Winter commuting with cyclocross bicycle

166_x-bow As you might remember, I bought my new bike, Ridley X-bow 2014 last autumn. About 1200 km behind so far, mostly commuting rides, and I still love it. 16km every day. My rear brakepads are almost finished, should buy and install new ones soon. I did consider bikes with disc brakes, but as there were only a few brands with my frame size, and the other bikes were a lot more expensive, I decided that rim brakes would do just fine(also the X-bow’s colours are exactly to my taste). I paid about 1100€  for the bike +the double-sided Shimano pedals (locks on other side, plain on other, haven’t bought the shoes yet). The pictures in this post are all of my own bike, I had to wash it after taking the pictures because it was so muddy..

I installed my mudguards almost as soon as the heavy rains begun in the autumn. (I biked to a bicycle shop when it was pouring but did get my ba161_x-bowck all muddy a couple of times after that as well) I had to shorten the spokes of the SKS-style mudguards, because I realized they were too long for my bike. The mudguards would not fit under my breaks or leave the desired 1 cm gap between the tyre and the mudguard.

My winter tyres are Nokia Hakkapeliitta W106, the narrowest and lightest model of the series. The tyres are steel studded, basic anti skid tyres. For my chain I am using White lightning’s Clean ride lube. I’m not sure if it is the best for winter. I should perhaps buy something more suitable for cold weather.

I think that cyclocross bicycles are the best for winter when it’s not too snowy. I admit that when there is new soft/wet snow on the ground a mountain bike would suit better. Or then a cyclo with wider tyres than mine. So far there has been one day this winter, that I can remember thinking that a mountain bike would be of some use right now. Nevertheless I have been able to cycle without accidents for many  months now.162_x-bow

The bike’s downside is perhaps sensitivity that comes from its light weight and short wheelbase: It is easily maneuverable, and for example also more difficult to ride without keeping your hands on the handlebar. If the ride is really bumpy it gets tiring to hold onto your handlebar for long. But I´ve gotten used to the bike, and carrying the it is certainly very easy, as it weighs only about 9,4 kgs. (The disc brakes would have added to the weight, but they would have been cleaner: the rim brakes make mess from the brakepads when it is wet/muddy)

All in all  the X-bow has performed admirably even when taken from +20 our flat to -20 outside. I keep my bicycle indoors at work as well as at home. I have had to adjust the breaks and gears a few times during these 1200 km, but otherwise it has been a smooth ride. Arts cyclery 164_x-bowhas some great videos on YouTube, so adjusting the gears has been tolerable. The ultimate source of bicycle information is (at least if you ask a bikegeek) Sheldon Browns website, it is a good cyclopedia. If you happen to read almost any country’s bicycle forums you are bound to find references to Sheldon.

This winter it was amusing to see when some snow finally came down in Helsinki there were dozens of cyclists who must have taken their mountain bikes out for this special occasion. They looked so thrilled to be able to use their bikes properly, that is how it is supposed to be. During winter it is also pretty funny to observe the other cyclists’ (mostly men)  reactions when they realize that I am a woman. Winter cycling clothes tend to hide all signs of femininity.

167_x-bowI use Shimano’s cycling glasses with 3 kinds of lenses: yellow, clear photocromatic and brown. I think some glasses are useful for winter cycling. At least my eyes can’t take the wind when it’s below +5. Last winter I used clear sunglasses that I bought from a second-hand shop for 1€. They did the trick, they were a bit foggy but otherwise just fine. When it’s below zero I also put a scarf on my face to breathe through.

Long fleece underpants/ leggings are very useful in winter cycling. The basic 3-layer dress code is useful for the coldest days: ventilation, insulation and shell. Windproof boxers are also good. Skiing clothes are ideal for cycling, but the best is to remember that you don’t need expensive clothing, 163_x-bowI’ve bought most of my cycling clothes from second-hand shops. If I later want to get new ones, I can buy them gradually when I can fully understand what I need.

Winter cycling is a different sport than summer cycling, I give you that. I sometimes say that winter cycling reminds summer cycling as much swamp football (yes there is such a thing in Finland) reminds regular football: same game instruments and goals, but different field. But cycling is also a priceless way to exercise and move from place to place. I have noticed that I am always happier when I get to work with my bike than by public transportation (even though if during the ride I swear to myself to take the bus tomorrow, I never do!) I most highly recommend winter cycling to everybody who is not afraid of getting a bit sweaty!

Design tomfoolery + cupcakes

Hometown during sundownI´ve been a busy little bee after Christmas and my long holiday.( And kind of a blogtraitor) I have been so quiet lately because I was preparing my application documents to apply for further education, to get my master’s degree. It forced me to ponder on the subject of my identity as a designer. I read some of my old portfolios and business plans and found to my own amazement, that I have actually developed in thinking as well as in graphic design skills. The fact that my old texts appeared a bit too hopeful and idealistic had me thinking that I might be turning a bit cynical. I have to keep an eye on that trait, it is a sad business when people turn that way. It is always good to read your earlier work to make sure you are progressing and not regressing. (My blogtexts on the other hand always read better later, I’m not sure what that tells me about my improvement as a blog writer…)

This is Helsinki, but do you know where

Nevertheless my efforts will not have been in vain, whether I get into school or not: It was really useful to refresh my memory with Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop and Bridge. When you know how they work it is just a matter of routine to get into work, but I have to admit it took me a while to get going. That might be because I was not so sure what I wanted to convey of myself with the portfolio. (Lord knows I’m still not sure what kind of image I’m giving of myself with this blog, but honesty is what I aim at) It was essential to my career as well as my sanity to think about what I want to do and why I want to do it.

158_februaryThere was a long black period a few months before and one after Christmas. I wore black almost explicitly. Now colour and light are creeping back into my everyday from the dark spaces they were once exiled to. (That creeping is not happening all that subtly, as you might interpret from the image above.) When you are living in a country like Finland, wearing black means blending into the crowd and therefore wearing colour takes some courage. I must admit I didn’t have much of it during the darkest months, not to mention liveliness or strength. But I hope it is getting better now, for me as well as for you dear readers. I think I had to recover from the autumn and January, find my way back to my self-expression and my style. Now I feel I have energy and passion to write my blog and preach on about my usual topics to all you will full readers (I think there are like 10 of you).

Above is a picture from our hall, the only word to describe it these days is GRAND. It’s awfully peculiar how much a lamp can do, but it is of course not just a lamp after all: It is a chandelier. I always thought myself to be one of those not-SO-interested-in-shiny-things gals, but it turns out a little bling goes a long way! Valentine’s day also came and went, I didn’t really bother with cards and stuff, but yesterday I bought red/white carnations (image) and today we bought colourful cupcakes (from the street as it was restaurant day) and had afternoon tea with my flatmates.

As I told  you guys, I got a subscription of Wallpaper magazine for myself, an early Christmas present. I haven’t actually got any copies yet, because they messed up my subscription at the office. For consolation they did send me some free issues of Elle interior. So I’ll get back to you on that later on. I also promise to talk about my new bike in the posts to come, I’ve ridden a good 1000km so far.

Cupcakes make world a better place

If some of you clever readers are wondering why you are picking up accents of pre-Victorian english in this post, it is just the influence of Jane Austen. Particularly the book, but this weekend I also watched the 6-episode mini series of Pride and Prejudice from the 1990´s (I think for the 4th time ever). It would be fun to be able to speak like they do, even though I know that the time for that has passed a long ago. “There is an air of civility, good breeding and manners about her.” Enough trickery though, I´ll get back to my old jolly ( and less cocky) self soon enough!

Ok, now that the year’s first incoherent post is out-of-the-way, I can write something sensible next time. Till then my good sirs and madams, I bid you all farewell!

Flowers make Christmas

Because I´m pretty exhausted from packing for my trip to the Azores, I’ve decided to post mostly just images this time. My arms are also pretty sore from letting my professional frustration pour into a punching bag at the gym. Let’s just say I’m not the best at keeping my hands up at this very moment. I have a 23-day holiday and it honestly couldn´t come at a better time. I´m hoping to spend my time jogging and trekking at the Azores. I´ll be sure to let you know how our trip turns out. One thing is for sure: It is a different Christmas from what I´m used to.

Enjoy the images. Like it says in the title, flowers/plants make Christmas. Of course there are other important things like family, decorations and baking, but flowers are important mood setters. Merry Christmas everybody, take it easy, I know I will!

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Cycling on Walls

Hello there, readers! I bet you didn’t see this coming now did you? I am posting, ha! I kidd, I kidd of course ( not that you would be thinking about me anyway, traitors…) But seriously, I have not posted in a while and for that reason decided to make this post a simple one: Only two topics.145_cycling_walls

Lately I have been feeling like I need to get in touch with my own field a bit more again. Just to know what is going on out there (as you might recall, I am supposed to be a designer). I did visit Habitare (a Finnish design fair) this year and after that I started to think that I would like to get a design magazine subscription. I considered many magazines, some Finnish, some foreign, but when I started to really think about it, I just decided that I had to get THE magazine, I had to get IT. And by IT, I of course mean Wallpaper* . It is supposed to be a good blend of architecture, design, fashion and art. I´ve got a year´s subscription that is guaranteed to end without a single telemarketer  calling me to renew my subscription. 143_cycling_walls

12 issues of Wallpaper*  is my trial period, maybe 2015 I´ll get something else. I will tell you later what I think about it when my subscription starts. And yes, I did get the traditional paper version, for a few reasons: My flatmates probably want to read it, I don’t have a smart phone yet, the iPad I use is my sister´s and when the magazine has been thoroughly studied at home, I will take it to my workplace. Because it is only 12 issues a year, I figured it is not such a waste since so many people will be able to read it.

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And then there is of course the topic of HE, my new life companion. He weighs 9 kg, and has speeded up my life significantly.  He is a Ridley X-bow (Crossbow), 2014 model,  a cyclocross bicycle. I think I had already given my little finger to the bikedevil when I bought Shimano racing glasses a few months back… But they are just so goddamn handy in cold weather!!! I bike about 4000 km a year, and after careful consideration, I decided to buy a cyclocross bike, even though my previous bike was of “grandma style” (If you just read it gangnam style, you might have a psy fixation)

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Being quite expensive to my taste, the X-bow has gotten some well deserved special attention from me, he sleeps in my room, is with me at work(indoors) and occasionally needs cleaning in shower. For some unknown reason my colleagues have started to ask questions about when we [me and x-bow, to whom I refer to as Tiger, or Tony (no relation to Kellogg´s Tony the Tiger!)] are going to register our relationship. I think it is just a question of loving the things you live with, taking care of them, so they will last longer.

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To anyone considering buying a new bicycle, I recommend considering your own needs for the bike. For most people, a low maintenance bike with relatively good parts, easy to use, is the best. It depends how much you use it, and of course how much money you are willing to put in it. You still have the chance, I totally lost control after test riding the X-bow, I just HAD to get it. I have to admit, I haven’t regretted buying it even for a second. I’ll be sure to let you know how the X-bow handles during the winter, I ride my bike regardless of the weather. And as I might have expressed to some of you, winter cycling is a completely different sport. It takes a certain kind of person (crazy and stubborn as heck).

After buying the bike I´ve learnt a few important lessons in adjusting brakes, gears and pumping presta valves. Thank you Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim for the existence of YouTube!

Harvest Feast

139_harvestFall is the best time of year considering the produce: Right now we are eating our own tomatoes, salad, zucchini, cucumbers, berries, mushrooms. My colleague provided me with a plastic bag full of apples, and now my jam shelf (yes there is such a place, or at least should be in a cupboard) is almost yielding under the weight of apple jam jars.

Compared to last year, our tomatoes have survived very well. Last year the summer wasn´t as warm, fall came early and the tomatoes rot in the rain.138_harvest This year the weather was favourable, so almost all of our tomatoes have a chance of maturing to their full redness.

The butternut squash (that funny looking orangeish thing in the picture…) is not our own, it is from the organic circle I told you guys about, so are the lemons. 140_harvestHaven’t tasted the squash yet, but I heard it is good. The mushrooms on the other hand are from a forest near Helsinki. I learned to spot some new mushroom species from my godmother. Let´s just hope that everything I picked is edible..

The seeds in the picture are from our only “spaghetti squash”, it is a species that is supposed to look like spaghetti when cooked. It did look different, like a lot of fibres were coming out of it after cooking. Next year we will try again!

Sorry all for not writing in a while, have been busy will all kinds of parties and trips. This season continues as busy as before, so the next time I post might be in a month or so. I´ll give you a holiday from my jam-high babblings!

 

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Honesty versus Profit

_MG_4866 I feel that one of the key values in my life is honesty, for that reason I really sometimes dislike brand management and everything it stands for. Maintaining an image is keeping track of the information that goes out, reducing the transparency of the company. A company might be maintaining an image that might be partly based on old-fashioned ideas and witty words. Such words as ” a Finnish brand” or “Finnish design” might be a bit misleading to some consumers. They might actually think that it has something to do with manufacturing in Finland. I know that everybody maintains their own image these days through social medias, and companies are no exception to that.

Key value/ word in business on the other hand is profit. Businesses are not like individuals with good moral.  Companies list their visions and values, but the only thing that is always missing from those rosy lists is the mention money. If you owned a business, what would you prefer: High production costs, fair play and less profit, or low production costs, less fair play but more profit. I think we all know what most would choose. There is an interesting study about wealth’ s relationship to ethical judgement. It seems that poor people’s have better moral than wealthier ones. That might be because wealthier people are more accustomed to greed. The thing that companies don´t take into consideration is that being socially or ethically sustainable might increase their business.

_MG_2548 But on the other hand whining about the origin of products is useless if you don´t set example yourself. I´m definetely not saying that I’m perfect, because no-one is. But I do have a choice, I have money to pay extra for the origin of a product. But it seems to be really difficult to find out about a product’ s actual origins. I think for some consumers ignorance is bliss. Do people actually want to know about suffering people or ecological disasters?

Companies have a lot of money and power these days. They are important leaders in society, or at least I think they should be.  If companies used all their marketing budget for the good of the society for 1 year I think we would have basically no dept. I think my media critique has gone so far that when I see an ad, read it, I think to myself:” What are they NOT telling us, what is the thing they don’t want us to know?”

_MG_3158Now that I´ve written this text, I feel like I´ve written it once before. I hope I have, because it is an important topic. But for you sake I hope it’s not all the same. It is like we say in Finland: Repetition is the mother of learning. Hint: If you have never heard of the Yes-men, I warmly recommend their hilarious yet so serious movies about what is wrong in this world.  Their activism is refreshing. And while I´m on the track to anti-capitalism I might as well recommend the Four Horsemen Film. For those of you who know what inspired this post, hang in there. Let’s keep making good decisions, no matter what.

There is an interesting blog post about this topic here. (aswell)_MG_2483

My summer in a can… or in a post that is

A fair warning people! This post contains images that might cause holiday fever (if rabbits/fish are your kind of game also hunting/fishing fever).

I am going on vacation officially soon (again), so I decided to post the best parts of summer right here. Picnics, friends, wildlife, swimming, fresh produce, peacefulness, those are the things that came to mind when reviewing my pictures from this summer. Have a relaxing summer everyone! This girl is off.

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10 reasons why I’m a bad consumer

A word of warning, this post includes text that could be interpreted as anti-consumerism or even anti-capitalism. Proceed with caution.125_bad_consumer

1 I like to buy durable stuff. If I were to buy cheap and easily breaking things, they would wear out more quickly, and then I would have to buy new things to replace them. I think that not owning a laptop fits right in this category. I think I have had my PC for at least 4 years now, works just fine. How many people with a 4-year-old laptop can say the same?

2 I am cautious and even painfully slow with my purchases (it shouldn´t come as a surprise since it took me like 6 months to buy a new camera..) I like to wait for a good offer on the thing I want, and sometimes I do find good deals by accident. Because I don’t usually get excited about spiked rugs or sodastream machines, unused appliances don´t gather dust in my cupboards.

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3 I like to fix stuff, and that extends the life of the products I buy.  Because I am naturally curious, I like to find out how things work, and fix them myself, rather than letting someone else do it.

4 I like to make my own stuff. I’ve decorated my home with inherited furniture and many things that I’ve made myself. Doing that, I’ve skipped buying on many occasions.

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5 I buy almost all my clothes from second-hand shops. Those poor people in India would be left without a careless employer if it wasn’t for all the other people in the world to buy the clothes they make.

6 I use the library and don’t have any magazine subscriptions. I’ve even tried to refuse my workers union newsletter as well as Amnesty’s but I guess that is not possible. I only own books that have significant sentimental value to me, or are otherwise practical to have at hand, like some pilates books. I know that I could have electronic magazines, that would be better for me.

7 I buy food from our organic circle or even worse: GROW IT MYSELF. And then I pick berries and mushrooms, instead of just buying them.  I know what you are thinking: I am a hopeless anarchist.

8 I mostly cook at home, I don´t eat out that often, maybe once a week at most. I like to know what is in my own food and I get strange kind of satisfaction when I think of a course that will finish all my remaining left-overs. I think of it like it is a puzzle in the shape of food. ( Strangely enough chopping is my favourite part of cooking, but let us not explore that topic any further)

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Flowers in my hair, photographed by Kurmitsa

9 I don´t have a car. If I were to have a car, I would pay more taxes, buy gasoline (with tax of course), buy all kinds of car-related stuff, pay for repairs and check-ups etc. Now I just pay for public transportation occasionally but mostly I ride my bike.

10 I enjoy simple things: cycling, running, reading, photographing, gardening, drawing, cooking, baking, writing a blog. I don´t require very expensive gear for most of these hobbies, I´m very low-key(the camera makes an exception that proves the rule).127_bad_consumer

Judging by these 10 things, I am basically an enemy of the state, not keeping those wheels of economy rolling steadily towards eternal growth. The good thing about these 10 reasons why I´m a bad consumer, is that I haven’t actually become “bad” or reduced my spending because of the so-called depression, no no, I´ve been like this for a good while now.   Just keep in mind that I am the way I am for many reasons, one of them being that I had gotten used to being poor as a student and another that I like to think of myself as a sustainable development kind of person. Right now I might have the strength to go through all this trouble with reasons 1-10, but in a few years the situation might change, if it does, you are welcome to approach me and slap me out of my craziness. Sorry if this post was too rebellious, I guess I was feeling like that today!

On vacation

118_holidays 119_holidays 120_holidays 121_holidaysBeing as lazy as I am, it’s sometimes difficult to find motivation to write my blog, as you might have skillfully deducted from my posting rhythm. I´ve decided that Sunday is my blogging day but I always seem to find something better to do. Then of course after writing I´m always glad I took the trouble. Well, enough of my laziness, today’s topic is of course the only thing that has been on every Finns mind since they saw the first dandelion on the side of the road: summer holiday!

Even tough I love my job, going 4 months without a single holiday was a bit too much for me. Luckily I got two long weekends after. Being on vacation makes you see things differently, like the bra on the branch in front of the statue of the king of Sweden or the shadows of people on the ground. On holiday you actually look at the world, instead of just seeing. At least for me it’s too easy to keep my eyes on the road and my mind elsewhere when I’m going about my everyday business. While on holiday, I still find quite obvious things that I have completely missed on  the routes that I travel almost everyday. I had for example totally missed the fact, that there was a small park on the other side of the road from where I ride my bike to work almost daily.

Even if you think that being at home for your holiday gives you an equal amount of rest as being away from home, hear me out. At home at least I tend to drift to doing something meaningful and something I´ve neglected for a while. When you are away from home, you simply can´t do any of those things, you can just walk around, 122_holidaysmeet people, take photos (yes, I took lots of them) and get new experiences. And that is what holidays are all about.

I like to visit second-hand shops abroad, because they always give insight on how people there are actually living. I know that it is only a glimpse to their culture, but I like it. The best souvenirs on the other hand then are the simple, often small things, that you can´t find in your home country, like tea, or spices, at least for me. This time, from Sweden, we bought jam, candy and tea, that could all be found at a regular supermarket. Even being in the supermarket was fun, because most of the products were different, and that made them exciting.  Sometimes I’ve also thought about buying a common household object abroad, like a nail file etc, so that when ever I used it, I would remember my holiday.

123_holidaysIt is needless to say (yet I still say it) that I simply hate all kinds of made-in-china useless plastic  souvenirs that they sell in every tourist shop. If you went to Lapland, what good does it do to have a plastic key chain (of course made in China) that says Lapland or the Arctic circle. There are interesting local goods that you can buy: handicrafts, art, reindeer meat, reindeer skin etc. I know they cost more money, but later on you will be glad you didn´t waste it on disposable crap. So that is all for today, responsible holidays everyone, make sure you enjoy every second of them!