The Coffeeneur Behind the Coffeeneuring Patch Designs: Doug of Umbrella Works

The 2016 Coffeeneuring Challenge prize is about to be revealed, but before the grand unveiling, I’m featuring the man behind the excellent coffeeneuring designs of the past two years. Doug of umbrella works stepped forward last year to offer his skills in creating the Coffeeneuring Challenge patch prize, and we’ve been working together since.

Many thanks to Doug for being part of coffeeneuring. His involvement is another example of how the coffeeneuring community has made – and continues to make- the Coffeeneuring Challenge such a fabulous fall event for bike riders everywhere!

Coffeeneuring Patch 2015, design credit to Doug
Coffeeneuring Patch 2015, design credit to Doug
How did you first learn about coffeeneuring?

I first started hearing about coffeeneuring about three or four years ago. It was about the time I was digging into following various bicycle blogs/RSS feeds and social media pages. It wasn’t long before I found Chasing Mailboxes, and the challenge!

What made you want to become involved in the challenge, specifically, as the patch designer?

It was one of those things that just happened. Over the previous few years I had gotten back into bicycling through commuting, and I ended up selling my car (we kept one car, though!) and I wanted to do as much as possible on my bike.

When I heard about the challenge, it was a total no-brainer for me! I did the challenge with my wife, Anna, and toddler the first year. After that the next two years it’s mostly just me given the weather and time constraints.

When the topic of the finishers patch came up on your blog, I said to myself that I wanted to make the next one. So, partly it was me responding to the awesome power of coffeeneuring, and a little selfish desire to hop in and be a part of the team, as it were.

Family biking! Photo by Doug
Family biking! Photo by Doug
You designed the Coffeeneuring Challenge finishers badges for both 2015 and 2016, as well as created the design for the Always Be Coffeeneuring Club. Tell me a little about your creative process when coming up with the various coffeeneuring patches.

As I often do when approaching any design, I started out with a combination of brainstorming, and research. I made lists of ideas (for example: bikes, mugs, beans, chains, gears, and spokes), I searched Google images, Pinterest, and Instagram for existing images to get ideas flowing, and get the lay of the land. I also spent some time looking at my bikes and photographing various parts to really think about the details.

Once I started homing in on a small set of concepts (three or four solid ideas) I made small rough-sketches on paper. From there I went to the computer to draw the design and make iterative changes which took me to the final art.

I think that all three worked out well. The biggest improvement from the 2015 patch to the Always Be Coffeeneuring Club patch was your (Mary) decision to move to a smaller size. It’s funny, a lot of the time people ask me to make things bigger (see Make My Logo Bigger Cream for a hilarious take on the idea that designers often face requests for BIGGER). This idea was awesome, as the smaller size is so much more functional in the real world.

Always Be Coffeeneuring Club, designed by Doug of umbrella works
Always Be Coffeeneuring Club, designed by Doug of umbrella works
While you are from the U.S., you currently live in Astana, Kazakhstan. What is the cycling and coffeeneuring in Astana like?

In August of 2015 Anna started a position as a professor in the Graduate School of Education at Nazerbayev University, and we all packed up and moved over here. I run my design studio from home and am a full-time stay-at-home-dad. I don’t ride nearly as much as I would like, but as often as I can!

Astana is a very new city. It is the capital of Kazakstan, and is located on the northern steppes. It’s flat and windy. From time to time the wind is so powerful people are literally knocked over outside. Many of the larger roads have wide wide brick bicycle paths that run along them.

Photo courtesy of Doug (how about the twine on those handlebars!?)
Photo courtesy of Doug (how about the twine on those handlebars!?)

The paths are nice, but more importantly, they keep cars away from bikes and pedestrians. Driving here is more of an action sport than in the States or Western Europe.

I picture ants moving en masse from one location to another. They are densely packed and move fluidly around obstructions and each other. I suspect its very efficient from the standpoint of getting a lot of individual cars through traffic.

In practice on the ground though, its frightening! Cars swerve violently across multiple lanes of traffic all the time! So I prefer not be in traffic like I would be in the States.

Astana has a pretty impressive professional cycling team. We live about a mile from a velodrome, and regularly I see folks in Astana team jerseys around town in groups on training rides. Other than those folks, the bicyclists I see are doing it for transportation. I regularly see workers of various stripes on their bikes in sun, rain, or snow (not deep winter… its too harsh) headed to work in the mornings.

Bikeshare. Photo courtesy of Doug
Bikeshare. Photo courtesy of Doug

There are a lot of Russian-brand, Chinese-made folding bikes., probably because 99% of the population lives in tall apartment blocks — few people have an unattached house. Other than that mountain bikes are the norm; and that makes a lot of sense as the roads often have obstacles in the way, and the bike paths have curbs to hop at each intersection. Beyond these, there is a fairly well-used (to my eye anyway) bikeshare program. It seems to work just like those I’ve seen in San Antonio, Boston, London, etc. It’s encouraging to see.

As for coffeeneuring, I particularly like the Coffeeshop Without Walls. We have a ton of cafes, but I prefer hopping off my bike somewhere and sitting on the edge of the Steppe with a cup of coffee or tea.

I’m not aware of any others doing the challenge here, but I actively promote it to my friends, so I expect more next year (Matt and Rene… I’m looking at you!). I am planning to suggest a new “frozen-world” exception to the normal calendar, allowing folks whose winter starts mid October to start the challenge in September so we have a fighting chance to finish!

Chamomile tea for three
Chamomile tea for three. Photo courtesy of Doug
What are your favorite parts of coffeeneuring, and the Coffeeneuring Challenge?

I like the whimsy of coffeeneuring. I don’t race, and haven’t gotten into group rides. With coffeeneruing I have an new way to get involved in the bicycle community that feels like a good fit for me. It turns out that coffeeneuring combines two of my favorite activities in a not-too-demanding package.

Family photo. Photo courtesy of Doug
What question did I forget to ask you that I should have?

Describe your bike(s), and how you use them!

I currently have two bikes, a Surly Long Haul Trucker, and an early 90’s Trek 930 mountain bike set up with upright bars, racks and fenders. They don’t sell Wald baskets here, and I have not wanted to use up space in my luggage to bring one over, so I zip-tied a cheap plastic basket to my front rack! It’s funny, but its so useful.

I’ve had the Surly the longest, and am thinking I’ll swap it out for something else soon, as these two bikes have so much cross-over in utility that I only really ride the Trek! Anna has a Public S7 step-through, which she loves especially with kids!

Before we moved to Central Asia, my bike was my main daily transportation. I have a trailer for the kids and heavy shopping trips as well as racks and panniers that make the bike a formidable papa-mobile. On the weekends, I loved to ramble around town with my toddler, and Anna. Lot of fun just being out and about.

These days I ride as often as I can. From April to October I ride almost daily with the kids. To and from the playground, either with them towed in the trailer filled with toys, or with the oldest on his own bike and the tiny one with me. Often we ride a few miles a day just chatting about everything that comes into the oldest one’s mind! I think we probably get the best bonding on bikes. Anna joins us as often as possible. Bicycles are a family event for us.

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