What to Wear, When: A Simple Tool for Cyclists

It’s not a trivial question for cyclists.  Too little, too much, or the wrong apparel can make a ride miserable, or, worst of all, impossible.  As a new bicyclist, I learned quickly that general guides weren’t all that helpful for me: Thermal comfort is highly individual, and I’m the only one who knows what works best in my specific case.

So I started experimenting on short rides, to ensure that I was well-prepared for long ones. See those nearly-illegible, messy cards above? Each time I came home from a ride, I noted the actual temperatures, wind speed (if relevant), what I wore, and added any other helpful notes.  This has become a quick and simple part of my post-ride routine.

It didn’t take long to build up a library of useful lists.  Before a ride — particularly a long one, far from home — I pull out this little notebook (it’s just the index cards clipped together) and compare the day’s forecast to my previous notes. I may slip up sometime in the future, but so far, this system has worked incredibly well, and I’ve been able to calculate what bicycling clothing I need at any given time with surprising accuracy.


Wall Art

Wonder if Mr. Diarist would go for this installation?

Two Bromptons for us, two loaners, and luggage.  Wall decor and transportation.  That’s the life!

(It’s the side wall at NYCeWheels.)


Bike Friday Family Tandem Traveler

One of the cyclists I rode with on a club ride recently rides a Bike Friday Twosday Tandem.  I found this out while we were chatting during a break on one of the recent progressive rides.  Naturally, I went home and looked the bike up:  It’s a bit eccentric, and it’s packable, both qualities, of course, making it of intrinsic interest.

Did this exposure make it even easier to spot this Bike Friday Family Tandem Traveler?  Maybe so, but it’s also bright red — and far more compact than most tandems I’ve seen so far.  Bike Fridays are folded or otherwise disassemble for travel, though the process is more elaborate that Brompton’s (especially for a tandem!).

Lots of cyclists seem to be inveterate tinkerers.  Check out this pannier:

Firmly attached, nicely scaled, inexpensive, and probably pretty impervious to the occasional bump, too.


Linus Bicycle — The Antelope Version

I love New York City.  There’s something fascinating on every block.  Lately, too, it seems as if there’s a Linus on nearly every block, too.

They’re amusing to look at, but are these handlebars usable?  Or just for show?

They must be functional, because I have a sneaky suspicion that the original bars aren’t, at least in this configuration.  It’s an interesting solution to the too-short handlebars problem, that’s for sure!

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

NYC, Without Basil

For the first time since I acquired Basil, I went to New York City without him.

Nearly the first thing I saw when I arrived in Penn Station was a Turkish Green Brompton, folded, riding up the escalator in the opposite direction.  I found the sight cheering. (The one below was on the wall at NYCeWheels; I didn’t move fast enough to snap the one on the escalator.)

Everything was cool until I walked into the lobby of the building in which I stay and looked across the lobby to the far wall where I’ve photographed Basil in the past, and felt a pang.

Separation anxiety; it was awful.

Given my antipathy to riding on NYC streets, the agenda for this trip (not very cycling-compatible), and the weather forecast (sleet and snow), it didn’t make any sense to travel with Basil. On my way elsewhere, though, I stopped in at NYCeWheels (who delivered Basil) just to see, if, by some miracle, my Brompton tool kit had arrived. It hadn’t, of course, but the fantasy, brief though it was, was lovely.

NYCeWheels, like many New York retail shops, has a rather battered look. This implies nothing whatever about what’s inside.  Longing, as I was, for Basil’s company, I spent a few minutes communing with his kind.

Lovely Bromptons.  Lots and lots of lovely Bromptons.  See the yellow one in front?  It’s 1 in the trial fleet, and, in fact The One, a three speed, that I rode when I took the NYCeWheels tour that convinced me that buying a Brompton was right for me.  Well over 650 miles (and a winter) later, I’m still a very happy camper cyclist.


It’s Spring!

. . . or maybe not.  March 25:

Basil and I were going to cycle to the store yesterday so that I could fill his basket with vegetables.  One look out the window, and at our icy road, and I decided that this was not the day.


Tom’s Bean Bag

Tom rides with the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia; he’s one of the group that has been doing leader Tim’s progressive rides.  Tom seems to have quite a knack for finding unexpected treasures.

When he wanted a gear bag for his bicycle, Tom picked up this LL Bean dopp kit at a thrift store, thus turning it into both a practical and an economical treasure.

Not only does the kit fit his bicycle’s rear rack as if made for it (Tom attached it with its own hook-and-loop fasteners and cable ties), but the curved zipper offers a perfect opening arc for easy access to the contents.  Not to mention that there are a couple of handy exterior pockets.  Clever re-purposing, no?


Progressive IV: Phoenixville

After missing the BCP Progressive III, I nearly missed Progressive IV. At 5:45 AM, when my alarm went off, I’d had fewer than four hours sleep, thanks to having traveled the previous week, and some consequent major sleep disruptions.  I went back to sleep.

Mr. Diarist, a man who believes all things are possible, suggested, when I woke up for the second time, that he drive me to a point along the expected route, in the hope that I’d meet up with the progressive cyclists. Failing that, I’d at least get a good long ride in. He dropped me off just outside of Phoenixville, and I rode toward Philadelphia.

It was a beautiful day, but, in my inimitable style, I got lost, missed a turn, and ended up on the Perkiomen Trail.  Mr. Diarist got me straightened out, and within a quarter-mile or so, the gang and I spotted each other.  I was delighted to see those familiar faces, and quickly turned Basil around so that we could join the group.

We stopped at the Steel City coffeehouse, and went in for some well-earned (in all cases but mine) nourishment.  (Dark hot cocoa — yes!)  Everyone else had ridden roughly 25 miles/40.2 km at this point; the distance Basil and I had gone was considerably less, of course.

There were seven of us at the coffeehouse, most of us veterans of at least one other of these March progressives.

Our leader, Tim, proved himself utterly fearless when he leaped upon the stage and declaimed humorously, earning a nice round of applause and some appreciative catcalls. Naturally, I captured the moment for posterity; if Tim goes pro, though, I’m afraid he’s going to need a better photographer.

I’ve noticed that the rides tend to follow a much looser formation after the refreshment break.  I was grateful that three of us (one of whom knows the area well) agreed to stay with each other until we were back in the city, even when our pace didn’t match that of the others, who were variously faster or slower at times.

On the return trip, another latecomer joined the group, having had the same thought as Mr. Diarist, and rode back to Philadelphia with us.  As is usual, several of us split off as we got to the the city, and Tim said good-bye to the rest of us near the original meeting point.

Basil and I cycled to 30th Street Station, where I grabbed a bite to eat, and Basil tucked nicely in beneath a tiny table.  Then we caught a train home.  The view through the window featured the late afternoon light I love best.

This was an approximately 55 mile/88.5 ride for the others; Basil and I rode approximately 43 miles/69 km.

Oh, and Progressive III, the one I missed last week?  Tim, his eyes twinkling too mischievously, refused to tell me how it had gone.  The route, it turns out, had been switched on account of weather to IKEA (where there was food and shelter) from Betzwood in Valley Forge (where there was neither).

Tim insisted that I ask Nan, who shuddered visibly as she recalled the ride. Her report: a genuine snowstorm, hours ahead of the final prediction, when they entered IKEA, and actual sleet when they left.  That shudder spoke volumes.  Nan’s done more serious cycling than I’ve dreamed of; she’s no powderpuff.  If I had to miss a March progressive, apparently I picked the right one!


Berwyn Station, Mis-Flagged

It’s creative, I’ll give it that.

But, really?  That poor flag looks pilloried.


Cycling Pullover, Modified

Technical athletic wear is expensive, and the more sports-specific it gets, the more likely it is to be higher in price.  Now, I’m perfectly willing to pay full price for exactly what I want once I’ve determined that it’s the right course to take (I do own a Brompton, after all!), but for athletic wear, I’m nearly always in the discount aisle, looking for bargains.

That’s where I found this shirt, which turned out to be wonderfully warm, wonderfully comfortable, and wonderfully marked down.  (The above photo is actually of the second one I bought — and it was a rare purchasing error, as I’d failed to notice that it is only bright yellow, not fluorescent. But I digress.)  However, after several rides wearing the original one, I realized that, for my purposes, this pullover needed a full length, separating zipper.

This was surprisingly easy to do, although it did involve a lot of careful work to remove the original stitching and zipper.  Then I measured carefully from sides to center, drew the center front line with tailor’s chalk, and gingerly cut up the front.  After that, installation was just the standard method for any center front zipper.

There was one problem, though.  I wasn’t able to get a retail zipper in the right length, which would have left my neck exposed — an undesirable feature in the kind of cold in which I wear this top.  If you look closely at the first photo, you’ll see that there is a zipper guard at the top of the center front.

I cannibalized that feature, and turned it (a bit clumsily, perhaps, but entirely efficaciously) into a wind-guard at the top of the new zipper, by removing it, unfolding it, and installing it sideways in this new position.  In addition, I added a bit of fleece under the zipper to keep the neck area warmer, and the zipper from irritating my neck if I happen to be wearing a crew-necked shirt underneath.

This is no marvel of dressmaking perfection, but it was a huge improvement in the utility of the garment.  When my cycling days start out extremely cold, and then become far warmer, a full-length zipper lets me regulate my own temperature easily,without either having to stop, or needing to find a place to store a pulled-off outer layer.

I’ve kept that second top, with its original one-quarter zip — for days where the temperature doesn’t vary so much.  I’ll just wear my fluorescent mesh vest over it to retrofit it as a high vis top when I’m cycling.