The right bag for cycling’s greatest adventures

Posted: January 7th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling, Gear Review | 1 Comment »

Cycling’s biggest, most demanding adventures are not found on the physically demanding trails of Moab, nor the inspiring coast-to-coast road or at the top of heart-soaring vistas. Nope,

Great adventure is not found here

Great adventure is not found here

they’re found day-to-day, in the close-shave traffic flow, of a commuter cyclist.   The jumped curbs, the abrasive repositioning of frame to bike rack, the slightly lopsided messenger bag that swings clunkily around when you try to access your phone, each of these challenges can overwhelm the frail and vulnerable. It’s the bags, over-stuffed with commuting adventure necessities: lunch, extra pair of shoes, cute scarf for the ride home later in the evening, that both takes and dishes out the brunt of commuter demands.

I have struggled to find a bag that can match the high-intensity, big adventure challenge of daily commuting.  My messenger bag, straps loosened to their very tips, to accommodate everything I may need for my 15 minute commute: flair, change of clothing, whole foods bag, smashed my chest and created a rut in my right shoulder.  I eventually questioned my packing system and applied a less is more approach and started using a slim line back pack, that forced me to limit what I carried to a lap top and single credit card, just not at the same time.  This was not working as a long-term solution since I also wanted to pack a lunch. At this point, many smart, savvy people would have considered panniers but if there’s a more complicated, less successful method, I’ll try that first.

I’m not a Rapha acolyte—I just dress like one

Big adventures awaits

Big adventures awaits

It may appear that I have a Rapha fetish but in reality I have a weakness for bags (just not panniers). Most times simply browsing and imaging how I might use a certain type of bag satisfies the deep need to gather up things and put them in a container.  Mostly the desire is linked to traveling; I imagine where I would be or the types of amazing activities in which I would be engaged; as my line thinking progresses it naturally lands on the type of pack I  would require to get there.  In reality, my daily adventure is a swing and a swoop down the Boulder bike paths but an adventure all the same and one that requires a pack. Enter the Rapha back pack.

I’ve been using it for about a year and on the whole I really like it, despite the very pink, quite garish rain protector. There’s a pocket for everything and it expands to accommodate most commuter’s needs (read: male). This is not a criticism; it’s just it’s virtually impossible to stash a pair of heels in the expandable front packet when there’s a laptop in the main compartment.  Although, most times I do wear my heels when I’m riding there are some days when it makes more sense to go with a closed-toe option and, so I would like to be able to take both my lunch and my shoes together—in the same bag.  Minor quibbles aside, they have really thought of most things:  organizing compartments for pens, key fob,  built-in tube opening for reservoir, made with durable, reflected canvas.  This pack should serve me well  through my commuting adventures for a very long time.

Back in the saddle again—bike commuting in winter

Posted: January 2nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling | 1 Comment »

Somehow I went from having my cycling/commuting routine dialed in: lunch prepared the night before, warm clothes laid out for the morning, bike tires pumped up, to waking up late,

There's a bike under here

There’s a bike under here

sprinting out the door with toast and coffee and sliding into the passenger seat of our car.  I can point to a variety of reasons: ridiculous cold, flooding, followed by more cold, etc.  but I’ve somehow managed in year’s past to just get on with it (exception was the flooding, tho’). I especially want to leap back into it as I am about finished up with my eBook called SpokeLore. It’s a guide for cruising around Boulder looking glamorous and finding fun places to eat and drink. And I can’t very well pound on the table to encourage people to ride and then cruise on up to various locales in town on four wheels.

I feel like I owe it to 2014 to get back into the swing of things.  Any advice for getting back in the saddle?

A ride for Rancheros – Hygiene’s Crane Hollow Cafe

Posted: June 10th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling, Rides | 1 Comment »

I woke up from an allergy-induced slumber that was less about rejuvenation of mind and body and more about providing a stationary object on which pollen could collect. I was due to meet a friend at 7am for an easy ride and breakfast out to Hygiene but woke feeling drugged, my thoughts sluggish and a bit blurry. Fortunately, I had prepared my things the night before and my husband had the forethought to have the bike loaded in the car so that there would be no last minute retreats back to bed.

After a couple cups of coffee, I was off if not fully energized then at least conversational.  One thing about getting an early morning start to a ride is that there is really no one else on the road at 6:45. It doesn’t really need to be explained as to why this is the case but I think it might be a habit worth forming.

We cruised onto Hwy36 with a couple of other two-wheeled souls and headed north towards Lyons. That first, sharp descent that curves right always make me sit a little more attentively on my seat. The wide sweep of the road draws your eye both to the looming Flatirons in the west and the flat, sprawling plains towards the east.  The view seems charged with the roar of passing cars and I have a tendency to hug a little more closely to the far right of the shoulder.

The first chance we got off of Hwy36 and headed east on Neva, which offers a lovely little descent through farm land and reservoirs; you might even catch a glimpse of a lama pack munching grass. There’s nothing inherently wrong with 36: nice shoulder, fairly courteous drivers,  and  a smooth ride. But if you don’t have to ride adjacent to a race track, why would you?  East of 36, the farmland that immediately spills out and across the prairie is beautiful and full of unexpected animals, like lamas and goats. Of course, today, there were no lamas rather the more traditional herd of cows with lots of calves filled one of the fields. In hindsight, I should have stopped and taken better shots of the cute, little things trotting around the place.

Baby Calves Cows under a tree

But I didn’t and we flashed by them and on our way. A left on 63rd, a right on Nelson and then another left on 75th and we were coasting into Hygiene. By this time, the two cups of coffee and half an oat bar were nowhere to be found in my stomach.  I’d been trying a newish energy drink form Skratch Labs and that had helped keep hunger at bay. That is until we hit Crane Hollow Cafe and the smell of green chili, eggs and bacon threatened to overwhelm my dietary goals with one rich and heady blast of aroma.

If you haven’t ridden out to Hygiene before, you are missing a solidly, fun ride. If you’ve ridden out to Hygiene and not eaten at Crane Hollow Cafe, you are missing the entire point of cycling. As it turns out, I’m weak and the Rancheros were delicious.

First ride of the season. Was.Not.Pretty. Boulder to Lyons

Posted: March 31st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Rides | No Comments »
Old trees are being uprooted by the wind and drought.

Old trees are being uprooted by the wind and drought.

I’d like to say that my coffee rides and book reading about cycling had prepared me for the de facto season ride opener. Nope. Jersey was snug, I felt clumsy clicking in and I was passed quickly and without a second glance by the AARP cycling team. I was prepared, though. I had my camera, Map Tracks started and a single Kind bar. The weather was absolutely perfect, a spring day lifted stealthily from Winter’s grasp and I woke up feeling cocky and ready. The goal was to ride into Lyons, maybe stop off into Stone Kitchen, if they were open, do Fruit Loops and head home. A gentle ease back into the riding scene. 10 minutes out onto HWY36 and about 2 miles out of town, I thought I was pressing down on the pedals with noodles.  I told hubby to meet me in Lyons, I wanted to suffer in silence.

Once I slowed my pace and found a rhythm that allowed me to breathe without snorting, I settled into the ride.  It wasn’t fast and I was passed relentlessly by Easter egg-colored cycling jerseys.  The sky was blue and the grasses were bleached  post-winter yellow, the ground hard from little snow. I’ve noticed many of the old, dead trees finally falling over along the bike path in Boulder so wasn’t surprised to see down trees out towards Lyons. This farm actually had an enormous tree on its side several months past; this one must have been a younger sibling.  I jumped off my bike and tried to get a good view of the enormous trunk and brittle branches striking out into the air this way and that.  I don’t know if the picture was worth the effort in the end. I had stopped on an incline and found myself unable to click in. I had this image of myself hobbling along into Lyons. Adding insult to the whole sorry scene were the number of people who offered to help me. I wasn’t sorry I was asked (cyclists, in general, are a super helpful bunch) , I was sorry I looked so pathetic.  In the end I waited for a break in traffic, turned my bike downhill, clicked in and then turned back towards Lyons.

In the end, Stone Kitchen was closed, I was knackered and Frase, who had ridden up Old Stage, was open to doing one half of the apple.  We headed north from town on Hwy 66 and towards Hall Ranch, where we waved to some mountain biker friends, and then took a left onto S. St Vrain drive. I love this quiet, winding road.  It’s in a bit of a canyon, so the shady areas retained their winter cool but most of the road is wide open to sunlight and the occasional view of the river. This road provides a welcome reprieve from the summer heat because of those shady patches and I know in July I’ll be parked in one for several minutes to cool down.



Are you being served?

Are you being served?

The Bears of Lyons

The Bears of Lyons

Classic cars

Classic cars

This horse was kicking his feet in the air like he just didn't care

This horse was kicking his feet in the air like he just didn’t care

Park mural

Park mural


OMG! That’s like snow and down tube gear levers

Posted: March 11th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling Events | No Comments »

Anyone who drives between Denver and Boulder on a regular basis knows that HWY36 is a gnarled cluster at the best of times. Throw in some significant construction requiring lane commitment and slower speeds and you have a cluster-squared.  Add a snow storm and you have a cluster-squared & fucked.  This combination of attributes came together on a fine Sunday morning and hijacked our trip down to Denver for the hand-made bike show. (Yes, people from Minnesota and those places north probably still made it down but there isn’t enough northern experience in our household to carry a Southern Brit and a Texan outside of our 65 degree comfort zone0)

Fortunately, we had made it down to Nobilette’s little show/get-together at the Marriott on Saturday night. We got to see some classic Rene Herse bicycles and a couple of newer looking Nobilette’s with some fancy down tube gear levers.  I wonder if because they are so iconic and traditional looking if these classic gears won’t have their own hipster moment, like staches, flat caps and suspenders.

SOMA bike frame

SOMA bike frame

Beautiful Nobilette

Beautiful Nobilette

sharp, distinct lug work

sharp, distinct lug work

Of course, walking around, looking at the classy hand made bikes convinced me that really the only thing preventing me from more fully enjoying my riding experience was a custom built Nobilette. We’ll see. Birthday is coming up.

What do do when you’re not riding – Read about riding

Posted: February 7th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Book Review, Cycling | No Comments »

I’ve read more about riding this season than actually have ridden. It has not been unusually cold or snowy, I just haven’t done it. Part of the reason is that I no longer commute to work, which got me out every day in every weather. Working from home all day and by the end of the work day t seems to take me a herculean surge of energy to get myself out from the warm cocoon of home and out onto the paths.

That’s not to say I haven’t been riding at all. I’ve been cruising up and down the bike paths (see: Ent’s Graveyard), confirming and correcting the routes I’ve written up for a book I’m working on with a friend.

ut more often I’ve been staying in and reading about the races, scrapes and dieting experiments of the Wankmeister author of Cycling in the South Bay.  Then there’s Barbara Savage’s epic Miles from Nowhere.  Her cycling adventure with her husband is humbling, inspiring and deserves to be read twice.  I think about her sometimes when I’m riding along perfectly paved, completely separate bike paths and begrudgingly accept that I have it really very easy in Boulder.

I mean, how can you read this and not put the book down, walk around your space and think “I don’t know how I would handle that”

This section she describes riding in Egypt

….”But those last thirty-six miles packed a real wallop. The mood in the villages between Qena and Luxor was ugly, even brutal. Instead of grabbing for a single rock or stick when we approached, the villagers gathered mounds of debris to hurl at us. …Some of the villagers came at us brandished tree branches.”

I can’t imagine the strength and stamina it must take to ride a touring bike, packed with your worldly goods and having to joust with people to move forward.

Sadly, Barbara was struck by a truck and killed in her native Santa Barbara. I think it’s what’s so disturbing yet so powerful and enduring about her story.  You’ll have to pick it up the book yourself to understand the disconnect you feel to read about a life so fully live, cut short so quickly.


Cycling to get “Closer to the Ground” and other titles

Posted: December 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Book Review | No Comments »

Ever since I read Closer to the Ground, I’ve been devouring naturalist books. I don’t know what you call a genre of book that describes peoples, families, communities living   close to the natural environment. It’s not that they’ve turned their back on this modern world – many wrote their novels on a laptop – but they appear to want to live more fully and more appreciatively in their surroundings and natural world. They write about big dinners with neighbors, shopping at grocery stores but also about the best place to go clamming, winter night walk-abouts, and children growing up knowing the sounds of different birds and how to set lobster traps. I’m sure to some degree it’s romanticized but by not too far of a stretch; there’s nothing romantic about your car sliding down the road and off the side nor of cutting enough fire wood to last through a winter. And although the tasks they elect to do themselves are often hard-work and challenging, the hands-on approach provides them with so much more than simply a cord of wood or a dinner of clams. It seems those chores and tasks become imbued with and additional sense of well-being and feeling of stewardship towards the land and what they take.

Dylan Tomine, who wrote Closer to the Ground (awesome book –get it now), also included a wonderful list of similar natural-living inspired books.  I quickly logged into the Boulder Public library site and put a hold on Just Before Dark, Wild Marsh and The Collector. I enjoyed the Wild Marsh but for some reason the writings of Jim Harrison in Just Before Dark have made a deeper and I think longer-lasting impression.

Like this line:

“It has dawned on me that we appear to make specific decisions on a subconscious level far before we realize them, then simultaneously war against these decisions on a conscious level”

I think that provides the well-spring to guilt. Anyway, next up is The Collector, which is about the David Douglas, the guy who  lent his name to… guess.. the Douglas Fir.

Will these books inspire  me to begin hunting for my own food, chopping wood for our fire and looking for mushrooms? Inspire me? Yes. But I’ll definitely have to start small, like harvesting my vegetables when they’re ready instead of waiting for the dogs to develop a taste for cucumbers. And I guess in some ways, using the bike for quick errands is my  attempt to enjoy the process instead of simply just trying to get wherever, as quickly as possible. Oddly, working from home has gotten me out of the habit of jumping on my bike for those quick errands around town. The ritual of riding into work, got me used to doing most of the my running around on two-wheels. It’s one of things I miss about working in an office regularly.

In the meantime, I’ll keep reading, checking in with Whole Larder Love and poring over some the crazy ideas captured in Just Before Dark.

My First Rapha Jersey – A Review

Posted: October 31st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Gear Review | No Comments »

First off, I readily admit that I’m a sucker for the Rapha ads. The sweeping vistas, the crazily steep switch backs, and the light patina of tradition that covers all their shots. They make me want to get into some splendid cycling gear and cycle straight up and finish my descent at a table full of amazing food prepared by someone’s Italian grandma. The cycling up anywhere is quite possible in Boulder, after all we sit at the foot of the Foothills.  The getting clad in splendid cycling gear poses more of a challenge, which is why I saved up and with the addition of some birthday cash I splurged and bought a Rapha jersey. Online. In cream.

For many people, spending that type of money on a single-use type of clothing is ridiculous. Buying it online without trying it on adds another layer of stupidity. Purchasing workout gear in a cream-color and you may as well drop a maraschino cherry down the front of this particular decision.

But that’s what I did and here’s my story.

From a quality and packaging perspective, Rapha has it dialed.  My jersey was folded into a musette bag along with other Rapha branded materials. It was an exciting experience just unfolding the package.

I could not wait – even til a day of sunshine and planned rides – to try it on. So I did. I pulled the delicious-feeling fabric  over my head and thought ‘hmmm…this feels a little snug’ but I was still wearing a light wool top. My birthday is in March so here in Boulder we’re still layer dressing when the rest of the country it seems is wearing shorts and flip-flops.  I also have to admit being lulled by the new fantasy-sizing that many companies use in order for us all to feel better about our expanding girths. Rapha does not deign to flatter; they want you to earn that rider’s physique so you don’t mess with the clean lines of their clothing.

There were two results from this hasty trying on event: 1) I didn’t realize that breathable meant thin and sheer  – it’s not noticeable in other colors but very obvious when you wear cream (without an under layer) 2) maybe large would have been more comfortable.

But I still love it. I’ve been out riding in it a few times – generally wearing a light jacket over it – and it’s super comfortable and just feels good against the skin. The fabric is light but not flimsy. In other words, it’s rugged enough for any sort of cycling. The fit is aggressive but a) it’s not their fault I’m between a medium/large b) is probably meant for fitter, faster bike riders.  The craftsmanship – this jersey is well made and I don’t expect to need another  –  sheer, cream-colored – one anytime soon. Nor really any other color.

But I will not buy online again. cream-colored. jerseys.


What You Find, When You’re Not Looking

Cycling Boulder’s LoBo Trail

Posted: October 15th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling, Riding Trails | No Comments »

Without too much strong arming, I was able to persuade my husband to help me find the cycling-friendly route to Longmont instead of cycling to the Ward.  It’s like substituting a climb up your nearest Fourteener with a stroll around the park. The two rides couldn’t be more different but I sweetened the deal with a promise of an Old Chub at Oskar Blues and my sparkling personality.

I had heard and even unintentionally cycled along parts of the LoBo trail but had failed

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to find the connecting points from Niwot to Longmont.  I had warned hubby before we started that my general knowledge and confidence of finding the route was slim at best.  Armed with that knowledge, we decided to ride along and see what happened – so long as we ended up at Oskar’s.

The Boulder to Niwot route was fairly easy, picking up the LoBo trail just off of Jay Rd. heading East. You actually ride through Gunbarrel – hopping on and off the Twin Lakes/Niwot Rd trail – on the LoBo trail.

There were a couple of spots, where you could have lost the plot had you not been paying attention or in my case, brought someone along who was paying attention (i.e somewhere near 83rd/Glen Village Lefthand, you have to take a left).  We did manage to find most of the connecting roads and trails to Longmont but most of the fun was  in following a trail because we liked the look of it or it was pointing in the general direction.  Using whim and luck we found all sorts of really lovely off-road trails that snaked and curled around creeks and green open space, and that, in places, made crunching sounds as we rode over fallen leaves. Even better they all more or less lead us in the same direction – at one point, we appeared to be riding parallel to the Diagonal Hwy and adjacent to farm land that still had the brittle remains of summer corn stalks standing upright in the field.

The ride was a great mix of off-road and on-road and come to find out you can ride the LoBo trail for many miles past Hover St (and Oskar Blues). Next riding plans are going to include a packed lunch and a few extra hours to allow for some aimless dawdling and new trail discovery.

Why Can’t Cycling Just Be Fun…

Posted: October 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Cycling, Sustainability | No Comments »

I’m reading this truly amazing book called Closer to the Ground – the story of  a family that appreciates modern conveniences while enjoying the bounty they get from foraging, growing their own food and fishing.  Dylan Tomine’s tale is not about rejecting modern life but about appreciating and nurturing the natural world around us. But it’s this line from the introduction that I think best defines his approach:

People are baffled at having to choose between the gang plows of industrial farming and a two-man goat cheese operation.”

It does often seem like life’s choice are cast in extremes; the unappealing description of both sides is at best unflattering, at worst deceiving.  And in most situations in life, the question is not really one of either or. Much the same can be said of cycling. It’s either portrayed as some sort of elite, exclusive, exhausting endeavor or as a completely unrealistic form of transportation.

Is there a middle way

There’s a time and place for both, I guess, except if you are one of the ducks. But I think cycling should be more like:

Fun with a friend