Thursday, May 26, 2011

ON BECOMING A SELF-PROCLAIMED “FASHIONISTA”

The recent couple of week’s worth of Bike to Work readings and writings got me to thinking about my own “fashion” choices when riding. I certainly have gravitated to the spandex/brightly colored arena over the past 3 years. Based upon the type of riding I do, that made sense. Now, however…

I’m finding myself reflecting upon more specific needs in both clothing and transporting stuff. My riding has branched out to more than fitness cycling. During our recent sojourn to the Low Country of S.C., I found myself in need of some way to transport purchases as the Navigator and I rode around Folly Beach. I also would have liked to have been more casually dressed than my padded cycling bibs when walking around. You see, us fashionistas must always be cognizant of our public appearances…

I also wanted to be able to speak from personal experience about clothing options for new riders as we encourage more commuting to work and shopping by bike. To that end, I made some purchases… (As an upfront statement: I received no remuneration in any form for these reviews and they were not solicited by anyone.)

First, the looks…

My friend Jack, The VeloHobo, has started a part drive, part ride experience this summer to get to his job site. In doing that, he spoke of a great shirt he was wearing to work. I remembered that I had made that same purchase last year, although it was in a much more eye pleasing color of yellow. (We fashionistas note this stuff!). I remembered my motorcycle touring days and how I had come to wear long sleeve white cotton T-shirts to protect my skin and reflect back the heat. It seemed like a good idea to replicate that effort on the bicycle. Fortunately, my local Belk's store carries the Columbia brand of the shirt so the Navigator, my long-time clothier, graciously brought one home for me.

Next up, was the clothing for things below waist. I really didn’t and don’t want to give up my padded shorts so, a pair of convertible pants (not the kind that drops the seat – that’s called Long Johns) from North Face did the trick.

This past Tuesday provided the opportunity to test out my new ensemble. My niece and her softball team had a home game. My plan was to car pool into work with the Navigator as we often do to conserve gas and I would then ride the bike to the ballgame. I knew in my heart that spandex and brightly colored jerseys would not be the norm of the day for the softball crowd. My need, as a fashinista, was to be within the general clothing norm of the crowd while still presenting the “round about town” look of the chic commuting cyclist.

The second shortcoming I’ve noted as I branch out beyond being a fitness cyclist is the need to carry stuff! Three pockets on a jersey just don’t get it sometimes. It is hard to get alternative footwear, purchases, etc. loaded properly for that gadabout tour of the local shopping district or even to carry sufficient items for a longer than usual self-supported ride. My Fuji CCR3 doesn’t have braze-ons for a rack – not that I would put one on it and a basket is out of the question. The “Wood-man” would never forgive me for that faux pas.

I recalled my friend Kent “Mountain Turtle” Peterson had reviewed an Ergon backpack in the past. I visited his site and renewed my interest in the BD1 based upon his review. I came to find out that the BD1 was not available anymore or, at least, I couldn’t fine one despite a search far and wide including across the Big Pond. I did eventually find a local dealer that could order me one at what I thought was a pretty steep price. More research led to Competitive Cyclist and the opportunity to purchase an Ergon product that was in stock.

After a very friendly and helpful conversation on the phone with Josh at Competitive Cyclist, I ordered the BC2 at a great price. It arrived promptly and was put into rapid use. The setup of the bag was almost as easy as advertised. Instructions are minimal. My only concern was that there is a hole on the inside of the hydration pack compartment that looked as if it should fit around the bolt holding the flink joint in place. In my case, the hole seemed to be offset somewhat and wouldn’t easily fit around the bolt. I was concerned that this would lead to premature wear on the fabric. I worked with it for a period of time and finally managed to get enough leeway in the fabric to stretch it over the bolt end. The instructions didn’t address this issue at all so I’m just going on my “gut feeling” that it was intended to be this way.

ErgonBC2

(The Ergon BC2 2010 model)

I set out on Tuesday in my natty new commuter attire and my new backpack and headed to the ball park some 12 miles away. The skies were bright and an unseasonably warm 87 degrees at 4:30 p.m. enveloped me. A few immediate thoughts hit me within the first mile. 1) Gosh, I’m glad I didn’t go for tweed! 2) 87 degrees is quite warm and 3) I can sweat no matter how I’m dressed.

The shirt functioned nicely as described by the VeloHobo. Despite it not moving sweat as efficiently as a technical jersey would have done, I could still feel the wind, albeit warm wind, moving through the fabric. the chest pockets with their sticky velcro was a nice touch. The convertible pants fit over my much needed chamois without out constriction or impediment to my riding. Both pieces of clothing dried very quickly upon arrival at the ball park.

I was especially pleased with the backpack as I was able to pack sandals, a lock for my bike, food, drink, a family of 5 hamsters (just kidding, they would have died of heat exhaustion..), and a cap inside the pack. The flink joint performed as advertised allowing the backpack to shift as needed without throwing me around or upsetting my balance. Truthfully, I can see that I might get to where I don’t even notice the backpack with some more experience. One unadvertised function of the pack that became obvious to me as I rode was that it also serves to protect my back in the case that empty beer bottles or other missiles might be launched at me by my fellow “sharers of the road”. (Just for clarification's sake, no one threw a beer bottle at me on this day.)

I’m sure by now you are wondering how the hometown crowd reacted to the arrival of this “fashionista.” I can truthfully say it was an unremarkable, quiet, below the radar event. I guess I’ll have to work on my “diva/o) skills”. Oh yeah, the girls won easily hanging the “mercy rule” on the visitors. We get to do it again tomorrow!

In other news, my bi-weekly column on cycling matters came out in the local paper on Wednesday. It appears on page B2 of the Sports Section of the Waynesville Mountaineer. You have to scroll to the Sport section. My niece, Jaime Geouge, has her picture on page B1 as she takes an “at bat” in her senior year at Pisgah High School.

For those so interested, here’s the text of the third installment of my cycling column:

WHERE CAN I RIDE?

National Bike to Work month is behind us and it is time to turn our attention to other aspects of cycling. One topic that we get lots of queries about is some derivation of a basic question: Where can I ride? Local citizens and tourists alike ask it in one form or another. When addressing road riding, the simple but very generic answer is “about anywhere you want!”

We can fine tune that answer by starting with some general understandings and then “drill down” to more specifics. In N.C. and most other states, bicycles are legally recognized vehicles and therefore are entitled to the same rights and access as any other legal vehicle. This means that most all public roads are legal avenues of transit for cyclists. One exception to the open highways being accessible to cyclists is a road that falls under “full access control”. These roads are legally “off limits” to cyclists. Examples of this are interstates and, closer to Waynesville, the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway from Clyde to West Waynesville.

Beginning at the West Waynesville exit and travelling toward Sylva, the very same road becomes “partially controlled access” and is open to the use of cyclists. This road, or more accurately, the wide shoulders of this road sees cyclist activity as riders travel from Waynesville to the Blue Ridge Parkway and into Jackson County. The section of the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway from Balsam into Sylva is part of a signed and designated bikeway that comes off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is signed route 8.

For recreational cyclists looking for a nice cruise that is relatively flat, Lake Junaluska Assembly allows bicycle activities on the roads surrounding the lake. Cyclists should not ride on the walking path and they must walk their bicycles across the pedestrian footbridge near the swimming pool. Riders may connect to the Haywood County Greenway at South Lake Shore Drive to extend their ride.

In the Waynesville area, another relatively flat route for utility cyclists and commuters is to utilize roads along the Richland Creek basin to get from West Waynesville to East Waynesville. Roads to be used are South Main to Allen’s Creek Extension, Brown Avenue through the Village of Hazelwood and by Waynesville Middle School. Cyclists can then turn left off of Boyd Avenue to access the Frog Level area or they can transit around Central Elementary School on Bryson Street to get to the Haywood County Public Library, the Post Office, and the downtown shopping area. Either through Frog Level or Walnut St. from Main, shoppers and commuters may access the Russ Avenue and East Waynesville businesses.

These routes require a relatively low level of fitness to transit initially. A week or so of this riding and a cyclist will see significant improvements in health and fitness and be ready to tackle roads requiring a higher level of fitness.

Next time: Routes in East Haywood! Also, for more information on rides in our area, visit http://gr8smokieszeke.blogspot.com and www.bicyclehaywoodnc.org .

 

My fellow BicycleHaywoodNC council member, George Ivey, recently had his most recent column published in yet another local paper. George is the author of the book “Up River.”

Have a great Memorial Day and don’t forget to say thanks to the Veterans and their family members around you!

Until later,

- Zeke

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