Feb 20 2017

How to Debrief Your Winter Bike After the Ride’s Done by Tamia Nelson

Are you a winter cyclist? Do you commute by bike, or do the weekly grocery run with your trusty steed? I know how that goes. On returning home after a trip, tired, grubby with sweat and coated with road salt — and possibly gritty road splash, too — the first thing I want is a hot shower. But this isn’t the time to turn your back on the bike. Because you know as well as I that once it’s rolled into its home berth, the bike will be forgotten till the next run. By then, the grime that the bike collected on the previous trip will have had enough time to eat away at the drivetrain and any parts that can rust or corrode.

So, tend to your bike before you tend to yourself. First, unload your gear, removing water bottles, bags, and pump. Now clean the bike to get rid of salty slush, mud, and grit. You don’t need any special cleaning agents or equipment, just ordinary dishwashing detergent mixed with warm water and dispensed with a hand-operated pump sprayer—a recycled window spray bottle works just fine—along with a bucket, a sponge or rag, and a stiff brush (for wheels and tires). Be thorough, but don’t spray water directly into the freewheel or bearings. If the bike’s chain is dirty—of course it will be!—clean and lube it as well as the derailleurs, cogs, and chainrings. Inspect the tires and wheels as you clean them, and when necessary, probe cuts (very carefully) with the point of a penknife to dislodge any leftover glass. (WARNING! These tiny, sharp sherds often fly out with surprising force. After one bounced off my nose, I started wearing safety glasses. I’d suggest you do the same. You can’t afford to lose an eye.)

After washing off all the muck, make a note of any chips or dings in the frame’s finish for later retouching. Make any necessary repairs as soon as possible, replacing wearing items—brake blocks, chain, tires—well before they’re dysfunctional. Overhaul all hard-used bearings regularly: pedals every few months, wheels twice a year, bottom bracket and headset when needed. Some of this work is doubtlessly unnecessary, but the effort pays off. On-the-road repairs are no fun, especially in less than optimal conditions.

What’s that? You say you aren’t mechanically inclined? Don’t worry. Bikes are wonderfully easy to work on. Get a good book, a basic tool kit, and a workstand. And begin with easy jobs. Overhauling an old-style cup-and-cone pedal is a great way to learn how bearings go together, for example. Tackle more complicated jobs when you feel ready, buying specialized tools only as you need them. There’s not much point in owning a tool you can’t use, after all.

Does this all sound time-consuming? It can be. But with experience, the jobs will only take a fraction of the time they once did, and a properly maintained bike needs surprisingly little unscheduled repair. In fact, if you do your post-ride debriefing religiously and clean your bike after every trip, you’ll find that your pre-trip checks and post-trip checks take only a few minutes at most—just long enough to top up the tires, check the brakes, and spin the wheels. It’s time well spent. Then go and enjoy that hot shower!

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Feb 09 2017

Soup’s On! A Hearty Hot Meal for Days When Time Is Short
by Tamia Nelson

Winter outings are mostly one-day affairs, and when you come home after dark, cold and tired, you want to put a meal on the table as quickly as possible. You could thaw something from the freezer, of course, but how about a hot, hearty soup that comes together in less time than it takes to shower and change? Sound good, doesn’t it? Then let’s get cooking with…

Quick Vegetable Soup Master Recipe

This soup is hearty but not heavy. It contains very little fat, and you can limit the salt content by choosing your ingredients carefully and leaving the salt in the shaker. And though this is a vegetable soup, it need not be vegetarian. I often use low-sodium chicken or beef broth for the base. You can add meat or fish, too, if that’s your fancy.

Yield: About 8 cups, or 4 to 6 servings


  • 28-ounce can crushed or whole tomatoes, preferably low-sodium
  • 32-ounce container of “reduced sodium” broth (whatever flavor works for you — cook’s choice)
  • A medium-sized potato, chopped
  • A small onion, chopped
  • 2 full-sized carrots (or a handful of “baby” carrots), grated or sliced
  • A large stalk of celery, sliced or chopped
  • 1 cup frozen vegetables (peas, corn, green beans, or lima beans), in any combination
  • Salt and ground pepper to taste

You’re in a hurry to eat, so you need to work efficiently. Collect all your ingredients first, then do the slicing and dicing while the soup base is heating on the stove.

1.  Decant tomatoes and broth into a large pot. But don’t toss the tomato can into the recycling bin just yet. Rinse it with cold water (about half a can’s worth) and add the rinsings to the pot. Now put the pot on the stove and crank the control up to High.

2.  Start slicing and dicing the potato, onion, carrots, and celery. As you finish with each one, add the cuttings to the pot. I don’t bother peeling the potato and carrots — the peel adds fiber and nutrients — but you can do so if you want. And don’t worry if some of your slices are a little on the thick side. Though small is better (it speeds the cooking), bigger is OK.

3.  When the soup boils, cover the pot and leave the lid ajar, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, checking occasionally to be sure the pot isn’t boiling over.

4.  When the home-sliced vegetables are tender, turn off the burner and add the frozen vegetables. These will heat through in no time, while also helping to bring the soup down to serving temperature.

5.  Season the soup to taste and dish it up. Use dried herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, bay leaf, marjoram, and chervil. Or if you like to feel the heat, add as much hot sauce as you can stand.

NB  A note on portion size: This recipe will yield four to six 1½–2 cup servings. If that’s more than you need, store the leftover soup in an airtight container in the fridge (good) or freezer (best) and save for a chilly day.

Quickk Homemade Veggie Soup with Rice Noodles

Making it Even Better

So much for the master recipe. It can be an end in itself, but it’s also a foundation on which you can build. Mix and match ingredients at will. Do you have leftover boiled potatoes or roasted squash from yesterday’s dinner? Chop them up and put them into the soup. Is the baby spinach you bought last weekend looking a little wilted? Put it in the soup. Don’t overlook lettuce, either. Whether crisp or slightly wilted, it makes no difference. Slice it into strips and toss it in the soup. Leftover roasted chicken? Pull the flesh into bite-sized pieces and heat with the soup. Leftover rice? Toss it in. Got noodles? Cook ’em and add to the bowl before lading in the soup. Use your imagination. Enjoy!

Further Reading


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Feb 06 2017

Love at First Bike

Do you remember how you felt when you got your first bicycle? I do. I was only four years old when I found a bright red bike waiting for me under the tree on Christmas morning. I was overjoyed. The bike had training wheels and balloon tires, and there were multicolored streamers trailing from the ends of the white handlebar grips. It didn’t sport a showpiece marque, however. It was a Hawthorn, the house brand of the then retailing giant Montgomery Ward. But I hadn’t yet learned to be brand conscious. I only knew my new bike was beautiful and that my world had suddenly gotten larger. That was all that mattered.

It still is. I was reminded of this when I found myself in the local Walmart, making my way from pharmacy to food past the bicycle department. I was surprised by the array of bikes and accessories on display. There were even commuter bikes with fitted racks and all-weather tires. I was also impressed by the care that had been taken in assembling the bikes being offered for sale. Wheels were true, brakes worked smoothly, tires were properly inflated, saddles were level… Everything, in short, was in apple-pie order. Yet the bikes were priced low, low enough to be within the reach of families of very modest means.

Were these top-of-the-line wheels? Of course not. But the quality looked good, at least as good as the name-brand bike I’ve ridden for eight years, putting some 20,000 miles on a succession of cyclometers in the process. Of course, the bicycle blogs are full of disparaging references to “bike-shaped objects,” with Walmart bearing the brunt of much of the sniping. That’s unfortunate. While I’ve no love for big-box stores—and I’d be the first to patronize a good bike shop, were there any within reasonable distance of my home—it makes no sense to condemn good-quality bikes out of hand, particularly when those bikes may be the only ones many families can afford.

This point was driven home again, even before I’d left the store. Only a few minutes after I’d moved on from bicycles to electronics for camera batteries, I saw a family coming down the aisle behind me. Dad was pushing the cart, with Mom walking beside him, and in the cart was—you guessed it—a bicycle. It had a garish metal-flake purple finish that only a kid could love, and sure enough, a boy was skipping along beside the cart, holding tight to the bike’s front wheel. The kid can’t have been much older than I was when I got my first bike, and he was grinning from ear to ear. So were Mom and Dad.

Now I was grinning, too. It’s rare to see a kid on a bike in the northern Adirondack foothills these days. Most boys seem to move right from diapers onto the seat of a battery-powered, child-sized ATV, while girls get dolls and diminutive strollers. (By the time they’re sixteen, the boys will have real ATVs; the girls, real babies.) But here was a happy exception. I could see my own remembered joy reflected in the boy’s dancing eyes. And I wished I could have compelled the Web’s legions of naysayers to see it, too.

The Joy of Cycling

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