Favorite Things of 2020

Another year down and a new list of favorite products to go! 2020 has been the year of change to be sure. 

Specialized Turbo Levo SL-
This bike has been my saving grace for 2020! It allowed me to ride on afternoons when I would have been too tired to go out after work. 

I was able to enjoy longer rides without as much stress on my knee, plus easily give back to the community by pedaling around the three parks where I regularly mountain bike to pick up trash.

Just being able to go out for rides after a long workday and not feel incredibly bonked was amazing. My allergies were challenging to deal with and when I rode my Levo SL I didn't feel the need to use an inhaler.

I would work as much as I wanted or keep it easier on my knee and lungs when needed. I could cover twice the ground and even tho I rode fewer days, I rode roughly twice the number of miles. Definitely more smiles per mile!

Surreal Brewing Company-
Surreal was one of the NA craft beer companies I discovered when I opted to start incorporating more NA and alcohol-free beverages into my life. I was excited to discover Surreal had multiple IPA options available regularly rather than a single one. Also, I like their motto of "Dare to be Different" which is something that I've basically been living for years now. 

Not that I calorie count, but I appreciate the reduced calories, especially during the winter season when I'm not out biking quite as much as I like if the weather isn't cooperative. Non-GMO ingredients are an added bonus! All in all, it's an NA beer option I feel good drinking for a variety of reasons, which makes it all the more enjoyable. As crazy as 2020 has been, it's a simple way for me to increase my healthfulness and mindfulness of what I'm putting into my body.

I was introduced to 43CBD this year and I truly feel that their CBD balm helped my knee from blowing up with all of our biking during our fall bike trip. I used two salves, one was their deep tissue balm and the other was Extra Strength. Most times I used the Ultra Deep Tissue balm on my knee, neck/shoulder as it had more CBD in it and I like the warm/cool sensation. The nice thing is that it wasn't overpowering with scent nor the hot/cold feeling. It was just right!

I like the Extra Strength salve for menstrual cramps and bruises. It doesn't have any sort of essential oils in it that could be potentially irritating to the skin if you had a burn, cut, scrape, etc. Other CBD salves I have used in the past would often have some sort of ingredient or essential oil that shouldn't be applied to abrasions. It's nice to find something free of irritating products that can be used to promote healing on multiple levels. Heck, I've even used the ointment on some blemishes and found that it helped the healing process.

The product is organic and palm oil free.

I've also been using the Full Spectrum, 1000 mg CBD oil in the Cinnamon flavor. I'm not the best at taking oils on a regular basis, but I am working towards using it more often than the standard Ibuprofen. I had some terribly uncomfortable menstrual cramps one morning and took a good-sized dropper of the oil and I will say that my discomfort subsided quite a bit! I am more apt to take this oil because of the cinnamon flavor, it really helps take away the mental thought of ingesting something that tastes "green." Also, I will say it's the first CBD oil that I've used that I feel actually helped to take the edge off some pain. I highly recommend checking out 43CBD and their products!

Mons Royale-
Wool...I have fallen in love with wool and wool blends pretty darn hard. I discovered this brand through a friend, and before our trip to Copper Harbor, I went a bit wild with purchasing some key pieces that quickly became favorites. One thing I like about Mons Royale is their fit descriptions and I felt that they helped me make educated guesses on which size would fit me best depending on the fit. If it was very loose, I sized down to an XS and if it was more fitted I stuck with a size Small. I was also thrilled that any item I chose that had long sleeves, the sleeves were long enough to actually cover my wrists! I was also able to successfully utilize the thumb holes without having my hands hurt because the sleeves were too short because the sleeves were just right. I found my "Goldilocks" of apparel for fit, style, and comfort.

I really like the wind front jersey I purchased from Mons Royale. It's the perfect item to wear when it's just a "wee bit" chilly or you're having a mixture of temperatures that might be slightly cool but not freezing cold. When we rode the Point Trail in Copper Harbor it worked perfectly! I did have a wind jacket to wear after our stop at the Point, but once I warmed up it came off and the jersey was just right. I never knew such a thing existed and I'm so glad it does. It helps take away some of the guesswork of layering and that makes it nice for packing.

Also, the wind front jersey was surprisingly durable. I had a crash on one of our local trails prior to our Copper Harbor trip and I landed on my right side. My shoulder had a good bit of impact (kinda scraped up) and I had dirt all down the side of my (sleeved) arm. Everything came out (no stains!) and the fabric didn't look like it sustained any trauma from the crash. 

I also wore one of their jerseys for 3 hot day rides in a row and was thrilled that the armpit area did not stink! Really impressed. Because it's wool there will be a pretty price tag associated, so these pieces were purchased for longevity and functionality and I feel it's money well spent.

Specialized Deflect Jacket w/SWAT-
This wind jacket is absolutely amazing. It's lightweight and easily packable and it's a jacket I'll bring with me on most rides as that crucial "just in case" piece. I wore it quite a bit in the spring months for my after-work rides on my e-bike because it kept the wind from making me chilly but was breathable enough to not turn me into a sweaty mess. It's perfect to take on trips because you can pack it into its pocket to maximize storage. It fits in my two, most used hip-packs without issue, even if I don't have it zipped into its pocket.

Sizing was tricky and I sized up to a Medium. Depending on the brand and fit I may be a XS or a Small- this jacket was snug enough in the shoulders that sizing up to a Medium made it far more comfortable, plus easier to use as a layering piece.

GoPro Hero 9
Okay, I'll admit I seem to have a bit of an action camera obsession, however, I've been very happy with the GoPro Hero 9 and I feel it's an awesome compliment to the other two cameras I've been using. Now I just need to get Travis to use one so I can have multi-perspective footage! I have yet to use this camera to its full potential, but I feel that the updates to it have made it an excellent option for folks. Plus the removable protective lenses! That actually came in handy because during our Copper Harbor trip the protective lense did get scratched- so being able to replace it is a nice thing! The front-facing screen is definitely a nice feature. All in all, if a person hasn't purchased a GoPro, I would say the 9 is definitely worth the money if you're coming from a Hero 7 or below. This is an opinion from someone who is new to action cameras and have only the GoPro Hero 7 and 8 to compare with. 

Because of this additional camera, I felt compelled to start my official YouTube channel!

NuBu Nut Butter Bites-
These crunchy little squares saved me multiple times this season when we were so busy that lunch wasn't in the cards. To me, these taste like Butterfinger bars without the chocolate coating. My favorite is the Nut Butter Bites with Cashew. Simple ingredients, dairy, and preservative-free. A fine snack for at work to keep me from falling into the depths of my hangry abyss.

Mio Mi-
The Mio Mi masks have been my go-to for masks because of the fun colors and the elastic bands that go around my head rather than around my ears. I feel that if one has a small face, this is an awesome mask to go with as it covers what it needs to cover without feeling obtrusive or overly large. There is a nose wire to fit the mask to your face, which is quite nice. Unlike some other masks that I've used, it doesn't suck into my mouth when I breathe. The big thing for me was the ability to get a mask with an elastic band that goes around my head vs. just around my ears. I can handle bands around my ears for shorter periods of time, but for an all-day workday, it drives me nuts. They put pressure on points that end up giving me headaches for some reason. I really like how this mask is virtually a "set it and forget it." If I never had to blow my nose, I could wear this mask all day without any sort of adjustment. It's super comfortable! Plus, if you pull the mask down, it stays around your neck which makes it super easy to pull back up.

Tifosi Swank Sunglasses-
For a daily driver of sunglasses, these run $25 bucks and are just great! They are super comfortable, fit small faces nicely, and are durable. They are simply a decent pair of sunglasses for the price and I highly recommend them.

Decorah Bicycles has some options in stock!

Camelbak Solstice 10 LR hydration pack-
This is not a current hydration pack option, so if you are looking for one you'll have to see if you can find one somewhere online. Anyway, this hydration pack was one I took on my trip to Roam Bike Fest in 2019 and was utilized a lot this season when I went on my "Trashy Rides" to pick up trail trash. It's a substantial pack in size, but the bladder is lower on your back which helps distribute weight. When I went on my trash pick up rides, I didn't have the bladder in the pack so I could maximize space for carrying...well...crap.

I had enough room for essentials, my hand saw, a couple trash bags, and my maple syrup packets. 

Otherwise, it's my favorite pack for carrying my GoPro equipment if I'm wanting to have a more casual day on the trails. I like using the zipper pouch for housing batteries and an extra SD card. The middle pouch without a zipper holds my larger tripod, and I have ample room for whatever else I may need!

What sold me on this pack was the upper-middle pocket is a soft-lined pouch that holds my phone! Easy access to my phone while keeping it protected is a big deal to me, and this was just perfect. 

Specialized Flux 1250/1200 headlight-
I started off the earlier riding season with the Specialized Flux 1200 light and I thought it was pretty darn awesome! I liked that it had a wide beam pattern and for using it on my handlebar, I felt like I could see relatively well. (I prefer to mountain bike with a helmet-mounted light.) Early season riding I'd have the light on so I could illuminate my way home during my evening rides when it would start getting dark around 8:30/9 p.m. 

Eventually, they came out with the updated version of the Flux in a 1250 format, and in the box, they provided you with a bar mount and a helmet mount! At some point, I will go on a night ride with both of these lights to see how they work for a longer ride. My issue is that I dislike having extra weight on my head, so night rides end up being somewhat short because I'll get a headache after about an hour of riding with a light mounted on my helmet.

Anderson's Pure Fuel Maple Syrup packets-
If you cannot stand the texture of energy gels, but love maple syrup, this is the perfect riding fuel for you! It's literally maple syrup, but it's a dark and flavorful syrup that is so incredibly delicious. I love that it's all-natural and it's a good boost for when you need that quick sugar. It's not going to cause gut rot and it's lovely to sip on. It's become my go-to for trailside snacking on longer rides and I'm thrilled that I don't have to force myself to consume energy gels anymore.