It’s About the Bag(s)

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Read on to see how I turned a $12 tote turned imto a pannier.

There’s always stuff. When you’re on a bike you need to carry stuff. My stuff and your stuff may not be the same sort of stuff but I can guarantee that we both have stuff and it needs to be shleped from point A to B and beyone. Sometimes it amounts to more than a peck and gets closer to a couple bushels especially if you commute to work. Consider that you might need to pack rain gear and by that I mean rain pants. Even if they are packable rainpants they will be about the size of a roll of toilet paper. Wallet related accoutrement and maybe some incidental items like shoes or a jacket are included and then you could have tech stuff like an iPad or a laptop. Don’t get me started on the bike related supplies such as a flat repair kit with a tube and a pump. By the time you add that you might as well just drive.

The Wall of Bags… Still the search continues. No bag is perfect.

Kidding. Commuting is not something to enter into the night before. You should definitely plan for it and prepare your bags with what you really need to make it a go. But that’s a topic for another blog post. I want to talk about the perfert bag. First off, it does not exist. I have been on a quest since the start of my biking life and while there are certainly some that come close there’s almost always something that sours me on one bag and gets me fired up for yet another bag to add to the research project. Our needs change and as a result what we might be hauling with us for a ride to the store is different than the day to day commute.

Pockets, pockets, and more pockets are an essential ingredient to the right bag. However it can’t be just any ol’ pocket. Too small and you’re forever struggling to get the key or wallet or pen out of the pocket. A pocket that’s too big is equally useless because you lose the same stuff and maybe it’s too small for the bigger items.

U-Locks are like the elephant in the bag. No one wants to talk about how much room that take up or how heay they are because they are necessary mitigation to bike theft. I’m not a fan of the U-lock on the bike. It’s like a roof rack on a Porsche. The bike it a beautiful machine and throwing that lock holder is not for me. But that means I need a bag that can accomodate the heft of a U-lock.

I’ve been bothered by this whole perfect bag issue for awhile. I realize that the aethsetic of the bike is important to me. The cuteness of a bike reflect on me and the bike. I want the bag to accessorize the bike. However it also needs to hold all the stuff.

A year ago I found this adorable bag with a sweet bike print and I wished for it to be a pannier. Wishing does not make it so. It’s not a pannier but I thought maybe I could covert it to a bike bag if I could find the right hardware. A few weeks ago I was motivated to try.

The bag has an exterior pocket sleeve for stuff you need quick access to like the garage door opener, phone, keys and snack. Interior pocket is also a sleeve so I don’t have to fuss with a zipper.Then the main compartment is ample and deep but not cavernous like the Ortlieb bucket. I always think about the rain pants first. If those can fit in the bottom then that leaves plenty of room for stashing the other stuff.

The bagrifice.

Truth is the bag has been hanging in the garage for too long. Something had to be done. But I needed hardware which is neither cheap or easy to find. Time to make a sacrifice. A bagrifice. I needed the hardware from another bag to see if I could turn my nonbike bag into a pannier. I chose one that I ruled out of the day-to-day commute because while it cute it fell short in providing what I needed. Also it cheap so I was willing to offer it the the bag muse.

A trip to the hardware store did not prove helpful. I did enjoy the suggestion of velcro, however, that wouldn’t work. I commissioned my husband to see how to get the rivets out of the old hardware to then use the hardware in the tote. He’s very good at listening to my “this thingy should go into this doodad and then there’s these brad deals (rivets) that attach to the rack.”

We opened up the bag and started to work on the rivets.

The hardware was attached with rivets that took about an hour to pound out of the bag. I’ve never done anything like this before so I struggled with how to get under the flat bit and leverage enough to pop it out. Also the hardware is made of plastic and I didn’t want to damage them.

Once the hardware was liberated from the old bag I was free to start considering what we needed to make the “tote-al” conversion. Back to the hardware store to find a rivet gun. The tools necessary amounted to $35. It’s starting to make sense why panniers cost so much. The hardware alone can cost upwards of $35, but then you have to actually attach it to the bag somehow.

Spiked bag. Rivet didn’t break off. Truth is that it needs a little help.

We did several trials with the rivets to be sure it all worked. Using a rivet gun is like holding your breath for 20 seconds and then having someone punch you in the gut. Freaky tool and not a sure thing. Sometimes the shaft of the rivet doesn’t break off and then you’re looking at it like vampire looks at a stake, until it breaks off and then you’re considering opening a bag business because you’re getting pretty good at the whole thing.

That looks good! The five to follow were work times ten.
I’m pretty excited to share my enthusiasm for the perfect bag!

All in all this project was fun. I’d try it again with another bag and if you’re ever in a situation where you think about converting a tote or favorite bag to a pannier I think it would be worth trying out. If it wasn’t for quarantine I probably wouldn’t have bothered, but I’m glad I gave it a go.

Remember Mary Poppins and her carpet bag that she pulls out bottle of perfume, a folding armchair, a packet of lozenges, a large bottle of dark red medicine, seven flannel nightgowns, one pair of boots, a set of dominoes, two bathing caps, one postcard album, one folding camp bedstead, blankets and an quilt? That’s how I approach a bike pannier. It should be able to hold nearly everything you need, still look classy and most of all, compliment the bike.

The TOTE-al makeover. Tote made into a pannier.

That’s a tall order for any bag, but now that I have a rivet gun, well, let’s just say, I feel like it’s all in the bag.

I do have some favorite panniers. I bought a set of Ortleb bags in Germany and I do love them because they say “der Aussteiger” on the side. Also, a great souvenir from a trip.

I also think that Po Campo bags are amazing. They are like the Coach bag of bike bags. Super classy and you want them all. If someone you know loves bags, you should get them a Po Campo. Pretty and practical is always a great combination. I also have a Timbuk2 bag that converts to a backpack and their hardware is indestructable. In the video I show a Timbuk2 tote that converts to a backpack and the hardware is not where the backpack is so kudos on that design. Generally, I’m a fan of a bag that converts to a crossbody or a backpack. The messenger style bag is another favorite however, I’m not big on carrying it, so the two I own I often strap to my front rack. I tend to use the messenger style more in the winter for some reason. Arkel is another spanking good bag brand. Their hardware system is available to purchase too.

The very best bag I ever bought was an Abus bag. I bought it at a bike shop in Potsdam, Germany back in 2009. That bag was about 99% perfect. Pockets in all the right places for me. Not too much of anything and just the right amount of what I need. I wore that bag out. It actually crumbles in my hands. I can’t use it, but I keep it because maybe someday it will be the template for a bag I design.

As long as there is stuff there will be a need to carry it. You have to figure out what works for you. Bags come it all shapes and sizes. Baskets are also an option! Yeah, I have some of those too. Always ask about return policies or start your own bag wall.

I’m happy that I gave this old bag a new life and it’s pretty adorable.

The goal is to ride and making sure you have what you need for each and every mile.

Thanks for reading. What’s in your bag? What are some of your favorite bags? Tell me about them.

Stay safe. Stay well.

Bike Goddess

Quarantine Made Me Do It!

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What has quarantine made you do? 

History is being made all the time but we’re too busy to notice. I remember asking my grandparents about The Great Depression or rationing during World War II and they said it was hard but you get through. “We were busy raising a family. What did we know?” They came from the Old Country, Thessaloniki, Greece, and anything was better than that. The hardships they knew are why they came to America. “You’ll never know such hardships,” was a common thread. My middle school closed at the end of the day on Friday, March 13th and we’re set to be closed until May 4th. That’s all I know right now.

We’re just getting started and I don’t have any answers but I am noticing some patterns in my own behavior. If my kitchen could text me if would say something like…  “WHAT has gotten into you!  I’m here all the time and now you’re noticing!”  I slow cooked four pounds chicken and shredded it for meals in the coming weeks. I even made my own broth! I have made cookies on a day that was neither Saturday or Sunday. I’ve also made my own bread and I’m not talking banana bread but a yeast rising artisan bread. Yes, a loaf of Honey Oat, no-knead bread from this man, Steve, on YouTube and I will make more of his spectacular recipes because that’s what I do now. Now granted, this week I have been on Spring Break and it has been raining and cold so baking seems like a good option.

In the basement I started to create a studio space for video production. My husband and I painted and spruced it up and I have no more excuses for not diving into the deep end and giving it a shot.

I’ve read several books and listened to a couple more audio books. Speaking of books, the first week we were out of school I rode my bike to a dozen of the Little Lending Libraries within a 10 mile radius and restocked them with some books from my collection. Truth is I was going to take the books to school (I’m a middle school librarian) but I decided that they should go to the Little Lending libraries instead. Now I am taking from one and moving the collections around. Call it cirulation. I am using gloves and hand sanitizer, but I have opted to hold off on that and just donate.

I watched a squirrel watch me while I was Zwifting and despite my efforts to photograph the blur I can’t help but ponder ways I can get better shots in the future. I started by cleaning the windows.

I practiced piano… (for the first time in 5 years) for about 15 minutes just to see what I could remember. I’m not ready to release anything on YouTube, but I remembered more that I thought. Muscle memory even applies to playing the piano. 

It’s not my nature to cut my hair. I’ve heard of people who have cut their bangs.  I have very curly hair and I have learned to let my hair enjoy its wild ways. 

I have ridden my bike not to fetch groceries, do errands or commute to and from work, but just to ride. I’ve never Zwifted more in my whole life than I have since the quaranatine. Last week with all the rain I opted to spin indoors. Accorting to the Zwift report in my email I set a record last week of 3.5 hours. The whole Watopia worlds and even NYC are vast and untapped territory and I like the virtual riding more than I thought. I don’t know what everything means on the Zwift side, but given that I’m not commuting, it has been refreshing, to find people and territory out there that I haven’t wholly embraced before. Also I didn’t know there was a different app for your phone which allows you to give kudos and adjust your ride. 

That’s just it isn’t it? Before Coronavirus (heretofore known as BCV) we didn’t have time to engage in all these activities. I would come home from school exhausted from the day and I’d be happy if I could figure out dinner and get the script done for the next day’s school news program. Everything is slowing down. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m scared and generally freaked out every single day. It’s frightening and sad and I feel vulnerable and like I’m walking on a tightrope with nothing but darkness beneath me. The pandemic continues to spread and we really don’t know what to expect next. I’m grateful to so many for carrying the load right now and putting themselves out there while I stay home and try to be well. All we can do is find something extraordinary that grounds us to the task at hand. Staying at home. Maybe the extraordinary is the ordinary. Being healthy and living through another day. Helping the small businesses and supporting one another from a distance.

In the days and weeks to come quarantine will force our hand. It might lure us like the Greek sirens. It will get harder to stay at home. We will be drawn to the false song of safety and it’ll be okay since we’re going to mingle among our personal groups and friends. There’s no harm in that?

Yes, there is. Stay the course and don’t endanger yourself or others. I was reminded of this E.L. Doctorow quote about writing and think it is an encouraging sentiment in difficult times. “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Reminds me of bike lights too.

Be smart. Be strong. Stay home and take care of yourself. Get on Zwift and find me and we can “ride on” together until this whole pandemic is history. 

Stay safe and be well!

Thanks for reading.

Bike Goddess

In the comments below tell me what grounds you? What helps you focus on staying home? Oh, and if you use Zwift, give me a tip.

Adding Up, Counting Down

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The year end countdown begins. There are numerous tasks that get counted down at this time of the year. The days are easy, but there’s are also miles, number of books read (or not read), weight loss or its opposite, pounds gained. We tend to countdown days to a vacation, or the days before the start of a season for a sporting event (TdF).

Of course, there are news stories, births, deaths and everything in between. This time of the year there are demands on our time that often don’t get on a schedule. There are cookies to be eaten and a variety of tasks that demand vigilence. The new norm is being the busiest person in the room. Sometimes we forget to countdown because we’re busy adding up. My whole working life has been about achiving some sort of balance between school and life. Most days I fail on that count, and yet I continue to try.

No big surprise, but balance for me is achieved on two wheels. It’s like those photos you see when someone is standing in the middle of the photo but there’s a frenetic city scene behind the subject. The technique is called shallow depth of field. Shallow depth is a wonderful oxymoron. When I’m trying to be the subject of my own photos, I can always count on my two wheels to help me find balance and focus within the blur of life.

2020 Full speed ahead!

The temperature today is hovering around freezing. The sky is chalky and dull. It’s not raining but it isn’t sunny. I scheduled myself for a massage and it was wonderful to relax and have my muscles stoked. I rode my bike and it was surprising how few people were out. As I count my miles and calories and add up the books I’ve read and friends and family members, I think about what awaits. A new decade on the other side of the next week will reset my miles and my goals for another year. Moving forward with hope is one thing, but sometimes hope is not a bright shiny day. Hope can be persistence. As the saying, “Keep on keeping on,” gets utilized, I think that’s good. That’s moving forward.

Whatever you celebrate, however you celebrate, be sure to beat the drum and count the seconds to another decade. Celebrating is an essential part of counting down. How do you feel about setting goals in the new year? Tell me in the comments below. Thanks for sharing some time with me today.

Until next time.

Ride.

Bike Goddess