May 20, 2015

What's in Your Panniers?!

I was waiting for the light to cross John Nolan Drive when two MAMILs pulled up next to me on their road bikes. What’s a MAMIL you ask? That would be a Middle-Aged Man In Lycra. I noticed the man closest to me was eyeballing my bike with a bit of intrigue. Since my Dutch bike is somewhat of a novelty around Madison, I’m used to this. I anticipated him to ask about the bike as others often do. However, it was something else that caught his interest in particular. He asked, “What have you got in your panniers?! Not ALL of your possessions I hope!”

This of course made me laugh. The light changed and we were on our respective ways. I pedaled along thinking about the stark differences between myself and the MAMIL, who passed me and sped away. He rode a bike manufactured to be as light as possible. Nothing superfluous was attached to it - no fenders, bags, or racks - not an ounce of extra weight.
Carrying camera equipment by bike
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is my 45 lb steel bike. It has front and rear racks, large panniers, fenders, a chainguard, and skirt guards. The consideration here is every-day practicality, not lightness and speed, although I can keep up with the average cyclist on the paths. The bike is built for haulin’ and can carry 115 lbs on the racks. Even fully loaded, it still handles well and isn’t awkward.
Getting groceries by bike
To answer his question, no, I didn’t have all my possessions in my panniers, only those necessary for a regular weekday, and that happens to be a good bit of stuff! I had my work bag with my laptop, large planner, and writing supplies (which for me means pens in every color imaginable). I also have a gym bag with clothes, shoes, and toiletries. Then there’s my lunchbox, and the small, but essential items, such as my wallet, phone, lip balm, etc.
Some days require enough gear that I use a large gym bag PLUS my panniers!
Perhaps it takes a little more planning and preparation to set out each day on my bike, but it won’t surprise you that I think it’s totally worth it. It also can be more of a hassle to make impromptu stops or an extra challenge to meet someone at a restaurant, when I have so much stuff in tow. This sometimes means leaving my used gym clothes in my panniers along with my lunchbox. I figure if someone steals that stuff, the joke’s on them.

February 12, 2015

WorkCycles Secret Service

After several years of year-round use, my trusty old Dutch bike was becoming rusty and less trustworthy. The time had come to replace it with a nicer, more reliable ride. There was no question about it - I would definitely be getting another Dutch bike. As I’ve written about in the past, I find Dutch bikes to be perfectly suited for everyday cycling. My older bike was very basic and I was looking forward to something a little fancier. Enter WorkCycles.
I rode a WorkCycles while visiting Portland and was immediately impressed by its luxurious feel, sturdy construction, and top-of-the-line components. Peter has been riding around on a WorkCycles for a couple years now and has been quite pleased with his bike. I’ve also read many good reviews. The only way to know for sure though was to test ride them myself.
I headed down to Chicago to visit J.C. Lind Bike Co., which had the WorkCycles Oma and Secret Service in stock, as well as a Pilen that I was curious about. I took each bike out for a spin and they were all great, but I knew the Secret Service was the one. It’s more appropriate for the longer distances I ride than the traditional Oma, which is less lively in its handling.
The Secret Service offers a smooth ride that you have to experience to understand. I won’t go into all the specs, which you can find here, but a few of my favorite features include rollerbrakes, which are great in the snow. Also, whereas as my old Dutch bike has three gears, the Secret Service has eight, a noticeable advantage on hills.
Along with the heavy duty rear rack, I have a frame-mounted front rack as well. So far I’ve hauled my daily essentials, groceries, and even video equipment with the bike. I’ve been super impressed by how well it handles with the racks loaded and that I don’t really sense the extra weight.
The dynamo lighting is very convenient. However, because I set out before dawn and go through some areas without streetlights, I’ve also attached a USB rechargeable light to the handlebars.
Several years ago Peter purchased a bike from J.C. Lind Bike Co. and rode it back to Madison. I opted to bring my new bike home an easier way. The bike rack wasn’t exactly designed for step-through bikes, but it worked with a little creativity. Once back in Madison, Peter and I immediately set out on a celebratory ride on our respective WorkCycles.

Overall, I couldn’t be more pleased with my new bike!

January 26, 2015

She's Got Leggings

And she knows how to use them. Hey, my dad listened to a lot of ZZ Top when I was growing up - I couldn’t help myself! In my years of biking in cold weather, I’ve identified the best garments that work well with my style and the time I spend in the saddle. Today I’m giving a shout-out to leggings!
I have some cotton leggings that are great for the fall and spring. They are warm, have a tight knit that helps to block the wind, and are super comfy. 

The ultimate in leggings for winter are fleece leggings, which look like typical leggings on the outside, but have plush, brushed fleece on the inside. These are warmer and better at blocking the winter wind than cotton leggings. Bonus - they are very quick drying and can handle a light rain or snowfall.

For freezing days - and you know we have plenty of those here in Wisconsin - I double them up. Yes, two luscious layers of fleece leggings. It’s like having your legs in a windproof, warm cloud!
I wear skirts most days during the colder months because it’s hard to beat the warmth and comfort of fleece leggings. My pants aren’t nearly as warm and it’s not comfortable to squeeze my skinny jeans on over leggings or long janes. 

Not only are fleece leggings perfect for cold-weather riding, they are also inexpensive to add to your wardrobe - I’ve found them at TJ Maxx for about $10 a pair. Don’t avoid the weather - avoid not dressing properly for it!