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Tag Archive: commute by bike

I felt safer on the street than the grocery store parking lot

I was on my way home when I decided to make a detour at the local grocery store to get a few items for the home. As I make my way through the parking lot, I was greeted by aggressive drivers who seemed to be in a rush. There were work trucks, Mad Moms in Minivans, the elderly (nursing home nearby) and a few rogue shopping carts.shopping center
Gosh, I have to say I felt so vulnerable and so much more at risk riding through the parking lot than I did when I was on the street! I had vehicles coming at me from all directions and none of them seem to be paying attention to me since I wasn’t a car. Luckily I made it in the store…but now that I’m done shopping, I gotta try and get home! Wish me luck!

Growing up through commuting

So about 10 years ago when I started to commute to my jobs I was really into the whole idea of less is more. This meant that my bike was a fixed gear with one brake, messenger bag and small blinky lights. Each year that progressed I noticed I found that the things I thought were “goofy” at one point, were grabbing my attention.

Let’s take for example rear racks and panniers. I used to think they were for “old people.” Well, as I got older I see that they are way more practical than I had ever imagine. But before I got into the pannier thing, I actually ditched the messenger bag for backpacks. I figured it was better for my shoulders and there were a ton of companies that made some great bags. But that too went by the wayside as I didn’t like showing up to places with a wet back and sore shoulders.
panniers

Now that I’m 10 years older I’d like to tell you what I now prefer when it comes to bike commuting. Ready for this?

-multi-geared bike
-rack with at least 2 panniers
-big lights! Minimum of at least 600 lumens on the headlight and 2 blinkers in the back. I like to place them on two different spots for added visibility.
-T-shirts. I used to commute with only cycling clothing. Now I just grab t-shirts and regular shorts.
-I stopped riding fixed gears…arthritic knees.

Perhaps its with time that I started seeing things differently as I did when I was younger. But one thing I’m grateful for is the choices available that the bicycle industry makes for its consumers. Let’s face it, each company has to cater to it’s various demographics to remain competitive and that’s good for us, young and seasoned riders.

What about you? Were there things you’ve changed through out your commuting career? Do you now do things that you didn’t think of when you were younger? It’s like a young married man saying “I’ll never get a mini-van.” Only to find himself at the dealer a few years later falling in love with a new van with built-in DVD player for the kids.

Book reviews: Last-minute gift ideas for the bicycling reader in your life

I’ve got a backlog of book reviews waiting to be published, so I thought I would combine them into a longer “roundup” — as you well know, books can be a great holiday gift for the two-wheeler in your life. Or, you could always treat yourself to one of these titles. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

Bike Porn, Volume 1

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Chris Naylor is the author of Bike Porn, Volume 1 (West Sussex, UK: Summersdale Publishers, Ltd., 2013). In this book, Chris has compiled dozens of high-quality photos of some really spectacular bikes. These photos are juxataposed with cycling-friendly quotes, from notables such as H.G. Wells, Grant Peterson, Jean-Paul Sartre, Bob Weir, and many more. It’s a celebration of the craftsmanship and technology of the modern bicycle.

Lots of custom bikes from today’s hot builders are featured, as are components like wheels. The photographs are from many contributors, and all of them display crisp resolution, focusing on subtle details as well as the entire bike. The book is printed on matte-finished, high-quality paper, and serves as a mini “coffee table” book. The tech geek in me wished for more information about some of the bicycles displayed within Bike Porn’s pages, but that’s beyond the scope of the book. This is a good addition to a collection of bicycle design titles, generating inspiration and interest in some really fantastic two-wheeled machines.

The Road Less Taken

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Kathryn Bertine’s The Road Less Taken: Lessons from a Life Spent Cycling (Chicago: Triumph Books, 2014) is a humorous peek into the world of professional women’s bike racing. Kathryn is an accomplished writer, penning features for publications like ESPN, espnW. In addition to her professional racing career with the Wiggle-Honda team, she has also found the time to create documentary films and to write two other cycling memoirs. Most importantly, she is one of the founders of Le Tour Entier, an organization that helped launch La Course, the women’s Tour de France that premiered in the 2014 season.

Kathryn details what it’s like to be a professional cyclist among women’s ranks — the financial struggles, homestays, mechanical issues, and so much else. She approaches her narrative with a large dose of self-deprecating humor, giving a funny and insightful overview of the fairly deplorable state of professional women’s bike racing. Kathryn’s ability to convey her passion for the sport despite the many struggles is refreshing, and she gives a great look into what motivates riders, how they stay focused, and how she was able to overcome adversity during her years as a racer. She finishes off the book with some articles she wrote for other publications, highlighting women’s sports issues and showcasing other female athletes. The book, on the whole, is a bit scattershot — Kathryn tends to jump around a bit in almost a stream-of-consciousness writing style. It works here, though, and I found it to be a very enjoyable read.

The Monuments

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Since I began following bike racing in the mid 1980s, I always had a soft spot for the spring and fall classics, particularly the five races known as “The Monuments”. In Peter Cossin’s book The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling’s Greatest One-Day Races (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014), I found a treasure trove of information. Let me just put this out here right now: this is overwhelmingly the best book I’ve read this year, and I read a LOT of books (60-80 a year). I simply could not put this tome down…it is filled with historical accounts, little-known facts, and the origins of the greatest races on the pro calendar.

What are The Monuments, you ask? Well, in order of their placement on the racing calendar, we’ve got Milan-Sanremo (known as “La Primavera” in Italian, their phrase for “spring”). Next up is de Ronde van Vlaanderen, known to English speakers as the Tour of Flanders, referred to by fans as “Vlaanderens mooiste” (Flander’s most beautiful). A week later comes Paris-Roubaix, the Hell of the North. This one is considered the Queen of the Classics, and legends are born on the cobbles. Next up is La Doyenne (the old lady), cycling’s oldest Monument that most people know as Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Rounding out the calendar is the Giro di Lombardia, colloquially known as “The Race of the Falling Leaves”. This last used to mark the end of the pro season, and was a last chance for many cyclists to get a prestigious win for the year.

Peter Cossins addresses each race with incredible detail, from accounts of the first runnings of each race through to modern times. These accounts are amazing in their detail — it is almost as if the author was there, roadside, catching all the breathtaking action of true cycling legends giving their all in these events. Even as a seasoned follower of these races, I learned many details. For example, most fans think Paris-Roubaix is called “Hell of the North” due to the mud, the inclement weather, and the torturous cobbled secteurs. In fact, it was given that nickname just after World War I, when the race traversed areas utterly devastated by the fighting in that brutal conflict.

The Monuments deserves a place in every racing fan’s bookshelf — I simply cannot convey how much I enjoyed reading this title. I even skipped meals in order to finish this thing; it is that compelling.

Faster

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Written by Michael Hutchinson, a professional cyclist with over 50 national titles, Faster: The Obsession, Science and Luck Behind the World’s Fastest Cyclists (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014) gives a detailed examination into the art and science of professional bike racers. Hutchinson presents the information in a way that breaks down complex ideas about physiology, nutrition, and technology into concepts that are easily digested, even for a layperson. In other words, I didn’t have to ask my wife to explain some of the physiological details to me (she’s a medical professional working on her doctorate).

Hutchinson talks about some of the extremes pros go to to eke out those crucial seconds that stand between them and a win (high-altitude simulation tents, anyone?). He delves deeply into laboratory testing, the psychology of successful riders, and many other facets of the sacrifices, black magic, and hard science of the professional athlete’s training regimen. Throughout the book, Hutchinson is not afraid to poke fun at himself or at a lot of the mysteries surrounding extreme athletic preparation. His writing style blends humor with a rich examination of the sport, and it’s been very pleasant to read (so far…I’m not quite finished with the book yet). For the cyclist who also likes to pin on a race number from time to time, this is a valuable addition to a book collection. There are no “secret formulas” on offer here, but much of the information can be used to formulate training game plans all the same.

These four books are available online or at most well-stocked book retailers. Each of them makes a fantastic gift for the bike fan in your life.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

“The Southwest” Waxed Canvas Bike Suit Bag by 2 Wheel Gear-Review

Some time ago I received the Southwest waxed canvas bike suit bag from the folks at 2 Wheel Gear. I was excited to use this bag for a few reasons. I think it’s damn handsome and I’ve been wanting a suit bag. Below is the description of the bag per their website:

Weather-ready Staywax canvas is manufactured to be extremely water-resistant and cut-resistant, yet breathable and light. It uses a unique blend of wax and polymers to give it legendary durability without feeling oily. Unlike traditional wax cotton finishes, Staywax doesn’t transfer to clothes or skin. Machine washable.
Wrinkle Free All the function of a travel suit bag on the back of your bike. Transfer hangers from your closet to inside your bag. Hangs vertical for convenient changing and packing.
Capacity 55L of storage capacity. No more rolling clothes. Extra deep side billow pockets pack your shoes, toiletries, laptops and anything you might need for the daily grind.
Easy Rack Mounting Mounting brackets (J-Clips) on the bottom of the pannier work with most standard bike racks. D-Rings hook over the rack’s bottom post and nylon velcro straps securely fasten the pannier to the rack. Built for a long long ride and will not bounce off.

Bag Dimensions
Main Compartment 37″x 18.5″ x 3″
Large Exterior Pockets (2) 12.5″ x 11.5″ x 3″
Small Exterior Pockets (2) 10″ x 9″ x 2″
Top Ridge Pocket 11.5″ x 5″ x 3″

So let’s break this review down. Here’s how the bag looks off the bike:
The bag has two side pockets. Interestingly, one is upright, while the other side is horizontal. You’ll also notice that it has a shoulder strap and handles to make it easier to transport.

Bag wide open. You can place your suit, or a dress shirt and slacks right in there:

This is how it looks with my leisure suit inside the bag:
 Canvas Bike Suit Bag

The bag works pretty much like any other bag with the exception of holding your suit inside. The side pockets can also carry a laptop; on the top of the bag there is a small zippered compartment where you can place your toiletries, belt, or whatever you want to store in there.
canvas suit bag

Mounting the bag onto my rack was a breeze. The J-hooks fit perfectly and to secure the bag from falling off, the D-rings are attached to Velcro straps. So all I had to do was place the ring on the mount of the rack, cinch the strap and I was on the road!
commuter bag

Here are the J-hooks and the Velcro strap. It’s a great fit, nice and snug. This bag isn’t going anywhere!
commuter bag review
suit sak

The canvas material is weather resistant. Here’s a few shots of my “rain simulation.”
water resistant bag
water repellent bag

So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of the Southwest Canvas bag. I simply LOVE this bag for its classy stylings and easy to use features. The zippers glide easily without catching any material. By the way, you know those water photos above? Well I checked the contents of the bag after getting it wet and they were completely dry!

Another feature that I liked about the bag is that once you get to your destination, you can hang the bag on a door hook and you can start changing. But one thing about this bag that stands out to me from all the other bags I’ve reviewed would be the “grown up” look of it. I feel that I’ve out grown the whole messenger bag thing. I do like backpacks, but my back always gets sweaty. Not to mention my shoulders start to ache after a long ride. So with the Southwest, I arrive with a dry-ish back, the bag looks so good that an executive could confidently walk into his/her office with it and have it pair very well with their office attire.

The Southwest is priced at $279 CAD or $247 USD. Sounds pricey? Well you have to keep in mind that most garment bags out there use nylon fabric and that material easily frays or tears. The waxed canvas used for the Southwest is weather resistant and designed not to tear. In addition to the high quality canvas, they also made all the straps and hardware with military grade materials. Now you know when people say “military grade” that it means it’s going to last a long time.

I’ve been using this bag for the last few months and it actually bothered the guys at 2 Wheel Gear that I wasn’t publishing a review so quickly, that’s only because I wanted to really get some time with it. I’ve even used this bag on my motorcycle to carry my clothes. Even at 80 MPH, the bag held up well. I never experienced any type of craftsmanship issue, none of the zippers or other hardware broke or gave me problems. Oh, here’s another great thing about the Southwest, it’s completely machine washable! Yep, you can was this thing in cold water and let it air dry. The waxed canvas isn’t going to lose its characteristics — in fact, you’ll gain more character in the appearance of the bag.

All in all, I was really pleased with the Southwest waxed canvas bag by 2 Wheel Gear. I like that they also design and manufacture all their products in Vancouver, BC and Calgary, AB, Canada. To me that’s great because they’re helping their local economy grow. The bag also comes with a 2 year warranty against manufacturer defects or craftsmanship issues.

Our review disclaimer

Review: ArroWhere reflective cycling jacket

Back at Interbike in September, RL ran across the ArroWhere company. Their product line “caught our eye”, as they say — with bright colors and loads of reflective accents for nighttime safety.

We reached out the the ArroWhere company and they sent us a pre-production sample of their Solid Arrow Reflective Jacket to try out. Remember, this is a pre-production sample, so minor details have changed from the actual version for sale. We’ll get into those changes in a bit.

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First, a bit about the jacket directly from the manufacturer’s website:

-Waterproof and breathable polyester fabric
-Top quality 3M reflective material
-Patent pending ArroWhere arrow design visible at night at least 1/4 mile away
-Lower tail
-Reflective panels and striping
-Fleece lined collar and pockets
-Waterproof zippers
-Zippered armpit vents

The ArroWhere jacket has an extended tail to help fight off splashes. The arms are extra long to provide coverage when stretched out on the bike — a perfect length for me. The jacket has a fine mesh lining to help it breathe. I got a size medium to test, and while it feels a little bit large when I’m standing around, it conforms nicely to me when I’m actually on the bike. There is room for underlayers, too.

The jacket has a fleece-lined collar with a protective zipper garage that prevents throat gouges when it’s zipped up all the way. The handwarmer pockets are lined in the same luxurious fleece, too — great for when your hands need a quick warmup. All the zippers are waterproof and easy to manipulate on or off the bike, including the generously long pit zips for venting excess heat:

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The cuffs have a hook-and-loop adjustment system that snugs them up nicely to prevent wind intrusion:

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This jacket is LOADED with reflective accents. The large arrow on the back gives other road users a good visual indication of what to do when approaching, and the arrow is available pointing right for users in the UK and other areas where driving on the left is the norm. The rest of the reflective trim catches the light nicely. I would have liked reflective cuffs here, though, to help make my arm-motion directional signals more visible out on the roads.

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Now, about the changes in the final jacket: I spoke to Khyle Pinkman, the founder of the company. He said that the production jacket fabric demonstrates better waterproofing than the sample we tested, and also is nicer in terms of overall fabric quality. I did not get to try this out in the wet (yet), so I can’t make any claims about the fabric on this sample.

In addition to safety yellow, the jacket is available in high-visibility orange and in navy blue. It is available in sizes from S to XXL, and female riders rejoice, because there is a wide range of women’s sizes, too! The jacket retails for $129.95, which is right at the price point many similar jackets with fewer features live at. That makes it a good value in my book.

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For my purposes, the jacket is nearly perfect as-is. It helps keep me warm, there’s room for clothing underneath, and the reflective accents are effective at night. Add in the details like the fleece linings and trim and we’ve got a winner here. As I mentioned, if there was more reflective at the cuffs, I’d call it PERFECT.

Check out the full range of ArroWhere jackets by visiting their website. They make reflective vests and backpack covers with the same quality and patent-pending reflective design for additional nighttime safety and visibility on dark streets.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.