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!
OTHER DETAILS ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE
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!)
CREDIT CARD TOURING
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.
I recently bought one of those 18L deuter bike pack for work commuting and it has changed my life. No more sweaty backs due to that air flow design they’ve got going. Tonnes of space and super comfy.
Somehow I can just not get used to the idea of having panniers.