Where did you ride last week? Das Commute Edition

As much as I wish all of my rides were "epic" in some capacity, the truth is that many of my miles are at the bookends of my working day in Williston Village, riding between there and my home in the heart of South Burlington. 

At its shortest, it's about five and a half miles. There's a six-mile version that can take advantage of some off-street multi-use paths, but it's not quite as quick and I'm not usually one to have lots of extra time in my day.  The commute looks like this on a map: 

Not very pleasant or exciting, but it gets the job done. 

Not very pleasant or exciting, but it gets the job done. 

That's what I do 99% of the time. I sometimes find myself looking to sneak in a few more miles and a bit more climbing. Other than the slightly-different six-mile route, which has no real "bang for the buck,", the next connections to the north and south of my regular grind look like this: 

A little hillier, a little bit of dirt, kind a bummer comning homwe though the airport. 

A little hillier, a little bit of dirt, kind a bummer comning homwe though the airport. 

and like this: 

More rural, punchier hills, no dirt. 

More rural, punchier hills, no dirt. 

These routes clock in at 9.5 and 9.1 miles, respectively. Each can be accomplished in around 40 minutes instead of the usual 25 minutes I budget for the trip home. If I hustle getting out of the office, there's little impact on the schedule of dinner, music practice, bath, story, bedtime.

That's important. My son is going to be seven in September. I once heard somebody say "you only get 18 summers," and when the realization hits that you've used a third of them already, boy it puts things in perspective. I don't know how guys with kids put in big rides or huge training schedules, but I know it's just not in the time budget for me. What I have time for is to add a few miles here and there, to push hard up a hill or sprint when I don't really have to, to try to weave bicycle use into my everyday routine. 

The northern route gets me a touch of dirt on River Cove Road. I will say that, unlike most dirt roads in Vermont, River Cove never really smooths out over the summer. There's a bunch of crushed stone in the surface that just won't pack in. On the south side, It's a grunt up Oak Hill Road from the Village, a heart-stopping descent down Walker Hill, and another (short but tough) grunt up Van Sicklen. Both of these options tend to offer lighter traffic and better shoulders than the "get 'er done" route I ride most frequently. 

Next time, I'll take a look at some of the slightly longer routes that get you out onto some sweet dirt roads and still get you home from my office by supper. 

Stay Gold, 

Matt

Gear: Blackburn Outpost Cargo Cage

(Neither the author no Vermont Goldsprints were compensated for this review. The author bought this product with his own money)

This review begins with a back injury. No really, I hurt my back a couple of years ago and started going to the chiropractor. One of the factors we identified together was that I commute by bike with a single-sided "messenger" style bag and that I was probably putting too much weight in that bag, leading to the telltale "pinched neck" feeling on my right side. 

The problems are multifold: I really like being prepared for just about anything. I want to be able to fix my bike, get warm, clean up, rock out, make fire, whittle stuff, etc. So, my every-day carry (all in my messenger bag) had grown kind of girthy: 

So many things. 

So many things. 

On top of that, I like to bring coffee to work with me, and I've already wrecked one bottle cage jamming my Contigo Autoseal mug (get one, they are great and do. not. leak.) in it. Then of course, there's clothes, lunch, papers, keys/phone/wallet and all the other stuff that comes with me on a daily basis. 

I'd given up on managing all of this in my bag and moved over to a backpack. Which is better on my back, but woe unto the rider who has to dig through the whole dang thing to find a tube when the inevitable roadside flat happens. 

The inevitable roadside flat. 

The inevitable roadside flat. 

So initially, I just wanted to get my coffee mug back on the bike. I started looking for cages that would accommodate it, but I was disappointed by the preponderance of cheap plastic contraptions that looked like they would break easily. What about something with straps? Salsa Anything Cage? Maybe. I settled on the Blackburn Outpost Cargo Cage, figuring that if it didn't work out for my coffee, I wasn't into it for that much money and I'd find something to do with it.  

Enter the bag. All the stuff from above is inside.  

Enter the bag. All the stuff from above is inside.  

Well, that's just what happened. The cage is a little roomier than I needed for my coffee mug, but I took a look at this old Lowe Alpine accessory pocket I had and wondered if I could get everything in the photo above into it. Turns out, I could!

I mean sure, now it kinda looks like I have an e-bike...

I mean sure, now it kinda looks like I have an e-bike...

A few weeks in, I like this cage. I cut a couple pieces of coroplast for the inside of the bag which keeps it from bulging out where my legs can hit it. The straps that come with the cage are grippy on one side and the buckles are solid. The cage could even accommodate a third strap if I had one.

The empty cage, mounted. Grey stripes on the straps are grippy rubber. 

The empty cage, mounted. Grey stripes on the straps are grippy rubber. 

Maybe best of all, I'm back to my shoulder bag, unburdened with all my commuter bike stuff, nice and light, no back problems!   

Where did you ride this weekend?

We did a little bit of riding around Ricker Pond State Park, part of the amazing Groton State Forest out between Routes 2 and 302 past Montpelier. 

Ricker Pond at dawn. 

Ricker Pond at dawn. 

The Cross Vermont Trail runs right through the park, so we did some of that as well. 

Ducklings at Ricker. 

Ducklings at Ricker. 

If you get over that way to camp, swim, or whatever, I'd highly recommend bringing bikes. Even the road through the park, Route 232, is really beautiful (if a bit punchy climbing-wise) and is pretty light on the vehicular traffic.  So, seriously, where did you ride this weekend? I'd love to know. 

Matt

Ricker Dam. 

Ricker Dam.