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Naomi  The Biking Life

 by: Naomi Bloom  11/1/2008

Confessions of a Bag Lady

Scott Martin, of Road Bike Rider fame, recently wrote about all the different types of bicycle "luggage" he spies on the road: "I see roadies with seatbags sized from the most diminutive to those that'll hold a Chevy," he observed. "Is there really a Camaro in there for those times a cell-phone rescue isn't possible?"

"So what's in those BIG seatbags, anyway?" he demanded. OK, Scott, I'll tell you.

I confess. I'm one of those riders with a BIG bag. Well, not as big as some, I swear. But according to Scott-so, I'm way over the top when it comes to extravagance. OK, so he's a minimalist, with nothing more behind his butt than an ultralight tube, a glueless patch kit, tire levers, a couple of CO2 cartridges, one 5-mm allen key, a petite screwdriver, a "dinky" tire pump, and $20. No cell phone for this rugged individualist.

Hey, Scott, why carry the dinky pump if you're loaded down with CO2 cartridges? Moreover, why the 20 bucks? I get by with just my ID, Kaiser card and Peet's card. And I carry them in my pocket, not my seatbag. I mean, how would I ever find them in there?

But I digress. This column is about what I carry on the bike, and why. It's not a lot. Really. Though I must admit that this time of year the payload does tend to expand. During spring and summer a relatively small bag suits my purposes fine. It'll hold a couple of spare tubes, a crushable hat for sunny rest stops, a small energy bar (no brand names here) or bag of dried fruit, and still leave plenty of room in a pinch for a folded (OK, I mean scrunched) up jacket or vest.

But when the sun comes up late and the wind blows from the north (south, east or west, come to think of it), I dress in layers and peel them as the day progresses. So I need something bigger. Way bigger. Big enough to hold a Gore-tex jacket, a pair of arm warmers, a pair of knee warmers, and/or a pair of tights. Believe me, I am not going to stuff all that Lycra into my pockets. Especially if I'm wearing one of those prissy women-specific- design jerseys, with one dinky little pocket that barely holds the ID wallet. When, oh when, will those silly designers get it????

But I digress once more. Let's get down to bike bag inventory here.

This time of year I carry a nice, big bag behind my saddle. It's not exactly a seat bag because it hangs on an ultra-lightweight frame that attaches to the seatpost. And it holds a lot of stuff. To wit:

  • 2 spare tubes
  • Stuff sack for Gore-Tex jacket (can double for other contents if no jacket on board)
  • Same old crushable, reversible cap for going helmetless in the sun
  • 2 ITB knee bands (just in case)
  • 1-2 packets dried fruit or energy bars
And that's just in the main compartment, where there's still plenty of room for the layers I'm bound to peel off as the sun rises higher in the sky. There are also two side pockets that I swear have spandex in them, they stretch so much to hold their cargo, which contains:
  • Pre-moistened wipes
  • Mini packet of Kleenex tissues
  • Pen
  • Mini-bottle of antibacterial handwash
  • Cable lock (which takes up the entire starboard pocket)

Of course, that's not the only bag I carry. Oh, no. I carry tools (and I know how to use them). They're in a cylindrical, zip-top bag that fits neatly into one of my water bottle cages. Called a "dirt bag," it contains (and here's where I outshine Scott):

  • Quick Stick (best tire iron substitute ever; it works!)
  • Leatherman tool (includes rasp, bottle opener, Phillips head driver, flat head driver, pliers, small knife, pen knife, small pick) Leatherman Case Leatherman
  • Plastic tire irons (OK, once the Quick Stick didn't work so well)
  • Folding "Heavy Duty" (made in Taiwan) wrench set -- 2-, 2.5-, 3-, 4-, 5-and 6-mm Allen wrenches plus Phillips and flat screw drivers (heh! heh! Bit of duplication there, huh?)
  • 3.5-mm Allen wrench
  • Pair of tweezers (get that @#$#% thorn out!)
And no patch kit. I gave up on them the last time my glue dried up.

Oh, and that Dirt Bag is indeed dirty. I had to wash my hands thoroughly after I took inventory.

Bento Then there's the Bento Box on my top tube, filled to the brim with:

  • Mini tube of sunscreen
  • Garage door opener
  • Cell phone

Who am I to scoff at technology? A cell phone can get you out of one heck of a jam. Not to mention the tough calls over which color wine to pick up for dinner.

I never go out on my single bike without my cell, and here's why: Years ago Jim and I set out one day on singles for a short ride. I figured he had his cell so I didn't need mine. We came upon a club ride and decided to tag along. A little later on the route, part of the ride turned left, part turned right. I was deep in conversation and followed along with it to the right. Jim apparently turned with the lefties. I didn't see him again for about four hours. I skipped lunch, went home, tried to call him (his cell phone was apparently off) and just hunkered down and waited until either he showed up or the cops called. Turns out he got completely separated from the rest of us and went to the wrong town (NOT the wrong restaurant, the wrong TOWN) where he thought the lunch stop was. Never again will I go through an afternoon like that.

I've only had to actually use the cell to call him a couple of times in all the years since then, but it was worth it. The memory of waiting for bad news still haunts me.

As for my pump, it's definitely not dinky. It rides strapped to the seat tube, where it belongs. Until I need it, and then I'm thrilled to have that little flip-out foot rest that essentially turns it into a floor pump.

Yeah, I carry a lot of stuff. But look, I'm not as bad as Jim, who insists we carry the biggest rear rack pack available on the back of the tandem. It's gotta be high and wide enough to hold his digital SLR camera, plus lenses, a bottle of wine and our rain gear while we're touring. Durned thing is so high behind the stoker seat that I struggle to swing my leg over it. Who said "minimalist" = "guy"?

Naomi can be reached at naomibloom@earthlink.net

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