Saturday, July 18, 2009

How I Carry Stuff


That is my primary bicycle. A carbon fiber 2007 Giant OCR C Zero. I recently crossed the 10,000 mile mark on it. It has served me well!

I have been car-free now for almost three years, and I thought I would say a few words about what I carry with me and how I transport stuff. These are the things that work for me, but it may be a bit minimalist for others.

I came to cycling in my youth, and tried my hand for many years as a competitive racer, and that has seriously colored my choices as a transportational cyclist. Please keep that in mind. For example, I value low weight very highly, and that explains why I chose to purchase the Giant. Others have valued weight much less, and the compromises they make will be different than mine. Not better or worse, just different based on how they rate one value over another. There is a wonderful diversity in cycling, and I would be a fool to disdain what others prefer!

This is what is found in the seat bag:

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Clockwise from the top left; A cotton bandanna in a sandwich bag to clean my glasses, spare inner-tube in plastic, a patch kit, two CO2 cannisters, the inflater chuck, fresh batteries for my lights in plastic, a 6mm hex wrench, a 5mm hex wrench and in the center, a spare battery for my computer. (It would be a calamity if my computer failed me on a long ride!)

Because my bicycle is a full Dura-Ace equipped bike, the two wrenches will fix nearly any problem encountered on a trip, a delightful bonus from well engineered equipment.

If I should get a flat, I get one fix and a mulligan, and then it's thumb time. But I am running on Specialized Armadillo Elite tires, and I completely wore out the last pair. I had only experienced one flat in all that time on them.

In fact, the length of time that the spare tube has spent in the bag has caused its own hazard! To reduce abrasion on the inner-tube, I wrapped it in plastic before putting it in my seat-bag. Here is the condition it was in when I pulled it out for the photo:


Holes were worn through the plastic! Yikes! The tube looked OK, so I added more plastic when I put it back.

That are the things I want to be with me during any trip, whether recreational or errands, and so stay with the bike all the time.

This is my wet weather/spare bike:

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It a single speed fendered Redline 9 2 5. I have put on a triangular in-frame bag for carrying the "always must have stuff":

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Tools at the top, top to bottom, five and six millimeter hex wrenches, then a box end wrench that fits the fender hardware, and a box end wrench to remove rear wheel.

On the left I have three tire wrenches, CO2 cannisters, the inflater chuck, a patch kit, a spare inner-tube and two terry cloth rags. It is always nice to have something to wipe your hands with after handling the chain and removing the tires, especially if it is wet out. But also, the CO2 canisters become really cold when discharged, so something is needed to protect your hands. The third important role of the rags is to keep the kit from rattling, which for me can be very annoying!

While I have only traveled a little more than 500 miles on the Redline, I have had at least five flats! There will be Armadillos on it for the next set of tires!

When this fix-it kit is wrapped up, this is how it is arranged in the frame-bag.

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The extra space can used for plastic sheeting (Plastic drop cloth) and bungee cords if I expect to have to park the bike in the rain. But they are not carried with me all the time.

For the rest of the stuff I need to pack around I use either jersey pockets when on recreational rides, or a small back-pack, or a larger capacity back-pack or a messenger bag for the most bulky of loads, depending on how much room I need.


I keep some things at work, like shoes and some cold-weather clothes in case of sudden weather changes. I carry in clean clothes to change into, and lunch. I bring powdered drink mix in. I re-use two liter soda bottles to mix it in and consume it from. I am able to keep my bicycle in the building with me.

Here is what I take with me shopping, perhaps for groceries:


I use the Speedplay cleat system, so I need a change of shoes if much walking is involved. For size and weight considerations, I take these slippers or flip-flops. That loop of rope is used to carry my bike shoes draped over the frame, like this:

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This allows more room in my bag to place items while shopping. Oh, I don't lock my bike up, I take it into the store or restaurant with me. I rarely have had anyone take issue with this, and there is enough competition for my business that alternatives have always been found.

I am single, so I have not needed a higher capacity than the messenger bag provides, though I have made multiple store runs on occasion. (12 mile round trip.) I haven't yet loaded the bag with so much stuff that I couldn't breathe, but I have caused the plastic strap clamp to fail.

What I buy for groceries is also colored by capacity considerations. For example, potato chips and milk are rarely purchased, one because it takes up so much space, and the other because it is heavy. (I rely on powdered drink mixes for this reason too!)

What have you found that works for your commute?


RANTWICK said...

"There is a wonderful diversity in cycling, and I would be a fool to disdain what others prefer!"

I sure wish everybody could come to this fundamental realization! Good for you, Chipseal!

As you are familiar, I love my Ortlieb Panniers. I know they might conflict with your racing heritage, but man, is it ever nice to have a guaranteed dry environment with me on the bike.

Steve A said...

Too many questions for a comment, so I'll just ask two related ones. Those look like the Armadillo Elites rather than the Armadillo "All Condition" that I use on Frankenbike.

What width? Is the Armadillo 28c width foldable (ie lighter)?

As you note, it's interesting to see the different choices people make, even people that are all shopping carefully. Despite my excellent experience with "All Condition" Armadillos, I chose the Continental 4 Season tires for my main commute bike. I think they give up a little in puncture resistance to the Armadillo Elites, but they're lighter, with lower rolling resistance. So far, I've got 2k miles on them, with no punctures, and they look like they've got a LOT of life still in them.

Steve A said...

Added note. The Contis are 28c width & foldable. They claim 250g per tire despite the bead-to-bead "Duraskin.' They appear to have better heat/sun resistance over time than my "All Condition."

Dottie said...

I'm a big proponent of the basket. I think more men should feel free to use wicker baskets :) My husband won't go for it.

Doohickie said...

I tend to use rear baskets & panniers too. Everyone has their preferences, though, and ChipSeal has some well-thought out carrying provisions that work well for him.

Big Oak said...

I use a rack trunk pack that I cram full of every tool I will probably never use, plus food, sunscreen, spare change, air pump, spare tube, patch kit, and bandanna. It weighs a ton, but I would feel naked without it. On my commute to work, I often attach a pannier to carry extra clothes. I know it's way too much, but I can't leave home without all my "stuff".

RANTWICK said...

Oh! Oh! I forgot the hideous blue tupperware thing strapped to the back of my winter bike! Everything goes in it. Everything!

ChipSeal said...

Big Oak, you value being prepared for any eventuality over low weight! My compromise is to have a really spendy bicycle that is dependable, and keep an eye on maintenance, so as to carry the bare minimum of tools.

My bicycle preferences have then channeled my options for carrying stuff on my person. I am just pointing out how one value may restrict other choices.

And in bad weather, I have to put whatever I am taking with me in bags before I put them in my messenger bag or backpacks. I can see why Rantwick likes the water-proof panniers!

ChipSeal said...

Dottie said: "I'm a big proponent of the basket. I think more men should feel free to use wicker baskets :) My husband won't go for it."

Ah yes, we can wear spandex and shave our legs, but wouldn't be caught dead with a handle-bar basket! :)

Steve A said...

I presume that the triple crank on a high-end road bike used in fairly flat Texas will be explained in some other post...

I use old socks to hold my spare tubes. I don't think they deteriorate like plastic bags. We get enough sock orphans around my house that it's not a big problem to find one.

Wicker? That's what you use to store dirty SU carburetors in!

Velouria said...

Fascinating! All 3 of my bicycles are lugged steel, so of an entirely different weight category. All three are equipped with racks. I find that the Carradice Barley saddlebag is enough to store all of my necessities, including tool kit, medi-kit, bike lock, sunscreen, water, snacks, saddle cover, rain poncho, camera, mobile phone, and a book. The bag is relatively small, attaches securely to the saddle loops and rear rack, and looks beautiful. I am very happy with this set-up.

If I want to carry a lap top, that is a different story and I have not figured out how to do so yet in a way that satisfies my aesthetic demands.

ChipSeal said...

Wow Filigree, you are ready for anything! A medical kit even!

It is quite a contrast to my minimalist approach to cycling.

Both you and Big Oak mentioned that you carry sunscreen. If I am going on a longer ride than say, ninety minutes, I will wear sunscreen. On real long recreational rides I will also carry some with me.

So I am adopting Steve's idea of protecting my inner-tubes with socks and I will be getting a presta-Schrader adapter too.

I also think I will add a nearly used-up tube of anti-septic cream to be available for immediate application after my next spill.