Monthly Archives: February 2011

Cupcake Commuting: Furin’s Cupcakes

Furin's in Georgetown

In my initial cupcake commuting post, I clearly showed that my bicycle transportation technique needed work. I received a number of helpful comments from readers about possible improvements. These included a couple of comments suggesting alternate transportation devices, one comment noting that the butter in the frosting hastened the demise of my cupcakes, one person writing that I should eat the cupcake before I get on the bike, and another individual stating “I think this demands immediate study!”

I took everyone’s remarks seriously, and set to work immediately. I wasn’t the only one. I now have one collaborator. Thanks, Freewheel, for joining me on this difficult project.

Recently, I stopped by Furin’s in Georgetown. If you have not been there, it is worth a trip. They make excellent cupcakes and other food treats. However, I was not going there to sample the cupcakes. No, I was there to test their to-go cupcake holder.

Furin’s has two types of cupcake holders: one container stores one cupcake, and the other stashes four cupcakes. In the interest of _______ (thoroughness? impulse-buying? sugar craving?), I purchased four cupcakes. The kind manager put them carefully into the to-go container. Here they are, pre-bike ride.

Furin's Cupcakes, Pre-Ride Perfection

I went out to the Surly Long Haul Trucker and proceeded to unceremoniously stuff the cupcakes into my pannier.

Unceremonious Stuffing of Cupcakes into Pannier

Surly LHT. Furin's cupcakes inside!

I closed the pannier and took these four cupcakes on the ride of their lives!

To fully test the container and the durability of the cupcakes, I embarked on an 11.5-mile “test ride.” It was great fun, and I could hear the cupcakes squealing with delight. I rode them by the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson, and even down the Potomac. Even though they couldn’t see anything, I know they loved it!

I got home, and rushed to the kitchen to see what condition the cupcakes were in after their grand adventure. Check it out.

Furin's Cupcakes, after the test ride

They look pretty good. The carrot on the carrot cake cupcake is a little smooshed, but still recognizable as a carrot. In addition, the upper two (Red Velvet and Chocolate/Chocolate Buttercream ) have a little marring to their frosting. Finally, the bottom right cupcake (Vanilla/Chocolate Buttercream) looks close to perfect.

Well done, little cupcakes and well done, Furin’s.

There are a few reasons I think that the Furin’s to-go experiment was so successful.

  1. Temperature. Freewheel is right. Cupcakes travel better in colder weather.
  2. Stiffness of frosting. I think Furin’s frosting might be slightly stiffer and less gooey than Lavender Cupcakery’s, making Furin’s cupcakes better for transit. I will have to do another couple of tests to be sure.
  3. Positioning. These guys were solidly packed into their cupcake spaces, and surrounded snugly on all sides by plastic. Because of the lack of wiggle room, they ended up traveling much better than my Lavender Cupcakery cupcakes.
  4. Other observations and thoughts welcome.

My friends, that does it for this edition of Cupcake Commuting. I will keep researching your other ideas on transportation techniques. In addition, please let me know if you have other cupcake places where you think I should research. Of course, they need to be within cycling distance of the District, and they should also have a reputation for being yummy. And, if you conduct your own experiment, please let me know. I’d love to hear about it, or even post it.

Cupcake Commuting: for Science!

It’s been a great day over here at Chasing Mailboxes. First, yesterday’s post about Capital Bikeshare was featured on DCBlogs. Second, I learned that I have a collaborator on my rapidly unfolding cupcaking commuting research project.

My new partner in cupcake commuting research is fellow D.C.-area cyclist and blogger, Freewheel. What a relief! I’d hate to think I had to do all these experiments alone.

Freewheel gives a full run-down of his own experiment, “Rising to the Cupcake Challenge,” which also used Lavender Cupcakery cupcakes, here.

There were a few differences between Freewheel’s and my experiments.

  1. I used the two-cupcake to-go container. Freewheel chose the four-cupcake container (for science, I’m sure).
  2. I stowed my cupcakes in my rear Carradice bag. Freewheel placed his cupcakes on a rear rack, wrapped the box in bubble wrap, and secured the box using his Pletscher “rat trap” rack.
  3. I conducted my experiment in the last days of summer. Freewheel conducted his in the waning days of winter. At least, I hope they’re waning.

You may recall that my Lavender Cupcakery commute ended like this:

Lavender Cupcakery Cupcakes-Post Commute

Freewheel’s commute experiment resulted in this. In short, I’d say our results are quite similar, except that:

  • He has to eat four battered cupcakes. I only had to eat two.
  • Freewheel’s cupcakes are less melted than mine. I attribute this to his having conducted his experiment in February.

One of the big questions I have for Freewheel is why he decided that the bubble wrap would work better on the outside of the box. When I look at the image above as well as his own photo, it would seem to me that the bubble wrap would provide more benefit inside the to-go container. Based on his post, he wrapped the box in bubble wrap to protect it. But isn’t protecting the cupcake the most important? Is it a chicken and egg issue? You tell me.

Freewheel’s post concludes with a determined “This isn’t over!” It is so not over. We will uncover the secrets of successful cupcake commuting. We have to, for science. Who’s with us?

Capital Bikeshare Checklist

Capital Bikeshare

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a big fan of Capital Bikeshare. It’s a great way to travel around town. Bike riding outdoors in the city on a bike you don’t have to clean or maintain. I love it!

In their January newsletter, Capital Bikeshare featured a “Winter Ride Checklist.” The checklist included the following items:

  • Gloves;
  • Wind-resistant jacket;
  • Hat that fits under your helmet;
  • Dress in layers and use clothing with zippers for venting; and
  • Be aware of ice and other slippery spots.

I think this list is a good start, but there are a couple of additions that I would make to prepare for a Bikeshare ride.

1. Bikes get wet sitting out in the elements. A dusting of snow or an afternoon of rain means a wet bike for you when you go to retrieve your CaBi Bike. Nobody I know wants to ride on a wet saddle.

Solution?

  • Carry a plastic bag with a rag in it. That way, you can wipe off the saddle and any other wet parts (like the handlebars). When you finish, throw the rag into your plastic bag so it doesn’t get anything else you’re carrying wet.

2. Even though Bikeshare bikes come with a generator hub for the headlight and rear brake lights, I like to have an extra bit of illumination. I’ve noticed that the CaBi headlights are also not that bright. They are designed more with the idea of being seen by drivers than they are for seeing the road.

In addition, many drivers are just not aware of cyclists (regardless of the time of day). The darkness makes me even less sure about their awareness of me. The brighter I am, the better I feel about being on the road.

Solution?

  • Carry an extra safety light to attach to your bag. I use a running light that easily clips onto my bag. It’s nice and bright.
  • Wear a reflective vest or sash. Yes, I know it’s nerdy, but you really do show up better to others on the road. It’s nerdy and safe :).
  • If you really want additional front illumination, attach a helmet light. This is on my to-do list. I got the idea from seeing another CaBi commuter using one. LED helmet lights are fairly inexpensive and some of them cast quite a strong light. Yes, this one is also nerdy, but a helmet light enhances your ability to see the road and to be seen by other drivers. It’s ok to be nerdy and visible! Really, it is!

CaBi transportation is great because CaBi maintains the bikes and carrying around tools or a patch kit is unnecessary. My CaBi experience is made even better when I make sure to carry a few extra CaBi-specific items. Is there anything else you use to prep for your CaBi commute? I’d love to know about it!

CaBi Riders

Weekend Riding and Randonneur Hijinks

It was a fine weekend of riding for the MG/Felkerino household. We skipped the Saturday miles due to the crazy high winds beating up the Mid-Atlantic, but made the most out of Sunday and Monday.

Felkerino wrote up a nice report of our weekend here. However, there were a couple of things his writeup did not include that I thought you might enjoy.

1. Balaclava or Baklava?

During our lovely Sunday ride, we stopped for lunch at the Blue Moon Cafe in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. As we were getting to the end of our meal, fellow rider George decided he was in the mood for a treat.

Desserts are pretty exciting to me, but this one was just the best.

What did George eat for dessert?

  1. Balaclava
  2. Baklava

George, Baklava, and Balaclava. 

If you answered “2. Baklava,” congratulations. You must be a real randonneur. By the way, George is posing for the photo. He did not eat lunch while wearing his balaclava.

2. Harpers Ferry and a Knight in Shining Armour

Later the same day, our riding posse passed through historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Crista, our ride leader, noted that we would pass a knight in shining armour. The knight resides in front of some old Harpers Ferry house. “It’s coming up on your right!” she shouted to us.

Felkerino looked on his right (which, incidentally, looked a lot like my left) and shouted back, “I see it! I see my knight in shining armour! It’s green and it’s beautiful!”

Felkerino’s Knight in Shining Armour

That Felkerino. What a funny guy.

While Felkerino immortalized his randonneur knight in shining armour, I looked to my right (the real right) and tried to get a shot of the knight I was pretty certain Crista was referencing.

The Real Knight in Shining Armour

Unfortunately, the knight is mostly obscured. These bike-by-shootings can be tough!

The Monday ride was much more sedate and randonneur hijinks minimal. That’s ok. We got our quota on the Sunday ride. Hope you had a great weekend, too, and enjoyed some quality time outside.

Commuting in the City: Bikes, Horses, and Tour Buses

Today, as I was riding along Ohio Drive between the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson, I came across the following scene.

Park Police and a Tour Bus

It looked so funny that I had to grab the cam and memorialize the moment. What are the U.S. Park Police doing? Is there something wrong with the bus? Do they wish they were driving the bus instead of riding horses?

U.S. Park Police

I hoped a closer shot would give me more answers, but I was wrong. It tells me nothing!

However, seeing these two horse mounted officers inspired me to learn a little bit about the U.S. Park Police, Horse Mounted Unit.  Created in 1934, it is one of the oldest “equestrian units” in the United States. A summary is here. The final paragraph of the write up notes that officers on horses are helpful for crowd control. Their height advantage intimidates and allows them to spot mischievous activity.

Maybe they are trying to intimidate the bus? Who can say? I got a good laugh out of this image, and wanted to share it with you. Just a little slice of life in the city!

What to like about the RUSA P-12

Randonneurs USA (RUSA) recently introduced a new domestic award called the P-12.  To qualify for this award a person must ride a sub-200km randonneuring event for 12 consecutive months. You cannot qualify with an event that is longer than 200km. This award is modeled after the popular R-12, where riders must complete an event that is 200km or longer for 12 consecutive months.

A couple of years ago I completed an R-12 and, while I was glad to have done it, I did not feel the need to do another one. I felt pressure to complete an official 200km ride or more each month. I am not the most organized person so sometimes it was a hassle to schedule 200km+ rides if there wasn’t a club brevet that month. For the most part, this wasn’t so bad, except for the trickier months like December and January. Holidays, snowstorms, and scheduling permanents, oh my! I was also somewhat lazy about riding or driving to ride starts. I prefer riding straight out my door.

On the up-side, I had good randonneuring friends who helped me schedule a few permanents and made for excellent riding company. Thanks to them (and my great tandem partner) I completed the R-12 and bought myself the medal as everlasting proof of my accomplishment. Then I put it in my desk drawer and went back to just riding brevets and touring.

OK, now that I have established my street cred (or the street cred I had at one time) let me take you back to my story.

The P-12 award. Why a P-12? The RUSA site notes that the P-12 “is intended to encourage riding shorter events, particularly in harsh climates where longer rides might not be offered.” Initially, that made no sense to me. RUSA encouraging people to ride shorter events? Can they do that?

However, as I was out riding a 100-mile populaire with Felkerino and friends a few weeks ago, it hit me. Why not encourage shorter events? There’s a lot to like about doing a winter ride that starts in daylight and finishes in daylight. Those winter 200km permanents can be painful, especially when the sun is loathe to make an appearance.

8 a.m. Populaire Start = daylight!

I loved that Felkerino started our populaire at 8 a.m., enjoyed a leisurely coffee stop AND lunch, and rolled into the finish just after 5 in the afternoon. No need to worry about starting with throbbing hands and feet and finishing with the dark monster bearing down upon us. It felt so good! So civilized! I know we can’t do that every weekend, given that we like to do longer randonneuring events, too, but sometimes it’s nice to relax into a more moderate challenge.

During one of our decadent coffee stops, I discussed the P-12 with some of the others in our group. Turns out there are more appealing elements about the P-12 than I had even considered!

Variety in ride length. Populaires are between 100km to 199km in length (or 62 to 123 miles). There is a lot of flexibility in ride length! Have something going on in the afternoon or want to do just a “fun ride?” Arrange for a shorter populaire. Want to ride a century, but don’t feel like the extra miles for a 200km? Choose a longer populaire. Want to challenge yourself to a hilly route, but not wanting to exhaust yourself with 200km of hilly? There’s a populaire out there with your name on it!

Ease of routing. A populaire is also easier to route. Not being much of a router, I don’t know the complexities of planning and controlling 200km rides, but I have heard from a verified expert that a populaire is much easier to route than a permanent. This has inspired me so much that I am considering figuring out a route for a populaire that begins close to my house. Perhaps the P-12 will encourage randonneurs to try their hand at routing as well! What better place to start than a populaire?

No award or medal. If a rider successfully completes a P-12, there is no award or medal to purchase. That’s right. No hardware. I like that. No need to save up those pennies for a P-12 medal, just the pure pleasure of 12 consecutive populaires!

Time out for a photo on the Populaire

You see? There’s a lot to like about the P-12. I may not do one this year, but I would like to do more populaires and perhaps make it a goal for 2012. What about you? Any P-12 plans in your future?

Bicycle Art on the Sunday Ride

Sunday, I made it out into the near-60-degree (!!!) weather to enjoy another cycling outing with friends. Yes, friends of the spoked wheel, spring will come. I am sure of it. The warmer weekend weather renewed my faith.

During our ride, I spied this amazing tricycle sculpture off of Park Road in Mt. Pleasant.

Tricycle Sculpture

Apparently, it’s been there for years, but since I rarely pass through Mt. Pleasant, I hadn’t seen it before. I think there are about 8 Radio Flyer Trikes in this piece (no brakes!).

I thought the Romulus would look great by this house so I set up a bike glamour shot.

Romulus and Tricycle House

How do you like the trike they affixed to the second floor?

Who lives here, I wondered. Trike collectors? Bike riders? Sculptors? Crazy people? I don’t know, but I love what they’ve done with the place.

It was a beautiful day to be out on the bike. It felt great to ride sans jacket and lobster gloves. So freeing! It also makes it easier to take pictures.

The warmer weather whet my appetite for the spring brevet series, too. I. Love. Spring. Brevets.

A Bike Ride and a Trail Angel on the Capital Crescent

Today offered up a pleasant 40-mile ride with friends through town into the Maryland ‘burbs. We took Rock Creek on our way out.

Rock Creek with Lisa, Mike, and Lane

On the return to D.C., we decided to take the Capital Crescent Trail (from Bethesda). While making our way down to Georgetown, we came upon a person shoveling a path through one of the remaining icy patches.

Capital Crescent Trail Angel

This guy had ridden out on his bike (in his shorts, no less) with a shovel to clear out the path for everybody. When we thanked him for his work he said, “I’m just doing my part.”

That was so cool! Thanks to him, we were able to pedal safely through a patch that, earlier in the day, would not have been rideable. I’m not used to those types of random acts of kindness in the city. Like I said, it was cool. Although I never did figure out how he carried the shovel on his bike.

Overall, it was a good day. The wind was brisk, but temps were mild (40s) and there was plenty of sun. Hey, sometimes you can’t have everything. I’m glad we got out.

Velocity Bicycle Coop: Schwinn Paramount or Rivendell custom, anyone?

Ringing the doorbell at the Velocity Bicycle Coop

Last night Felkerino and I went to visit the Velocity Bicycle Coop in Alexandria, Virginia. It’s been up and running since May of 2010, but yesterday was our first visit. We stopped by at a good time because a collector had just given some of his beautiful bikes to the coop. These included two Rivendell customs, three Schwinn Paramounts (one of which was chrome!), an Austro Daimler, and an older Serotta. It was retro-grouch heaven!

I spent the entire evening dreaming about which bike I would most like to add to my stable. Maybe the Austro Daimler?

Austro Daimler

Could it be one of the Rivendells?

My mother told me to choose the very best one...

This is not an optical illusion. $1200 Rivendell!

Or do I need the chrome Schwinn Paramount?

Chrome Paramount = Art Bike

Perhaps I should be more practical and adopt the blue Schwinn Paramount.

Blue Schwinn Paramount = Practical

But the red Schwinn Paramount is hot. The color? Stunning. And it has Phil Wood hubs!

Red Schwinn Paramount

Want to see more photos of our visit to Velocity Bicycle Coop? They are here.

Alas, I went home empty-handed. I don’t need a new bike. Plus, the Rivendells were too small for me. Grr. However, the Paramounts were just my size and I even test rode the chrome Schwinn Paramount. It was a cool feeling to be riding a vintage chrome Paramount! I longed for that bike, but forced myself to leave it behind. (Me + chrome Schwinn Paramount = True Love Always).

I hope that someone can give these amazing bikes a loving home, and the good care and feeding they need. Maybe I should go back on Saturday and just check on these beautiful machines to see how they’re doing? I’ll bring my checkbook, too, in case I need to stop at the grocery store on the way home. Yeah, that’s right. The grocery store. Want to go with me?

Cupcake Commuting

Like other cities, the Washington, D.C., area has been seized by an obsession with cupcakes. That suits me perfectly because I love sweets. A few months ago, my friend and I rode to lunch in Ye Olde Towne, Alexandria. After our meal, we decided to pop by Lavender Moon Cupcakery and get a treat for the road. Their flourless chocolate cupcakes with sea salt are the best!

Cupcake Goodness. Flourless Chocolate with Sea Salt.

Beautiful Cupcakes

We each ordered two cupcakes to go, went out to our bikes, and packed our cupcakes for the return to Washington, D.C.  Maile packed hers in her handlebar bag, and I packed mine in the Carradice.

Cupcakes stored in the rear Carradice.

Precious Cargo. Cupcakes in the Handlebar Bag.

The ride from Old Town to D.C. is just over seven miles via the Mount Vernon Trail.  It’s a flat trip, but apparently has more bumps than I realized.  When I got home and unpacked, I found my cupcakes in a markedly different state than when they left Lavender Moon Cupcakery.

My Cupcake Commuting Technique Still Needs Work

I thought I rode with care, but the cupcakes tell a different story. Or maybe the cupcake to-go box is not bicycle-friendly. I lean toward the latter. I’m not sure what I can do to fix the cupcake commuting quandary so if you have any ideas or success stories, please let me know. And if you have any other good cupcake places to recommend with a more bike-friendly to-go system, I’d love to hear about them!

Fortunately, there was no crying over spilled cupcakes.  These little guys may have lost some of their aesthetic appeal in transit, but they were still quite edible and delicious. I just had to use a spoon. What a relief!