October 29, 2009

Biking in a Winter Wonderland!
Part 2

I must start off by apologizing for putting this post off so long. Part of me wanted to test out the recommendations and the other part of me knew a lot of the tips were in the comments section making them easily accessible. Thank you to everyone who posted a comment or emailed me. I really appreciate all the great ideas.

That being said at the very least I need to announce the winner of the contest. From the emails and comments entered I drew one winner and that is Bryan Kuhn! Congratulations Bryan! He gets a choice of a hat, scarf, or yoga socks handknit by me! Now on to what I have learned.

Get Your Mind in the Game
"The key to winter cycle commuting is just to suck it up and commit to it. If you give yourself an option, you won't do it. And, once you do it, you can't believe how easy it really is."- Brad Werntz

Many a cold and frosty morning Brad's words stuck in my mind. I could be car-free and take the bus or get a ride from someone but there is something about biking that makes my days better. My metabolism is revved, I am able to plan my day, and just be outside. It's easy in the summer, in the winter it really takes commitment. I have found prepping all my clothing and gear ahead of time makes the biggest difference. No excuses.

Remember the Outdoor Clothing Layering Basics
As with most outdoor activities, layering is the secret. I know that but I went overboard on my first winter ride. I was burning up after a few miles and stripping layers like people were throwing twenty dollar bills. Bryan's email and Technex's comment reminded me, you don't want to start off toasty. You're going to be cold at first and your bottom half doesn't need as much protection as your core. Once you get moving and warmed up you will be comfortable.

Base Layer
You may have heard the saying "Cotton is Rotten" when speaking of base layers. It's especially true in the winter. When choosing base layer fabrics wool or synthetics are the way to go. Recommended lines include IBEX Wool, Patagonia Capilene, and Mountain Hardwear Continuum.

Insulating Layer
I have yet to use an insulating layer on my bottom half. I just don't need it once these legs get going. For the upper body I pair my long sleeve base layer with a fleece vest. Honestly, many days I could probably go without the insulating layer, unless it gets below 35 degrees or so. However, the vest is so small and easy to throw in my bag get warm I would rather have it than not have it.

Shell/Windproof Layer
Even when it's not windy out you're going to feel the effects of wind while riding. A windproof shell makes all the difference when it comes to retaining the body heat your generating. I am currently in love with my Mountain Hardwear Mistral Jacket for milder days. It's a windproof fleece that is so incredibly soft that it's hard to believe it is windproof. It works well with just a base layer. When I am worried about getting wet I have been using my Marmot Precip Jacket to ward off wind and rain. It's fairly effective. However I have my eye on the Mountain Hardwear Transition Jacket for a waterproof and windproof layer, I have heard from friend it fits like a dream.

When the temperatures are dipping near freezing or the wind is particularly harsh you may also want to consider a windproof layer for the legs. Again, Mountain Hardwear comes to the rescue with their his and hers soft shell pants.

Head, Hands, and Feet
Let's start from the top! Make sure you noggin is protected. WHERE YOUR HELMET!!! However keeping the head warm under the helmet is important. I ordered a new helmet for winter from Bern. They make awesome multi-purpose helmets rated for snowboarding, skiing, skateboarding and cycling. What I love about these helmets are the Zip Mold Liners. They fit securely in the helmet while providing adequate ear coverage.

If you have a helmet you love consider pairing it with a low profile hat like the Mountain Hardwear Transition Dome. If you need face and neck protection consider the Buff in Merino Wool. I love my Buff and use it almost daily.

The fingers and hand are important to protect. I have found that a light liner type glove with my regular fingerless riding gloves works very well. If you need a little more protection make sure you're choosing gloves that are thin and allow for movement.

The feet! You're regular running shoes won't cut it. They freeze and aren't generally windproof. Look for windproof shoes or shoe covers. I actually wear my insulated boots most of the time or a pair of Keen trail shoes. Paired with a nice wool sock like those from Smart Wool keeps my feet at a comfortable temperature.

Keeping Your Valuables Safe and Dry
If you're going to get wet items in your bag or panniers can get wet too. Laurel Fan recommends regular Ziploc bags to keep small items dry. Great for valuable cell phones and other objects. Always take into consideration how well a bag is equipped for cold wet weather before riding with it. I use a medium size Timbuk2 bag for my day-to-day riding. It keeps most of my items dry though for precious items I pack them in a waterproof cosmetic bag for extra care.

Adapt Your Riding Techniques
Some great advice from Katie Levy, remember that when you're biking on the snow or ice small corrections are often enough. Exaggerated movements that may work well in the summer will find you slipping and sliding. Also brake softer than normal and don't lean into curves as much as you would on dry ground. There is often ice on the ground even when you can't tell it's there. Nobody wants winter road rash.

So when it all comes down to it bike commuting in winter is a personal choice. You have to have the desire, the commitment and plan ahead. It's not for everyone. From experience I can tell you it's an amazing experience especially when you're out on the road before the traffic hits. If you're going to give it a whirl please be safe.

October 28, 2009

Wednesday Playlist: Happy Halloween

Well I was going to put together a Halloween list but it looks like Playlist.com had the same idea! They have a lot of great songs I wouldn't have thought of. Check out the playlist here!

Also check out the playlist from OneFeistyGirl - Almost 200 songs!!!

Have a wonderful Devil's Night, a Happy Hallow's Eve, and Día de los Muertos.

October 23, 2009

Book Review: Die Trying:One Man's Quest to Conquer the Seven Summits
by Bo Parfet with Richard Buskin

Very few people are able to make it to one of the great summits in a lifetime, let alone the Seven Summits (the tallest point on each continent). So I was very intrigued when presented with a copy of Die Trying: One Man's Quest to Conquer the Seven Summits by Bo Parfet with Richard Buskin. The book documents Bo's journey to climb Kilimanjaro, Denali, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Carstensz Pyramid, Vinson and Everest. Now I am fortunate to know quite a few elite athletes and for them many of these summits would certainly prove treacherous. However Bo Parfet wasn't what you would consider an elite athlete when he began his journey.

While Bo comes from what would be considered a prominent or well-to-do family he struggled with dyslexia since childhood. Learning to adapt and not only get by but succeed in the competitive world of Wall Street was a huge achievement alone. Bo didn't settle for success in his career but continued to push himself by setting a goal to climb the Seven Summits and setting up scholarship programs to benefit the local communities along the way. He seems to be an amazing man with a lot of drive and a big heart.

The reason I really love this book is because Bo is brutally honest when he addresses his experience. From talking about his first summit when he was overweight and under trained, to talking about temper issues on the side of the mountain, and experiences where he was faced with injury and the potential for fatal injuries you sense a very human quality about him and what he's gone through. You see both the strengths and flaws in character and his evolution. For me this means so much because I am always encouraging my readers to not let age or lack of experience keep them back. I think this book is a good guide for the way some things go right, the way many things go wrong, and how even when you think you've prepped enough problems will arise.

In addition to the human experience I loved learning about the difference in the Seven Summits. Just because someone completes Kilimanjaro that doesn't automatically mean they're ready for the next summit. There is a lot of diversity in terrain, acclimatizing, gear needed and the type of training to be done ahead of time.

Whether you're a climber, an outdoor enthusiast, or just want to be inspired you should check out "Die Trying". It's a fairly quick read and will get you ready for your next adventure.

And The Winner Is....

I am so excited to award the contest winner with a poster from Poster Brain. If you have pictures that you would like to have enlarged in high quality format for a great price I recommend you check them out. Their work is excellent quality and the prices are amazing!

Now for what you've been waiting for, the winner. The best summer picture contest was really tough. So many amazing pictures were entered by some talented photographers. In the end there can be only one!

October 15, 2009

Contest: Show Us Your Best Summer Pic!


The awesome peeps at PosterBrain have given me a stellar prize to share with you, a 24"x36" Poster of your favorite Summer pic! However there can be only one winner so it's contest time!

We're going to move fast on this one so here's the details:
  • Pics must fall in the theme of Summer 2009. Examples include camping, hiking, climbing, and vacation pics

  • Submit your photo to contests@mycupcakemafia.com by 5:00pm MT on Sunday October 18

  • I will place all photos in a Flickr Gallery for voting

  • Voting will be done Monday-Thursday and winner announced Friday, October 23.

The fine print, basically keep it tasteful peeps! If I wouldn't look at the pic with my dad in the room I won't post it for voting (this is a family show!).

October 14, 2009

Wednesday Playlist
Grab Your Hoop and Come With Me!

Awhile back my awesome friend Melissa recommend I do a playlist of songs to Hoop to. I love turning up the music, getting my hula hoop out and just having a good time for as long as I can. Some days it's ten minutes, some day's it's an hour. Here are some songs I like for hooping with a few great recommendations from Melissa too!

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October 2, 2009

Reuse, Recycle, Get Crafty
Giving Your Gear a Second Chance

As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter many of us have a tendency to clean out gear that we’ve out grown or no longer use. Being outdoorsy folk we also tend to be concerned about our environment. So rather than throwing out old ropes, yoga mats, tents, and water bottles just to have them sit in a landfill there are ways we can reuse the items.

The easiest is way to get gear out of your way is to donate the items. MAJOR DISCLAIMER: If it’s not safe for use don’t donate it! If items are in good condition but perhaps a little old considering donating them to your favorite outdoor non-profit organization. If you don’t have a favorite organization or know of one in your area check out your local REI or outdoor outfitter. This month the Boulder REI is giving all donated items to The Women’s Wilderness Institute however there non-profit of choice changes every few months so it’s a great way to spread the love.

The next easiest way is to recycle items. For example Sterling Ropes, ClimbingGear.com and Chacos, Patagonia, and Nike have recycle programs for their products. Check with the original manufacturer to see if they have a recycling program.

Now if you’re crafty like me you may want to find a way to reuse these items yourself. For items like old school water bottles with BPA minimal assembly is required. You just need to see the bottles in a different light, just because you don’t want to drink from them doesn’t mean they can’t be useful.

Around the house the bottles can be used to hold loose change, store detergent for cleaner trips to the laundry room, or filled with water or sand to be used as hand weights. If you’re a camper considering using the bottles to store first aid items, or throw a headlamp in them and they become lanterns. Also for the desperate times of needing to heed the call of nature in the middle of a cold night, well yes, they become pee bottles. You don’t have to leave the tent.

For retired climbing ropes you can you may have to get a bit hands on but you can make a wonderful rug for your front door step just check out the patterns available at Roperugs.com. It’s kind of like macramé without the wooden beads. If you have a dog or want to make a gift for a dog lover in your life considering making a custom leash.

When it’s time to let go of your favorite yoga mat you can make a pair of flip flops. You need a glue gun and a but of patience but when you have a mat that’s the perfect color or print it will be worth the time.

How about tents that have seen better days? If a rip or wear has made the tent unpatchable and no longer a solid shelter in the great outdoors you can still make use of the material. The tough but packable fabric is perfect for sewing your own ditty bags or shopping bags.

This is really the tip of the iceberg. I am sure there are lots of amazing ideas out there and I would love to hear them! Please share any new and fun ways to reuse and recycle gear in the comments area. Also, keep in mind, when shopping for gear choose brands that give back.

Wednesday Playlist on a Friday: Everybody's Working for the Weekend

When I was invited to participate in Necessary Cool's Indy Takeover I wasn't sure what to bring to the table. However I figured it's always time for a playlist, right? So this list is filled with songs for the weekend. Have a good one!

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