Monday, February 25, 2013

Handlebar Bag

I finished up this bag recently and am happy with the progress I've made. It's still not "there", but it's better the last one, and hopefully the next one will be even better. Its a solid, roomy bag and I like the color and materials arrangement a lot. It's got a lot of that Carridice vibe in a French handlebar bag form.

Still to do: a thin maple backing bar for wherever the decaleur mount goes through the leather strap at the top and putting in the small brass grommets for the top flap closure elastic. Beyond that, creating an internal stiffener would be about it.

I've ordered some thin leather that I'll use for edging that might make my trim process a little easier, neater, and cleaner. I bought a nice binder attachement that I would love to be able to use, but it can't handle the thickness of the leather I've been using.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Council of Cycle Stylists

I was pleased to come across this fun video for a great song by a great band... I'm confident that neither the bikes nor apparel were "vintage" when this was made, in fact, I'd suggest that what you see is what was currently in fashion for early eighties cycling.  Are you aware of any other cycle-centric videos out there?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Big Ski at Little River

Pausing at the Waterbury reservoir

Our map

Near the top of the up

 The last standing homestead in the small valley. Last inhabited around 1910 or so

 Sled dogs at the end of their work day. The sweet creature on the right has no eyes, resulting from complications of glaucoma and surgery

Nemo left Vermont with fresh coating of snow today, so we did what all patriotic Vermonters do and went for a ski.

Wanting to move beyond familiar trips, we took inspiration from pal Mike's post about skiing with Greg at Little River State Park over in Waterbury. We had an errand in town as well, which made the trip even more easy to decide on.

A little search on the internet brought up a useful trail map.

We arrived and asked some folks who were packing up about a recommended route and were given basic instructions to head up Stevenson Brook trail.

Its a steady up that eventually meets up with a brief bit of VAST trail and then sends you down the other side of the Stevenson Brook valley. We were glad to be in the shade going up and in the sun on the downside. There were lots of cool historical sites along the way, including the remains of an old logging mill and various remain from turn of the century hill farms. I'd be interested in coming back in the summer to explore some of these spots.

It was a cold day but we were pretty comfortable throughout. Warm heading up and cooling down quick when we stopped for a brief snack at the crossover point before heading back down. The trip back down was never too steep and had enough semi-level spots to work up a little warmth.

Somebody runs a dog sled operation on the main paths through the park. We didn't really get to see the dogs in action, but we heard them getting tethered for a run and then later saw them lounging before being packed up in their transport truck. One dog in particular caught my eye because he seemed to be blind. I looked closer and in fact appeared to have no eyes at all. I asked the owner and she said he had glaucoma and consequently had his eyes removed. He now runs with the other dogs in the pack ahead of the sled. I thought that was the most wonderful thing. This dog could be living a really constrained life in some home or on a short run, but instead he gets to run through the forest in the company of his fellow canines.

The loop is somewhere in the six mile zone and it was a great discovery. I'm sure we'll be back.

Winter Commute

Stopping on Meadow Road

About 7 or 8 years ago I rode 6 or so miles to work when my car wouldn't start because of the cold. The temperature was roughly 5 below zero. I survived the ride and arrived at work mostly overheated but with very cold toes and hands. It felt good to know that I could do such a ride, but I guess it didn't motivate me to continue until the season began to warm up.

Zoom forward to now. This winter I've been biking most days the short 3.2 mile ride each way to work but have tended to pass when the temps get down around the low teens or below.  As chance would have it, Nancy was away with the car for the last three days and so I was (gladly) left with no option but to ride -- come what may. There's nothing like "no other option" to make the choice to bike easier.

Thursday morning was a bright clear day. The temperature was hovering right around 1 or 2 degrees above zero--definitely a day I would have driven given the option, but that wasn't in the cards, so I planned as best I could and had a great ride. I arrived at work a little too warm, but not problematically so -- quite comfortable.   My hands and feet were fine although I suspect that given a few more miles that might have started to change.  As always, experience is the best way to figure out what works and what doesn't. I carry around a few of those chemical hand and foot warmer packets in case I should ever need them, but so far they've just sat in my bag.

It is way colder then it might appear in this photo: about 1 degree fahrenheit 

What I wore:

  • Ski helmet with ski goggles
  • Neoprene face mask with breath holes
  • 2 thin wool shirts
  • Chamois shirt
  • Turtleneck sweater
  • Quilted down vest
  • Waxed cotton cycling shell
  • Winter gloves
  • Large leather mitts over gloves
  • Thick wool leggings
  • Jeans
  • 2 Pair medium thick wool socks
  • Hefty hiking boots

A little later when I had cooled down and stepped outside for a few minutes I was impressed at how cold it actually was, despite the sun.

The key seems to be not having any exposed skin or even really any drafts. To do this again I could easily loose a shirt layer, or maybe the vest. I think also, for the hands, having room for air to circulate in an enclosed space around the gloves. The big over-mitts are crucial; they form little rooms for my gloved hands.

The scene crossing the Mad River was lovely. The water looked so clear

As I write, winter storm Nemo is doing it's thing. We had snow coming down all day and it was a bit of a challenge to get home. Dealing with the cold is it's own challenge, and dealing with any amount of snow is a different problem. The bike I'm currently riding has fat studded semi-knobby tires and I found that it was like biking through wet gravel or something. Hard going and tough to make headway and  stay upright and keep moving in a straight line, particularly on the hills. I didn't fall, but theres lots of sliding around. At times on the steep hill it was a real effort to maintain myself upright and to keep traction. I was able to ride the whole way home, but it felt like it was probably double the effort for the distance.

Despite the challenges, its great to take some of the mystery out of what it means to do winter commuting in the heart of the Green Mountains. I used to bike year-round in Boston, but now see that as a reasonably forgiving climate to cycle in the winter. Vermont sees much more snow and ice and truly cold temperatures.

Riding through the corn fields on the VAST trail

There is a VAST  trail (the statewide snowmobile association) that bisects my commute route home through farm fields for a mile or so. When enough snowmobile traffic has packed the route it real fun to take this little shortcut.

When winter really hits and biking becomes a bit too much of a struggle, there's always skiing... (see next post)