Fine Tuning the Winter Wardrobe

It's taken several years to fine-tune my wardrobe for the cold winter months. For warm weather, after about 60ish degrees, I'm a t-shirt and shorts guy. That's simple. But winter has a lot more nuances. Wind, rain, snow, freezing temps vs. above freezing temps. It's a lot to consider.

Today, though, I was thinking about how nice it is to finally have it all settled in my mind. I was wearing the perfect amount of layers in perfect order. I stayed warm at the beginning of a ride, then unzipped a sipper or opened a cuff on my jacket as my core warmed up. It takes time to figure out how all that works. But when you get there, it's pretty much second nature.

This is the first week of super-cold (for Kentucky) weather. So I'm getting a lot of "What?! You rode in today?" comments. It's not me... it's my clothes. If you're out there trying to find the right cold weather gear combination, stick with it. Experimentation is key. There's no magic formula, either. Your jacket is different than mine. Your commute is different than mine. Your body reacts differently than mine. You can spend time reading reviews and write-ups about gear. But the best thing to do is find the right combo of what you have or what you can get your hands on and ride in it.

A few semi-miserable rides will help you find the right combo quickly. You can shop and shop, buy lots of really nice/expensive gear, but it won't solve the problem. You have to figure out how that gear works together and how it plays with different weather situations. Don't assume that every day (or even the to/from commute in one day) will be the same. That's why layers are great. If you're cold, the solution won't be a warmer jacket. Too warm of a jacket and you sweat. That sweat sits on your skin and becomes colder than you were before you got your new jacket.

My recommendation would be to use lots of thin, wicking layers under a jacket with lots of zippers. My two primary jackets have zippers down the front, under each armpit and on the back. That's a great way to let air move through and cool you off when you start to sweat. You can open a zipper a little bit or all the way, depending on the need.

But like I said, wear what you can get your hands on. Experiment. Experiment. Experiment. If you have questions, feel free to comment or shoot me an email. This 20 degree weather shouldn't stop you from riding! It's still fun!

Get out there.


I'm So Resourceful

At some point at work yesterday I lost my jacket. I'm so sad about it. But I work in a gigantic building with lots of people and I have a feeling that I'll never see it again. So how did I keep warm on a bicycle when the temps were in the 40s?

I hit up the lost and found.

It may have been sinful, but I'll call it resourceful. I "borrowed" someone's jacket from lost and found, rode home and returned it when I got back to work this morning. So, North-Face-wearing-size-medium-forgetful-friend, thanks for letting me borrow your jacket. That ride would've been rough in a t-shirt.

How about you readers? Have you ever run into a problem like that? Stuck at work without the right attire to get home?

Get out there.


Time Travel

I posted some photos of a ride on Instagram the other day and a buddy pointed out how it looked like a journey back in time. I have to agree. The fact that they're instagrammed makes a difference. But even the content of the photo appears to be a trip from another era.
A winding road along the Kentucky River showed me lots of new landscape. Here's an old-timey wagon parked in a random field.
And old pick-up truck in the side yard.
Eventually, I popped up in Wilmore, Kentucky. It's a quaint little town with an old vibe. Someone's bike is leaned up against the staircase unlocked. I guess "quaint" means that nobody jacks your stuff when it's unlocked.

It was a great ride with lots of fun sights. I didn't anticipate, or even notice, it was a trip in time. But it was a nice feeling to see those random flashbacks of history. It's so great to explore on a bike.

Get out there.


Water Towers

There are several water towers on my commute. I have a dream of climbing up one of these and checking out the view. Literally, last night I had a dream about it. Man, I'm tempted every time. Admit it, you've thought about it, too. But I don't want to get arrested. I'm not cut out for prison life.

Get out there.


Time With the Little Guy

Angie wanted to give me some time on the bike yesterday since the weather was so nice. I'm not one to pass up on the opportunity to ride when the temps are so perfect. But with a recent camping trip under my belt, I wasn't jumping at the opportunity to spend time away from the family. Instead, I opted to take one of the little people along with me.
Our three year old probably gets the least amount of attention from me. He's the third out of four and operates on his own way more than he realizes. He is, by no means, neglected. But his personality and the fact that he's the third, often allows him to fall between the cracks of getting my attention. So I chose a little bit of little man time with him.

I took the LHT with the tagalong bike. I've not done many rides with the Trek Mountain Train. My dad gave it to us to use with our older kids. But this kid is probably a little too small for it. He rocks back and forth a whole lot and nearly runs me off the road. To be honest, the Xtracycle does the job with a lot more ease. The Mountain Train is less stable and you feel it more in the cockpit. It takes a lot of concentration and control to keep from swaying a foot or two in either direction.
We made our way around town, hit up the library, stopped at the park for juice boxes and took a photo opp at a massive monster truck that had his little jaw dropped to the floor. Boys like a vehicle with tires that are taller than them.

All in all, we weren't out for too long. But we had a blast together. He loves riding on the bike and he loves one on one time. He was singing songs about hanging out with dad, which probably a good sign. I love spending time with my kids. And being on a bike is such a fun way to do it.

Get out there.


The Kona Honzo

I mentioned yesterday that Jason just got a new Kona Honzo. I was so impressed with the bike that I asked him to do a guest post. He's going to give me a more thorough write-up as he rides it more, but here are his first thoughts...
I just made the jump to 29er wheels having been a 26 rider, well, I guess since ’90 or ’91, when I got my Huffy Overland Pass for my birthday. I had ridden a 29er only a handhalffull of times, but decided that it was something I could be happy with for an open-ended infinite amount of time.

The bike I chose? Know this first. I wanted a Salsa Fargo for long distance XC touring, a Surly Karate Monkey to feed my singlespeed itch, a Kona Hei-Hei dual suspension for the all-around riding that I do most, and a Kona Abra Cadabra. The Cadabra, an All-Mountain Enduro bike meant for racing courses a mix of DH and XC, has long travel dual suspension for serious drops and climbs like a mountain goat. This is not the bike I got but I describe to you this one because in my mind I would, in time, like to rocket around a 24hr course laying waste to 5ft drops and climbing to the moon and back. I’m most certainly content at riding methodically along a trail eyeing the smallest roots and rocks and trying to miss them. Although, my hunger to be an aggressive rider is real, even though simply riding a wheelie, confidently, is a couple years out.

That being said, I wanted a bike that would be a smoothie with flavors of my current riding style and hopefully a more aggressive future style. My first 29er is the Kona Honzo. It’s a mix of all those listed bikes. It was love at first sight. It’s a steel cromoly 1x10. The 10 speeds, I think, are all I will ever need. I’ll grind it out when I need to, and arrive later when I don’t have the top-end. My Huffy was a 10 speed. I remember it being an absolute blast to ride. The cromoly keeps it simple. I like to think of it too as a nod to cycling’s roots. It has 120mm of travel, a slack headtube, and beefy axles for the (Abra Cadabra) rabbit in me I might one day pull out of my hat. Essentially it’s a No-Fuss-Nothing-Special mountain bike which is what makes it so special. Just get on and go ride. I hope to be riding this bike for years. 
Many years.
I'll be looking forward to more thoughts on the Honzo. It seems to have everything you need and nothing more. I respect that. If you're interested in the Honzo, head over to Bike Green Lexington and check them out. They've even got a demo Honzo there that you can actually run on the trails.

Get out there.


Brown County Mountain Biking

This past weekend I was able to grab a couple days to explore Brown County, Indiana for some mountain biking. I'd heard that this place was the MTB mecca for anyone living east of the Mississippi. We'd been planning a trip for a while and finally worked in an overnighter that happened to fall on the nicest couple days that November will ever see.
We arrived late Saturday afternoon and hit the trails as soon as we secured a campsite. The trail system is well labeled and mapped out. They give clear expectations of difficulty ranging from "Beginner" to "Expert." Our first ride was on an easier trail.
Jason was riding his brand new Kona Honzo. Other than a couple short dirt rides, this was it's first big chunk of time on the Honzo. I love that bike. It's a 1x10 29er that's built with everything you need and nothing you don't. I like that no nonsense kind of a build.
My buddy, Justin, was on a loaner Litespeed. That bike weighed about as much as my Camelbak. It was incredible.

After our easy run, we put ourselves on the most difficult trail at the park. "How hard could it be, right? We ride a lot. We can handle it."

Bruises ensued.

They have really built this thing well. Hand-built rock features, roots and random boulders knocked me out of my pedals plenty of times. I tip my hat to the few guys I saw out there riding it. As darkness was rapidly approaching, we turned back. By the time we had reached the beginner trail to get us back to camp, it was completely dark. It made for a fun ride out at high speeds on an easy path.
The campground is great. There are plenty of well removed sites with lots of trees. I'm so used to camping out in the wilderness, it felt great to have lots of flat ground and a picnic table. But the luxuries didn't mean we had to share the moment with a crowd of RV's and kids on scooters. We were a good distance from any other campers.
I took this shot at sunrise while laying in my sleeping bag. With all the flat campsite space, I just slept on my sleeping pad on the ground. No tent. Not hammock. No tarp. Morning was a fantasticly relaxed pace. I think we understood that there was more day than there was energy to ride it. We made coffee, made breakfast and worked on bikes until about 9:30.
Jason works at Bike Green Lexington. I have to admit, I'm starting to feel spoiled by doing all my bikey adventures with a bike mechanic. It's quite the luxury!
Sunday started with temps in the low 50s, but quickly warmed up. I wore a long sleeve jersey and light gloves that were off less than a half hour after getting on the trail.
BC has a great system of switchbacks, climbs and descents that keep you thrilled and gasping for air at a steady cadence. One minute you're huffing and puffing up a hill, the next your flying down the other side trying not to let your instincts grab the brakes.

We saw several of these chimneys and foundations at the bottom of the hills.
Then we'd slowly make our way to the top for some great views.

One of my favorite things about these trails were how they just went on and on. I've ridden a few different mountain bike parks and the trails consistently just run on top of one another. They switch back and forth and stay really compact. BC allows you to feel like you're going somewhere when you ride. There were a couple points in the day that we'd get separated and not see each other for a half hour at a time. But keep riding and riding and you'd eventually meet up. I love the feeling of "journey" that goes along with all that mileage.
Several cuts, bruises and over 20 miles later, we were done for the day. Having never ridden the park before, I would make some changes. We didn't bring enough food and water to stay out for one long ride. I would either break the ride up or pack more stuff.

Riding the Troll completely rigid was tough. I stand behind the fact that my normal MTB experiences don't necessitate suspension. But BC's terrain and opportunity to ride all day really do. I took note that 80% of the other bikes we saw out there were fully suspended... and nice. To be honest, the Troll was probably the cheapest bike I saw all day. But I get it. If I lived in the area, I'd ride that system at least twice a week. And I'd have a better bike for it. On a random note, we saw one guy walking his full suspension Trek out. The left chain stay was only attached by the QR skewer. It had completely broken off near the bottom bracket. He was fuming at the time, so I didn't ask what happened. But the rear wheel was wobbly and it takes a lot to completely sheer a frame apart. Hope he's under warranty.

Overall, the Troll did it's job. I caught a tree that busted my hand pretty good and crimped the left shifter cable. After that, I couldn't shift up front for the rest of the day. I worked it onto the granny chainring and ran it as a 1x9 from then on. It wasn't an issue at all, though. I'm toying with making the Troll at 1x9 anyway. So this was good experimentation.

Brown County is great. If you're within a three hour drive, go check it out. If you're in Louisville, go. You're close enough to make it a regular thing. We rode nearly every bit of trail in the couple days we were there. And by the end of the second day, we were ready to be done. I could have ridden more if we had taken a break at the care, but it wouldn't have been the kind of riding that is exciting. It would have been keeping the bike upright and taking in the scenery. But however you ride Brown County, it's worth it. Go check it out.

Get out there.


Trunk Bag

Yesterday I received a new trunk bag in the mail. It's a Detours Transit Box. I have a couple different sets of panniers that I use for commuting and camping. But I wanted something that I could throw on the bikes for long recreational rides. I didn't want a huge pannier if my only cargo is some snacks and a jacket. So this little guy is perfect.

What's even nicer was the cost. I got the Transit Box for nothing... literally. I got it from The Clymb, a new online retailer that gives credits for recommending the site. If I recommend someone and they buy something, I get a credit. So this guy came to me for free! And I know this will seem like a shameless plug to get more free stuff, but The Clymb is a cool site. They send a daily email with major deals every morning. If you're willing to sift through all the stuff you don't need (and by "sift through," I mean "be tempted to purchase"), it's a got great prices. Check it out.

But back to the trunk bag...

I'm a fan of trunk bags. They're simple and useful. There's nothing special to this thing. It's seems durable and somewhat water resistant. But it won't be used for anything intense. It's just a catchall when I need a small bag. I'm looking forward to using it.

Get out there.


A Nice Spot

This little corner of road keeps drawing me in for a photo opp. Lots of what I ride by in the mornings is new and pristine. It's nice to see a little portion of my route that looks the way I feel sometimes.

Get out there.


Trailside Repairs

I've got to throw a shout out to Pedal the Planet for providing a great repair stand and tools at the trailhead of the Veteran's Park mountain bike trail.
Thw station has a stand to throw your bike on, pump and a multitude of tools to get you going. For people without bike specific tools, this is a huge help. You can roll up on the trail and do the necessary work. I always carry tools on me. But this is a great luxury with the stand and floor pump. It could definitely save some CO2 cartridges or a sore shoulder from 2,000 pumps on a mini-pump. Those 2.5" wide tires on the Troll take a lot of pumps to fill!

Way to go, PtP. Many thanks from a guy who rides hard enough to need lots of trail side repairs.

Get out there.


"Keep Going"

The Voice inside my head this morning kept saying, "Keep going. Keep going." When I left the house, I had a seven mile route in mind. At my first turn the Voice told me to make it a bit longer. When the temperature is in the thirties, the Voice usually just calls me an idiot. But for whatever reason, the Voice sent me on a twenty mile ride before work today.
I kept thinking that this could be one of my last chances to see green grass. Maybe the Voice knew that and wanted me to soak up the color before things go gray.
I'm glad I went for it. Bright blue skies and green fields will certainly warm the soul when the body is pedaling through the cold. And I've got a lot on my mind and a lot to be prayerful about today. Perhaps the Voice knew this would be the best use of my time. Good thinking, Voice.

Get out there.