bike” and I thought I was going to have to take her down, but I composed myself and said, “Then a golf cart is cheating too.” I was not going to let Golf cart lady off the hook. “Shouldn’t you be walking from hole to hole. Why use a golf cart? With your logic, cars are the ultimate cheat.” Two more people came over and asked whether it was like a scooter. “Oh, no. A scooter takes gas and this is a bike first and foremost. I don’t have to be electric with it, but I have the option when I need a boost up a hill or I need to get someplace at 18mph instead of 12.
“Hills? We don’t have hills!” Golf cart lady said.
“You probably don’t feel them in your car or cart.” I challenged. She was a kick!
“This is a pedal assist.” I explained. “It doesn’t move unless I move. It provides a lovely little boost which helps me get to work faster in the morning and means I don’t have to ride the bus or drive a car”
Golf cart lady was not sure what to make out of me and my bike, “Is that wood? Wood is pretty but impractical for our weather.”
I admitted that I was skeptical at first but I rode all spring and found that the bike stays very clean and the bamboo is low maintenance. There was some nodding and raised eyebrows. All in all, I think I could have convinced them to take a test ride if I’d been in a bike shop instead of a chiropractor’s office.
Golf cart lady wanted the details about the phone holder for her golf cart and told me to be careful out there.
The second advice encounter happened at the bike shop today when a young woman was looking at bike gear. I was waiting for my bike to get some new fenders and I was checking my phone messages. I was sitting on a bench by the shoes and she sat down with an array of overshoe covers. She had a half dozen out and tried them on and took them off. After about 10 minutes I couldn’t help myself. “Have you tried these before?” I probed. She explained she needed something but wasn’t sure what to try. Suddenly I’m pontificating about how I’ve tried them all. I love anything Gore when it comes to a jacket but I have not has much success with the overshoes. I liked the neoprene, but weirdly they aren’t that waterproof in our Northwest rain. I like the grippy quality of the soles but they weren’t waterproof on my commutes.
I found myself leaning in and I told her I wear Sorel boots with a good rain pant and that does the trick. If I was going to do anything different, I’d just buy another pair or waterproof Sorel boots or something similar. I’ve heard Bogs are amazing, but I don’t have personal experience with them.
“What about your helmet? Do you wear one of these?” she asks holding up those helmet shells. I shook my head no. I have a brim on my helmet and I wear often put a beanie over the helmet. I layer my head so I have a lighter beanie over my hair and another over the helmet. It’s amazing and toasty. The rain doesn’t roll down my neck or jacket. Even if it does get wet, it’s usually dried out by morning. I could pop it in the dryer, but I don’t recall doing that at all last winter.
Theses are my two winter looks. The one on the right works beautifully in the rain too!
Early fall. Warm & protected.
Doubled up. Cap on hair and cap on helmet.
Riding though all the seasons is challenging. Everyone has to find what works for them, however, sometimes people who are out in the elements all the time are more helpful in the advice department. I spent some time going through all my gear and I feel ready for another season of riding.
What about you? What advice do you have about gear or riding though the seasons?
I am a creature of habit when it comes to my daily ride. It feels like I’ve veered off into the ditch of doom when I don’t get my daily spin. The biggest obstacle with the start of the 2017 year has been wind, freezing rain and snow. I ride through most weather conditions, but ice is not nice. I got out yesterday on the fatty bike since we had something more than a dusting, but less than an inch of the white stuff. A short, cold ride was totally worth it until I couldn’t feel my hands or take pics, but then today the freezing rain started and the wind is about 38-45 mph and the temps drop to the teens and I’m spending time researching Zwift and smart trainers. I can’t go out and buy something because of the aforementioned snow and ice, but I am learning about some of the desireable features.
Please feel free to tell me what you think in the comments. I’d appreciate constructive feedback on trainers and Zwifting. My budget is $550 or less. I am not training for something other than life, y’know. Being a healthy, fit person. I like to ride everyday and when weather derails the day, I want a back up. Truth be told: I will always be a slow poke. I have an active imagination, but I know the podiums exist only in my imagination. I don’t care! I do enjoy the competition I see on the Zwift boards. I mean it doesn’t matter to me if I am on a ride and I’m dead last. I’d prefer being alone and going at my own pace. Now I hope my performance doesn’t adversely effect the peloton, but from what I can see I can have a nice workout and enjoy some interesting scenery. It won’t be the same as outside, but I’ll have a ride which isn’t compromised by the weather.
My list and musings:
Smart trainers under consideration:
TACX Satori Smart Trainer gets decent reviews and price point is okay.
Kinetic Road Machine Smart Trainer is one I’ve seen in bike shops. It costs a bit more than the Tacx and that’s about all I can see that’s different besides the look of it.
Elite QUBO Digital Smart B+ comes in at about $250, but gets low marks on its Bluetooth connection.
KickR Snap by Wahoo is very cool but it’s over budget. I’m also considering the usual suspects like Cyclops and giving up on the resistance training. But then I stop and consider the resistance is probably one of the big selling points of indoor training. Maybe it would be a motivating factor for me to ride more, train harder and actually have a different riding experience. Less utilitarian and more endurance.
I already have Strava Premiere subscription, so I’m not factoring that into my budget. There’s space in the house for me to dedicate a spot to Zwifting. I even have a yoga mat I could use for the mat that everyone seems to show as well.
Months ago when I talked with someone at a bike shop about trainers, there was a deluge of details about the back tire. Seriously! I couldn’t handle the info. By the time I heard about changing my back tire and rim, I was done. I don’t want to get into that. Get me to the Zwifting start line and if I’m using it so much I wear out the tire, well, I’ll deal with that when the time comes.
Frankly, there are two potential bikes I could use on the trainer. One is my actual road bike which is a lovely carbon fiber Cannondale Synapse sweetheart.
She’d love to be on a trainer. Poor dearie, doesn’t get much time at all. I am skittish as a kitten on ice when I’m on a road bike. Rollers are not an option. But we’ll talk about that in another post. I know I need about $100 for the incidentals like the Ant and other bits, but am I missing anything other critical parts?
Here’s a great video from this guy, Shane Miller, I found on YouTube. This was extremely helpful. Shane goes through a set up from start to finish. I have checked CraigsList for a Cyclops or even someone’s cast off. I’m still in the research phase. I need to try out a few trainers and see how they work and feel.
If you got out today, good job! I’m hoping we have some warmer temps in the forecast this week, because bottomline, I don’t like having my rides interrupted.