December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

These are the different designs I came up with for this year's Christmas cards. I had fun making them for family and friends and am glad to share them here!

December 16, 2013

Three Skin Essentials for Winter Rides

My skin care routine changes a bit in the winter to deal with the cold, dry air. In the summer, I'm more concerned with sun-protection and my skin needs less added moisture due to humidity. These days, I'm pretty much drenching my skin in lotion!

Here are the products I use in the winter to keep my skin soft and protected:

1. A high-quality facial moisturizer is your skin's first defense against the wind. Even with exposure to freezing winds, my face never gets dried out. I apply my lotion before heading out in the morning and it lasts through my bike rides to and from work.

2. Even with layers and the warmth generated by biking, dry winter air begets dry skin. I use my favorite body lotion after every shower.

3. I keep this small tube of hand cream in my bag and use it multiple times throughout the day. I like to use it before putting on my gloves and heading out for a ride, after washing my hands, and especially after a climbing session at the gym.

December 11, 2013

Potsdam Bike Trip

The bicycle tour we took while in Germany was a day trip to the City of Potsdam. We started on the northern edge of Grunewald, a forest on the western edge of Berlin, and biked through the fall colors along Lake Wannsee about 12 miles to the City of Potsdam. The terrain was a bit hilly, which was a change from the completely flat topography in Berlin. As many people on road and touring bikes powered up the hills pass us, we had a tinge of homesickness for our touring bikes.
We had a bite to eat and walked around Sanssouci Park, the site of summer palaces that once belonged to Prussian royalty, before we took our bikes on the train back to Berlin.  

December 4, 2013

Berlin Biking Families

For many Berliners, everyday cycling is a family affair. The most common methods are either carrying the kids in a bike seat or staying on the sidewalks with the kids riding or striding along on their own little bike. Unlike in Madison, trailers are a rarity.

November 27, 2013

Berliners Bike

Dutch bikes and other types of practical bikes for transportation are the most common to be seen in Berlin. Several bike shops in Berlin specialize in Dutch bikes. However, this photo collection perhaps over-represents the Dutch bike contingent a bit, simply because they are more interesting to photograph. Although fewer in numbers, distance commuters dressed in bike-specific garb can also be spotted in Berlin, especially if you're out in the early morning hours. Like their American counterparts, these creatures wear bright colors, spandex, clipless shoes, and nearly always a helmet. Only a small minority of the rest of the cycling population wears a helmet.

We found that Berliners on bikes are much more likely to obey traffic laws than Madisonians, specifically in terms of stopping for traffic lights. While bicyclists may act more predictably, so do Berliner motorists, who seem to be on the lookout for bicyclists when stopped at an intersection and waiting to turn onto another street. A number of times I was pleasantly surprised to see a motorist about to cross the bike lane before making a right hand turn, but then come to a stop, look over his right hand shoulder, and wait for me or other bicyclists to pass before crossing the bike lane. - It’s a level of bike awareness among motorists we were unaccustomed to in Madison. Also, what’s strange to us is that there does not seem to be a look of annoyance or impatience on these drivers’ faces, even though they are often delayed by cyclists.
When overtaking other bicyclists, it is not common in Berlin to give a warning. It took a few times of being surprised by a biker passing within about a foot with no warning to be ready for this possibility. It is advised to ride on the right hand side of the bike path/lane in a straight line, as you see other Berliners doing.

While many aspects of Berlin bike culture seem to fit the German stereotype of orderly behavior, the amount of sidewalk riding then comes as a surprise. Although the sidewalk space is typically fairly wide, it did seem a bit chaotic for bicyclists to be weaving around pedestrians. Bicyclists will take the sidewalk if the adjacent street space is too busy or it is simply more convenient to ride on the sidewalk, such as to avoid a one-way street. Also, parents accompanying small children on bikes typically take the sidewalk over the street.

November 18, 2013

Berlin Bike Infrastructure

Bike infrastructure in Berlin has some different features to that of the US. First, cycle tracks (bike paths) separated from traffic and placed next to the sidewalk are a common feature. Yet, bikes are not always well separated from traffic. For instance, motor vehicles, the tram, and bikes share the same space in the Boxhagener Street (was part of my daily bike commute). In this environment, cars quickly accelerate to pass around bicyclists, which can be a bit intimidating.
There are bike turn lanes and turn-specific signals.
Although pavement paint is not used everywhere, the color red designates space for bicycles. 

November 14, 2013

Our Berlin Bikes

Peter and I spent the month of October 2013 in Berlin, a very bike-friendly city. Soon after we arrived, we identified MietRadMitte as the first bike rental shop to try to find our bikes for the month. The shop’s website advertised Gazelles for rent with a slogan that would translate as “Elegance on two wheels.” We imagined riding around town on swanky black Gazelles like so many other Berliners.
When we arrived at the small basement-level shop, we were presented with maroon-colored Gazelles for us to rent at a reasonable price. Yet, these maroon Gazelles were not of the same high-quality standard as the ubiquitous black Gazelles. The rental bikes were not as solid, well-built or smooth-riding as one would expect from the Gazelle brand, but they still served their purpose as our main means of transportation and were no embarrassment to ride. The fact that they were used to the point of being a bit rickety just added some character - like a pair of well-worn jeans.
I commuted from our sublet apartment in Friederichshain to my daily German class at the Goethe Institut in Mitte (center of the city), about three miles away. Dutch bikes and my Fjallraven backpack, which I found to be a common item in Berlin, allowed us to better blend into the city’s population and experience the Berliner everyday. 

After five weeks in the saddle of the maroon Gazelle, it was bittersweet to say "tschüss."

October 21, 2013

Manhattan by Bike

My work producing The Ben Heck Show took me to New York City for the World Maker Faire. Before spending the weekend filming the show and seeing the latest and greatest in the maker movement, Ben and I had a day to explore the city.
After checking out a couple of citibikes, we headed out on a separated bike lane and got to experience the NYC bike infrastructure. The most notable thing about my experience was all the salmons, that is, the bikers and skateboarders going the wrong way on the bike lanes.

September 30, 2013

Bike Path Foraging: Frost Grapes

Get ready to forage frost grapes! I found shrubs with frost grapes along the Cap City Trail, but am waiting till after the first frost to harvest some, when they are at their most flavorful.  
Click here for some information to help you identify frost grapes. 

September 10, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things: Boulder, Bike, & Brew

It may be hard to imagine that I have time for obsessions other than bicycling, but if you get me started on the topic of bouldering, you might want to get comfortable - I could go on and on. Usually, I save my enthusiasm for chats with other climbing gym rats. And as far as beer goes, well, this is Wisconsin.
Boulder, Bike, & Brew is a new monthly event hosted by Boulders Climbing Gym that is a perfect mix of activities. After a bouldering session, a bike brigade heads out to a local bar for some brews - just what you'd expect. So far the event has taken participants to One Barrel Brewing Company and Argus Bar and Grill. This month's ride will be to Genna's Cocktail Lounge.

This event is a great way for the climbing-curious to try bouldering for the first time, as well as for seasoned climbers to nerd out over a beer with kindred spirits.

Check out the Boulder, Bike, & Brew Facebook page for more info and to tune into future rides.

September 5, 2013

Bike Path Foraging: Elderberries

Elderberries are ripening along the bike path! I set out to find some for an elderberry cobbler recipe and discovered a large bush along the Cap City Trail near Lake Farm County Park.
Elderberry season is late August through early September. The raw berries are astringent and should be cooked before eating. When harvesting, first remove the full berry cluster and then remove the individual berries just before using. Also, only the blue or purple berries are edible - DO NOT eat red berries!
I'm new to foraging elderberries and have never cooked with them, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I found the taste to be pleasant and they mixed well with blueberries in the cobbler.
A basic ethic of foraging is to not take any more than you need. Find a plant guide for elderberries here:

August 28, 2013

Personalize Your Bike with DIY Panniers!

I teamed up with a friend to bring you some DIY pannier inspiration. Abigail dreamed up these panniers to suit her everyday needs and personalized them to fit her bike's color scheme. In this video, she shows you the basics of bringing your pannier designs to life.

August 21, 2013

August 14, 2013

Creating a Bionic Bike Bag with Ben Heck

I produce a weekly web-series hosted by the electronics enthusiast Ben Heck. Every week we create new episodes to inspire the engineer and hobbyist community. Usually I stay behind the scenes, but in this episode of The Ben Heck Show, Ben and I work together to create a DIY bike turn signal system.

This is meant as a proof of concept and the basic idea of the turn signals can be modified to look however you like. It doesn't even have to be on a backpack - you could create a system for on the bike and place the switches on the handlebars. Heat up those soldering irons and see what you come up with!

August 2, 2013

Bike Path Foraging: Black Raspberries

On a recent trip to Mt. Horeb, Peter and I stopped for a fresh snack on the Military Ridge Trail. There were enough ripe black raspberries to munch on, but not quite enough to fill a container to bring home. The bramble had been cut back quite a bit from last year, plus many of the berries were still pink.
Anytime around late July, keep an eye out for a treasure patch of wild black raspberries!

July 26, 2013

Will Bike for Lefse

Peter and I rode to Mt. Horeb for the Sons Of Norway's 42nd Annual Kaffe Stue where we enjoyed such treats as norsk kaffe kake, søtsuppe (fruit soup), and sweet potato lefse.
Mt. Horeb is on The Military Ridge Trail and makes for a fun day trip. When there isn't a Sons of Norway breakfast, Schubert's Diner is our favorite brunch spot. For a trip later in the day, The Grumpy Troll is a popular stop for food and beer.
The round-trip is about 46 miles from the Capitol Square to downtown Mt. Horeb. You can take a break at the depot in Verona where there are bathrooms and water fountains. It's a gradual climb from the Sugar River bottoms to Mt. Horeb, but you'll enjoy a faster, downhill return trip.

July 17, 2013

Bike Path Foraging: Mulberries

Foraging wild foods is a fun and rewarding activity. A variety of edibles can be found along Madison's bike paths. If you are new to foraging, mulberries are easy to identify, tasty, and in season right now.
I received a tip on some low-hanging mulberries along the SW Commuter Trail, so I went on a ride to forage some to bake into muffins. Of course I snacked as I gathered - the bike ride had given me an appetite!
A note on the muffins: I'm a bit of a recipe hacker, substituting/adding this and that. To create these muffins I used a basic banana muffin recipe as a template. You can use mulberries in a recipe just like you would any other berry. 

July 11, 2013

Blue Mound Bike Trip in Photos

Bike camping at Blue Mound State Park is hard to beat. The length of the ride on the Military Ridge Trail is great for people new to bike touring and the park has a bike-in campground.

Want to know more about bike camping at Blue Mound State Park? Check out this post for information on the route and campground.

May 20, 2013

April 15, 2013

Biking in the Rain

As we wait for spring to bloom, it’s been rainy here in Madison. 

A light rain or soft mist is a welcome bit of refreshing humidity after the cold dryness of winter. But add in the recent wind and cold and some rainy days I wouldn't mind staying home with a book. That is, if I didn't have places to go. 

Having invested in some decent rain gear gives me the peace of mind that whatever the weather, I will arrive relatively dry at my destination. The rain isn't really much of an inconvenience then - on account of the extended winter, I’m still in the habit of grabbing a hat, gloves, scarf, jacket, and boots before heading out, so it's no big deal to add rain pants to the list.

March 25, 2013

Nearly Time for Bike Touring

Spring has officially begun and even though it’s snowing as I type this, I’m getting excited for the bike touring season! My calendar is already filling up with weekend bike trips.

February 21, 2013

Training for the Birkie by Bike

by Peter Herreid
Numerous Madisonians have been training all winter to race from Cable to Hayward, WI in the Birkebeiner Ski Marathon this Saturday. Many of Madison's competitive skiers also race road bikes. Spandex clothing stretches across both sports and seasons, as well. Fortunately, you don't need to race or don full-body spandex to bike or ski.