I have been cycling almost daily for so long – over five years now! – that I do not think much about the physical aspect. When I first started bike commuting, I could feel it in my legs for several months. By now the act is so routine, I sometimes forget that bicycling is exercise.
Oma and I setting off to work last week
I was reminded of this fact when I returned to bike commuting after almost a month’s break, due to my travels and other factors. After two days back in Chicago riding Oma in the wind, my legs muscles were sore. Really, riding a bike as heavy as Oma is more like weight training than cardio. :-)
Years ago, I read a Dutch woman comment that because she’s been cycling her whole life, her leg muscles are too used to the motions and she has to do separate exercises to keep her legs toned. I refuse to believe that – I hate squats!
I wonder how others experience the physical aspects of bicycling and how that has changed (or not) over time. Anyone care to share?
As I explained in my Oma review, I purchased my bike with a heavy duty front rack that attaches to the frame, making a sturdy base for up to 50 pounds of cargo. I was using a Hershberger’s Baker Basket on the front rack, but two years of heavy use was more than the delicate basket could handle. First the leather strap in the front broke, causing the top to fly open in the wind, then one of the small leather straps on the back of the lid broke, making the top sit crooked. The wicker became dried and bleached by the sun. Basically, the poor thing fell apart.
Baker Basket in better days
For a while, I detached the front rack and used a pannier on my rear rack to carry stuff. Then one day Mr. Dottie found a wooden crate in an alley behind a Mexican restaurant, which he thinks was used for avacados. The crate has “Made in Mexico” stamped on the side. He attached the crate to my rack with a bungie cord through the bottom and a few zip ties all around; it does not move an inch.
My new Mexican crate
I love the crate for both aesthetics and utility. I can fit so much stuff in there, and I tend always to be carrying a bunch of stuff – for example, two full grocery bags and a purse. I can also easily and quickly reach my bag when stopped at a red light.
The crate is heavy – it’s all solid wood and nails. But so is my bike! When I’m riding Oma, I’m slow and steady and generally traveling no more than five or six miles, so extra weight is not a big deal.
My exercise goal for August is decidedly less intense than Trisha’s century ride training. I have to attend two Bikram yoga classes a week with my friend from work. The 90 minute classes heated to 105 degrees are not exactly fun. The best feeling comes when the class is over and I can sail away on my bicycle for the six mile ride home along the Lakefront Trail. The transition from the oppressive heat of the yoga room to the cool lake breeze of the trail is beautiful and makes me enjoy riding my bike even more than usual.
Plus, there’s always this view.
My bike set up on yoga class days is basic. Okay, a little bag lady-chic.
I strap my mat to the back rack (and then sometimes forget it there for a couple of days, creating deep indentions in the mat).
I stuff my work bag, change of clothes, towel, water bottle and lock in my front basket. My basket is low down and anchored to front stays, which helps this load feel light and not interfere with my steering.
My cockpit area is looking a bit too cluttered. Perhaps I should remove my scarf or flower or handlebar bag or camera mount…
Once the (heavily discounted) introductory month is over at the Bikram studio, I will probably go back to Vinyasa, as a more enjoyable yoga for me. But I expect to miss, at least a little bit, the relief of escape by bicycle that practicing Bikram provides me. :-)
Recently I have been testing a new bike bag, the Detours Ballard Market Pannier, a large shopper that easily transforms from a pannier to a tote to a backpack.
The website describes the bag as follows:
If you’re rolling up [to the market] on a bike, this is the perfect pannier to take with you. An easily hidden padded shoulder harness lets you wear the pannier as a backpack while browsing the stalls, and two simple yet sturdy pannier clips attach to your rack for the ride home. A lightweight waterproof base keeps your bag dry from street spray, and a removable rain cover protects your goods when the skies cloud over. Interior organization makes this a great option for casual office commuting as well!
The bag comes in red (shown), black and “dalia print,” which is my favorite – grey with a little flower painted on front.
The bag hangs from the rear rack by two clamps. The system was a bit tricky on my Pletscher rack because I had to raise the rack’s clamp while attaching the bag, but once in place, the bag fit well. The large rack on my Dutch bike works perfectly with the Detours’ attachment system.
The bag appears to droop a bit when loaded, but always feels securely attached.
There are adjustable straps on the front, which come in handy when the bag is used as a backpack.
The long handle straps are useful when carrying the bag, but they hang awkwardly when the bag is mounted and could be long enough to interfere with the wheel. I tied them together and tucked them into the bag as shown below. Another option is to tuck the straps in the front pouch, but neither solution is very elegant and I wish there were a better solution.
The bag, as you can judge by its size, holds a substantial amount of stuff. In addition to the cavernous interior, there is a small internal, zippered pocket, plus three external pockets (two small on the side, on large on the front).
The bag I’ve been using for years as a large shopper is my Basil Rosa-Mirte Shopper, but that bag must be hand-carried by a handle – super annoying when trying to shop and/or when carrying a heavy load. The Detours bag is not as cute, but wins over the Basil for ease of carrying with the shoulder strap and backpack option.
I’d say the Detours Ballard Market is most comparable to the Ortlieb Bike Shopper that I reviewed last year. In that showdown, the Detours bag wins hands down. Both bags hold a lot and have smart and easy attachment systems, but the Detours has useful outside pockets, holds more, is easier to close, turns into a backpack and costs $30 less. The Ortlieb wins only in waterproofness. The material on the Detours is water-resistent, but the drawstring top leaves it vulnerable. A full, neon yellow water cover is included, though, so as long as you keep it in the bag, you should be good to go in storms.
The Detours logo on the side of the bag is reflective, but I was disappointed not to see more. I wish companies would incorporate more reflective markings on bike bags.
The two clamps on the back are fronted by a fabric panel…
…which can be zipped up to hide the clamps and protect you from being poked.
When carried, the pannier functions as a long, substantial tote bag. As you can see, it has a sporty feel. Not something I would feel comfortable carrying to important meetings or court, but suitable for a regular day at the office.
For daily use, I prefer a more professional-looking bag like Po Campo. I’m not crazy about the sporty/bookbag-esque look of the Detours, which does not mesh well with my professional lifestyle. The black or “dalia print” colors are better professional options than the bright red. That said, the Ballard Market Pannier is marketed as a farmer’s market bag that could double for casual commuting, and the design is appropriate to that purpose.
Overall, I like the Detours Ballard Market Pannier a lot. The bag fits a huge amount, while also being easy to attach and detach and convenient to carry, either as a tote bag or a backpack. For a bike bag that are designed to carry substantial loads, the Detours is the best I’ve come across so far.
And a HUGE bonus of the bag is its nifty transformation to a backpack. I did not get a photo wearing the pannier as a backpack, so please watch my video to see how easily this works.
Well, it had to happen one day: On Tuesday, I left work to discover that I had my first-ever flat. Poor Le Peug!
I considered going inside to ask my coworkers for a ride home. I considered calling a friend. But it was a beautiful spring day—the first we’d had in a while—and I had some time before I had to be at the farmer’s market in Sevier Park, so I decided to lock Le Peug back up and walk.
Once I was three blocks away, I remembered that my shoes, while not the least comfortable heels I owned, were not really the best for this sort of activity.
I was jealous of ALL OF THE BIKES that went by. And even one skateboarder, at whom I would have ordinarily scoffed. (Since when has that become a legit form of transportation?)
But I made it to the market, albeit a bit footsore, and partook of an Izzy’s Ice as a reward.
The next day, I drove to work. Afterwards, Le Peug and Minnie got to know each other on the way to Halcyon.
When we got there, Andrew offered to show me how to fix a flat myself. Never one to say no to the pursuit of knowledge, I agreed. I’ve always been a little embarrassed that I have never changed a bike tube, because when I first started driving, my dad made sure I knew how change a car tire, change and check the oil, replace the fluids, etc—it was part of being a responsible vehicle operator. Maybe I should be a more responsible bicycle operator? After all, they’re much simpler, right?
Well, changing a tire might be a simple task, but it’s not necessarily easy. It took me a good 30 minutes at least, and there was a lot of awkward fumbling and possibly some moderate swearing. Andrew would demonstrate a 10-second task (like separating the bead of the tire from the rim) and then I would struggle for 10 minutes. My long nails and short dress made it a challenge, and I felt especially inept since there was an appropriately dressed and extremely skilled female bike repairer working at the station next to mine…but eventually I had a new tube in a new tire and that new tire was on my old bike.
While I’m glad I have given changing a flat a shot, I don’t plan to start carrying tools with me on my bike. In an urban environment, when I’m biking short distances, there are too many other options for me if something goes wrong with a bike—calling a friend, taking the bus home and yes, walking, are all preferable to me than changing a flat in my office parking lot. That said, I really appreciated that my LBS offered me the chance to learn something even though I was a woman in business attire—a lot of people would have taken one look and automatically assumed I wouldn’t be interested. Maybe I’ll at least keep a tire lever and some extra tubes at home…although if it takes me four years to get another flat I will have forgotten everything I learned on Wednesday!
Anyone else have a flat tire story? Do you carry tools with you on your bike? Why or why not?
My friend, Maria, of PoCampo put together a nifty guide for National Bike Month on how to bike to work safely and arrive looking presentable.
I recommend that you check it out and – most importantly! – forward it on to anyone who may be interested in bike commuting. Spread the bike love! :-)
~For Chicagoans looking for fun ways to connect with other bicyclists in the area~
This Thursday, in collaboration with local bike advocacy brewers Spiteful Brewing and local bike-coffee shop Heritage Bicycles, Chicago’s Ride of Silence (organized by my friend Elizabeth) is hosting a pre-Ride Tribute Event to raise awareness of the Ride of Silence and bike safety. Come to Heritage Bikes on Thursday to chat and enjoy beer from 6-9 pm. The Ride of Silence is on May 15 this year.
On Sunday, PoCampo is leading a leisurely Mother’s Day ride along the lakefront in Chicago. I’ll be there! The ride will start at 11 a.m. with mimosas & juice at Cricket Hill (Montrose & Lakefront) and continue south to the free Spring Flower Show at Lincoln Park Conservatory. Feel free to bring the whole family!
We here at LGRAB get a lot of questions about which bike bags we use and recommend. Over the years, I have accumulated quite a collection! I’m constantly switching from bag to bag – usually between my two Po Campo panniers, my regular purse and canvas shopping bags. In this video, I go through my entire collection and discuss which styles I like best.
I figure this post will be a resource for new bicyclists searching for ideas about how to carry stuff on their bikes, so please share your bike bag recommendations in the comments.
Five! That’s how many Chicago winters I have biked through. I counted over and over because five seems too high, but my math is correct.
Biking through my first winter, 2008-09, seemed so dramatic – I was amazed at my achievement. That was a particularly snowy winter, and I biked through all kinds of extreme weather to prove to myself that I could.
This morning, my friend Elizabeth posted a response on Bike Commuters to a dumb op-ed stating that winter bicyclists are “insane” and “suicidal.” I love how her response is so reasonable. Unfortunately, this particular poorly written op-ed is only a drop in the bucket of ridiculous stuff written and said about winter bicyclists.
My own personal response is: calm down and stop being so lame! You sound silly. Winter bicycling is perfectly rational and enjoyable.
So when I returned home from work this evening after bicycling 6 miles in 10 degree temps (-12 C), I made a quick video demonstrating how simple and normal the whole thing is. Pretty dorky, but I’m embracing my inner Liz Lemon in remembrance of 30 Rock.
My bike ride this evening could not have been better. As I cycled along the lakefront, the setting sun turned the sky soft shades of blue and pink over the placid, icy blue lake. Salt covered the trail, rendering the danger of ice moot. I was not cold; I was happy. And here is what I wore.
What would you say to those anti-winter-bike goofballs?