One of my main personal goals right now is to be able to commute to work on my bicycle a couple of days each week. I don’t live all that far (though there is a big evil city in between here and there) so it shouldn’t be such a big deal – but to me, it feels like it is.
I started riding on the trails by my house. Then I realized that they now reached out in the direction of my work. I found a route that would get me there without, hopefully, getting me killed.
My head was filling with progress until I had a setback – the heat here is deadly this summer; it’s making outdoor activities impossible.
Still, I plan ahead. Planning is, after all, a lot easier than doing. I’m thinking about logistics – what I must carry with me during a bicycle commute. I realized that if I’m going to ride to work I’m going to have to carry a change of clothes plus a towel and various sundries so I don’t sit in a pool of my own sweat all day. My crappy old cheap bicycle (I bought it at a pawn shop for ninety dollars more than fifteen years ago) is ugly with bags already (handlebar bag for phone, wallet, camera, keys, water and such – frame bag for lock, chain, and pump – and seat bag for repair kit) but even with that I didn’t have any place for a clothes bag.
I needed a rack. I used to have one on the bike but I took it off for some reason years ago and it is long lost. So I went to Bike Nashbar and bought one of their cheap, generic bicycle racks.
Bike Nashbar rack mounted on the back of my bicycle.
It went on easily. Doesn’t look too bad, considering.
But now I needed a bag. I could buy an expensive trunk, or a pair of even more expensive panniers, but I’m too poor for that… or at least too cheap. I did an Internet search for DIY bike bags and found more stuff that I could handle… all the way from 2×2 wooden mounting apparatus, to complex sewing instructions for pannier production. A lot of ideas were… sort of silly, but a few of the instructions seemed really helpful, and I’ll probably work my way towards some of these ideas.
But for now, as I am wont to do, I went cheap and I went simple. I stopped by Big Lots and bought a nine dollar gym bag and a set of little bungee cords for a buck fifty. I took the shoulder strap off of the gym bag and used its mounting points to bungee the bag to the rack.
The gym bag bungeed onto the bicycle rack. This was less than successful.
And off I went. I made it a good, solid twenty feet until I felt something jam into my rear spokes. The bag had slid off sideways and fallen over. I should know better – it is always stability that gives problems, not strength.
I thought about giving up. I was tired and hot. But I had packed extra bungee cords and I used them to attach the handle straps on the bag to the sides of the rack. And that worked. I went for a little four mile ride and the bag didn’t budge a bit.
This works, but it looks stupid. Though not as stupid as when I'm actually riding the thing.
It sure looks awful, though. I’ll do some thinking, work on a more elegant way to attach the thing. At least I know now what the parameters are and that it will at least work.
But who am I kidding – it isn’t the rack or the bag on my bicycle that’s the problem. It’s the engine. It’s old, crappy, and wore out. That’s what needs to be worked on and worked over. That’s what makes the simple act of riding a bicycle to my work feel like Sisyphus and his rock.
Surfing around the web at random, I found this song and video I had seen when it first came out a couple years ago. I had forgotten how wicked cool this was. Love it.