Yeah, I know what you’re all thinking: “Bike bags! Rock n roll! Can’t wait to read this!” But just calm down ok. It really isn’t that exciting.

So a few of us just might be doing another overnight ride soon and this time we will need to carry our shit there. Shirts is the MASTER of this activity. He carries everything he needs on his bike and despite some occasions when it’s been arranged a driver can schlep everyone’s stuff — he pointedly refuses. 

And so Shirts straps his gear to like every spare spot on the frame that you can string or zip-tie or tape or velcro something to. He likes to have the bike bear all the load. And I imagine that’s why he bins the shirt so often too.

Naturally I have never, ever seen him with a backpack.

But it’s not just Shirts that espouses this vibe. It seems there’s this feeling in the bike community that a backpack is like an albatross or a Cross or something. It’s just not keeping it REAL. After all you don’t see Cadel or Jens rocking that shit. I remember Ryan had a pack on our first o/n trip but then on our ride to Uki in Northern NSW he was so against carting a backpack he stuffed an insane amount of shit into the 3 tiny pockets of his back jersey. Admittedly he got a lot of stuff into that tiny space, not shoes, and that meant he did almost get kicked out of he pub for not wearing footwear and he was pretty cold most of the time! 

Conversely I am like — “wow”, a backpack is pretty awesome. I mean Finn always has one. And Gerling. And George in Gravity. And pretty much everyone in a movie about mountain climbing. But I’ll get to my love of backpacks in more detail later.

Here is Shirts, looking like “SHIRTS”, on our trip to Woodenbong with his bike super-pimped up. Look at all that strapping and all those bike bags. And then there’s that bottle under the down tube: it’s not for water — just another spot where he can stow shit.




Here is an earlier picture of Shirts (avec gears) on DAY 1 of our very first overnight ride — a three day adventure to Byron, then over hills to Lismore and back home:



I still can’t believe I made it home after that trip. So many hills, so many beers, so much rain and grit and then so much heat on the final day. Crazy.


So I guess I am kinda alone in the cycling community with my love of backpacks. But I did see a guy at Nudgee on Easter Monday rocking a fucking suitcase on his back and I overtook him and made a point of giving him a hearty — “rock-on dude!”. TRUE STORY.

I am totally into the backpack vibe. Last year I bought this bad-boy — a Deuter 10litre pack. It cost $70 (but now it’s on special fr less) and that may seem extreme — but it literally weights only 350grams. It’s insane. It feels like nothing on your back but can be strapped up tight so it doesn’t swing about.



I can fit a whole change of clothes, plus shoes and heaps else into this bad-boy. One of my favourite things about a backpack is to have this trick on SUPER-HOT DAYS. So I hide a frozen water-bottle in there, wrapped up in an old t-shirt and break it out about 1 hour into the ride when my first frozen bottle on the bike has expired. And the bottle in my pack will only be about 80% less frozen and thus I get cold water for al least another hour. Genius.

But in saying all that — I accept it is pretty agreeable that you need to keep as much weight off your back as possible. This is SHIRTS talking but I think I cannot help but concede. Especially on really long rides.


And today I got a package from the internets. And it was for this Deuter triangle bag. I’ve never had such a device before — only seen one strapped to the Shirts-Mobile. But I could immediately see it’s benefits. 



It can carry quite a good deal. It says it can handle a whole LITRE and in practicality that translates to an iPhone charger, multiple phone cords, a pair of boxer shirts, a long sleeve hooded wet-weather rain jacket and some nitrous canisters. And maybe some more stuff if you really wanna push the extremes. And it only cost $20! 


The front bottle is quite hard to grab — kinda trapped under the triangle bag. But in a fight you would be able to get it free and put it back. But the rear water-bottle is fine for access and once you get used to reaching for that rear cage it feels only about 10% less natural. And then you can use the rear bottle until you get a break and a chance to switch. Maybe even while rolling.

So the seat bag (top) is just full of spare tubes (2) and levers and a canister of CO2. (And a folded up $20 note).

The next bag (just below the seat bag) is meant to be a top tube nutrient bag. But it has three velcro straps and sits pretty good there behind the seat-post. In this picture it is holding another tube, two Endura Gels, an apricot bar, another CO2, a sunscreen lip balm  and a tube of actual sunscreen. And all pretty quickly accessible if you need it without too much fuss.


For long-distance riding it really does make a difference having as much weight you are lugging actually ON the bike, rather than on your back. I concede those guys on touring bikes with their panniers on the back and front wheels and nothing much on their person must know what they are doing. See below: (not my photo!)




But these guys are camping and rocking triple chain-rings and probably lugging a laptop so they can blog about their adventures and   travelling so, so slow. It might appeal to me one day — but not now. No.

I really like travelling light. It really is like you are on the run. On the run from the world, all your problems and all the bullshit of contrived living. Escape.

To be honest it kinda feels like a Lord of the Rings adventure — just without the Ring-Wraiths in pursuit. You just leap out into the dark with as much as you can carry away into the unknown away to some destination that has some meaning. And yeah — every one of these adventures has brought some meaning at the end. Mostly good meaning, but at least one adventure brought me so close to the end that it made me question ever riding a bike ever again. (Another story).


And so here is the ride-map via Bikely.

It will be good to go into the unknown again and ride into some tiny town in our lycra like we were in some Western and just eat all we can and drink with a bit of impunity. Yes.



Vale Sue Townsend — my favourite author


‘Lo the flat hills of my Homeland.

When I was about 11, about 3.5 years after it was published there were suddenly these whispers about an awesome book. A book — apparently for kids — that was pretty much banned by our library, and every other library. And this book was “The Secret DIARY OF ADRIAN MOLE aged 13 3/4”.

No one I knew had a copy I could borrow. But some kid purported to have read it back in New Zealand (where he had just migrated from) and said it was incredible. There was certainly a “buzz” about it despite the fact no one knew much about it.

I might have asked my dad to buy it for me — but I am not sure. Now I think about it I don’t think I ever asked my dad to buy me a book. We were so poor in those days. And books were free from the library or if you asked for a book — it was through that evil scholastic book club at school. And yes — it was evil.


You might think that a book club at school is a very proper and grand and worthy institution. It cannot be “evil” — right? But when I was a kid, it was horrible. And this was because we just couldn’t afford this luxury — and thus it was such an ordeal every month. Everyone in the class would get this lush catalogue and you would get so close to all these books you really, really wanted — but then you’d have to accept that they were unachievable. Meanwhile you’d get these deadshits in the class just ordering as many books as they could and you knew they wouldn’t read them — it was mostly posturing.

And then, a few weeks later they would get presented with their orders — usually on a Friday — in class-time — and like it was their very own personal Christmas. The rest of us suffered while we watched them gleefully receive their booty.

I really hated that shit until in year 7 my dad finally had a decent job and he splurged and I suddenly got a chance to be THAT DICKHEAD who got to buy a few books. It was only once — but it was incredible. A maybe revenge.


Anyway. I am pretty sure it was just before Christmas in 1986 when I finally got a hold of Adrian’s secret diary. I was in Sydney visiting my mum and we were in Balmain and happened upon a bookstore and I begged her to buy me a copy. She must have been a soft touch, being the parent with visitation rights. (But then maybe I had asked mum to get me a copy because I was too worried about the potential content to ask dad — I don’t know.)

And then reading the book that night – it lived up to all my expectations — and more. It was so irreverent and being a diary (maybe just accidentally) such a kid-friendly format for a novel. I was so excited about this book I can remember reading out-loud passages to my semi-illiterate friends. I suppose they tried their best to be as enthused.

Why me and Adrian connected is pretty easy to explain. In my mind Adrian was 13 and I was only 11 but getting an insight into an “older kid” was full-on. I loved the comedy and I loved Adrian as a dweeb. I adored Pandora just like he did. Just like Adrian I desired that complex and hardcore woman who was tough and brave and formidable. And lastly I also knew he was the tragic hero in a succession of domestic dramas that I could really relate to. There was a sadness about all his adventures. (Indeed in the sequel Adrian has a breakdown and runs away from home.)

And his mum — Sue Townsend in disguise — was just a bit like my mum. It was all falling into place. But it was his beautifully naive belief that he was an “intellectual” which really connected with me. I really felt I was also cursed by “thinking too much” but mostly— worrying too much.

Me and Adrian were super-worriers.

Ultimately I learned that these books were not “kids books” — they were clever and profound satires of the Thatcher era, of adolescence, and of just life in general. There were characters from all ages, all classes, all political persuasions and even cameos from other nationalities.

I have read the Adrian books over and over. I will continue to do so. And I have read pretty much everything else Sue has written. (The Queen and I is probably the best).

Goodbye Sue and thank you, thank you, thank you.