Randonneurmas Day 12: Sticking together

It’s been one of the most poignant Christmas seasons I can remember. We’re seen a terrible tragedy and are now facing an unsettled economic future — again.

The one thing for certain are our friends and family. Times may seem tough, but with your love and friendship, we’ve gotten through 2012 with our hopes and dreams undiminished.

MG and I have been blessed this year to ride many miles with our randonneur pals old and new.

On the Colorado-Wyoming Border, just after dawn.

On the Colorado-Wyoming Border, just after dawn.

We’ve also made some great new friends among the Washington bike commuter crowd.

Friday Coffee Club started out with these fine folks last January.

Friday Coffee Club started out with these fine folks last January.

And now has grown to a great weekly gathering.

And now has grown to a great weekly gathering.

We’ve seen a fellow rider come back to the bike strong and happy.

Our pal George S., back on the bike and loving it.

Our pal George S., back on the bike and loving it.

We’ve met our new nephew.

Little Eli, ready to face the world.

Little Eli, ready to face the world.

And we spent time together in the desert Southwest.

MG, daughter DF, and sister Marisa. That was a good day.

MG, daughter DF, and sister Marisa. That was a good day.

Finally, we spent a week on the road touring the hills of southern Virginia, pedaling ourselves into happy exhaustion. Thanks MG!

In Floyd, Va., late summer, nothing to do but ride.

In Floyd, Va., late summer, nothing to do but ride.

You guys have all been great to us this year. We’re glad to know you and appreciate all the laughs.  May you all have a peaceful holiday season, and that we have more memorable times together in 2013.

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Randonneurmas Day 11: Reflective Vests

We like to decorate Christmas trees and light Menorah candles during the holiday season, which shine brightly during the long nights of December. Why not help your favorite cyclist stand out in the night just as much?

In addition to lighting, a bright reflective vest works wonders in getting us noticed after dark. There has been a renewed interest in reflectives among randonneurs since last year, when the Paris-Brest-Paris organizers required everyone to wear a vest that complied with a visibility standard called EN 1150.

That led to the purchase of EN 1150 vests by USA randonneurs for the big event. These would make a perfect holiday gift.

One of the brands that meet this standard is the Mavic Vision Vest. As vests go, it is pricey, but owners love the construction and the reflective quality.

Randonneurs USA is also selling a similarly compliant vest made by the French L2S company called the Deluxe Reflective Wind Resistant Vest. You can see it in the RUSA store.

Here’s our pal Chris N. wearing the Mavic vest.

Chris looking good and visible in the Mavic Vision Vest.

Chris looking good and visible in the Mavic Vision Vest.

Here’s one of Steve, left, with Nigel and MG, wearing the RUSA vest.

Steve, on the left, has the RUSA deluxe L2S vest. Nigel has the previous RUSA vest, also from L2S.

Steve, on the left, has the RUSA deluxe L2S vest. Nigel has the previous RUSA vest, also from L2S.

Finally, this photo shows me and Jon wearing the waterproof L2S vests we bought at PBP last year. I’d like to see these brought into the USA — right now I think you need a friend in France to send one to you. If anyone knows how to get them here, please leave a comment!

Me, Jon and MG at Brest. We've got the L2S waterproof vests.

Me, Jon and MG at Brest. We’ve got the L2S waterproof vests.

Even if your randonnuer or cylist has a good reflective vest, you can’t go wrong with the L2S from RUSA or the Mavic Vision. They are made to higher standards and will work well in wet and dark conditions.

Tomorrow: Another 12 Days of Randonneurmas wraps up.

Randonneurmas Day 10: Espresso. Yummy espresso.

On this, the 10th day of the 12 Days of Randonneurmas, I want to talk about my evolution as a coffee drinker.

Last year my stomach started getting irritated by drip coffee. I knew why. I was drinking too much coffee.

I still wanted that coffee buzz, though, and found all was well if I drank espresso. Hooray! Every day was like being in France at Paris-Brest-Paris, riding my bike and stopping in quaint cafes. Just like TDR co-founder Jon, shown here on Day Four at PBP last year.

Jon at a little cafe on the way back to Paris, PBP 2011. Courtesy MG.

Jon at a little cafe on the way back to Paris, PBP 2011. Courtesy MG.

Sort of. My espresso habit led to daily outings to our favorite coffee joints, M.E. Swings in downtown D.C. and and Peregrine Espresso at Eastern Market. But it also led to the Big S places (Sheetz and S**bucks), Caribou and other ho-hum chain places.  That routine got expensive and finally I asked MG for a home espresso maker for Christmas last year.

Gaggia Classic. A great starter machine.

Gaggia Classic. A great starter machine.

Being the great wife that she is, MG got me the real-deal Italian Gaggia Classic manual machine — upon the recommendation of one of our randonneur friends.

I still go to Swings and Peregine fairly regularly to soak up the cafe atmosphere. Yet I also find it so convenient to be able to make a little cup or two right here at home, just the way I like it — strong and with no wait in line!

A quality espresso machine is not inexpensive — good ones start at about the cost of a Surly Long Haul Trucker frameset. And one has to source fresh beans and get a good burr grinder, such as a Capresso Infinity.

But what goes better with cycling than great espresso? Actually, what would be better than espresso and then going for a ride on your Surly Long Haul Trucker? But I digress.

I was first urged to drink espresso by some racer cyclists who said it let them enjoy coffee without having to take so many nature breaks. That makes sense, not that I need a reason better than the deliciousness of a fine espresso.

Does your cyclist love espresso drinks and would they go through the trouble to brew at home? If the answer is yes and yes, you’ll be a huge hit with this or some other fine espresso machine under the tree.

Tomorrow: standing out in the night.

Randonneurmas Day Nine: Ruthworks Brevet Bag

Cyclists really love their bags. It’s become a Randonneurmas tradition to feature at least one of the bags that have served us well over the year — and that we think other randonneurs would like. This edition of the 12 Days of Randonneurmas is no exception.

This year, we feature the Ruthworks “brevet bag,” and not just because it has the word brevet in its name. This front bag affixes to the handlebars via two leather straps, on either side of the stem.

Ruthworks brevet bag

Ruthworks is a one-person custom bag maker out of San Francisco, California, and is also a randonneur.

In describing the brevet bag, founder Ely Rodriguez writes:

The goal was to make something small enough to not interfere with your hand positions, but have enough room for snacks maybe gloves, sunglasses, etc. and a small clear area for a cue sheet. There is a third strap that attaches to whatever is down there, cable housing, etcetera, to stablize it a little. It rarely needs it, as the bag is not designed for heavy loads.

I use this bag for my daily commutes as well as shorter weekend rides of 50 miles or so, with great success. Larger than it first appears, the bag is still narrow enough not to take up much space on the bars. I like that it’s deep enough to stash a variety of things. I’ve easily carried gloves, a wool cap, a camera, a phone, and my keys in the front bag.

Ruthworks brevet bag-- easily stashes a pint of ice cream.

Ruthworks brevet bag– easily stashes a pint of ice cream.

The top flap opens and closes easily via a velcro closure, from front to back, which makes all items in the bag easy to access. Mine also has a strip of leather across the front for extra style points.

I have seen this bag made in hi-viz material and a version that features a reflective strip on the front, if you want additional visibility in nocturnal hours.

Over the two months I have been using it, the bag has stood up well to the elements, but if I am going on a ride that predicts rain, I wrap all my stuff in baggies for extra insurance.

Another view of the front of the brevet bag, and the cue sheet holder

Ruthworks bags are handmade and beautiful. When you buy the brevet bag, you know that your purchase is not only going toward a well-made and useful bag hand-crafted just for the cyclist in your life. Your investment also supports a small business owned by a person who loves to ride bikes.

As you might expect, Ely has developed a following and he’s closed orders for the time being. Best to keep an eye on his availability page and get one as a gift in the coming months to stash for next year.

Tomorrow: a gift that delights the cyclist coffee-lover every day. 

Randonneurmas Day Seven: Good Times

The end of the year is a sentimental time. Why not extend that feeling to the randonneurs and their family and friends at this special season?

We’re big fans of our friends over by Annapolis who ride as the Severna Park Peloton (SPP), a largely self-directed club that is run  without much formality. The primary rule seems to be that everybody get in a great ride and have a good time.

SPP meets for daily morning rides with longer stuff on the weekends, including brevets run by the D.C. Randonneurs and twice-annual weekend rides to the Atlantic shore and back. They also stage the annual D.C. Randonneurs fall Flatbread 200K brevet on the Eastern Shore, which usually has the largest attendance of all DCR events.

That's a good looking turkey. Go Clint!

That’s a good looking turkey. Go Clint!

Clint Provenza, one of the main guys behind this inclusive group, holds an annual holiday party with his gracious wife Sherri at their house in Millersville, Md. As you’d expect, the gathering is overflowing with food and good cheer.

A huge spread. Thanks Clint and Sherri.

A huge spread. Thanks Clint and Sherri.

Clint awards the annual Rider of the Year prize to the rider who has put in a lot of miles with the club and who has also given of their time and energy to support it. This year the award went to our pal Mike Binnix — congratulations Mike!

Mike and Clint. Way to go Mike!

Mike and Clint. Way to go Mike!

Whether a houseparty or something more modest, why not organize some time with cycling friends to honor their achievements and the good times you’ve all shared together?

The best part of the cycling lifestyle.

The best part of the cycling lifestyle.

Randonneurmas Day Six: Commemorative Ride Gear

Your favorite randonner went out and accomplished that big goal this year. For the sixth day of the 12 Days of Randonneurmas, how about getting them some clothing or other item that was made for the event?

Here is the vest that organizer John Lee Ellis commissioned for the Colorado High Country 1200K randonneee this year. MG and I enjoyed the ride so much I made sure to get the vest afterwards to show off our completion and to spread the word on the road about it.

Love this vest, and the memories it prompts.

Love this vest, and the memories it prompts.

This vest says where we went. Hard to believe now!

This vest says where we went. Hard to believe now!

Most of the time organizers end up with extra clothing for sale if you inquire on behalf of the finisher in your household.

Or, one could track down a jersey or other club item from the organizers.

When MG and I rode the Cascade 1200 back in 2006, I was so pumped about completing it that I bought a Seattle International Randonneurs wool jersey at the finish that still stands as my unofficial event jersey.

Whatever you’re able to find, it’s sure to be welcomed as an item that shows you’re proud of them!

Tomorrow: good times.

Randonneurmas Day Five: Vintage Bicycling Books

Even the most avid randonneurs can’t spend all day every day on the bike. Hard to believe, I know! There has to be some off-the-bike time, too.

Why not give your randonneur some bike-centric reading for those sans-pedaling times? For Day Five of the 12 Days of Randonneurmas, we suggest some unexpected treasure that will be sure to delight and inform.

 

Old Bike Book = Randonneur Treasure

Old Bike Book = Randonneur Treasure

Many cyclists take great pleasure in examining the bicycles and bicycling-culture of days long past. It can provide an understanding of bicycling’s history and a basis for comparison. We may find things that haven’t changed much over time — and some that have — like tube socks!

 

Tube socks-- a cycling staple of the 80s.

Tube socks– a cycling staple of the 80s.

This gift is a good quest to pursue throughout the year. Otherwise, it’s like shopping for the perfect outfit the day before the big event. You will be hard-pressed to find it.

 

Some things don't change much.

80s touring bags. Some things don’t change much.

However, if you keep your eyes open while you are out and about on other errands (or bike rides), you are sure to find a used book that will give your randonneur plenty of rich reading material. I suggest well-stocked used bookstores, Goodwill, garage sales, and anywhere else you can imagine a used bicycling book might be discovered.

We found these in the lending library at our apartment complex. All free!

 

Rain cape rider (looking surprisingly unclad). Sorry, no splats.

Rain cape rider (looking surprisingly unclad). Sorry, no splats.

Your randonneur is sure to like such a thoughtful present, and you will be the one to have relished the thrill of the hunt.

Tomorrow: Mystery!

Randonneurmas Day Four: Chapeaus, Capellos, Sombreros. Or, Hats!

This year the 12 Days of Randonneurmas returns on Day Four to a tried-and-true gift that every cyclists uses at least some of the time: the cycling cap.

MG and our friend Lane G. got me into looking for more interesting caps than those black nylon skullcaps sold in cycling shops and the ubiquitous cotton cycling brand caps. Now we have a small collection from some of our favorite sources that work for every purpose and season.

This year I finally went ahead and measured my head (no, this isn’t the start of a song) for custom caps by Caroline Paquette of Portland, Ore. She sews and sells under the name Little Package. 

A white cotton from Caroline, sewn to order.

A white cotton from Caroline, sewn to order.

Love this orange cotton from Caroline.

Love this orange cotton from Caroline.

Caroline makes really useful and handsome caps from high-grade wool and cotton, changing her offerings as she gets her hands on a certain kind of material. She even sells hats made from suit wool and other clothing that she cuts up.

Red wool. This hat feels great and goes with the DC Randonneurs jersey.

Red wool. This hat feels great and goes with the DC Randonneurs jersey.

Send her your measurements and she’ll make you perfect fit hats with either a standard brim or a stubby brim — both are short enough to not block your vision when riding, which is a problem I have with standard caps. Caroline is a cyclist so she knows what works. Just make sure not to wake your loved one when you put the tape measure around their noggin!

Checked flap cap from Little Package. Warm!

Checked flap cap from Little Package. Warm!

I also have to note that I’m a fan of Walz Caps, which will also make their caps with short brims on request. I have a few with the short brims, including the Yehuda Moon wool model, and they work well. One can also get custom embroidering.

MG, Me & my Walz Yehuda Moon cap. Happy holidays!

MG, Me & my Walz Yehuda Moon cap. Happy holidays!

And, there is nothing nicer than a good wool skullcap when one needs more coverage. MG is partial to the Ibex Zephyr skullcap. We’re fans of Ibex but this one is a special item that just does the job and looks great.

MG loves the Ibex Zephyr. Perfect for the walk home from work.

MG loves the Ibex Zephyr. Perfect for the walk home from work.

Finally, there is the memento cap. I asked our pal Kirstin to pick me up a cap in Paris this year when she went there with her husband Tom. To my delight she brought back a very, very Parisien cap from Cycles Laurent. It has a big Eiffel Tower on it and always starts a conversation when I’m off the bike.

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Those are our hat & cap recommendations this year. Every cyclist will wear a cap sooner or later, why not give them one they’ll love?

Tomorrow: Something for those times off the bike.

Randonneurmas Day Three: Wald Baskets

I was a little skeptical when Grant Petersen of Rivendell Bicycles started talking up Wald wire bike baskets. They are super inexpensive, like $20, and looked pretty basic.

Then I started thinking about better ways to carry my suit jacket for my short trips from my home office to work appointments. In my job as a journalist I make regular trips to the Capitol and downtown from our home in southwest Washington. The fastest way, by far, is to ride. I get most anywhere in 15 minutes or less and I enjoy some fresh air in the process.

Wald 137, ready for duty.

Wald 137, ready for duty.

In really warm weather I was rolling my jacket carefully and carrying it on my back in one of those nylon backpack-sacks with the cords. That wasn’t the best solution.

Then, I heard Grant on a radio show talking about his book Just Ride. He said one way to ride in a suit was to fold up the jacket and put it into a front basket.

Voila! Now it made sense. I ordered a Wald 137 from my bike shop and installed it on my old Cannondale tourer that I use around town. It fit perfectly between the brake levers.

Installation couldn’t have been easier. The legs bolted to the front fork eyelets and the clamps fit over the handlbars. I bought a Topeak net to keep things from flying out. Total cost? About $30 for both.

Today I stopped by the store and picked up a few things that fit well into the basket without overloading the bike. I felt like I was in Paris riding home with my groceries from the market.

Peanut butter, bagels, pizza dough, right where I can see them.

Peanut butter, bagels, pizza dough, right where I can see them.

A cyclist looking to add carrying capacity without a lot of fuss will be glad to see one of these under the tree. It’s solid, inexpensive, and humbly stylish.

Tomorrow: the annual Randonneurmas chapeau post.