Best Summer Gear 2017

Good gear should help you go farther, faster, better. It should enhance, not hinder whatever activity is ahead. We all have opinions about the gear we use. Summer 2017 proved to be a good in the Department of Gear.  I have had this space on my site for sometime, but I always talk myself out of writing about products. Also, it’s important to use a product for more than a few days. Gear needs to be put through the paces of your routine. Something that works for commuting may not be the best for travel.

Here are the items I’d buy again. The five items listed I purchased within the last year. Recently I came home from a big trip and all these products were used. If any of these vendors (TerryBikes, SweetSpotSkirts, GoodOrdering, Moxie, and HydraPak) want to sign me up for some swag or send me a coupon, I’d be happy to accept. Read on.

First up: The Soleil Top by Terry

Admittedly, I was skeptical. Long sleeves in the heat of summer? Hello? How can that possibly be cool? But when you get sick of slathering on the sunscreen and you want to be outside enjoying the day and the rays—this is the best top. I bought mine at REI on an impulse. I was heading to Greece and I thought this top would be easy to pack and one of those perfect tops for traveling. I was 100% spot on. I love it. I paid full price and it’s on sale now on the Terry site. I have noticed them for a few years but again, I thought it would be too hot. I was wrong. What a find! The black and white goes with everything and the sleeves are long enough to protect your wrists. Did any sun get through? None! It’s rated at 50+ and the crew design keeps you covered from your neck to hip. You could also wear it over a bathing suit. It’s weirdly cool even when the temps are high. How high? I’ve worn the top in 100 plus degrees and it’s cool. Cool!

I thought I’d only give it four owls since I kind of wanted a few more colors or designs, but when you have one classic design you don’t need anything else. If you want it loose, order up a size. Three stash pockets in the back are big enough for keys, snacks and even a big phone.

I’m choosing owls for my rating. Five owls is the best.

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#2 Next up: Moxie Cycling 

The T-back tank is a favorite. I bought three at an REI sale last year. One of them had a bad pocket, but the other two have become part of my summer uniform. If the soleil top is to keep  you covered, then the T-back is for tanning while on tour. Add sunscreen of course!

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The T-back top swims well too. I didn’t know that until I found myself at the end of a long ride near a beach and the water was calling my name. This top and I took a plunge in the Perissa Bay. I think when a top does even more than what it was designed to do it deserves five owls. This top really does have moxie! Try eBay for other styles. I’m not sure what’s up with the company. Some of the links weren’t working for ordering new. This is my favorite top of theirs. They also have a t-shirt style, but I wasn’t a fan of the cut. The T-back is flattering and cool and have some built in support (wink).

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 #3 Sweet Spot Skirts 

These skirts are like potato chips. You can’t stop with just one. Note that each one is reversible too, so it’s like getting two skirts. I have too many, but what can I say. I was around when Sweet Spot Skirts was starting up. I know that each one of my purchases has helped support this company and the skirts are cute and versatile. I always travel with one and I wear the skirts throughout the year. Paired with leggings and boots in the winter or cycling shorts in the summer these skirts are great when you want a little more coverage than cycling shorts provide.

It’s hard to choose a pattern because they’re all spectacular. Like I said, the potato chips of skirts. You can wear them with any compression shorts of padded cycle shorts. The possibilities are endless. Check out the site and if you live in Portland, Oregon or Vancouver, Washington, go to the store and see for yourself.

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I can stop anytime I want.
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Handmade too! I tend to choose colors that will go great with anything in my closet.

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#4 is the best bag ever. It’s the Market Bag from GoodOrdering.

How do I love thee… Market Bag! Let me count the ways. First it’s lightweight even when you pack it full with everything from a journal to two liters of water. I was astounded by how much I could fit into the bag and still carry it. It’s a backpack and a pannier. How amazing is that? It’s the best travel bag ever! I didn’t take any tech with me except for my iPhone, headphones and Mophie charger. It worked as a beach bag, a book bag, a market bag, a pannier, a carryon! Plus it’s super distinctive and guess what? You can throw it into the washing machine and let it air dry and it’s as pristine as the day you bought it. I love this bag! I bought it at a bike shop because it was orange and had loads of pockets. I hadn’t used it much because I was afraid to get it dirty. I figured it would travel well and I was right. When I read on the GoodOrdering site about machine washing the bag, my love grew. It’s brilliant! They even make great bags for kids.

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#5 The HydraPak..

It was another impulse purchase at REI. One thing about traveling is you have to pack water. Even though in Greece the water was a Euro or less for a liter, it’s nice to have you own bottle. I took this everywhere and when it wasn’t in use, like the airport, then I’d crush it down to take up as little space as possible. The hard water bottles are bulky and take up a bit of space. I love how easy the HydraPak makes is to pack water. If you need  additional water on a ride, this is a good way to do it.

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The most expensive product is GoodOrdering bag at about $90. The Soleil top is $89 but sometimes certain styles go on sale. The Moxie top might be the only one that’s hard to find, but I see REI has them on sale for $30 or so.

That’s a rundown of my favorite products this summer. I’d love to review more products, so if anyone wants feedback on a product, you can let me know and I’ll be happy to try it out. I’m here for you.

Thanks for reading. Tell me about some of your favorite gear. What’s the one bit of gear you couldn’t imagine your summer without?

Get out there and ride!
BG

 

 

 

Bike Rental: the Leased Commitment

 

DSCN0989Whenever possible, and it’s almost always possible, I rent a bike when I’m away from home. My life would be infinitely easier if I didn’t have this need-to-ride, but it would be bereft of the experience engaging in the world and trying to get a bike to ride around wherever, whenever, for however long. Riding a bike heightens your ability to sense  where you are staying. It’s as though the veil has been lifted and you see all that was, is and could be.

In the U.S.A., the advent of bike sharing in various cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, and Hartford is a preferable option, but not all American cities have that available. Internationally, I’ve rented bikes in Tokyo, Japan and rode around the Imperial Palace. My favorite overseas bike rental experience was in Potsdam. I’ll come back to that later in this post.  Riding though the Tiergarten in Berlin is also a favorite memory. I’ve even rented bikes in Pokara, Nepal too and my husband’s bike ended up getting a flat, but even with that it was a memorable way to see the sights and enjoy a city from the saddle of a bike.

That why this story that Tom Hanks shared with Stephen Colbert had me laughing a few weeks ago.  The bit about the bikes starts at about 6:58 into the clip. It got me thinking about the worst bikes I’ve ever rented. There aren’t too many bad experiences I’ve had with bike rentals and certainly nothing that comes close to Tom Hanks’ story.

 

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My rental in Potsdam during the summer of 2009. 
My favorite memory of a bike rental happened in Potsdam when we were there in 2012. I had been in Germany during June 2009 and I rented several times and went between the hotel and the University of Potsdam. I was there on a Fulbright summer seminar. Our hotel had bikes to rent so I rented everyday and then asked for a deal since I was dropping Euros on so much renting. Crazy American! I was told I could take a taxi or the bus shuttle, but what’s the fun in that?

Riding a bike between the hotel and the campus gave me confidence to go a little farther afield. I’d sit in the lectures and listen to speakers all day and then hit the pavement and ride around like a kid free from all the cares of the world. I rode around the city area and took shortcuts through other neighborhoods. One day I ended up with a bike that needed some repairs. I didn’t notice it right away, but after an hour the front tire started to shimmy and the seat post twisted with any slight movement. It literally had some screws loose. I did the best I could but dusk was hanging over me like a cloud and the front rim lights weren’t operating properly. The dynamo light sets that were supposed to run when touching the rim malfunctioned. The rim was out of alignment and would drag on the tire and produce no illumination. That means I was on these narrow cobblestone streets with no lights. I felt vulnerable. Plus as the sun sets everything starts to look veiled and all the straße looked alike. Nothing is on a grid so panic started to set in and I didn’t know where I was. 

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I listened. I listened some more. The hotel was close to the U-Bahn and I figured if I could hear the train I could ride toward it, find the station and make my way back to the hotel. It pedaled toward the rumbling metal sounds and after a little while I made it.

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Logging miles with a rental bike doesn’t have to be disastrous. It requires a modicum of planning and ask around for bike shops that provide rentals. I love this topic and I promise I’ll spend some more time on it in the future. Now see what Tom Hanks has to say. It’ll make you smile.

Renting a bike is the least commitment one can make when trying to decide what bike to buy. Instead of buying, you can try out a bike. However, when you’re traveling and you’re not sure how much if any riding you’ll be able to do, renting is the perfect option and a unique way to dig in and see things from another perspective.

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever tried renting a bike while on vacation.

Happy riding!

BG

 

Braking for Spring

Last Monday we packed up our car and headed to the coast. We’re only about 90 minutes away from the coastal town of Astoria. It’s named for American investor John Jacob Astor. It’s a small, gritty town that has a great Riverwalk and some amazing sights and sounds.

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View from the Lighthouse boat called The Columbia.

Spring break is a time to put on the brakes and take some time out and maybe even away. I don’t always get out of town. Spring break has a way of sneaking up on me every year and I neglect to make plans. This year I started early and I knew we could do something by either heading North to Seattle or South to the coast. My husband enjoys everything near or on the water, and I just wanted a change of scenery. Astoria became our destination. We started our stay with a bike ride along the Riverwalk.

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Max in his basket on my bike. View of Astoria-Megler Bridge built in 1966.

The Riverwalk is about 5 miles total and hugs the banks of the Columbia River. It’s spectacular and was the highlight of the trip for me. I could have gone back and forth a million times and seen something new each time. Between the creaking docks and the choking sounds of the seal lions it was rich and entertaining.

Here’s the amazing thing about the Riverwalk—It was a Burlington Northern Railroad and built back in the 1890s when Astoria was a real industrial town, and railroads are only built on flat land, and the only flat land in Astoria hugs is right along the mighty Columbia River. I love Rails-to-Trails stories but this one is even better since the placement of the railroad helped preserve the Riverwalk for today’s use. Bonus!

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A fitting picture on the Riverwalk.
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The end of the road. Bike ready to head back.

I’m grateful we had Monday because Tuesday was reserved for exploring Fort Stevens and Fort Canby and then Wednesday we visited the Maritime Museum and Fort Clatsop. Plus the weather decided to have a temper tantrum and wind and rain made bike riding dangerous.

I consider spring break a time to put on the brakes and relax. My Riverwalk bike ride is added to my list of happy places. Such a lovely few hours to remind me that I live in one of the most exquisite parts of the world. Another view of the same might river came on Thursday when I took my Kona for a spin.

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Go down, down, down the hill and through the Safeway parking lot to the Riverwalk.
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Different section of the river.
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Clouds in the river. 

Seeing the Columbia from Astoria as it spills into the Pacific Ocean gave me a renewed appreciation for something I see everyday and take for granted.

Maybe that’s why we all need to put the brakes on our day to day routines and look around at the beauty all around.

Happy trails.

Be safe our there!
Bike Goddess