DIY Leather card case

Leather card case for the essentials

Leather card case for all of the essentials

You’re heading out for a long ride and your jersey pockets are packed with a patch kit, a pump, an energy bar, perhaps even a spare tube.  Do you really want to stuff your ‘George Costanza wallet’ in there too?  Last year I made a card case to carry the essentials.  My:

Health Card
Driver’s License
Starbucks card (or other coffee card)
Key fob (for entry into my building)
$20 cash (in case something goes slightly wrong)
Visa (in case something goes horribly wrong)

Well, it would seem that my card case was lost, or unfortunately stolen (by a coffee shop employee – long story) last November, so I have been without one ever since.  Yesterday I thought it time to make a new one.  Here are the basic steps if you want to make one for yourself:

Wet mold a piece of veggie tan leather around your stack of cards

Wet mold a piece of veggie tan leather around your stack of cards

Trim off the excess leather and channel cut for your stitching

Trim off the excess leather and channel cut for your stitching

Dye the leather with the colour of your choice.  I went with a dark mahogany.

Dye the leather with the colour of your choice. I went with a dark mahogany.

Glue the edges using contact cement and saddle stitch.  I choose a braided nylon thread as its very durable and the red stitching adds a nice contrast.

Glue the edges using contact cement, mark and punch the holes and then saddle stitch. I use a braided nylon thread as its very durable and the red stitching adds a nice contrast.

Voila!  A card case to last a lifetime!

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DIY Cycling Mittens

$85 for new Pearl Izumi Lobster gloves?!?  Okay, I loved my old pair but I’m just not willing to part with that much money to keep my hands warm this winter.  Truth be told, I suppose they are worth the money.  Lobster gloves are the perfect blend between the warmth of a mitten and the dexterity afforded by a pair of gloves.  Riding a fixed gear bike though means no gears to shift and only one brake lever to grasp so I can get away with mittens if I want which gave me a great idea.  I decided to upcycle my old Louis Garneau jacket into a pair of gore-tex cycling mittens.

My LG Gore-Tex jacket lasted for years!  I wore it for my daily commute from October to April for 7 years before bits of the gore-tex began to peel away in some high stress areas, like where my shoulder bag would sit, until I was left with a wet back and shoulders on rainy days.  There were of course a few spots that could still hold back the rain and I decided to put them to use.  Full disclosure: I never took Home-Ec and have never been taught how to sew, but, like Jeremy Clarkson so often asks on BBC’s Top Gear, “How hard could it be?” 🙂

I started with some liners that I made from fleece that I’d picked up at Fabricland.  The minimum purchase by the yard will cost about $8 and will get you enough for at least 6 pairs of mittens (if you’re feeling ambitious).  What I have here certainly won’t constitute a pattern, but if you decide to give it a try for yourself, just fold the material over your hand and trim off the excess and cut a pac-man for the thumb hole.  I’d actually started by making one that turned out a bit tight, so I started over, using it as my pattern.  Seen here:

mitten (2)

I sewed these by hand, using some extra strength thread and a loop stitch   The thumbs were a bit of a pain in the butt to put together.  I put my thumb through the hole, folded some material around it, pinned it in place, trimmed the excess and sewed.  Voila, liners are complete and are a perfect fit!

mitten (4)

I’ve had some deer hide sitting around for a while that was supposed to go into another project.  Instead they became the leather palms for my mitts.  Less than 6$ worth.  Here they are after being cut for size:

mitten (5)

Then it was time to rough cut out the gore-tex covers and complete the thumbs before adding the leather palms.  Leather palms do take a while to add.  First you need to mark all of the holes with a pin wheel, then punch all of the holes with an awl.  Finally saddle stitching them into place with a braided nylon thread will set you back another hour each.

mitten (7)

and many hours later:

mitten (8)

There we have it custom fit, Gore-tex riding mittens with deer hide leather palms.  No, the gloves aren’t seam-sealed and they’re not perfect, but they’ll do just fine.  I used them last week and they were great.  I made the thumbs a bit longer than standard fit so that the tips of my thumbs have a bit of extra space, and gave my fingers a bit of wiggle room as well.  They were wind-proof, gripped my bull-horn bars well and were very warm!  If winter ever arrives then I’ll be ready, or at least my hands will be warm…

DIY Energy Bars

I can remember many a cool fall ride in the mid to late 90s, coming over a rise on a beautiful country road, as I neared the half way mark of a 100+km ride, the birds overhead flying south for the winter, the sun low in the late afternoon sky, as I tried in vain to gnaw my way through a cold Powerbar that had been in my jersey pocket.   They were hard as a rock and about as palatable.  The only thing worse than their texture was the effort required to open their space-age mylar packaging, with gloves on, as you rode!   Powerbar was the go-to brand though.  They sponsored everything on two wheels and they were about all you could find at the bike shop, I even acquired a taste for them after a while.  Seriously!  I’m not sure exactly when Clif bars came out, but I was quick to convert.  They offered chewy ‘chocolate chip’, ‘oatmeal raisin walnut’ and ‘carrot cake’, among others!   They were like cookies that you could believe were good for you.  As the years, and the miles, passed, my nutritional perspective began to change and I sought to get away from the carb dominant bars and soy protein isolates.   By this time, around 2005, I wasn’t riding much, except to get to work, but I was looking for a convenient bar to fuel the longer sessions in my outrigger canoe that tended to take me from the TSCC in Toronto to Port Credit and back (about 34km depending on the line taken), or from the TSCC to Ashbridges Bay (also about 35km), or for a quick post workout recovery snack after my favorite loop around the Toronto Islands.  Around this time MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides) products were becoming better known amongst endurance athletes, and while I wasn’t about to drink MCT oil from the bottle, I did look for lower carb bars that were higher in fats, especially these medium chain fats from coconut oil.  My favorite became the Cocochia Bar by Living Fuel.  It happens to be dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free so it’s ideal for those looking to remove these common allergens from their diets too.  The flavour is mild, and it provides sustained energy, just like the wrapper claims!  In fact I liked them so much I became one of their Trusted Advisors, or distributors, a few years ago.   The only problem, other than all of the chia seeds that will be stuck in your teeth and the fact that no one will tell you, would be the price, about $35 +tax for 12, or about $3.25 per bar.  The price is actually a bargain given the quality of the mostly organic ingredients, but it does add up after a while.  Still a favorite I tend to pack one in my jersey occasionally now that I’m back to cycling regularly  and covering longer distances again.  Here’s a link if you’d like to learn more:  http://www.livingfuel.ca/en/products/Original_CocoChia_Bar/index.html

But this isn’t about Cocochia bars, this is about my bar, or your bar, this is about making your own and packing it to go!

I was inspired about a month ago have a go at making my own bar so I looked for recipes online.  Many of them used oats as their base.  I have been on a gluten-free diet since March, and while oats are a gluten-free grain, they are pretty much all contaminated with other cereal grains, and thus gluten, during shipping, processing and packaging, so I decided to go with toasted Buckwheat instead, and hoped for less contamination.   Yes, despite having wheat in the name Buckwheat is one of the few gluten-free grains.  It has a rather strong flavour though, compared to oats, so I wasn’t sure how it would work out in a bar, but I figured if I mixed in enough dark chocolate chips it would all even out 🙂

So with some online recipes in mind to serve as a guideline I took a trip to the Bulk Barn at Yonge and Carlton and picked up a pile of things that I hoped would go well in a bar;  Toasted Buckwheat (often labeled Kasha), raisins, shredded coconut, walnuts, semi-sweet dark chocolate chips etc and some brown-rice syrup to help bind it all together.  The most expensive ingredient would be the walnuts, but even then, the price per bar comes in under $2 and for that price I know what’s in it, and I get exactly what I want.  Actually I would prefer to use almonds instead of walnuts but my partner may be allergic, so I made the change in case she’d like a sample.  Baked ahead of time, these chewy, nutritious walnut-buckwheat bars are the perfect companion for long rides or your favorite canoe route. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to give them a try, or make a few substitutions and come up with your own:

Chocolate-Walnut-Buckwheat Energy Bars (okay I may need to work on the name)

Homemade energy bars

1 1/2 cups Toasted buckwheat (kasha)

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup semi-sweet dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (unsalted)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
2 tbsp packed light brown sugar (to help balance the bitterness of the cocoa powder)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp brown rice syrup

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In food processor, or coffee grinder, grind all or most of the walnuts into a coarse flour.

In large bowl thoroughly mix together all dry ingredients, add oil and brown rice syrup and mix thoroughly.

Pat mixture evenly into a parchment-lined cookie sheet until it reaches desired thickness. Bake about 10-12 minutes. Transfer to cutting board to cool.

While still warm, shape edges if necessary.

Once cool cut into rows, 2×5.  Makes 10 bars (obviously).

Enjoy and let me know how yours’ turn out!