Much as I love the feeling of self-propelling around town on two wheels—the fresh, Freon-free wind, the exercise-induced endorphins, the self-righteous joy of saving the planet and
zipping through rush hour—one major obstacle cramps my style: the amount of junk I like to carry with me wherever I go.
Throw the laptop, the stack of magazines, the water bottle, granola bar, extra sweatshirt, too-stuffed wallet and all the other things I'm usually positive I'll need into a backpack and it makes for one seriously heavy ride. It also nearly nixes the possibility of getting my errands or grocery shopping done because I have so little room to carry extra stuff. Still, I was in the dark for way too long about the world's simplest fix, which is why I'm devoting this week's column to a seemingly no-brainer topic: my bike rack.
Not that I hadn't seen people use racks before...it simply seemed like an unnecessary piece of gear for a backpack-toting biker like myself. But would you consider buying a car that had no trunk? We all need a place to stash our stuff, and it's a shame that more standard bikes don't come better equipped.
It wasn't until recently, after nearly three years of city riding, that I saw the light. Though I had arrived at the bike shop with the sole intention of replacing my near-useless old helmet, I left having forked over $20 for a rack, $5 for a bungee to hold things down and around $50 for a messenger bag-style pannier (the bags that clip to the side of the rack).Though a little clunky, it's easy to carry around, so I don't have to worry about leaving my stuff in plain public view.
The ride home from the bike shop was all it took to convince me that not only was the combo worth the investment but the change was seriously overdue. With no backpack I felt about a thousand pounds lighter, sat straighter and didn't give a second thought to the collection of things resting above my back wheel.
So why am I making my new gear into an environmental issue? The deal is, we are so used to relying on our cars (myself included) that any excuse to leave the bike home seems like a valid one: it's too far, it's too early, I need to take too much stuff. But in our practically hill-free city, crisscrossed by bike lanes and bordered by a gorgeous lakefront path, there's really no reason to leave your two-wheeler at home. This season, treat yourself to the smoothest ride ever, and bring home a gallon of milk to boot.
Want to join the bike-hauling movement? Try these tips and you'll beat me at my own game.
Get a gold star for reuse by tying a milk crate, toolbox or other hardy container onto your rack with a bungee.
Have a larger-than-average load? Read up on massive bike trailers (one was used to carry 20 bikes behind one rider!) and other hauling accessories that'll help you with moving, logging or any other activity you could dream up, from the ladies at Cycling Sisters.
Go the recycled route with these sturdy panniers made from re-purposed oyster buckets. You'll save a couple bucks, plus you won't have to think twice about leaving your saddlebags out in the rain.
After four greener-than-average college years as a co-op dweller-turned-aspiring-permaculturist, Julia Steinberger finds it hard not to feel guilty about her one-bedroom apartment, daily commute and indulgence in the occasional dollar burger. She'd like to dream that she could live in a tent/treehouse/rabbit hole, but the truth is, she'd rather stay in the city while doing her best to leave a lighter footprint on the earth. You can contact her here.