10 essentials for the end of the summer season

Gear up for the last days of summer

A hot Indian summer can last for weeks, or longer, after Labor Day, so don’t give up yet on fun in the sun. For summer’s last hurrah, do it right with these 10 essentials for entertaining and enjoying the outdoors. Gear up and get outside, while you can.

Beach head

Violet Love chic headbands ($17 and up) and bandeaus ($24) that stay in place, at the beach, riding in the convertible, or wherever you head out or bust a move. This playful line of headwear, strapless bra tops and other accessories and apparel items features fun prints and styles and soft, stretchy lightweight fabrics that are comfortable, cute, and functional.

Throw on the towel

Distinguish your base camp on the beach with colorful Lacoste beach towels (Macy’s, $42). These stylish, crocodile-emblazoned towels are lightweight yet plush and absorbent, and their large size makes them a cross between a towel and blanket, to wrap up in after splashing in the water, or for sandphobes who want spacious ground cover when basking in the sun.

Blow up your kayak

If you’ve always wanted a kayak but didn’t think you had the space to store one, Innova Kayaks has a solution that blows traditional kayaks out of the water. These inflatable kayaks are lightweight and constructed of heavy duty natural and synthetic rubber that will last for years, even decades.  They blow up in minutes with a high-capacity foot pump, and after the adventuring they fold up compactly and can be carries away in an oversized backpack and loaded into even a compact car. One-person and three-seater models available, with capacity up to 900 pounds. Available at dealers nationwide $399 to $1,299.

Hot or not

Need to Facebook while you are on the beach? Stop being a lame-o and enjoy the beach, but if you do need your phone for an emergency, take along ClimateCase ($34.99) insulating smartphone case. The lined pouch protects your phone against extreme temperatures that can cause a phone to stop working.  The case features a multi-layered thermal system comprised of 7 mm of Neoprene and gel infused materials. Pop it in the fridge for four hours before using (or in the microwave for 20-25 seconds in cold weather), to keep your phone safe; or if the worst happens, you can restore an overheated (or frozen) phone in less than 60 seconds.

Skeeter-free

Mosquitos don’t stick to any calendar when it comes to biting season, so keep them away from you and your patio party with Thermacel Patio Shield.  ($39.99, at retailers nationwide). This sleek little portable-speaker-sized mosquito repeller burns an insect repellent mat that creates a 15’ x 15’ protection zone, perfect for a small outdoor area. It uses butane cartridges (four included, to last 48 hours) and two AA batteries to operate.

Coolest cooler

You’ve got your hands full, with beach chairs, blankets, boogie boards and kids. Free up a hand by strapping your cooler on your back, with the IceMule ($49.95 to $69.95), a portable insulated backpack that will keep your food and drinks icey cold for up to 24 hours. These padded sacks feature a heavy-duty inner and outer skin, a range of sizes and a ventilated backpack strap system.

If you dare wear skort skirts

In between summer and fall, it’s the perfect time to wear something in between shorts and a skirt. The Royal Robbins Jammer Skort ($60) is a sporty and comfortable skirt with stretchy built-in shorts underneath that allow you to be active and lady like at the same time.

Shoe be do

Step out in fashion forward and comfort-driven Off the Beaten Track sandals. You can stride in style the best thing next to bare feet, on the boardwalk, at the theme park, shopping, strolling, or anywhere you want to wander in these casual go-anywhere, do-anything earth-inspired leathers, with attention to detail that will make you want to put your feet up, to show them off.  The line also features shoes and boots for all seasons, $79 to $179.

Hydrate, or dry

If summer’s sun had taken a toll on your skin, hydrate and refresh it with Vichy’s Mineral 89 ($29.50), a skincare formula comprised of 89% Vichy Thermal Water, derived from mineral-rich volcanic territory in Vichy, France, plus the addition of hyaluronic acid which ramps up the performance of the mineralizing water to boost skin’s resistance to daily aggressors, for year-round healthy-looking skin.

Snack on

When you are tossing some treats into your tote for an outing, its hard to find nutritious and yummy snacks that won’t melt into mush on a hot day. All-natural KUTOA snack bars ($23.99 fo r12-pack)are not only delicious, they are perfect for packing along to the beach or pool, soccer game, or other outing, and you can feel good about eating these oatmeal bars because they are non-GMO verified, vegan, gluten, and contain no dairy, soy, wheat, preservatives or added sugar, plus for every bar that’s purchased, KUTOA helps feed a children in need around the world. Flavors include Chocolate Banana, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Blueberry Almond, Chocolate Espresso Bean, and Cherry Cashew.

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The family cycle

Biking road rules for your family to ride by

Whether for recreation or a mode of transportation, bicycling is an excellent way to get exercise and get where you want to go. Cycle safely by following riding rules for the trail, the street or anywhere your two-wheeler takes you.

Be a helmet head

A helmet is a no-brainer, and it’s the cheapest form of head-injury insurance you can get, yet many riders forgo a helmet thinking unless they are performing extreme BMX tricks that they don’t need it. No matter if you are on a short ride around the block or a rocky single-track, cover your head.

Check it out

Check your equipment before every ride. Make sure tires are inflated properly, and test out your brakes, handlebar, and shifting to make sure it’s in good working order before you ride. Make sure your bicycle is in good mechanical condition with a regular checkup and tune-up by a certified mechanic.

Best buddies

Always bring your phone and ID, and ride with a buddy. If you break down or are injured, your riding companion could be a lifesaver. Coordinate with your partner before you set off as to your riding plan, and make sure your companion knows what hand signals you will use for turning, slowing and stopping. Also, tell others when you are going for a ride, where you plan on going, and when you plan to return.

Hydrate your ride

Bring along plenty of water. Most bicycles have cages to keep a water bottle or predrilled outlets to mount them. If you don’t want the extra weight or the obstacle of a water ball bottle mounted on the bike itself, or if you want to be competitive and streamline your ride without water breaks, Camelback and many other brands make backpack style hydration systems so you can sip while you ride.

Get lit

When driving at dusk or dawn or in traffic, use a bike light. The safest lighting systems are those that are always on, like car running lights, with front- and rear-facing daytime lights which have been proven to decrease the likelihood of a collision up to 33%.

Bontrager Flare R bike light is one of the best for daylight visibility, as demonstrated in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nC8zf_9FOc

Dress up

Wear contrasting clothing and gear. Accessorizing in tennis-ball-bright fluorescent and reflective gear and apparel has been shown to decrease a rider’s risk of incident by as much as 53% during the day and makes you 72% more noticeable at night.

Proper biking attire is not just for fashion. Wear appropriate clothing for cycling that is snug to the body to prevent it catching on saddles, handlebars or other bike parts. Fear not, you do not have to look like leg-warmer-wearing extra from Glow. Many cycling apparel brands make functional but decent looking hoodies, sweatshirts, jerseys and other performance wear that you might even wear out after your ride. Never tie clothing around your waist, wrap clothing around handlebars, or otherwise attach items to yourself or your bike where they can come lose and catch in moving parts.

If you are riding with clipless pedals, make sure your shoes are properly fitting and cleats and clips are free of mud and are in good working condition. Practice snapping in and snapping out of them before each ride to make sure you are able to clip out in a hurry if needed.

Map it

Know where you are headed. There are many mobile GPS tools like Avenzamaps can help you map and mark your way so that you don’t get lost on the road, woods or mountains. Make sure you are riding for your skill level.  Rails to Trails Conservancy has ratings and reviews on many trails to guide you in choosing your riding terrain.

Road rules

 Stay on designated trails. Wherever there is a marked bike route, use it. But be aware of vehicles around you at all times, even if you are in a bike lane, as motorists don’t always yield right of way. Obey traffic signs and follow the rules of the road the same as if you would behind the wheel. Ride in the same direction as traffic, on the right side of the road. If there is no bike lane, ride on the shoulder, but ride slightly in the lane rather than the edge of the road, which will cause cars to cautiously pass you, and you will have room to maneuver or bailout if needed.

If you are at an intersection with a traffic light but your bicycle will not trigger the sensor for the light to change, the best option is use the crosswalk as a pedestrian.

Listen up

If you want to listen to music while you ride, wear wireless headphones that can’t get tangled on handlebars and use an earbud with an open design that allows ambient noise so that you can hear your surroundings.

Even if you’re on a biking path, you must still follow the rules of the road. Use an audible signal when you are passing, and only pass on the left. On single-track mountain biking trails, the uphill rider has the right of way. Ride single file and give hand signals when turning, slowing and stopping.

Follow your heart

Nobody wants to be so concerned about safety that bike riding loses its fun. If you have the correct gear, in working order, and you know where you are going and the rules of the road, you will be relaxed on your ride, so plan ahead, so that you can get rolling with ease.

Let’s go mountain biking, Mom

dsc_1254I was an avid mountain biker in my early 30s, and once again I have taken up the sport, more than a decade later, to find that lots has changed. The trails and techniques have not changed much, but I have. Luckily, mountain bikes have changed too, and newer models are much more suited for people at various stages of life and skill levels.

The Mongoose Switchback Sport ($399) women’s mountain bike is a great bike for a new or returning mountain biker. The Switchback is tall, with its 27.5-inch wheelbase and a raised handlebar stem, and it allows me to sit high and upright. As I have gotten a little older, my neck and back sometimes feel stiff and painful, so this more erect posture is exceedingly more comfortable than the hunched-over downward-facing position of older mountain bikes.

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The front suspension fork absorbs shock and offers a lower-impact ride than a fixed fork, so again, for an older body, this is more comfortable. The fork features a lockout knob, so that if you are on a paved surface and you don’t require the benefits of suspension, you can change over the fork so that it performs like a fixed fork, which offers a less laborious ride.

The pedals on this bike feature standard platform pedals. When I was a more aggressive mountain biker, I used clipless pedals, which required me to have special shoes with clips, and when clicked into the pedals, my pedal stroke was more efficient. For serious riders, clipless pedals are a must, but for a weekend rider like myself, the platform pedals are more suitable. As I am out of practice with the clipless pedals, the platforms gave me less anxiety. There is nothing worse than not being able to clip out of your pedals in time when you stop, and tipping over like a bad scene from Laugh In.

As this bike is tall, I appreciated the girls’ style lower top tube. While in my younger days I would easily swing my leg over the seat, now I am glad to be able to have the option of stepping through the bike to mount it.

One thing that will take some adjustment for me is the width of the handlebars. Because of the gears and their positioning on the handlebars, I am not able to place my hands close together. At first I felt like my grip was too wide, but I am getting use to this stance.
The aluminum frame keeps the bike lightweight, which is not only good for quick riding on the trails, it makes it easier for me to lift to put on a bike rack on the back of my car or to hang on a rack in my garage. It’s the small things that are important! One non-standard component that I will add to this bike is a kickstand. I’m aware that true mountain bikers do not have kickstands on their bikes, as it could be dangerous if it snags on roots, rocks or other obstacles on the trail, and it also adds a minuscule amount of weight to the bike, but I prefer the convenience of a kickstand to leaning my bike against a pole or a tree, or having to lay it on the ground.

The components on this bike are high-end for the price point. The Shimano Tourney 3_7 drivetrain with Shimano EZ-Fire shifters make shifting smooth and easy, and the mechanic disc brakes with 160 mm rotors are responsive without seizing up. At around $399, this is a great entry-point hardtail bike for a rider who wants the bells and whistles of a specialized bike but who is not yet willing to invest in a bike costing upwards of $1,500 for features like rear suspension. If I continue riding and want to become more competitive, I can always upgrade this bike, or trade up to a more advanced model.

For my weekend jaunts on and off single-track and paved trails, the Switchback is ideal. It is a serious enough bike, loaded with high quality Shimao and Xposure components, that I am not embarrassed riding among avid cyclists on the popular local trails, whereas on my comfort bike I felt a little like an oddball. It has performance features that make it enjoyable to ride but not too high maintenance for someone like myself who just wants to have a great time and not make a career of tinkering with my bike. This particular Mongoose model is among the higher end of the brand’s offerings. Mongoose also makes less expensive models, though for anyone who wants to get carefree, long use out of their equipment, I recommend going with one of their upper-end models. It might be another $100 to $300 to buy the better bike, but in the end you will get your money’s worth.

While certainly the hardware of mountain biking is the most significant investment, the apparel you wear while will riding can make your experience much better. Biking apparel today is nearly as technical as bikes themselves. The high tech fabrics have evolved and to provide more efficient wicking of perspiration to keep you comfortable when you work up a sweat, and they have features that allow you to adapt them as you progress in your ride or the weather or riding condition changes.

Sugoi, a brand that was forged in British Columbia, Canada, is designed to give you all optimal comfort and performance no matter what the weather. They make a great all-around Coast Hoode ($120), featuring a Aero fleece fabric that is a bonded knit with DWR, so that it protects against wind and water. It’s lined with a dry active jersey fabric to keep you warm, and it has two hand pockets for when you’re off the bike, and an inside pocket perfect for a cell phone or wallet. The collar features a media management system so you can secure headphone cords. When wearing this jacket, it is clear it was designed by true bikers, who thought of everything.

For early fall riding were days when it is less cool, the Coast Long Sleeve shirt ($65) is a great option. It also has great styling, so if you slip into a café on a rest break, you’ll fit right in and not look like your necessarily wearing a bike jersey.

For safety, Sugoi also makes an excellent reflective Zap Training jacket that makes you stand out like a radioactive rider when headlights hit you, if you ride after dark.

As I is a have always been a believer in dressing for success, it is my philosophy that if you have the right gear and clothing, you will perform better, and you will get the most out of your ride, whether that it is pleasure or trying to meet a training goal. When you feel comfortable on your bike and in your riding clothes, and you feel confident about your equipment, you can focus on your ride and getting the most benefit from it. As I gear up to get back into mountain biking, and now I have a nine-year-old son to keep up with, I am thrilled to be back in the saddle, and I am ready to roll.