Friday, July 31, 2009

Who is Betty Mountain Girl?

I learned to love the outdoors by chasing my brothers through the woods with a self made bow and arrow. Later I followed them to boy scout adventure camp and found that I could be just as good at backpacking, mountain biking, and canoeing. Since then I’ve been getting lost in the woods, finding my dog who is lost in the woods, or basically trying to get lost in the woods at least everyday.

I play outside. That’s just what I do. Sometimes I race other people who are out on the trail, but they don’t always know that we are racing.

Some of the sports I love, but I am always taking on more: kayaking, mountain biking, canoeing, camping, hiking, backpacking, juggling, frisbee, whiffleball, kickball, dancing in my living room.

Guilty Confession: I one time spilled a giant container of duck sauce on our carpet, and told my boyfriend he did it when he was drunk.

Wind in my hair
mud on my legs
swimming holes

wet grass when wearing sandles
slugs on the tent in the morning
panty hose

eating chips and salsa
getting lost
finding perfect pets

Teammates- My team is composed of the following

Adamyak, he’s sidekick #1, always picking me up places, laughing all the way


Nuggets, aka Misty. She talks with a southern drawl. She’s a hunting dog who is petrified of gun shots. She is most at home trotting through the woods, hot on the scent of a chipmunk.


Betty Mountain Girl, me, going place, doing things, trying stuff. Blogging, snapping shots, trying to race while laughing. It’s even easier than it looks.

B is for Betty- right?

How to Find a Comfortable Bike Seat

Next week's outdoor how to series will be about how to find a comfortable bike seat. I'll also be reviewing the Terry Damselfly Seat. Tune back in or subscribe to my feed (on left sidebar) for more.

Saddle Shape

Tent Buying Basics: Material, Ease of Use, and Durability

More tent buying factors to consider


Without being to techy with the rip stop vocabulary (I find the best tents to be made of rip stop)- it’s crucial that you consider how much mesh and how much rip stop your tent has. This is partly due to the type of tent you are choosing. A four season tent is typically double walled nylon without much mesh. This means it isn’t very breathable, particularly in the summer months and can be a bear to fully dry out.

If you think you’ll mainly be summer camping try to go with a tent that has a lot mesh. Waking up inside a damp tent all summer just because you thought it would be better to have a four season tent, isn't worth it. I have woken up too many nights in a damp tent with poor ventilation to make that mistake again.

Photo by Proviatoes'

Ease of use

Finding a tent that is easy to setup is crucial. It sucks being caught in a windstorm and not remembering if it is pole two that goes in the yellow or the green holes. That being said, here are some general ways to find an easy to pitch tent.
  • Set it up in the store
  • Consider the # of poles- generally more poles = more complicated. Although I have run into a tent that only uses two poles and a whole lot of parachute cord that was particularly hard to setup.
  • Find a tent that has simple color coding- many tent manufacturers are making tents that have color coded poles and corresponding holes. If you are hopeless with the tent pitching this may be for you.

Photo by bgautrea

How long will it last/ Tent durability

Your tent can last a very long time depending on how well you take care of it and how often you use it. Tune back in to the Tent Buying Basics Series where maintenance will be our next topic. It doesn’t hurt to buy from a manufacturer that has been around and making tents for a while.

If you hardly use your tent and take good care of it when you do, it should last you for many years. Our EMS Tristar is used around 35 days a year, with pretty good care after a trip and has lasted us close to ten years.

Keep in mind that tents weren't designed to sit in the sun all day. So don't just leave it in your backyard for a week to dryout.

Things they don’t always tell you in the store

You’ll need to buy a groundcloth, which is typically sold separately. There are ways to get around using a groundcloth, but I say, stop being such a cheapy and spend the 15 bucks.

My next post in the Tent Buying Basics Series will be about Maintenance and Care, so check back in for more!

photo by Florian

Read Tent Buying Basics: How to Choose the Right Tent
Read Tent Buying Basics: Consider Size and Shape

Calypso Women’s Kayak Review: Moving Water and Final Report

My last review of the LL Bean Women’s Calypso Kayak rated it a perfect kayak for open water paddling with great portability, decent speed and tracking, and not so great stability. Since I mainly paddle open waters, the Calypso has quickly made its way to the top of my list. Occasionally, I do paddle on moving water and I was interested in how the Calypso would fair going up current and around small obstacles.

Is the women’s specific Calypso Kayak as good on moving water as open water? Here is my report:


Being more fitted for women paddlers certainly helps this boat with maneuverability on open water, but it isn’t the most maneuverable for moving water. I paddled this a bit in some moving water, nothing too fast, just a bit of current and found that it did perfectly fine in these conditions, but I couldn’t avoid every obstacle in time. Should the water get any faster than just moving, or the obstacles any more, this boat wouldn’t be your first choice.

That said, it’s designed to be an open water boat and it gets an excellent review from me for fit, ease of portage, and tracking in open water conditions. The idea that I could even try this boat out in moving water, and it could perform

Other Factors to consider about the LL Bean Women’s Calypso

Cock pit size

I thought the cockpit was pretty easy to hop in and out of. The cockpit size is: Cockpit 35½"L x 18½"W. and the max weight for this boat is 225 lbs.

Adjustable foot pedals

I found them hard to adjust while on the water, but once you’ve tried adjusting them a few times on dry land, you should be able to get the hang of it.


Okay for comfortableness. My back started to get a little achy on a 3 hour plus ride. Consider buying an inflatable pad to help prop you up where you need it.


I purchased this boat a few years ago and use it three times a week during the season. It hardly shows the wear. The seal on the bulkhead needed to be redone the first year, but that’s expected when you use it a lot.

Summary of the LL Bean Women’s Calypso

Open Water

This boat is an ideal boat for the female kayaker that spends a lot of time on the open water with really decent tracking, speed, and stability with excellent portability. The 12’ version has one bulkhold for storing gear in the rear, so you can’t really do any touring with it. Given the chance, I think I would start off buying the newer version, which is 14’ and has two bulkheads, allowing you to take it touring. My next trip is to Lake Umbagog and I am still scrambling to find the right boat.

Moving Water

This boat performed nicely in slow, moving water conditions. Given that it isn’t designed in to hit the rapids- this boat still works well for easy paddles on local rivers. If you mainly paddle moving water, you may consider other styles designed specifically for this.

Women’s Specific Details

Companies often brag that they have women’s specific models, but on careful inspection their gear tends to still be men’s gear, just made smaller. Not true with the LL Bean’s Women’s Calypso Kayak. I’ve paddled for years and I instantly felt the differences when I got into the Calypso- lower platform, so I easily could control and paddle, perfect width so that I didn’t have to stretch at all to paddle, comfortable all day kind of boat.

Plus, I looooove that I can load it on my truck by myself.

More details

From LL Bean, who has a great return policy
Comes in two lengths 12’ and 14’
Cute colors too

Women's Calypso Kayak

Read Initial Thoughts on Women's Calypso Kayak
Read Open Water Report on Women's Claypso Kayak

Disclaimer: Product Reviews are based on opinion only and are not intended to condone, encourage, or promote a product. Some products are sent to me by the manufacturer or affiliates and are mine to keep. I mention this specifically on products sent to me. Compensation and/or product and/or services never interfere with the review of the product. Otherwise, products and services are purchased by me for personal use. Kayak was purchased by me. I have no affiliation with the manufacturer. 

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I like it this way

I like it this way, being bff's with my mountain bike again. We go places together. Do stuff.

We were fighting a few weeks back. Me, with my shiny new road bike, thinking "well, she is faster than you and I don't get that dirty riding her." My mountain bike with it's evil, broken pedals and heavy frame saying, "you used to like suffering and getting all scrapped up."

We've been liking the rocks again. And the roots. We've been finding cool trails together. Trails that twist so closely around trees that my arms scrape, so relentless with sketchy rocky sections, followed by steep climbs, ones that are empty with no other fool hardy folks bearing our heavy burden.

The heavy burden of learning to love your mountain bike again. To be better than you once were.

I mentioned that we were friends again- right?

Tent Buying Basics: Part II

More things to consider when buying a tent.


So you’ve determined that two people and maybe some of their gear will be sleeping in the tent, but don’t just go run out and buy a two person tent. Strangely, tents by most manufacturers run at least one person size small. So how does this translate? Basically, a two person tent = one person plus gear, a three person tent = two people plus some gear. Etc.

It’s important to think about gear space. If you have roomy vestibules (see below) then maybe you won’t be storing your gear in the tent, so you may be able to get away with a smaller tent size.

Tent Door


Spending a few nights getting no sleep due to poorly placed doors and wet sleeping bags recently, I’ve learned to spend a lot of time considering where the doors are in tents. A door near the head of the tent means you will likely be climbing over your sleeping buddy to get out and pee at night. It also means that if you have sand or dirt on your feet it will be getting into the head of your sleeping bag. Doors on the side make getting in and out quietly more easy. Plus, I like that they allow you to put your butt in first, shake your feet off and then climb, in the end, keeping the inside of the tent cleaner. What kind of sleeper are you?

One that gets up a lot at night- than door placement should be carefully inspected. If you’re the kind of sleeper, who once is in for the night, is in, than this won’t be a priority for you.

Misty says buy tents with two doors, you sleep better

Misty says buy tents with two doors, you sleep better

LL Bean Tent

front facing door tent


This could be the most important feature of any tent if you ask me. Vestibules- the spot where your tent fly extends out past the tent over the ground providing an extra space for shoes, gear, and stuff.

Believe it or not though, this feature is optional and not all tents come with it. I highly recommend finding one that has one (or two like mine!), but keep in mind this typically means that you will need to be able to stake the tent out.

Two Vestibules are better than one

Two vestibules are better than one

Read Part I of Tent Buying Basics: How to Choose the Right Tent

Calypso Women’s Kayak Review- Open Water Report

When I first was able to paddle the LL Bean Women’s Calypso Kayak on a local lake, I was extremely pleased with the size. I easily loaded the kayak on top of my truck, unloaded it, and carried it down to the waterfront without any back pulling or spectacular scenes. This boat was starting to look perfect for me- but how would it handle on the water?

Having mainly paddled 16-17 foot kayaks, that were not specifically designed for women, I thought the main things that would bug me about the Calypso would be the short length (12 feet) and thus the kayak’s speed and tracking. Here is the low down:


The major plus factor to this boat is that it is extremely lightweight for an open water, touring type boat. This is mainly due to the shape and design, keeping things low and tight for women friendly design also helps reduce overall weight. I am able to easily load this boat onto my car and to portage points.


Being pretty short for an open water kayak, I was concerned that I would feel like I was paddling to nowhere. While I have ridden in faster boats, mainly due to their more narrow width, this boat manages to stay fairly slender (24 ½” wide). Overall, while this boat isn’t the speediest one out there, I feel like it goes pretty quick.


So, the boat is short, would I be constantly correcting my course or paddling in circles? No- this boat gets a big fat check, leaning towards check plus, in the tracking department. While my boat doesn’t have the optional rudder kit, it stays a pretty fair course and doesn’t require many corrective strokes.


Being somewhat slender this boat has the potential to be more on the unstable side. If you fit within their size range, I think you’ll find it moderately stable. You can certainly find more stable boats out there, but they won’t be women’s specific, and they won’t be as fast.

Women's Calypso Kayak


Portability- Excellent
Speed- Decent
Tracking- Decent
Stability- Decent

Kayak Details

12' x 24 1/2"
weight: 38 lbs

My final Calypso Women’s Kayak review will include a summary and a run down of performance on moving water. Check back in or subscribe to my feed for the details.

Disclaimer: Product Reviews are based on opinion only and are not intended to condone, encourage, or promote a product. Some products are sent to me by the manufacturer or affiliates and are mine to keep. I mention this specifically on products sent to me. Compensation and/or product and/or services never interfere with the review of the product. Otherwise, products and services are purchased by me for personal use. Kayak was purchased by me. I have no affiliation with the manufacturer. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tent Buying Basics- How to Choose the Right Tent

Have you been considering making your first big outdoor purchase- a tent? Have you been wondering what should you look for in a tent? Maybe dreaming of an upcoming trip and wondering how to choose the right tent? I've planned a multi-part series on how to choose the right tent. We'll be going over all the basic things- materials, shape, size, vestibules, and how to care for your tent.

Good Morning Fire

Before we begin, there are a few broad questions followed by specifics, that you must ask yourself and have ready in your mind while shopping around.

Who will be sleeping in your tent and with what gear?

Examples: Will you be soloing? Will you be sharing it with your outdoor partner? Are you tall people, generally shorter, or maybe two of both?

Why?: First thing you’ll need to determine is size. This can be equated two ways- how any people will be sleeping in it and how tall they are.

When will you be using it?

Examples: Mainly summer? Spring/ summer/ fall or all four seasons? Will you be carrying it or driving it to your camping destination?

Why?: Tents basically come as a three season tent or a four season winter tent. Think about this one for a bit. If you are going to use it mainly in the summer and maybe one or two winterish overnights, you may be better off with a tent that has lots of mesh = lots of ventilation.

Where will you be camping?

Examples: rocky areas, windy mountain tops, just in the woods?

Where you plan to pitch your tent will influence the specific tent the setup of the tent. If you’re only going to be camping in rocky areas you won’t want to buy a tent that requires stakes to be set up. You’ll want a freestanding tent.

If you’re going to be backpacking through say the White Mountains of NH you would want to choose a tent that at least has the option to be staked out. This prevents pesky things, such as your tent flying away with you in it.

Check back in or subscribe to my feed to read the rest of the Tent Buying Basics Series.

Tent by Campfire

I've Made Friends with My Mountain Bike Again

Quick note to let you all know I've made friends with my mountain bike again. You may have been suspecting after this post that I had given up my wicked wild ways. Last night two friends joined me on some old favorite trails of mine- the twisty, tight and technical kind. Trails that I've always known like the back of my hand.

I've decided that my mountain bike can move back into my room and, in fact, it can rest in front of my road bike. Here's why we're back together:
  • The trails I've been riding lately are really hard and I don't know them that well. It's not my bike's fault.
  • Riding trails you know really well means you get to go fast and feel great as you whip over the rocky sections.
  • When my bike and I are together, as a team, we get to beat the boys on the trail.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

LL Bean's Calypso Women’s Kayak Product Review - Initial Thoughts

Having spent years using gear designed for men, I wasn’t sure if a women’s specific kayak would be worth it. I picked up a LL Bean Women’s Calypso Kayak at a local store to see if a kayak made for women really makes that much of a difference.

Initial Thoughts on the Women's Calypso Kayak

My first thoughts about finding a kayak were: would it be light enough that I could carry it on my own and would the prize be reasonable? At 12 feet in length and 38 lbs. the women's Calypso appeared to be something I could put on my car myself and carry to the put out points if necessary. I mainly just wanted to get out on the water- slow flowing local rivers or lakes.

Knowing what it was like to paddle a wide kayak that is just too bulky for most light weight females, I thought it would be great to be actually designed for women. Would I actually be able to feel the differences while paddling the Calypso? Details to come.

Details from LL Bean about the 12 foot Women’s Calypso Kayak

Lightweight touring kayak- easy for women to paddle and carry
Lower deck height to aid in paddling control for lighter weight paddlers
Slide lock foot braces allow you to adjust your position while riding
Comfortable adjustable seat

Women's Calypso Kayak, LL Bean


12' x 24½". Cockpit 35½"L x 18½"W. Wt. 38 lb. Capacity 225 lb. USA.

About LL Bean

I’m sure this part goes without saying, but LL Bean has an exceptional return policy 100% satisfaction at any time. Just hold onto your receipt for best use of this policy.

Subscribe to my feed to read the On the Water Review of the Women’s Calypso Kayak- how it handles on the water, women’s specific details, and ease of portaging.

Disclaimer: Product Reviews are based on opinion only and are not intended to condone, encourage, or promote a product. Some products are sent to me by the manufacturer or affiliates and are mine to keep. I mention this specifically on products sent to me. Compensation and/or product and/or services never interfere with the review of the product. Otherwise, products and services are purchased by me for personal use. Kayak was purchased by me. I have no affiliation with the manufacturer. 

Day Seven: Bicycle Touring Maine

Trenton, Maine - Belfast, Maine

Mileage for Total the Day: 47 miles
Total Trip Mileage: 301 miles

There aren't many photos to show you from this day, because when we woke up it was pouring. In fact, in poured throughout the night very loudly on our tent. There were three of us left, two making their way inland to a family camp and myself riding as far back south as I could until my boyfriend picked me up on the road.

When we first woke up, the rain was so torrential and the sky so foggy that the two other woman were talking about only riding to Ellsworth, not to Bucksport. This would mean that I would spend nearly the entire day biking alone. While most of my training miles for the trip were biked alone, I still wasn't ready to break from the pack mentality.

Wet Tents in Acadia

The rain lightened up enough during our ride that they decided to try for Bucksport together. We made it there quickly since the three of us that were left on the ride are all pretty serious cyclists. I spent close to an hour in the Dunkin Donuts there, waiting out the pouring rain that had caught back up to us and then finally decided to make a break for it.

I pedalled the rest of the miles myself, until my boyfriend picked me up on the side of the road outside of Belfast. If I had a nickel for everytime I had him pick me up somewhere crazy or bail me out of some crazy scheme I would be rich. Good thing he likes to drive.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mountain Bike Venting

I think you truly know when you are a mountain biker when you have hated mountain biking. You know what I mean- if you ride. We’ve all had those moments where you really hate your mother f#5%in’ bike and you would gladly leave the beast there in the woods or maybe you’ll throw it good and far over that cliff so you won’t be tempted into this madness again. This pedaling, muddy, bug infested sport.

I had one of those rides this weekend. You know the kind. The kind where nothing seems to fit quite right on your bike and nothing seems to work quite right, and you’re pretty sure some woodland troll just placed that wet root in front you when you weren’t looking and that’s why you can’t ride today.

Well that was me and my bike. Those great new Shimano SPD clipless pedals I started reviewing the other day. Well, turns out I should’ve made sure they loosened them a bit before I decided to go ride the rockiest, rootiest, gnarliest trail where I live, when it was wet. That would have been good to know about before I fell over, with the bike on top of me, still completely clipped in. Yup, second time in the past month I have fallen over still attached to my bike.

It sucks too and I am pretty sure my body is hating me for it. The past couple rides of mine have been really sucking and I’ve narrowed it down to these few reasons.

#1 You can only mountain bike in New England when it is one of these conditions: wet and slippery, buggy, hot and humid, or pouring rain
#2 Also, all this road riding to build endurance doesn’t help you in the technical sections
#3 Thirdly, my bike is built for a man. A man with a very short torso.

Muddy Bridge

Shimano SPD PD-M424 Clipless Pedals Product Review - On the Trail

I was excited to land a pair of these clipless Shimano SPD Pedals (PD-M424) after having had a similar pair for years. I loved the resin replaceable platform and contrary to popular complaint- mine lasted forever. Would this newer version hold up to my old favorite pair of pedals? Would they be a better pair of clipless mountain bike pedals than the teeny ones I had been riding? Initial on the trail results are in.

The Replaceable Resin Platform

This is the part I was most excited about, because even though I’ve become a better rider every year, eventually I like to unclip to try an obstacle. Having something to rest your foot on while being unclipped is an excellent way to try things that I never thought I could ride. My initial on the trail thoughts about the Shimano SPD Pedals were that they were great for sessioning technical sections unclipped.

Tension on the Shimano SPD Pedals PD-M424

After an initial trial in the parking lot, I felt like the clipless Shimano pedals were adjusted so that I could unclip pretty easily. As soon as I hit the rocky section on the trail, I found out, in fact, they were not and went ass over teakettle. The worst part was after my spectacular fall, I was still clipped in on both sides of my bike. I had to wrench my foot out to get it out of the pedals.

Luckily, I had a 3mm Allen wrench with me and carefully tried one turn to the left on both sides of the clipless pedal. Still not enough. More turns to the side, more bugs, more not being able to unclip and I think maybe now they’re adjusted correctly. I might bring them back to the bike store to make sure I adjusted them correctly before attempting any other spectacular rides.

My Thoughts so far on the Shimano SPD PD-M424 Pedals

The tension problem on the pedals was definitely a user mistake. Loosening your pedal tension should be done before trying to ride off into the sunset. Overall, I like the way the clips performed and will be using them for a race this Sunday. I’ll post my final summary of the Shimano SPD Clipless Pedals next week. Tune back in for further deets.

Features from Shimano website

•Dual-sided pop-up bindings that position the body at 12.5 degrees angle for easy and fast entry.
•Large cages for added stability.
•Low maintenance sealed bearing cartridge axle.
•Cleat tension adjustment for each rider preference.

Shimano SPD PD-M424 Clipless Pedals

Disclaimer: Product Reviews are based on opinion only and are not intended to condone, encourage, or promote a product. Some products are sent to me by the manufacturer or affiliates and are mine to keep. I mention this specifically on products sent to me. Compensation and/or product and/or services never interfere with the review of the product. Otherwise, products and services are purchased by me for personal use. Pedals were purchased by me.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day Six: Bicycle Touring Maine

Cadillac Mountain and Acadia National Park

Mileage Total for the Day: 28 miles
Total Trip Mileage: 254 miles

Acadia National Park is only a four to six hour drive from where I live, so we have managed to get ourselves up there several times the past few years. I thought I would be sort of bored with the whole visiting the park thing again, but I was pleasingly surprised.

Really, it was more beautiful than I remember it being. It doesn’t hurt that it is fairly big, with loads of small peaks and biking areas, making it that much more of a giant pegboard to attach your “been there” pegs to.

Camping on the less popular side of the island has its pluses and minuses too. In the minus column is that it takes forever (1.5 hours by free bus) to get to the other side of the park where there are most of the great hikes. For bonus points, it’s really what the park was meant to be like, quiet and foggy, and damp.

Our day in Acadia involved saying goodbye to some riding buddies and arranging meet up plans for those that didn’t want to brave Cadillac Mountain with us. Two of us (that’s me!) decided to ditch our panniers in the woods and ride our bikes up the 3.5 miles to the summit.

Cadillac Mountain

I started the hill climb unsure if I would ride the whole thing or if I might get off and walk, or if I might hitch a ride at some point. This is not the way you really want to start any good sized challenge. Positive mindset is really key. Luckily, after days of pedaling slowly down the road with a heavy bike, I felt light without my panniers and my mind easily switched to the more auto mode.

Cadillac Mountain

As I ascended higher and higher and the clouds started to roll in all foggy around me, all of my at home obligations started to creep to mind. I was skipping an important grad class where the teacher actually takes attendance (I know!). I started to think up excuses as I rode.

Cadillac Mountain

“I’m sorry I missed class today, I was riding up through the clouds." Or "I’m sorry I missed class today, but I am almost thirty and I thought it would be much more worth my time to ride my bike up this mountain and then ride back down really fast.”

In the end, I think the mountain wins that argument. And just for the record, I never stopped pedaling uphill. Not even for a wink.

Friday, July 24, 2009

More tips on How to Pee Outside like a Lady

It’s my most popular post How to Pee Outside Like a Lady, mainly because it seems so contradictory. Peeing outside and still being ladylike? Hard to imagine. Having had to tuck behind a tree and venture off the path many times to take a tinkle, here is some more advice:

Singing helps

If you are in a populated area, or just trying to keep the onlookers at bay, singing a simple song notifies people that you are nearby. It wouldn’t hurt to have the song be about tinkling in case there was any confusion. Maybe “I am off to take a tinkle….”

The downed tree

Trees or large tree branches that have fallen are great potty seats. Find one that has come down across two rocks or anything that props it up off the ground more.

Flush out wild life before you start peeing

If you are going for the open field pee, consider making a lot of noise prior to the pants pull down. On a recent trip we flushed out 20-30 turkeys before we had our pee.

Minimize buckles

The less layers and buckles and snaps you have to undo the simpler. It also helps for the quick pants pull up when you spot people heading your way.

What do you think?

So what do you think of the new banner? Vote anonymously on the left hand side. Thanks!

Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Panniers Product Review: Results In

Last night, I decided to take my Ortlieb Panniers to the local farm stand and then to my boyfriend's softball game. You may remember in my initial thoughts post and long distance biking post, that I concluded the Ortlieb Panniers were great for touring, but the jury was still out if they were good for everyday things. I've pulled my final review for the Ortlieb Back Roller Panniers here.

Ortlieb Panniers for Around the Town

Spending around $165 for this set of panniers was hard to justify for just one recent cycling trip. I really needed to be sure these were something I could get a lot of use out of. I brought one to the local farm stand, and found that the panniers large bucket shape easily let me slide in my veggies. They did get jostled around a bit by the time I made it to the softball game, but I really liked that I had an extra sweatshirt in there and didn't have to worry about if it would wet in the pannier. Given the amount of rain we've seen in New England this summer, I'm all for waterproofed anything.

Over the Top?
The panniers weren't too much for everyday use. I brought just one and didn't feel off balance at all with just a few grocery type items. The only thing that screamed "hello I am a cyclist" at the softball game was the bright yellow color I had chosen. Since Ortlieb has many colors options, this could be easily remedied by choosing another color. In the end though, I am happy to be more visible on bike trips.

I found the Ortlieb Panniers to be excellent for long distance biking and around town use. The one downside of the panniers is the single inside pocket. So if you aren't really organized type of biker or don't have a front pouch on the bike it might get frustrating.

  • large size
  • waterproof
  • durable
  • ease of use
  • many colors options- and bright yellow for visibility
  • not many pockets or ways to organize
  • top loading could make it difficult to find rain gear in a pinch
  • roll down top needs to be carefully rolled to prevent water seepage
My Loaded Bike on Day Two
Bike Tripping
Ortlieb Panniers On the Road
Entering Acadia National Park
Read Initial Thoughts about Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Panniers
Read Long Distance Biking with Ortlieb Back Roller Classic Panniers

Disclaimer: Product Reviews are based on opinion only and are not intended to condone, encourage, or promote a product. Some products are sent to me by the manufacturer or affiliates and are mine to keep. I mention this specifically on products sent to me. Compensation and/or product and/or services never interfere with the review of the product. Otherwise, products and services are purchased by me for personal use. Panniers were purchased by me.

Day Five: Bicycle Touring Maine

East Orland, Maine - Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park, Maine

Mileage Total for Day: 53 miles
Total Trip Mileage: 226 miles

As one of the girls on the trip would say- we "spanked it" this morning and killed 25miles by lunch time. We made it to Trenton, just outside of Acadia National Park around 2 p.m. Turns out, the trip down to Seawall Campground took longer than anything else.

Entering Acadia National Park

We had started to hit the tired point and that last 10 or 15 miles was pretty slow going. We stopped in one town and I bought a strawberry rhubarb pie to share. I'd been wanting to make a strawberry rhubarb pie all season, but never could coordinate having the strawberries and the rhubarb at the same time. So I strapped that pie to my bike and off we went.

We pulled into Seawall just in time for dinner. It was super foggy out and a thunderstorm was pressing in on us. We setup tents and considered how to coordinate showers, at the local store one mile down the road, or dinner. Three of us, the stinkiest, decided to high tail it to the showers while the others kindly offered to get dinner going.

Entering Acadia National Park

As we hit the entrance to the campground, the storm really opened up with lightening coming down nearby. We elected to wait it out under the wooden platformed bus stop. Thirty- five minutes later, thinking the storm had finally begun to break, we set off on our bikes. Without all the camping supplies and just the basics to take a shower, our bikes were super light.

Good thing too, because as we hit the open area next to the ocean the second wave of the storm came in. It was one of those moments of which you should never tell your mother about. We were right in the open, during severe lightening strikes coming down into the ocean next to us. We flew that one mile to the store faster than I have ever ridden.

We showered and strapped on two six packs to our bikes. Then we headed back to camp.

Foggy campground in Acadia

Foggy campground in Acadia

Foggy campground in Acadia

My lightweight bike in Acadia

Wet Tents in Acadia

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Girl’s Guide to Better Mountain Biking: Technical Rock Gardens

Spurred by my original article at MTB by 198, Girl's Guide to Better Mountain Biking contains some great riding basics. Check back for more in this series.

Riding Under Tall Pines

Practice track stands

You know, when you’re waiting for everyone else to get their stuff together on a group ride and you’re riding around the parking lot trying to stay in one place to talk, but not fall over. This is the track stand and more advanced technical riding requires the ability to slow your bike’s momentum, even stop it, like in a track stand, so that you can change your line. Plus they look pretty darned cool.

Easy relaxed body positioning, with more weight centered towards the back

This can be very rider specific, so try different positions out. You want to be in an easy relaxed body position. Raise yourself slightly off your seat before you hit the rocks, slightly bent arms and legs and try to go with the rocks rather than fight them.

Easy gear

Goes without saying for some, but you generally need to be in an easier gear here. It’s pretty common to hit rock gardens in the wrong gear when you are starting out- generally I see people hitting it in too hard of a gear. Make sure you shift to an easier gear before you hit the rocks.

Speed is a factor

Another goldilocks moment here, but you need to be going not too fast and not too slow. If you’re new to cycling I think the most common problem going through a rock garden is not going fast enough. You need a certain amount of speed to get over rocks, no matter how good you are. Don’t come flying into the rock garden at break neck pace to accomplish this. Instead, try to keep your momentum going fairly evenly throughout the rock garden. As you progress and find that you can handle more technical sections, practice going through them really slow or picking a different line.

Where to look

This is pretty common advice, but worth repeating. You need to look where you want your bike to go. There are a lot of things to be pulling together when you hit a rock garden, and this isn’t the time for sightseeing. Moreover, your bike really will go where you are looking (and steering).Find your line and handle it one obstacle at a time. Look just a few feet out in front of your wheel, maybe two or three, but this also depends on your terrain and skills. If you look too far ahead, you won’t be able to handle the rock directly in front of you.

More video to come!

Five Worst Songs to Get Stuck in Your Head During a Ride

  1. Honkey Tonk Badonakadonk
  2. Tiny Dancer
  3. My Poker Face
  4. It’s going to be a Subaru Summer (okay this is really a commercial, but it always gets stuck in my head)
  5. Blame it (on the Alcohol)

Shimano SPD Pedal PD-M424 Product Review – Initial Thoughts

I cut my mountain biking teeth on one the first versions of the Shimano SPD Pedal. Having just worn out the most recent pair of clips that came with my bike, I glumly visited the bike store ready to sink more money into another clip without any platform. I was thrilled to find that Shimano still had this type of pedal with a replaceable resin cage kicking around.

My Past Experience with Shimano SPD Pedals similar to the PD-M424 Clip

My very first pair of clipless pedals was a version of these SPD clips. Everyone I talked to couldn’t believe that they were still kicking around after eight years of constant mountain biking. They lasted me forever, even though the most frequent complaint about the plastic like platforms is that they break often.

Shimano also has a metal platform version (PD-M545) that I frequently get handed when I ask about pedals with platforms. I haven’t tried the metal version, mainly because it looked so darn painful for my shins.

I like a bit of a platform for riding

Since I just got rid of my clipless pedals, I have been mainly riding on teeny tiny clips that have constant mechanicals. I can’t help it, I like a bit of platform for mountain biking.

A bit about SPD

SPD is the type of cleat that works with these pedals and all of Shimano’s pedals use SPD. In recent years, other brands have branched out creating more efficient, easier to clean cleats (Crank Brothers for one). I’m sticking with SPD mainly because my shoes are for SPD cleats.

Initial Thoughts

I haven’t been out mountain biking with the cleats yet, but I can’t wait to give them a whirl. I am partial to Shimano pedals already, since I had a similar pair a few years ago. They look great and I already love that my foot will have some extra room to rest on.

The questions I hope to answer after riding these a bit- Will they be as excellent as my last pair or will they make me reminisce even more? Will the resin cage hold up to the more rocky technical trails I prefer? Will I ever remember to clean my clips for better riding experience?

Product Updates to Come

New Shimano Pedals

New Shimano Pedals

New Shimano Pedals

New Shimano Pedals

Disclaimer: Product Reviews are based on opinion only and are not intended to condone, encourage, or promote a product. Some products are sent to me by the manufacturer or affiliates and are mine to keep. I mention this specifically on products sent to me. Compensation and/or product and/or services never interfere with the review of the product. Otherwise, products and services are purchased by me for personal use. Pedals were purchased by me.

Campfire Cooking Recipe: Campfire Pizza

Drying Out

I know, you're like I thought this was campfire pizza, not dirty smelly bike shoes. What I really wanted to show, is that first you build the fire up and then let it die down to just coals.

Campfire Pizza Making

Prepack your tinfoil

Campfire Pizza Making

Campfire Pizza Making

Find a handy cannister for olive oil.

Campfire Pizza Making

Drinking while making campfire pizza helps it taste better.

Campfire Pizza Making

Campfire Pizza Making

Campfire Pizza Making

Campfire Pizza

Is campfire food only good when you’ve been outside working up a sweat all day? A difficult question to answer, since I never really campfire cook when I haven’t been out playing all day. I’ll have to let you be the judge of that.

I learned about this tasty recipe on my bike trip from a fellow biker. Extremely good after you’ve biked 50 miles!!

Ingredients and Supplies:

English Muffins
Spaghetti sauce (comes in plastic bag containers)
Velveeta Cheese block or slices
Bacon bits
Olive oil (packed in plastic bag or small container)
Parmesan cheese and pizza seasonings (in plastic bag)

Amounts- depend on how many people you plan to feed. At least one whole English muffin per person.


Drizzle some olive oil lightly over tinfoil piece
Place English Muffins on tinfoil
Drizzle olive oil on muffins
Spread spaghetti sauce on muffins
Here is the tricky part---- read very carefully--drop bacon bits on next. Why? Because the bacon is the best part and you want to be sure that it actually stays on your pizza.
Add cheese, pepperoni, parm and any other ingredients
Place another muffin, with all the same ingredients on top of the muffin, so it makes a pizza sandwich.
Fold tinfoil securely around pizzas
Cook in campfire coals long enough to melt the cheese (about 10 minutes)
Eat as pizza sandwiches or open faced pizzas

Day Four: Bicycle Touring Maine

Camden, Maine - East Orland, Maine

Mileage Total for the Day: 52 miles
Total Trip Mileage: 173 miles

We managed to get out of our campsite in Camden around 10 a.m. Pretty late start, but the campground was nice and their showers were free- so what the heck.

While the hills are still rolling and not terribly steep, they're becoming longer so that when you crest one hill to face the next- it looks like a monster. We took a side road called Shore Dr. and while it added mileage, but the cottages were gorgeous.

Great Maine Cottage

Little Library Break

Little Library Break

Little Library Break

One thing that really shocks me about bicycle touring is how nice people can be when they realize you are living out of your backpack. When I ride my road bike around the area I currently live, I never make it back home without one heckle from a passing car. On this trip, everyone is eager to hear about where we are going and how far we have been. I'll admit though, we are kind of a scene when the six of us ladies pedal into town.

(it's hard to find photos of me since I tend to be the photographer!)

Bike Touring

On our way after lunch, my pee buddy and I needed to stop for a break. We ran over to this field and immediately flushed out 20-30 turkeys and their babies. Luckily we hadn't started to pee yet.

We crossed several large bridges, one for pedestrians and one that was more tricky.

Ortlieb Panniers On the Road

Our campground is gorgeous despite the live-in campers. As I fell asleep the loons were calling to each other. I got up to pee at night and rather than hearing the rustling of others campers- I just heard the loons. Now this is Maine.

Loon Camp

Maine Lake