Cycling

Custard Cruising on a Monday Night

Mondays are not normally anything special, except on Custard Cruise night. Finally a Monday that is a little sweeter.

65 people showed up for this year’s Custard Cruise. 65 icy cold sweet treats with an equal number of sweet bikes. Thanks to Axletree for hosting.

Ollie's Frozen Custard

Surly Crosscheck and Salsa Dos Niner

Custard Cruise Sunset

Custard Toast

Cheers.

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Categories: Cycling | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beloit and Beyond Bike Tour Ride Report

This weekend we drove up to Beloit, Wisconsin to ride in the 2nd Annual Beloit and Beyond Bike Tour. I had only found out about this ride 3 days prior, when a friend emailed me a link she discovered in Paddle & Trail’s email newsletter.

Severe thunderstorms were originally predicted but thankfully the system was pushed back later in the day. The new forecast predicted highs were to reach 96 degrees with abundant sunshine, giving way to clouds and wind preceding an afternoon storm.

We got a late start to our morning, leaving home 40 minutes later than intended. Sketchy GPS navigation combined with unfamiliarity of the city of Beloit had us lost for a brief time, but we soon spotted cyclists and followed them into the Paddle & Trail‘s parking lot where registration was set up.

Paddle and Trail Beloit Wisconsin

This ride was intriguing because it had many options to accommodate all levels of bicyclists.

  • 4 Miles – Local Loop
  • 8 Miles – Beckman Mill One-Way ($5 shuttle fee)
  • 16 Miles – Beckman Mill Loop
  • 25 Miles – Brodhead One-Way ($10 shuttle fee)
  • 50 Miles – Brodhead Loop
  • 50 Miles – New Glarus Roads One-Way ($15 shuttle fee)
  • 50 Miles – New Glarus Roads + Trail One-Way ($15 shuttle fee)
  • 100 Miles – New Glarus Loop

We opted for the 50 mile one-way route. The concept of a one-way ride to New Glarus that shuttles riders home reminded me of a shorter version of The Eleventy. Since I don’t ride a sustained pace of 2omph – and I am not a guy – I’ll most likely never experience The Eleventy for myself. This Beloit ride was a good opportunity to ride something of a similar nature with about half the distance and half the testosterone.

The ride itself was free, but if you wanted to take advantage of the one-way routes there was a fee to take a shuttle back. Later we would learn that the shuttle was really a crowded minivan, not a bus as one might have imagined.

I had some initial hesitation with this ride. Although the website is designed attractively, there were some gaps in the information presented including the shuttle schedule. I had asked about the shuttle on social media and even sent them a message to which none of my efforts were responded to. My fear was that we would not make it to New Glarus in time to catch the shuttle (especially with our late start) and would be stranded many miles from home or forced to ride the full century which I was not physically or mentally prepared.

Thankfully the volunteers at registration were helpful and patient and addressed all my concerns. However I wish this would have been done beforehand, as the lack of response to my messages in days prior almost had be throw in the towel and not go. If you are going to use social media to promote your event, use it to communicate! Communication leading up to an event is key in getting riders engaged.

We were given a route map, a detour map, reserved seating wristbands for the shuttle, numbers of whom to call when we were ready to be picked up and a goodie bag. The goodie bag contained literature from the Beloit Chamber of Commerce “Visit Beloit” tourism campaign, a pen, bottle opener (which nearly broke upon first use), post-it notepad and perfume sample (a not-so-subtle hint for sweaty cyclists?). Instead of giving away things that will most likely get thrown out, it would be nice to have just one useful item such as a bandana, visor, drink koozie, pint glass or carabiner (just a few ideas) with the Beloit and Beyond logo (which is nicely designed). I understood that it was a free event so there were no complaints.

After popping our wheels on and filling our jersey pockets with Honey Stinger waffles, we were off.

Beloit and Beyond Bike Tour Route Markings

The course was smartly marked with spray-painted arrows on the pavement, in addition to a few signs at main turns. Spray-paint or ground decals are the way to go as ill-intentioned individuals often tamper with signage at events, an unfortunate reality of society. The route had us traveling straight west through some neighborhoods with a few stop signs. A few miles later the roads became more rural with less homes and more farmland. A combination of minimal traffic and gentle rolling hills made for a smooth and fun ride. There were some roads that I’d describe as pebbly, a bit rougher than the roads I am use to riding but still enjoyable.

The first water stop was around mile 8, too soon for us so we rolled on past. The next water stop was placed outside of a cemetery around mile 18. They had small granola bars, fruit snacks, fruit, and individual drink enhancer packets (Gatorade? Crystal Light? I wasn’t sure). I opted for a Smores-flavored granola bar, filled one of my bottles and then we rolled out towards Brodhead. Along the way was a suggested detour because of some freshly poured gravel that caused some last minute route changes, although volunteer Larry said that a few cyclists had already gone through and said it was fine. We decided to risk the gravel and so just past the Sand Burr restaurant on County T we turned onto the original route of Halfway Tree Road. Indeed there was fresh gravel all along Halfway Tree and most of Airport Road, about a 1.75 mile stretch, but it was doable on road bikes.

Brodhead Wisconsin Train Depot

Once we reached Brodhead, we stopped at the Brodhead Depot Museum next to Veterans Memorial Park for a saddle adjustment. While off the bike, an ant had gotten into my sock which resulted in me hopping around with my shoe off. Brodhead looked like a cute town and I wished we had a little more time to explore and get some coffee but we wanted to get to continue on to New Glarus.

Only a half mile after our saddle adjustment stop we had to stop again as we approached Exchange & 3rd ave. – the road vs. trail juncture approximately 26 miles into the ride. From here you had the option to take the roads which are described as hilly and challenging or the mild-mannered Sugar River Trail. The road option included two category 5 climbs, one nearly a mile long. My lack of hill training combined with rising temps contributed to my decision to choose the trail option. I’m well aware of the hills that Southwestern Wisconsin has to offer and was not feeling like I was properly trained to attempt it this year. I also had a ride planned for the following day and did not want to trash my quads on those hills and have jello legs the rest of the weekend. This juncture had another water stop and self-registration for those deciding to use the trail. It cost $4 a person for a daily trail pass, exact cash placed into an envelope and deposited into a mailbox slot at the park shelter. After filling out the form and depositing our $8 we pedaled north along 3rd Avenue, past 4th (the turn-off for the road riders) towards the trailhead. Little did I know this would be a decision that I’d soon come to regret.

Sugar River State Trail Trailhead in Brodhead Wisconsin

We stopped at the trailhead at Decatur & Pierce Road to take a mini break to eat a Honey Stinger and then began the last half of our ride. The Sugar River Trail is a rails-to-trails project and I assumed it would be much like my rails-to-trails back home which I often take my road bike on. Incorrect assumption. It was obvious right away that this trail does not see much use. Weeds were sprouting up in the middle of the trail like a suburban boulevard. Large branches and debris littered the path, and some areas were so soft and sandy that my skinny tires sank along with my spirits. Wish I would have read Tracy Doyle’s review which largely echoed my own. This trail may be fine for mountain or hybrids but it was not as hard-packed and smooth as the trails we are use to. The scenery diminished as both sides of the trail were bordered by trees and brush, making it impossible to see any of the country landscape. I became mentally bogged down by the thought of riding a full 25 miles (it later turned out to be 22) on this and missed the wide-open roads with views of spotted cows, weathered barns and rolls of hay on the horizon. The only benefit I saw to the trail was that it was partly shaded which was relief on a hot day and there was a neat covered bridge that was fun to ride through. Each mile felt like 10, and it wasn’t until we crossed paths with the Badger Trail and approached Monticello that I perked up a little.

Monticello Train Railroad Depot Along Sugar River Trail in Wisconsin

In Monticello just north of County EE there is a restored train depot along the trail which is painted a bright and lovely shade of orange. We stopped here for another Honey Stinger and finished off the rest of our water. While there were 3 water stops in the first 26 miles of the route, there were 0 water stops out here on the trail. In fact we did not see any other cyclists from our ride while on the trail and we barely saw a soul at all. I had a feeling that 99% of the riders took the road option. At least we get points for being different, eh?

We had about 7 or so miles left to New Glarus and these last miles were tolerable. The trail seemed to get more use in this stretch so it was better maintained and we actually saw a few things besides trees and brush. We saw lovely white and brown birch trees with bright yellow goldenrod. We saw the manicured golf course of the Edelweiss Chalet Country Club. We saw open views of a farm with spotted cows. We saw a 4′ long snake spread across the path, a snake which we both nearly ran over. We began to see more people, mostly walkers, and could sense that we were close to town.

All of a sudden we popped out onto Route 69, crossed the road and continued behind Chalet Landhaus Inn and arrived at the finish (turn around for the century riders) on the deck of Fat Cat Coffee Works. I was surprised we arrived so quickly, my Garmin read just a hair over 48 miles, approximately 2 miles short of 50.

The volunteers seemed genuinely friendly and happy to see us. They said that a shuttle would be on its way and another rider was waiting at a local pub. We left our phone number with them and they said they’d call when the shuttle arrived. They suggested we leave the bikes under their supervision while we walked into town for lunch. Mr. Nine admired a Surly Moonlander that was parked outside of the coffee shop and then we headed off in search of food and drink. Walking on sidewalks in bike shoes is not an easy task and Mr. Nine was worried that he’d wear out his new cleats. We walked into one of the first pubs we found, only to see it packed with a biker crowd – the motorcycle kind. Leather & lycra don’t mix so we opted to walk a bit further until we found a place that seemed bicyclist friendly. We ended up going to Toffler’s Pub & Grill which had outdoor seating and New Glarus beer on tap. The waitress was very friendly and the food arrived quickly. I would say that it was the best burger with pepper-jack cheese and homemade chips that I’ve ever had, but truth be told I was so hungry that anything would have tasted incredible. It was washed down with my current NG fave – Moon Man. I wondered if the owner of the above-mentioned Moonlander enjoyed a Moon Man while in town…

Toffler's Pub New Glarus Wisconsin

We walked through town and listened to bells from the Swiss United Church and peeked into the windows of shops but didn’t stop in because we didn’t have appropriate shoes. It would have been ideal for the ride to offer a drop-bag service where cyclists could bring a bag with a change of clothes, shoes, food or other essentials and drop it off at registration. Then the first shuttle could bring it into New Glarus where it would be waiting for cyclists. This would have made it possible for us to change shoes and clothes and spend the afternoon in New Glarus.

Swiss Church New Glarus

Beloit and Beyond Map and Fat Cat Scone

After a short walking tour of downtown NG we walked back to Fat Cat and the volunteers said it would be another 2 hours before the shuttle was to arrive, and then another half hour before we’d depart. I wouldn’t mind if they had a drop-bag system as I’ve mentioned, but sitting around in sweaty bike clothes for another 2 1/2 hours was not ideal. I rode around the block a few times to make up my lost 2 miles to try to get to an even 50 (OCD behavior), got Americanos and a scone (the Americanos were excellent, the scone was horrible). Thankfully moments later a volunteer in a minivan arrived and offered to take us and 2 other cyclists, 2 hours ahead of the projected time. He had a 4-bike rack but it was not on the hitch. Turned out that he was missing a bolt, so another volunteer left to go to the hardware store to buy one. Meanwhile, we are now sitting in a gas station parking lot waiting for said part to arrive. Some time later, the bike rack is finally on the hitch and our bikes are loaded. There are only 3 seats in the vehicle, so one of the guys volunteered to sit in the back. The minivan was quite cluttered with everything from flowery glass trivets to spools of wire to shopping bags and it was very cramped amongst the clutter. Not really what I was expecting for our $15 shuttle, but it was a ride and we needed one so I kept quiet. On our 50 mile ride back the skies darkened and became ominous as the storm loomed not far away. I was glad we were not stuck in New Glarus waiting or worse – on the roads with our bikes.

We made it back to Paddle & Trail just minutes before the rain started. A few volunteers remained and they congratulated us on a great ride. We packed up the bikes and headed out just as the winds really picked up and the strong downpour began.

Overall I thought it was worth the trip. While I would have preferred better pre-ride communication, a real shuttle and a drop-bag option – we ended up managing just fine. Next time I would rather use my triple crankset to its full ability and burn my quads on those “demon hills” than to take the Sugar River State Recreation Trail again. While the ride is “free”, in the end it cost $19 each with the shuttle and trail fee. This ride is only in its second year and there is room for improvement. I overheard a volunteer say that around 120 people came out for this ride which was an increase in attendance from their first year. It is a good idea, run by friendly volunteers and has real potential to become a solid annual ride if they ask for feedback from the riders and listen. I’d encourage others to come out next year and try this versatile ride, there is something for the whole family.

Categories: Cycling, Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Freeda Roam Honey Bee Cycling Jersey Review

Being both a designer and cyclist, I’ve always been frustrated with women’s bike jersey designs. Apparently most cycling clothing manufacturers believe that women want one of the following: swirls or flowers. Occasionally they’ll throw in a geometric pattern or two but for the most part floral and swirls dominate the female cycling jersey design scene. Oh, and lots of pink.

I’ve often thought about designing my own, but single-run custom printing can be expensive, and honestly I haven’t found the time to create my own. If I have any spare time, I prefer to be riding out on the roads or trails.

A few years ago I discovered Twin Six. T6 knows good design. I quickly became enamored with them but like with all new things, the newness wore off. Don’t get me wrong I still think they are a great company and love their clothes, but they seem to neglect the female market by offering more designs for men. Another problem I have is that all their designs look-alike with similar color palettes that are dominated by black. Black is a great color. I love black. I also love to be seen by motorists on the road and safety outweighs the “cool” factor. I’m not talking neon colors here (although I do own a few safety orange and yellow items) but some color would be nice. I always feel invisible when wearing my black and dark red T6 jersey and invisible is not a feeling you want to have when riding down a road with cars whizzing by.

It seemed that all of my cycling clothing problems were solved when I stumbled upon a new company called Freeda Roam. Wow! Designs that are truly beautiful and unique without swirls or flowers! And oh look, simple color palettes that use only 2-3 colors! Colors that stand out and that are safe without being obnoxious!

I knew that I had to order one and without a doubt the Honey Bee was my favorite design, Speedway and Freeda a close second. Lucky for me Honey Bee was the only design in-stock to ship immediately. All other designs are on a 2-week lead time as they are printed to order.

The checkout process was quick and easy, and within a few days my jersey arrived.

Freeda Roam Honey Bee Women's Cycling Jersey Front

Front View – Fitted but not overly tight.

Freeda Roam Honey Bee Women's Cycling Jersey Sleeve

Sleeve View – The stretchy material allows for a perfect fit in the arms without cutting off circulation or feeling restrictive.

Freeda Roam Honey Bee Women's Cycling Jersey Back

Back View – Simple design with the traditional 3-pockets.

I had ordered a size small, which is the same size that I wear in Twin Six and Pactimo, so I feel it is true to size. My initial excitement over aesthetics quickly were replaced my some quality concerns. I am use to a slightly better quality jersey, and the sewing and finishing were a bit of a disappointment.

To demonstrate this, I have compared it to my all-time favorite jersey from the Dairyland Dare which is made by Pactimo.

Freeda Roam on the left, Pactimo on the right.

Freeda Roam VS Pactimo Quality Comparison Collars

The collar of the Freeda Roam jersey was a bit scratchy as the seams are exposed which could rub and irritate skin.

Freeda Roam VS Pactimo Quality Comparison Pocket Stitching

This is an inside view of both jerseys to showing the sewing on the back pockets. As you can see, the Freeda Roam only has a single stitch, while Pactimo goes with a more durable double stitching. The tops are also enforced and over-stitched, making it more durable. The single stitch could be a problem over time with taking gels and phones and route maps in and out of the back pockets countless times.

Freeda Roam VS Pactimo Quality Comparison Waist Band

Here we have the bottom hem. Freeda Roam states on their website that they do not use elastic. From their FAQ page:

Some ladies like it, some don’t. Our jerseys do not have elastic in the arms or waist. Our pattern is designed to keep the jersey in place without the uncomfortable constraints of elastic. However there is elastic in the back pockets hem to help keep your essentials in place.

I knew that before purchasing it but I have to say that I am a lady who does like elastic. Having wider hips, I find the elastic holds my jersey in place and I don’t find it uncomfortable or constraining.

After trying on the jersey the scratchy neck was certainly bothering me and I immediately thought about returning it. I even contacted the company asking about their return policy (they were very polite and the return process was easy, by the way). Then I decided that I really loved the design and the price wasn’t too bad (cycling jerseys are notorious for costing a fortune) and it wouldn’t be worth it to ship it back. I figured that I could just use it on short rides.

I ended up wearing it on 2 rides this week – a 36 miler and a 50 miler. After riding almost 100 miles in it, I have to say I am glad that I didn’t send it back. The collar ended up being fine after a few miles (to the point where I forgot about it) and the jersey stayed down despite the elastic.

I do admit that I still have some concerns about it holding up over time, but hope to get enough miles out of it before needing to put it under my own sewing machine. It’s only been washed it once so time will tell how it holds up to laundering. (Always wash in cold water and line-dry to ensure garment longevity.)

I’ve gotten a few compliments on the Honey Bee jersey so far and I like that it is unique. As far as I know I’m the only girl in the county with this jersey. From a design standpoint it is spot on – they created a bee theme design without going overboard. My husband even said, “They could have gone with the obvious and added a honeycomb pattern, but they didn’t”. I salute the Freeda Roam designers for that. Simple, clean design with a nice 2-color palette. Cheerful and feminine without being pink or flowery. Bright and visible without being neon. Chic without being all black.

Overall I would recommend this jersey to other women cyclists who are tired of the design options out there and are looking for unique cycling clothing. While not as comfortable as other jerseys I’ve owned, it was comfortable enough for me to pedal out a 50 mile ride in with no major complaints.

Looking forward to their new fall 2012 designs. With the 2-week lead time on most designs, I hope they come out with their fall designs soon before it gets too cold.

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Removing Spoke Reflectors

I’ve been meaning to remove my spoke reflectors but haven’t gotten around to it. The topic of spoke/wheel reflectors came up today while on a 30 mile group ride and I learned that a friend just removed hers. I can’t look like the only rookie of the group! 😉 Time to remove these ugly “useless” things.

Stock Spoke Reflectors

Of course safety is of extreme importance to me, so I wasn’t going to remove them without installing a new safety feature. Enter Lightweights. Step 1: Remove the heavy, old wheel reflectors with a screwdriver.

Step 1 Remove Spoke Reflectors

I used a coin for my front wheel and it came off easily. The back wheel was a little tight and needed a screwdriver.

Removing Spoke Reflectors

They are a simple two-piece construction and were easy to remove.

Spoke Reflectors Removed

Now that I had my dorky spoke reflectors off, it was time to install my super lightweight, super cool reflector tape. For each reflector that I removed, I dropped 16 grams. Adding the wheel reflector tape only added 2 grams. That is a total savings of 28 grams! I’m not too concerned with the weight of my bike. Let’s be serious, losing the reflectors is not going to make me ride any faster, but it is nice to have a sleek bike.

Installing Spoke Tape

Let me be clear, it is not just about appearance, these pre-cut Lightweights for Wheels Power Reflectors are 400% more reflective than plain wheel reflectors! It really seems like a no-brainer – your bike looks better and is safer.

I first cleaned the spoked with Simple Green. Then I used the application guide ruler in the instruction booklet to perfectly position each pre-cut reflective rectangle. With a little rubbing and burnishing with your fingernail, you can wrap each spoke super tight. There is a white paper backing that is removed and while a straight-forward process, it is a bit time-consuming. Sitting outside enjoying the summer weather and listening to Pandora makes the process more enjoyable.

Wrapping Spoke Tape

My wheels have 36 spokes. My wheel is tilted in this picture, but they are indeed all lined up perfectly.

Finished Spokes

I didn’t want to wait until night to take a photo so this was taking during the day with a flashlight shining on it. My basic point and shoot lacks a slow shutter speed so I couldn’t capture the perfect spinning effect the way I wanted, but in person it appears as a continuous circle of light and is very noticeable even during the day. This reflective spoke tape, along with a good front and rear light, is far more effective than the stock plastic spoke reflectors. Don’t forget to add some reflective tape to your helmet or clothing!

My bike is lighter, brighter, safer and looks better. Why did I wait so long to remove them?

Here are some common reasons why people remove the stock wheel reflectors that come on their bikes.

  • They are “heavy”.
  • They make your bike look slower.
  • They can loosen up and slide around making noise.
  • They can make your wheels wobble.
  • They can fall off and litter the road.
  • Most people ride during the day, and if you are riding at night you should have lights anyway!

Do you have anything to add to this list?

Can’t wait to go on a night ride and try out my new 400% more reflective spokes. 🙂

 

 

Categories: Cycling | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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