Take the First Step

If you read my last post, and you’re interested in Local Touring you may be wondering how to start.  One word.  Bags.

The handlebar bag is the gateway drug to bicycle utility.  They give you the ability to carry some stuff without mounting a rack directly to your bicycle.  A bar bag will keep things close at hand and easily accessible even while riding.

Here are 3 great options.

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The waterproof bar bag from Banjo Brothers.   The least expensive way to start adding bags to your bike.  It has internal stiffeners to maintain the bags shape, a map pocket on top, mesh side pockets.  It comes with a shoulder strap for off bike carrying, and bracket to attach the bag to your bar.  Dimensions are 8″ H x 9″ L x 6″ W.  The bag opens toward you.  Imported

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The Paloma from Swift Industries.  Made in a small shop in Seattle the Paloma is a small bag made of the best water resistant fabrics.  It’s just the right size for a day on the bike.  The bag opens away from you making it even easier to access your stuff.  Dimensions are 10″w X 6″d X 6″h.  Bar adapter bracket priced separately from bag.  Made in the USA.

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If you like the tradition of  waxed canvas and leather the BarSack from Sackville is the bag for you.  Sackville is the bag brand from Rivendell Bicycle Works.  This bag features  magnetic top flap closure, two side pockets and zip front pocket.  Top flap opens the way it should-away from you.  Attaches to your bar with the super swanky rack from Nitto (not included).  Dimensions 9.5″ wide to side x 7″ front-to-back x 8″ tall.  Expensive to buy, but cheap to own.  This bag will serve you for a long time.  Made in the USA.

Next time I’ll tackle other options for carrying stuff on the front of your bike.  Racks, and panniers and baskets-Oh my!

 

 

 

 

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The Case for “Local Touring”

IMG_3303One of my many goals over the last decade has been trying to get more people to ride bikes.  Convincing people that a bicycle is a legitimate form of transportation is probably a better explanation.

Instagram is full of romantic images of travelers, vagabonds and hobos on expensive bikes, with expensive bags carrying their belongings over road and trail in far-flung locales.  While alluring, I’m enough of a realist to understand that most people aren’t going to chuck it all and start traveling the world by bike.  Many aren’t likely to spend several thousand dollars to outfit an adventure ready rig.

I was watching a video the other day from our friends at Surly.  The commentator for this bit of video magic was our pal Fleck.  He said something that made me stop in my tracks.  Just because you’re not taking long, laborious trips for weeks and months at a time doesn’t mean you’re not touring.  Traveling your local streets and paths-riding to work or to the store is still touring-“local touring“.  Outstanding.  It took two words to sum up my idea of making the bicycle a daily part of your life.

Just as the S24O, and coffee outside gives you a way to use your camping gear more often, local touring is the perfect way to take touring gear and make it work in your everyday world.  In addition, I hope I can present it in such a way to inspire people to think about their bikes differently.

The best part is that the bike you already own may be a great candidate for local touring.  Got an old hybrid or mountain bike?  Perfect.  Add some racks and bags (hopefully a basket) and you’re all set.  While these things can be costly, they don’t have to be.  I may do another post on my recommendations for these things.  When in doubt, feel free to ask me or someone at your local bike shop.

For some of you this may seem like a obvious thing.  That’s good, and I hope there are a lot of you.  That just means you’re out there using bikes.  For everyone else hopefully this will spark an interest in either getting a bike, or using your bicycle more often.

Instagram is a great source for bicycle inspiration.  I follow so many people, I won’t single anyone out.  Instead I suggest you follow some hashtags.

#coffeeoutside

#s24o

#basketlyfe

#localbiketouring (starting this one with my next post)

Follow a great hashtag that you’d like to share?  Send them on!

 

 

The cold, dark days of Winter

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Many of my writing ideas come from daily interaction with people in the store.  When the weather is like it’s been here lately (read: COLD), interactions are few and far between.  What’s a guy to do?

My relationship with winter has changed as I’ve gotten older.  In my 20s and 30s I would wear shorts in the bike shop all winter long.  I spend a handful of years skiing upwards of 20 days a season.  I rode my bike in temps down around (and sometimes below) 20 degrees (F).  Not.  Any.  More.  Dammit.

Couldn’t I ride my bike indoors? Sure.  I have done this in years past.  I could also stick a fork in my eye.  It’s just too mind numbing for me to even contemplate.  It will take a couple of weeks to get my legs back underneath me come Spring, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay.  I have no one to keep up with but myself.

The flip side of this is I’m getting older (aren’t we all?).  It’s not necessarily a great idea to just let myself go to pot during the winter months.  Again, what’s a guy to do?

My solution should be body weight exercises.  Air squats, push ups and stretching (maybe even yoga-gasp!).  All these things could keep me mobile during the long, dark winter.  Then again, I could go back to binging shows on Netflix.

If you live in a cold climate, keep the faith.  Spring is nigh.

I was a guest on a local podcast last month.  We talked about cycling in the city of Indianapolis.  If you have an interest, you can listen to it here.

 

 

Eating well doesn’t have to be hard (or expensive)

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I love seafood.  I mean LOVE it.

One of the things I’ve been trying to do lately is get more “bang for the buck” in the things I eat.  As much as I love steak, locally raised, grass fed beef is expensive.  The same can be said of pasture raised chickens when compared to the birds in the grocery store.  Fresh seafood is problematic living in the land locked middle of the country.  The whole thing can be challenging.

I bought a package of frozen mussels at my local grocer for…….about 3 dollars.  Was it organic?  I don’t think so.  Were the mussels raised in a nurturing environment?  I would guess not.  Were they delicious?  Absolutely.

Bi-valves are packed full of all kinds of nutritious goodness.  Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Iron, Omega 3s, Vitamin A and Vitamin B12 are just a few of the good things found in mussels.

But what about the bread?  Usually what remains of the water, butter, garlic and whatever other spices you add would be sopped up with……bread.  That’s a problem (for me anyway).  I love it, but it is not my friend.  Thankfully, there is someone in the house that not only loves me, but is hella good at baking.  These yucca rolls make for a perfect vehicle for transporting said juices to your expecting, gaping maw.

Have a problem with eating animals?  I know there are some of you out there.  The argument could be made that it’s more “ethical” for vegetarians to eat bivalves as they don’t feel pain.

Mussels are super easy to prepare.  Bringing the water to a boil is the longest part of the procedure.  The next time you’re looking to add a little variety to meal time, why not give them a try?

Bon Appétit!

Defining “Ancestral Living”

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I’ve been trying to come up with a way to describe the way I would like to live my life.  “Ancestral Living” is the only one that (currently) makes sense to me.

Make no mistake, I’m not talking about living in a mud hut, and giving up modern medicine.  It’s trying to achieve a balance between the way, I think, we are genetically programmed to live and our current technologically advanced world.  At the risk of repeating myself, my goals are:

Eat real food:  This is pretty easy to understand.  The more research you do on processed foods and sugar, the more you realize that they shouldn’t really play any part in your life.

Time away from screens:  I’m a gadget guy, always have been.  But staring at screens all day long can’t be any good for you.

More time outdoors:  Just going outside for a short walk has the ability to recharge you.  A couple hours (or overnight) in the woods is even better.  I did some hammock camping late last summer, and I’m anxious to do more.

Read more (books):  I recently rediscovered the library.  It must be because I’m getting old!  The power went out for about 3 hours a couple of days ago.  I was glad to have an actual paper book to read.

Waste less:  Just so we don’t get it twisted, I am by no means some sort of soft hearted soul trying to save the world.  Just going back to cloth napkins instead of paper towels has had an impact in what we throw away.  It’s also reduced the grocery bill.  Those things are expensive!

Have more conversations:  I wrote about this a couple of posts ago.  We run the risk of losing our ability to truly communicate with people if all we do is text and email.  So many small details are lost.

Given the time of year it could be easy to see this as some sort of resolution.  I don’t really do those.  Instead it’s just a reminder, for myself if nothing else, to stay the course.  It’s so easy to come off the rails.

Christmas is about a week away.  If you celebrate, I hope yours is Merry and Bright.

Barefoot in the winter?

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I dabbled with “minimal” footwear about 3 years ago.  The Vibram 5 fingers were all the rage-that may be a bit of an overstatement- and I really liked them.  I enjoyed the feeling of being connected to the ground, and I did notice greater strength and flexibility in my feet.  But, let’s be honest, you can’t just wear those things everywhere……well I couldn’t.  After the first summer, they went on the shelf.

Fast forward to this last summer.  I got a pair of Bedrock Cairn sandals, and wore them nearly every day.  I rode my bike in them, I backpacked and hiked in them.  I would be wearing them right now if the temps hadn’t dipped below my comfort zone.

As the weather got cooler I went back to some “normal” shoes.  Not surprisingly, they didn’t feel right anymore.  There was too much heel lift, and not enough room for my little piggies.  So what’s a person to do?

Thankfully I’ve found two minimal shoes that I think will take me though the winter months.

First the Hana from Xero shoes.  The Hana is a simple canvas shoe that uses a lacing/heel tightening system similar to a huarache sandal.  The 5.5 mm sole provides enough protection and adequate grip.  These shoes are super light (stated weight for a mens size 9 is 8oz.).  You barely know you have them on.  The more I wear these shoes, the more I like them.

The Hana will keep my feet covered, but wont do much for really cold weather.  I started looking for a boot that would, hopefully, get me through some snowy conditions.  I recently bought a pair of boots from Vivobarefoot.

The Gobi II Winterproof has a seam-sealed, insulated, water resistant canvas upper and thermal insole.  I’ve been wearing these for about a week.  They do seem warmer, and we’ll see how they fare as I wear them through the winter.

Have any of you experimented with minimal foot ware?  Full time minimalist?  Let me know if you have any favorites.  I’m always on the lookout for new shoes!

Chris

Simple is not maintenance free

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One of my most vivid memories growing up is of my Grandfather.  “Mr. Fix It” could fix anything.  I mean anything.  I didn’t seem to matter what was broken, grandpa showed up and fixed it.  These were the days before everything was disposable.

The bicycle is one of the most elegantly simple machines ever devised.  At least, in my mind, it should be.  That shouldn’t absolve the end user from knowing his, or her way around it’s workings.

It has never been easier to find books, tutorials and how-to information.  The internet is full of videos that will show you, step by step, how to fix most things on your bike.  It’s going to require some task specific tools, probably a work stand and some patience.

There are a handful of things that I think everyone should know how to do.

Fix a flat tire.  It’s super easy.  Like anything else, the more you do it, the better you will get.  Here’s an old video we shot at the store showing how it’s done.

Clean your bike.  It’s going to make your drive train last longer.  It’s going to make potential big problems easier to spot.  It’s going to make your bike quieter.  It’s going to make your mechanic (should you have need of one) happier.  A word of warning-Do NOT use the turbo setting on your garden hose and give it a direct blast.  Under no circumstances should you use a car wash.  That water will push right past the seals in your bottom bracket, hub and head set leaving you with a bigger problem than a dirty bike.  A bucket of water, a couple of brushes, and the shower setting on your hose works just fine.  Just make sure to get some lube on all those places where there is metal to metal contact after drying.

Lube your chain.  Wipe off the gunk with a rag.  If it’s really dirty, some degreaser may be required.  Find a place on the chain that you can find again, and put one drop of lube on every roller.  Work your way around until you get to where you started.  Too much lube is arguably worse than not enough.  Too much lube will just attract dirt, and increase wear on your drive train. *** I don’t care what lube you use as long as it’s meant for a bicycle.  That old can of WD-40 in the blue can is NOT a lube!***

Try wrapping your handlebar.  Handlebar tape is an inexpensive way to make your bike look different/better/newer.  It’s fun, and easy to do.  Give it a try.

If you’re thinking, “I’m not into the idea of fixing my bike” I get it.  Your LBS (local bike shop) is full of great mechanics-I’m proud to say that I’ve worked with some of the best.  They’ll be happy to help you out.  All that being said, knowing how your bike works will make explaining issues to your mechanic SO much easier.

While I don’t know that I totally agree with the sentiment that the bicycle will “save the world”, but I know it’s improved the quality of my life.  Just understanding how the bike works deepened the connection between me and my machine.  Hopefully the same will be true for you.

If you have any bicycle related questions, feel free to ask.  I will do my best to answer them.

Ride on!