Sunday, November 16, 2014

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2014 Wrap-Up

I completed the 4th Annual Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge! I made a summary table of my rides below.

A few numbers for my first time ever coffeeneuring: I visited 5 new (to me) coffee shop locations, in 4 different cities (if you count Bethesda separately), and even donated 1 book to a coffee shop exchange/library. In the process I acquired 2 new coffee mugs, knitted a pair of riding mitts and a matching headband/snood, rented a bike in a new city, rode a road bike for the first time (beyond going around the block, anyway), and got a great sense of the riding routes in DC's Northwest quadrant. ETA: I forgot to add--I fell off a bike for the first time too, but not when I was on the road bike, when I was on my Brompton!

The one thing I didn't really do this year, even though I had set it out as a pre-coffeeneuring goal for myself, was use my new camera to practice taking pictures. But I did get one photo I really liked during my rides, even if it was only from my phone:

From my first coffeeneuring ride: the Duke Ellington Memorial Bridge

There's always next year!! Speaking of which, some preliminary goals for 2015's Coffeeneuring Challenge: expand to coffee shops beyond NW DC (though that was mostly accidental on my part); incorporate other routes from Upper NW like Beach Dr., the Capital Crescent Trail all the way around down to Georgetown, or the Georgetown Branch Trail up into Silver Spring. By then my Betty will be built up, so maybe the coffeeneuring rides will also become longer-distance recreational rides as well (though I'll always be a transportation rider at heart!).

Coffeeneuring Challenge 2014 Ride Table

No. Date Coffee Shop City Total Miles Photo Verification
Sat. 10/4 Tryst CoffeeWashington, DC 6.98
Sun. 10/5 Baked & Wired Washington, DC 8.78
Sat. 10/19 Brickyard Coffee & Tea San Diego, CA ~5.5
Sat. 11/1 Peregrine Espresso Washington, DC 7.1
Sun. 11/2 Dolcezza Bethesda, MD 6.2
Tue. 11/11 Veterans Day 61C Cafe Pittsburgh, PA 3.3
Sat. 11/15 Filter Coffeehouse & Espresso Bar Washington, DC ~4.5

Coffeeneuring Ride No. 7: Filter Coffeehouse & Espresso Bar (14th St. NW location, Washington, DC)

Where: Filter Coffeehouse & Espresso Bar
  • Address: 726 20th St. NW, Washington, DC
  • Website:
  • Bike friendliness: They have a coffee pot- and coffee cup-shaped bike racks! In orange!! 
  • Other notable information: Filter is about a block away from Looped Yarn Works; always excited to have a coffee shop and a yarn shop in such close vicinity

Date: Saturday, November 15, 2014

Drink: Cappuccino

Total Mileage: ~4.5 miles total (2.1 miles Home to Filter)

Photo Verification:
I normally wouldn't drink a cappuccino so late in the day,
but it was just too hard to resist

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Coffeeneuring Ride No. 6: 61C Cafe (Pittsburgh, PA)

Where: 61C Cafe
  • Address: 1839 Murray Ave., Pittsburgh, PA
  • Website:
  • Bike friendliness: Bike racks all along Murray; if you're willing to park on the other side of Forbes, there's a bike corral and squirrel (hill) racks
  • Other notable information: 61C is named for the bus route that passes by the cafe. They recently opened a sister cafe, 61B, also named for its accompanying bus route. Both only take cash.

Date: Tuesday, November 11, 2014 (Veterans Day Rule)

Drink: Hot chocolate

Total Mileage: 3.3 miles overall (
1.7 miles Home to 61C)

Photo Verification:
Hot chocolate for me, chamomile for D

Monday, November 3, 2014

Coffeeneuring Ride No. 5: Dolcezza (Bethesda, MD location)

Where: Dolcezza
  • Address: 7111 Bethesda Ln., Bethesda, MD
  • Website:
  • Bike friendliness: Bike racks along Bethesda Row; store is small and crowded, but maybe a table towards the rear would accommodate a folding bike
  • Other notable information: Dolcezza has Stumptown Stubby on the menu; I didn't know what it was, but apparently it's bottled cold brew coffee. 

Date: Sunday, November 2, 2014

Drink: Latte

Total Mileage: 6.2 miles overall (3.1 miles Home to Dolcezza)

Photo Verification:
I have a theory that committed Italian gelato and pizza places
by extension should have good coffee

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Coffeeneuring Ride No. 4: Peregrine Espresso (14th St. NW location, Washington, DC)

Where: Peregrine Espresso
  • Address: 1718 14th St. NW, Washington DC
  • Website:
  • Bike friendliness: Lots of bike racks in nearby and in vicinity; not much seating and very busy, but if you can score one of the tables in the windows there's enough room for a folding bike without people tripping on it.
  • Other notable information: The food options are mostly pastry, and what I had was delicious--Earl Grey and cherry scone! Also, they only sell travel mugs, not regular ceramic ones.

Date: Saturday, November 1, 2014

Drink: Mocha 

Total Mileage: 7.1 miles overall (5.3 miles Home to Peregrine Espresso)

Photo Verification:
The mocha formerly had a lovely heart in the foam,
but I couldn't resist a sip before I took the photo

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Coffeeneuring Ride No. 3: Brickyard Coffee & Tea (San Diego, CA)

Where: Brickyard Coffee & Tea
  • Address: 675 W G St., San Diego, CA
  • Website:
  • Bike friendliness: Didn't find any nearby bike racks, though the outdoor seating allowed people to keep their bikes with them (as I saw one patron do), and one of the staff kept a bike in the back. I was able to lock up to a lone parking meter.
  • Other notable information: Open daily from 6am to 2pm. The 2pm closing time is weird to me, though I remember seeing this in one neighborhood when I was visiting Baltimore. The vast majority of the coffee shops in my life have been open at least until the evening.

Date: Sunday, October 19, 2014

Drink: Latte

Total Mileage: ~5.5 miles overvall (~3.9 meandering miles from The Bike Revolution to Little Italy to Brickyard Coffee & Tea)

Photo Verification:
Also easily accessible by the Green Line. In fact, I found the place
because I saw it while I was passing by on the way to my conference

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Coffeeneuring Ride No. 2: Baked & Wired (Washington, DC)

Where: Baked & Wired
  • Address: 1052 Thomas Jefferson St. NW, Washington DC
  • Website:
  • Bike friendliness: Don't appear to be any racks nearby, but there are some parking meters as well as a fence that people use to lock up their bikes.
  • Other notable information: There appears to be a book exchange on one of the shelves toward the rear of the shop. At least I hope it's a book exchange, because I left a paperback there for any takers.

Date: Sunday, October 5, 2014

Drink: Mocha

Total Mileage: 8.78 miles overall (6.54 miles Home to Baked & Wired)

Photo Verification:
I came for the cupcakes, but I stayed for the quiche

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Coffeeneuring Ride No. 1: Tryst Coffee (Washington, DC)

Where: Tryst Coffee
  • Address: 2459 18th St. NW, Washington DC
  • Website:
  • Bike friendliness: Lots of bike racks in front and near vicinity, indoors crowded but plenty of room on patio for me and my folder
  • Other notable information: Across the street from Donburi and its amazing Japanese rice bowls.

Date: Saturday, October 4, 2014

Drink: Mexican Hot Chocolate 

Total Mileage: 6.98 miles overall (4.58 miles Home to Tryst)

Photo Verification:
It came with animal crackers!

Ride Notes: 
  • At Yuma St. NW and 36th St. NW, there appears to be some sunken park or garden that isn't marked as a green space in Google Maps. But I noted the intersection today as I rode past so I could look it later, and Google Maps street view has some user-uploaded photos of the area. I plan on going back in the near future to take a closer look.
  • I noticed a Neighborhood Slow Zone sign for the first time today! I wonder if they've been up for a while, or if they are recent like the Neighborhood Bikeway signs they just put up near me.
  • Today was the first time I've ridden with tights on; I guess it really is October. It was cold enough to also merit some merino clothing (I've recently drunk the merino kool-aid), so I got to wear this great dress for the first time (currently on sale at Nau). It layers really well so it's perfect for fall/spring, but I can see it working even on the cooler days of summer. It's versatile, cute, comfortable, ride-able, and has pockets--basically everything I want in a dress!
  • Speaking of cold-weather apparel, after this evening's ride I'm thinking of knitting myself some hand warmers. The trick will be to finish them in time to actually use them.
  • All this time I've been riding across the bridge on Calvert St., I never realized it was called the Duke Ellington Memorial Bridge: 
Nice way to close my first coffeeneuring ride

Friday, October 3, 2014

Coffeeneuring Prep

So I think this year I'll actually be able to do the Fourth Annual Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge for the first time! This is exciting because bikes + caffeine, but also because I have a few goals for myself in the process:
  • Finding Good Coffee Shops - I'll actually be doing my riding in two (possibly three) different cities, and I'm always on the lookout for more coffee shops.
  • Replacing My Mugs - I've cracked a couple of mugs in the past few months, and I'm not very happy about it.
  • Playing with My Camera - While I have no eye for composition, I finally figured out what aperture, shutter speed, and ISO are. Now I have to use this knowledge.
Picture from last year's furloughneuring

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Bike Commute Checklist

It's seems like every time I take a break from bike commuting--even if it's just for a few days--I get "out" of the habit of packing the things I need for my commute. D suggested that I make a packing checklist to help avoid yet another potentially embarrassing day (like the time I forgot an undershirt for my cutout blouse and had to go around in a cardigan and hope nobody noticed).

At the bottom of the page (after the cut), my checklist in categories. The main category is for things that go in my bag, broken up into subcategories such as clothes and toiletries. I also included the "on my person" and "on my bike" categories because I have actually managed to leave these things at home. In fact, I've forgotten most of the things on this list at one point or another since I started bike commuting (going back to Cleveland). Anyway, I started this list a couple of weeks ago, and I've used it several times since to good effect--no wardrobe or bike mishaps in that time. One thing my list is currently missing: a small bike pump, which I hope to acquire soon. (Got a bike pump last fall! It's pretty cool, but I hope never to have to use it.)

Amazingly, everything fits into my Brompton O bag, even when I bring extra items like a bag of coffee beans (though I did put extenders on the front straps to enable carrying more bulk).

Bike and O bag tucked into a corner in the locker room
(ignore the black backpack on the right, that's not mine)
Of course, making this bike commute checklist didn't do much to help me in my car commute today. I got all the way to lunchtime until I realized that I had forgotten my wallet. At least I've never forgotten that while riding my bike!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Brompton US Championship 2014: Notes from a Spectator

So by now it's actually been a few weeks since the Brompton US Championship. I started writing it up right after the big race, but it's been a hectic couple of weeks so I hadn't had the chance to finish up. Plus there was so much to write about!
  • My First Social Ride: A Day at the Races - I finally go on a social ride
  • Race Festivities - I try (and mostly fail) to stay cool 
  • The Race Itself: A Spectator's Perspective - I have fun with my camera settings
After the cut, a series of mini-posts about the above.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My first flat tire: a photo essay

Observation: I enjoyed fixing my first flat tire in the same way that I enjoyed shoveling snow for the first time. That is to say, it was a cute adventure because it was novel experience during adulthood, and it happened in a context where someone else would have done it if I really didn't want to. However, I suspect that under different conditions (for either case), I would have ended up sitting at the side of the road in tears.

Introduction: It had to happen one day...
I think it's inevitable for all bike owners to one day get a flat tire, and I'm lucky that my first flat went down in the way that it did: 
  • I went two years before experiencing a flat.
  • When I did get a flat, it happened on my front tire, which was much easier to deal with than a rear one would have been. (For reference, see this NYCeWheels blog post on fixing a Brompton rear flat, coincidentally posted earlier this month.)
  • I wasn't dealing with a flat in the middle of the ride; obviously it must have happened sometime during my last ride, but I didn't get the full effect of it until after I was already home. 
  • I didn't have to get a lot of new equipment, and what I did get, I needed anyway now that I'm commuting on a more regular basis.
Required tools are surprisingly few
Auspicious circumstances aside, I wouldn't have been able to get through actually fixing the flat without a lot of help from the following, to whom I am thankful:
  • The BicycleSPACE staff, who basically told me exactly what to do and what materials I needed get to fix my tire (a patch kit and levers, that's it). They even gave me a little hand-written note about their Thursday "Fix A Flat" class, in case things went horrible wrong! 
  • D, of course, who talked me through the whole process via FaceTime from a couple states away, and calmed me down in various moments of panic.
I got through the whole thing, and successfully I think, but there were many steps along the way.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

What's the opposite of drafting??

I slept in a little yesterday, which meant that I left for work about a half-hour later than I have been the past couple of weeks. I wouldn't have thought that it would make a big difference, but the traffic along the Millennium Trail was noticeably busier. The part of the trail I ride is right next to a road with a 40mph speed limit, so in the mornings I'm going in the opposite direction of the cars next to me,  and I can feel the "headwind" as they pass by. The worst part is this long stretch starting at the bottom of a bend and going up to an overpass; I don't enjoy going uphill anyway, and adding wind resistance to that--I guess it's a good workout. Here's a picture of the general area (although this was taken in the evening, when it was much more placid):
In the mornings I head in the direction of the green arrows,
while cars are speeding next to be in the direction of the red arrows 
I actually remember dealing with the cars last year since I used to leave later, and I disliked it so much that I found some alternate routes for the first stretch of my morning ride. What is this called, anyway? Not even D could tell me, and he's my go-to source for bike knowledge:
I do know about D's drafting! I don't really mind though because I have calves of steel
I definitely plan on keeping my AM departure early to avoid this unnamed phenomenon!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Riding in the Rain For the First Time (On Purpose)!

Last year when I would do my multi-modal commute, I usually avoided inclement weather and took the shuttle from campus to the Metro. Today, I decided I would go for it, and went for my first real ride in the rain! Not that I haven't ridden in rain before, but that was usually for two reasons: 
  1. I'd get unwittingly caught in a storm, or 
  2. I had no way of avoiding the rain, but needed to be somewhere, so I'd suffer through it. 
I'm actually almost always prepared for the rain. My bag is built to be waterproof, my bike has fenders and mudguards, and my leather seat is usually covered; I keep bright lights with me at all times; I even pack my rain coat on days when there's any chance of rain, which is often in the summers here. I think what made the difference this afternoon was that I finally have a route that I like, so riding in the rain didn't seem like adding insult to injury (which is how I would have described a rain ride on last summer's route).

So, I set off into these conditions (right around the green line at the top, between the two thunderbolts):
I'm pretty sure I experienced the green, the yellow,
the orange, and a little bit of the red
The ride was actually enjoyable, in part because it felt like an adventure. I don't actually ride this route often in the afternoon, but it was pleasant, with minimal time riding with traffic. The worst part of the ride was getting my glasses wet, but that didn't impede my visibility as much as I feared. There was one potentially worrisome point when I was climbing, so I clutched my grips instead of my barends and watched out in case my foot slipped off my pedals; nothing bad came to pass.

My gear held up as warranted. I had never ridden with my coat in such heavy rain, but it performed well given that I had the vents and the top unzipped so I wouldn't overheat--the parts of my shirt that were completely covered stayed dry enough for me to wipe down my glasses. Everything in my bag stayed dry as well, including the items in the rear detachable pockets. In fact, I think the only equipment "fail" I had was the battery on my front light dying, but I had a spare so I was able to replace it (though the battery may be having re-charge issues). 

Anyway, I made it to the Metro and eventually back home, feeling unreasonable proud of myself the entire way.
Rain riding bona fides
Of course, one thing I hadn't considered was how to manage a wet bike in a studio apartment. I usually leave my Globe locked in the bike room, so this hadn't been an issue for me before. I had wiped down my bag and my helmet, and was starting on my frame when I remembered I had my winter boot tray hidden away--it's the perfect size for a folded Brompton! I did a little more drying (though probably not adequate post-rain maintenance, which I should probably figure out at some point), then stored my bike back in its usual corner.

Re-purposed, now a bike tray
Observation: The most reliable forecasters around here are the guys who put down the rain carpets in our elevators at work. I saw the carpets this morning and scoffed--little did I know!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Return to Bike Commuting!

Even though I'm all about errand/transport riding during the weekends, I have to admit that I hadn't really done any work bike commuting until this week. Long story short, I stopped taking the Metro/shuttle and started driving sometime in January, and I had been driving since. I'd been making noises about getting started with multi-modal commuting again, but I hadn't really committed until recently, when my cousin in Chicago started looking into getting a bike (his first as an adult). He asked my advice, got a bike last week, and was riding everywhere! And it just made me think, I can do it too!--which I knew, but I needed that push.

Though I hadn't been commuting, I was thinking about different routes to work. After a few dry runs, I had three-ish options:
  • Short bike commute: Last year I only rode between the Metro and work as part of a multi-modal commute, which is a "short" bike commute in the sense that it's the shortest distance riding (though longest overall in distance and time, if you include the Metro ride). There are actually several ways to go, so I did a lot of experimenting, and settled on a route that I like earlier this year; while it's the longest distance, it's the most pleasant ride, and I don't really lose much time because it has less long lights.
  • Long bike commute: I have this dream of riding the whole distance from work (~15.5 miles), so earlier in Spring I did a dry run (chronicled here). While I survived the ride, I'm not quite ready (mentally or physically) to do this during the work week. There's always next year though! 
  • Intermediate bike commute: I'd been toying with trying this route as an option that was longer than my "short" commute, but more reasonable than my "long" one. It's also multi-modal, where ~4.5 miles are done on my bike, while the rest is on the shuttle between main campus and the satellite campus where I'm located. I had issues finding the route the first time I tried it, but I worked it out over the weekend (described here). I made some slight modifications to the dry run, so I think this is going to work very well. 
Of course, now that I'm getting back into the game, I've got this hot hot weather to deal with!  

More than an hour after my ride, and it remains sultry out

Although I was worried the past couple of days, I've ridden home during what feels like the peak of the heat, and I've survived! (D laughs at me for being surprised.) I've even figured out the combination of routes that I like for the morning and afternoon. I know it's only been a couple of days, but I'm feeling pretty good, plus it's nice to know that I can change it up in the future if I really want to.

What's funny is that over the weekend, before I actually rode to and from work, I was thinking that none of my options were ideal. I was wishing for a bike-friendly street running parallel to either Wisconsin Ave. or Connecticut Ave., and thinking enviously of those #bikeDC commutes through the monuments or along the Potomac or on the nice bike lanes downtown. But today on the road, I really did feel like I had a great ride. I was surrounded by trees for most of the time, and had long and uninterrupted stretches of road almost to myself. Even the segments of my ride that I shared with cars weren't that bad--I've definitely ridden along worse, even when there was a supposed bike lane.

So, my goal is to keep this up for the summer. There are aspects of the bike commute I enjoy less, but that's for another blog post. Right now I just want to enjoy my bike commute high!

Observation: Riding along six lanes of traffic is never going to be pleasant, irrespective of whether there is a bike path/lane.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Real Deal: Intermediate Commute

Despite my misgivings yesterday evening about the new route I was testing, today I went for the real deal and my ride was actually pleasant. It helped that I made a slight modification to my route to remove one of the neighborhood cut-throughs. The other cut-through was navigable even with my big front bag on my bike (so much so that a guy on a scooter follow me up the path). Also, I got the worst part of the route out of the way early--there's a stretch as I'm getting off campus where I have to ride on the sidewalk before I can turn into the first neighborhood.

I was surprised that there weren't as many people on bikes during the ride home, not even on the Capital Crescent Trail, but I guess I'm comparing it to a decent weekend when a lot of people tend to be out (I even had a double Brompton sighting yesterday!). There were long stretches in the neighborhoods when I didn't have a lot of cars to contend with, and it was really to nice take my lane and go at an easy pace (though I still made good time).

My morning commute was good too. I took a longer route than usual to get around the problematic areas, but the quality of the ride was much improved. The only sort-of issue was when a work truck came up onto the multi-use path right as I was going down it--that really woke me up!

Anyway, after today's rides I've feeling better about my bike commute options generally. It took me a while to get here this year, but I hope to be able to sustain it.

Total miles: 8.94 (.9 + 3.6 + 4.44)
Observation: When I'm riding on a sidewalk without a treelawn next to it, I feel like I'm riding next to traffic anyway.  

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dry Run 2: Intermediate Commute Home (in which I discover theneighborhood "cut-through")

After a failed dry run in early May, I finally managed to try out my "intermediate" bike commute route. Basically I'm trying to get from Upper NW DC / Chevy Chase to the NIH campus area, where I would be able to catch a shuttle; the ride gets me 1/3 of the way to work.

If I were to drive, getting to the campus would be pretty straightforward. However, I'm not willing to take the lane and ride along Wisconsin Ave./Rockville Pike or Connecticut Ave., so I try to go along neighborhood streets. The ride itself is fine, but I get tripped up by--for lack of a better term--the neighborhood "cut-through" (or maybe there is a better term and I just don't know it?).

I'm defining neighborhood cut-through as a little path that connects two streets (or sometimes trails) at a point where there is no other nearby street to connect them. The entrance to these paths can be hard to spot if you are going too fast, as they look like they might be leading to someone's backyard. I made the mistake of thinking this during my first attempt at this dry run, and ended up turning around because I was afraid I'd be trespassing onto someone's property. It was only after some careful study of Google Maps Street View that I realized I there was a path between some overgrown bushes (see image below).

Cut-through from adjacent street to Capital Crescent Trail

If I had to guess, I would say that the intended function of these neighborhood cut-throughs is to serve as pedestrian shortcuts in neighborhoods with irregular street designs, where people would otherwise have to walk several blocks out of their way if they wanted to go "straight" through the neighborhood. This is great for walkers, and in theory it could be great for bikers--the route I planned was definitely the most direct one for what I was trying to accomplish. In practice, however, it was not a great bike route: as I said, I missed the first one when I tried my dry run in May, and then today I missed another, as entrances tend to be hidden among houses and lawns. When I did manage to find the cut-throughs, I usually had to dismount and walk my bike through the gravel and mulch. Even if I attempted to ride, they were often narrow, some of them have barriers which I have to navigate slowly to avoid scraping my legs against them. Then the cut-throughs open abruptly onto the street and sidewalk, where walker and drivers aren't on the look-out for a biker bursting through the bushes.

Anyway, on the route I tried today, there are no less than four cut-throughs (see image below), two of which are ways of entering/exiting the Capital Crescent Trail. It's a ride of about five miles, and I'm not going fast by any means, but these cut-throughs slow me down even more. On the way home I tried another way that was marked "Bike Route" and there were just as many cut-throughs (so maybe someone thinks they're bike appropriate, but I disagree).

Orange arrows indicate cut-throughs along route
Yellow arrow other cut-throughs in the area I've tried

As I'm not a big fan of these cut-throughs, I'm not sure what to make of this commute route. I don't know that I have very many other options because I don't want to ride on a busy thoroughfare. I've tried riding through downtown Bethesda to get from the NIH campus to home, but that was miserable in a different way. So I guess I may have to keep trying, but for now it's a viable option, even if it's not an ideal one. And I haven't even mentioned what a pain it is to cross Rockville Pike to get to campus!!

Observation: There are a lot of standalone basketball hoops on driveways in the Bethesda neighborhoods between Jones Bridge Road and East-West Highway.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Dry Run: Long Commute Home (Route 1)

I'm not a serious rider and usually do my transportation riding close to home, but I got it into my head that I would attempt the 15+ miles from work to home. Last summer I would do the multi-modal commute on the Brompton to cover the ~3.25 miles between the Metro and work, but I had never done the full commute. I actually envisioned doing this next year after the Betty is built up, but D pointed out that Bromptons are capable of handling the distance even when loaded down with gear--people have even toured with them. So, with D's support, some advice from a committed long-distance bike commuter colleague, and the promise of a nice weekend, I decided I would attempt a "dry run" (terminology per my colleague).

The ride was also a good opportunity to try out the Cellet phone mount for my bike that D got me last Christmas, and the Map My Ride app. Before, if I didn't want to take the route that Google gave me, I would have to print out a map that I could refer to it on my ride. Now that I have the phone mount and the app, I could pre-set my route and then follow it on the app as I rode. It's not quite turn-by-turn directions, but it's a much better setup than what I had before (through I do love printed maps).
At my starting point, fully equipped for my dry run
I had planned on riding only one way of the commute, and my colleague wisely advised me to take the Metro up to work, then ride my bike from the Maryland side and down to DC. Good thing too, because although I survived the day's roughly 20 miles of riding (a lot for me), my legs were dead tired by the end of it. A day later, neither my legs nor my backside were noticeably sore, though I suspect I caught a cold. Overall, I'm glad I did the dry run, even though I don't know that I'll be doing the full commute on a regular basis anytime soon. 

Below the cut, my "ride" notes and my "route" notes for the two parts of my ride.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Would-be Errandonnee

Although the official Errandonnee ended earlier this week, today was such a beautiful day that I went out and did a lot of random errands on both my bikes. Three different trips below:
  • Ace Hardware, Whole Foods (3.3 miles) - I ride to Tenleytown and Friendship Heights, and come home with a plant
  • Neighborhood Bikeway Recon, Pete's Apizza (aborted) (2.5 miles) - I ride along DDOT's planned bikeways for 2014, 41st St. NW and Jennifer St. NW
  • Bethesda via Little Falls Park Trail (5 miles) - I check out a potential route for my commute, and convince my cousins I can ride home in the dark
Post shopping trip
Trips were broken up by returns home; observations are included for each.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Brompton cargo options: O Bag with DIY extenders, and Folding BikeBasket

D calls me a pack mule, and a quick glance at what's on this blog is consistent with that--I like to find ways to carry things on my bikes. Herewith my two current Brompton cargo options:

Brompton O Bag by Ortlieb
I got the O Bag as part of my bike's package deal, which was great because the impetus for getting the bike was my multi-modal commute. The bag is well made, and though I haven't ridden in any torrential downpours, I'm confident that it's as waterproof as claimed. It's also sizeable, and could easily contain a change of clothes, my toiletries, my lunch and sometimes my breakfast too, and work papers.

O bag on Brompton
The features I found most useful about the bag:
  • Rear roll-top detachable bags: These are handy for carrying items I want immediate access to. The attachment system is secure enough that I put my wallet, keys, and cell phone in these pockets, yet the bags are not difficult to detach. The reflective logo on each is also appreciated.
  • Shoulder strap: Having the strap to the bag (in addition to the top handle) is great for those times when I need to lift my folded Brompton while carrying my bag. The strap as well as the buckles attaching it to the bag are sturdy, so I don't worry about failure given how much the bag can carry. When I'm riding around, I tuck the strap insider the front flap so it doesn't rub the wheels or accidentally catch on anything. As a bonus, you can also use the strap on one of the small detachable bags.
  • Plastic feet on bag bottom: The bag can stand upright on its own, a helpful feature when I'm on a train platform and want to set the bag down. The feet also spare the bottom of the bag itself from some wear.

There are other features that I don't use to full effect, but still appreciate. There's a large padded laptop sleeve inside, with a wide velcro closure. Multiple compartments inside--even individualized pockets for pens--help keep things organized, and the light grey interior make it easy to find things. The orange key strap is also visible and removable. These details would be perfect if I was using this as an office briefcase, and maybe in the future I will.

The only real shortcoming of the bag--at least for amount of stuff I was putting in it--was the length of the front straps for the bag closure. At their original length, even when fully extended, I didn't feel like I was getting all the available volume at the top of the bag. I'm not the first person to notice this problem, or to try to devise a solution. I only needed a couple more inches, and I didn't want to physically alter the bag, so I decided to make little strap extenders (with D's help, naturally):

Strap/buckle extenders for O bag
I bought a couple of replacement stealth buckles from Ortlieb and some black nylon webbing from REI, and attached the male and female part of each buckle using a small length of strap. The extender buckles fit right into the male/female parts of the existing buckles, and it's actually a little easier to open the bag using the extenders since they're not sewn directly onto the bag. The extenders add about 2.75" of length to the strap, which is just enough so that my things don't feel crammed in, but the front flap fold still keeps the elements out.

O bag with strap extenders attached
Overall, the O bag is great for commuting. Aesthetically it's definitely more tech than tweed, but I think it looks great on my white Brompton, and has a professional feel to it.

Brompton Folding Basket
Last weekend I bought the folding basket for the times when I wanted to use the Brompton for small shopping trips. Others have written about how they use the O bag for this purpose, but honestly it feels too heavy duty for such a casual use. And while I have my Globe and all its various ways of carrying things for dedicated grocery trips, sometimes I just like riding around on the Brompton and I wanted the option of spontaneously stopping by somewhere to pick up something. Also, D recently got me a nice digital camera, and I didn't want to carry it around on a shoulder bag, so it can go pretty easily into the folding basket.

Folding basket on Brompton
Although I've only used the basket for two shopping trips, I'm already amazed by how well the Brompton plus basket system works. I can use my bike in shopping cart mode at the two grocery stores I go to, so I just stick my groceries directly in the basket, and get a good sense of how much I can carry--it's more than I had anticipated. Small tip: I use a standard Baggu bag to hold my things, as it fits perfectly inside, and I can tie the handles to keep things from flying out during my bumpy ride home (see below).

Rear view of basket
on carrier block
Baggu bag peeking
from inside
There's also something adorable about Bromptons as cargo bikes. The small wheels with (proportionally) large carrying capacity remind me of "shopper" bikes or a classic butcher's bike, but with a more modern design.

Anyway, as I have more experience with this basket, I'm sure I'll have more to say, including any negatives. For now it's added functionality to my already versatile Brompton, which is as high a praise as I can give for a simple bike basket. =)