Show me the money

I recently got my 2018 credit card summary and really wish I still had access to a 2010-2014 summary to compare these categories before/after selling my car. My ‘automotive’ column (between car payments, property taxes, insurance and repairs) used to be my main financial complaint, and I did sell my car before getting my first ‘real adult’ salaried job, so my overall budget is a lot different as well.


screen shot 2019-01-27 at 2.11.47 pm


I apparently bought gas for someone sometime in 2018, or spent money in a gas station. I can tell you, it’s absolutely wonderful to basically be able to cross off ‘automotive’ and ‘gasoline’ from a list of budget categories. I should probably make a separate category for bike spending, as that typically falls into the ‘merchandise’ category. Which is my main focus for 2019: I’ve never been a (successful) minimalist, but this year I’ll be experimenting with a few ideas I’ve been kicking around.

Some of my 2019 goals:

  1. Limit non-essential purchases to 19 items (non-essential defined as things I could easily avoid buying without significant impact to day to day life.. usually impulse buys like clothing and home decor). I’m keeping a list, so far I’m at 2 items..
  2. Paring down my commuting gear. “Gear” referenced here includes the random crap that accumulates at the bottom of my pannier that I forgot to take out and end up schlepping around until I can’t find one of my gloves and dump the whole thing out while mumbling profanities.
  3. Trying a minimalist setup for a bike tour. I have several trips in mind that could qualify, and I’ll probably start with a shorter trip. On my last few tours I’ve hauled along way more food and gear than I needed to, and now that I’m feeling more comfortable with bike touring I can probably tone down the urge to pack a lifetime supply of oatmeal packets for a week long trip.
  4. More zero waste snack options – speaking of food, I want to try some foods and recipes that don’t involve plastic packaging, such as granola bites in a reusable food pouch or a potato hash in an aluminum foil pocket. I enjoy bonk breakers, clif bars, and energy gels, but the plastic packaging irks me to the point that I want to try other options.


I don’t have a mileage goal for 2019 (last year I was aiming for 7k but only made it to about 5500); rather, I have a bike-it list for the year:

  1. NYC Five Boroughs Ride (if you’re reading this and want to sign up for a team, join ‘Velo Valets’ to help us get an earlier start time! TIA)
  2. This Appalachian Gravel Growler around Memorial Day
  3. Erie Canal in June
  4. Jasper to Banff with Vermont Bicycle Tours in July
  5. Calgary to Missoula to Yellowstone, solo and/or with friends


Here’s to budgeting for more fun and adventure in 2019! What are your goals, biking or otherwise?

Show me the money

I feel good

This article was sent to me by a friend and really does help explain my insistence on riding 99.9% of the time for transportation, even when I have the option of hitching a ride, taking the bus or skipping out altogether. Towards the end of my car ownership, I would always regret it when I drove, but I would feel pressured into driving at times by “bad” weather, running late, or feeling like I had a lot to carry.


Now that the option to drive is removed (barring the offers I get from friends, family and coworkers – and even sometimes offers from strangers!), it’s simply a matter of planning. Which sometimes I fail at. Especially that ‘on time’ part, but I was still late to things when I had a car. Anyway, leading up to and since selling my car, the perception of what I can do on a bike has shifted and I hardly think twice about it now. It’s raining? Pack a poncho and a change of clothes in case I need them. Going shopping? Make sure my panniers are empty, or hook on a cargo trailer if we’re getting serious. Now when giving directions I automatically calculate the time and route for biking, and have to adjust when I have to give driving directions (don’t ask me for the nearest parking garage or which highway exit to take!).


At any rate, there is a lot that we sacrifice, perhaps without realizing it, when we choose the apparent convenience* of driving a car. And there’s a heck of a lot of joy to be found when you slow your roll. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself!


* wouldn’t it be more convenient to skip the gym, save $9k a year, and avoid oil changes and other expensive maintenance? #justsaying

I feel good

Cycling in (part of) Puerto Rico

Well I’m really glad I downloaded the Relive add on for Strava, because this video summary of my one short ride I did on my trip to Puerto Rico last month means I can easily post about the experience (I really will do a post on my Midwest trip, the amount of photos and details to sift through is just still really daunting and extreme-procrastination-inducing).



This was much more of a chill beach vacation versus a bike trip, but thankfully I was able to borrow a bike from the Marriott where we stayed the last 2 nights and get a quick ride in around Old San Juan (and of course I visited the cat sanctuary. More pictures in the aforementioned ride video and on my instagram).


While there was evidence of last year’s catastrophic hit from Hurricane Maria, tourism is quickly returning to the island. It was my first visit but I already want to return, but next time I’ll be signing up for or doing something like this trip with Adventure Cycling. While shuttling out to day excursions on the east coast for snorkeling and hiking in the rain forest, we saw many road and mountain bikes on the roads, and while the roads were narrow and certainly more for riders who are comfortable around cars, drivers appeared to be fairly used to and tolerant of sharing the road with cyclists.


We ended up following a lot of the pointers in this post from some of my favorite bloggers, although since we were in the busier season we opted for an Airbnb in Condado for most of the trip and didn’t go for Mosquito Bay since it was a full moon and the best time to see the bioluminescence is during a new moon. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing Old San Juan on foot, our day trips out to El Yunque and snorkeling in Culebra, and trying out all the wonderful food (#allthemofongo). If you go, let me know your favorite parts, because I definitely want to return!


Cycling in (part of) Puerto Rico

Favorite Commuting Bikes

There are so many great options for bikes that it’s hard to just pick a few. Several of my Greenville friends have asked for recommendations for around-town pavement riding, so I thought I’d compile a ‘starter’ list for reference. Most of these fall within the ‘city commuter’ category, but you can customize most mountain, cruiser, or road bike to suit your commute. For example, you might outfit a beater mountain bike in a city with high bike theft problems, or a cruiser if you live in a flat coastal area with low mileage rides, and I currently commute on a steel frame road bike model that I fell in love with that didn’t have a step through frame. Anyway, here are some general, around-town bikes to consider if you want something fun, reliable and practical (in no particular order); I’ve pictured the step through models but you can try out a men’s frame too if you need a taller size or if you don’t care about the step-through. Most bike shops carry one or several major bike brands, but you won’t find all of these at the same store. If you’re shopping for any new bike, treat it like buying a car: take the time to go to several places, talk to the staff, and take a few bikes out on a test ride at each place to get a feel for the differences between models.




The Fuji Absolute series ($400 and up) is a sporty model that’s great for city riding as well. It also offers upgrades to disc brakes, which perform well in rain/muddy conditions.





The Liv Alight series ($380 and up) is popular for paved trail and city riding. Liv tends to carry more petite sizes and is a womens-centered offshoot of Giant Bicycles.




The Specialized Alibi series (starting at $450) comes in a more skirt-friendly step through design, with fenders and a rear rack on the EQ model (pictured). I must admit I haven’t tried the Nimbus solid core tires for more than a test ride, but if you’re worried about flats they could be an added bonus.




The Jamis Coda series ($369 and up) is a great steel frame option with plenty of gears for hills – this bike is one of Jamis’s best sellers for city riding (just add a rack and panniers), and it can easily double as a fitness bike for paved trail riding as well.




Bianchi’s ‘Turismo’ collection of city bikes ($400 and up) includes this completely gorgeous Venezia Dama, and while I should have highlighted the Torino, Milano or really any model that’s not a single speed, this one is the prettiest and I’m more than a little smitten with it. If you like the vintage European look, you may also want to check out Linus and Biria bikes.




PS: this is not a paid/promoted post in any form, I just like recommending good stuff. 



Favorite Commuting Bikes

Biking the Twin Cities

Last week I flew into MSP with a boxed up bike and a vague idea of what I was doing. I’ve ridden almost all the way across Wisconsin as of posting this today, and tomorrow I’ll start camping in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as I follow Adventure Cycling’s Northern Lakes route.

Let me back up. I was supposed to do the Erie Canal with my dad this summer, but family obligations came up and we had to put that trip on the back burner for the time being. As I had just gotten all this new camping equipment for my birthday, I wasn’t about to pop the tent in the backyard for a staycation. Summer break was stretching out before me and I had to quickly find another trip before I fell into the trap of never ending house projects (which are rewarding, but not the same as a bike trip). I opted for a solo trek on the ACA North Lakes route instead since it offered cool weather, scenic country roads and the chance to see some people along the way that I owed a visit to, including family nearby that I could call in the event of some dire emergency.

So on Wednesday, I landed in the MSP airport and quickly discovered that Minneapolis is basically Disney world for people who like bikes. And 70 degree weather in the middle of June (coming from South Carolina, this feels like nothing short of a miracle). And while the North Lakes route and the incredible time I’ve had since heading out on Friday will be a story to tell, the twin cities deserve their own post as well.

I flew from Greenville to Minneapolis on Southwest, and opted to check the bike in a box for $75 so I could ride it straight out of the airport. It would have been comparable or more to ship it to a bike shop, Uber there, and pay for a build. While packing the bike at my local shop the day before took awhile (using no stand and a couple of tools I could bring to make sure I could reassemble it in the airport the next day), assembling at the airport was actually much easier than I anticipated.

For my bike to fit in a 62″ long box, I had to remove the front wheel and fender, seat post, pedals and handlebars. The front rack was small enough to leave on and it fit perfectly in the box lengthwise. My shop gave me packing materials including hub caps for the front wheel, and the bike arrived safely in MSP with no issues.

I packed some soft items in with the bike, including my sleeping bag and helmet, but my panniers and tent I dropped into a duffel bag (actually a folding bike bag, non padded) and checked that for free, taking only the necessities in a foldup shopping bag as my carryon. I brought a prepared plastic mailer with a preprinted postage label for the folded duffel bag so I could drop it and any small extras into the mail to send to a friend near Detroit, where I’ll be flying out of in a couple of weeks. I also mailed myself some casual clothes and makeup for the end of my trip when I’ll be visiting friends and family, so that I could just bring along the supplies I needed while riding through Wisconsin and Michigan. Don’t be fooled by those podcast ads – if you have a PayPal account, printing USPS postage labels is easy and cheap.

The bike build took about 30 minutes, and repacking my panniers probably took just as long. An airport attendant came up and waited patiently for me to finish building and then offered to take the box away, which was a wonderful surprise because I had woken up in the middle of the night a few days before the trip wondering what one is supposed to do with the large empty box and packaging (pull it around with a fully loaded bike, looking for a dumpster? wait for it to get impounded?). The whole process couldn’t have been easier. Using google maps as a reference, I rolled right out of the airport from the terminal loop to East 70th Street.

Very shortly, I was in Fort Snelling State Park and enjoying verdant trails in 75 degree weather.

I took a couple of trails that paralleled highways to get over to a very fancy REI near the Mall of America where I could buy stove fuel, since I couldn’t bring it on the plane. The trails weren’t particularly scenic, but very functional and comfortable.

After I had run that errand and dropped off my bags off at my host’s house around 3pm, I ventured out to explore the city. There are many Warm Showers hosts in Minneapolis and I highly recommend checking out that network if you’re interested in bike touring, for reasons I’ll delve into in another post.

The trails in Minneapolis are mostly paved but this boardwalk section in the Flour Gold area was a neat feature. I just had time for a loop up the riverside trail and down Minnehaha Avenue before dinner, so I was glad I had allowed an extra day for city exploring.

Minnehaha falls is a lovely park and was my first stop the next morning on my Minneapolis loop.

The sculpture garden was a nice stop in between marveling over the many bike highways in town. Seriously, there were so many trails I’ve already decided to come back for another visit.

I took a ton of pictures to try to capture the magnificence of the infrastructure, but I failed. Where there weren’t separated trails (which seemed like everywhere), there is a minimum of a painted bike lane. It was at once inspiring and also somewhat demoralizing to see how far my hometown has yet to go to come anywhere near this level of infrastructure.

I retrieved my bags and crossed over the bridge to St Paul that afternoon to visit family friends for the night before heading out on my first real day of riding early the next morning. All together, I rode 100 miles in 1.5 days of exploring the city.. a pretty good illustration of what infrastructure can do for tourism and public health.

That’s where I’ll leave off for now, because I’m still processing how much I love the Midwest so far and deeply reconsidering my aversion to cold winter weather.

I didn’t stop to edit pictures or get every detail in because I didn’t want to put off posting until I didn’t post at all. Kind of like this trip in a way.. I didn’t wait until I had a fully formed plan, I just bought gear and plane tickets and jumped in. I guess if theres one thing I’ve learned in my 20s, it’s deciding to go with the flow and maintain a mantra of “Day One” instead of “one day”. Here’s to many more random adventures along the way.

Biking the Twin Cities

Cheers to 3 years (and new gears)


For my anniversary marking 3 years of living car free, I went full middle aged hipster and celebrated with craft beer and a new 1×10 groupset on my commuter (halfway to a fixed gear, which is as close as I’m ever going to get). I have the tendency to put off replacing parts until it’s absolutely necessary (mostly out of laziness), so it feels like a whole new bike now that I have new gears and recently new brakes.



I changed out my brakes myself this time, and I did a fairly mediocre job if I do say so myself. In the course of planning my summer bike trip somewhere around the Great Lakes, I’ve realized my mechanic/maintenance skills really need to exist be kicked up a notch. You would think that living by bike would have taught me some basic functional skills by default by now, such as changing a flat or derailleur adjusting, but I’ve been pretty lucky over the last 3 years in terms of mechanical issues.

Well, except for the other day when of all things, I went to lock up my bike and found that the whole barrel of my combination lock had randomly broken off:



Thankfully there’s usually a bike shop nearby when riding around in Greenville, but for a 1,000+ mile trip like the one I’m planning, I’m going to need to be a bit more self-reliant.

At any rate, considering all the worries I had 3 years ago about what life would be like without a car, I wish I could go back a bit further and tell myself to just go for it. I haven’t missed car ownership once, not even through hurricanes, snow, or even moving last summer. It’s not always convenient or comfortable to ride a bike for transportation, but ultimately having 24/7 convenience and comfort aren’t what I’m after. If I’m lucky, there will be many more car free anniversaries to celebrate in my future.

Cheers to 3 years (and new gears)