Monday, September 20, 2010

Mobile Home

It can be said that one reason people enjoy commuting or traveling in a car, is that the car functions as an extension of their home while they are away at work or on the road. They keep a myriad of personal belongings in the car - from food and drinks, to changes of clothing and footwear, to reading material and selections from their music collection. Those who have children or pets often have toys and other objects associated with them scattered in the back. And then of course there are the familiar smells: Whether good or bad, the interior of a car takes on a distinct scent associated with its owners' activities and lifestyle. In essence, the car really does attain aspects of the driver's home over time, and this undoubtedly contributes to the emotional attachment many feel toward their vehicles. The Co-Habitant's dayjob involves extremely long shifts (12 hours is typical), and his colleagues routinely nip out to the car during breaks to retrieve various items and drop other items off. To do so is comforting when away from home for so long. This is also why the Co-Habitant equipped his Pashley with both a saddlebag and handlebar bag, despite a relatively short commute: It was important to create a similar "homey" environment for his bicycle.

In my earlier post about handlebar bags, I mentioned the appeal of the idea that the bicycle can be turned into a mobile home - ready to go anywhere while still allowing the cyclist to feel as if their life is coming with them, rather than being abandoned. Now that I have installed a handlebar bag on my own bicycle and have found myself in a situation where turning said bicycle into a mobile home is necessary, I truly understand what this feeling is like. While on Cape Cod, we are typically away from home from morning till late evening - during which time we work, go on rides, and do various things in town. All of those activities require different items to be taken along, including clothing, equipment and food. At this time of the year, there are also significant fluctuations in temperature in the course of the day (mid 40s- upper 80s) which must be taken into consideration. To my delight, the combination of a roomy handlebar bag and saddlebag can accommodate all of these concerns.

Typical contents of my handlebar bag: sweater, down vest, 2 extra hats, waterproof jacket, costume for photo shoot, props for photo shoot, make-up, shawl to use in leu of beach blanket, swim suit, flip-flops, extra pair of socks, 2 books, notebook, pen case with 2 pens, bar of chocolate, gloves, sunscreen, deodorant, DZNuts, saddle cover, money and ID. Notice that the bag is not even full.

Typical contents of my saddle bag (now converted into a camera bag) are our photo equipment: This time, a digital SLR, a Medium Format film camera, 10 rolls of film, and, just for fun, a toy camera.  We have a second Medium Format film camera that could also fit instead of the toy one.

The Co-Habitant carries his own clothing, our tool kit and medical kit, and both of our laptops. He only has a single saddlebag on his roadbike, so the laptops he transports in a messenger-style bag on his person - which is the one glaring imperfection in our set-up. Next time we take a trip like this, he will have some sort of handlebar + saddlebag set-up as well, where the handlebar bag is smaller than mine, but the saddlebag is larger - the type that can fit laptops and will require a rear rack. I think that both the larger Rivendell and the Ostrich saddlebags will fit this purpose, but any other suggestions for future are welcome.

Of course, turning my otherwise light Rivendell into a "mobile home" has made it nearly as heavy as a typical Roadster - but the bike seems to handle no differently as a result. The longer I own this bicycle, the more I love it - which brings a new shade of meaning to "home is where the heart is".

24 comments:

  1. Do you have some sort of lock on these bags so that you can leave stuff in them while your bike is locked up?

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  2. BTW, your lighting setup looks great now that the rack has the bag on it.

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  3. I really like the bag that you have on the front. It's so...square and not bag like at all. It's more like a box, and I have a thing for attractive and functional boxes. I especially like the pockets that face towards you. Those seem very handy.

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  4. Herzog - Glad you like the light; to use it with a bag was the intention from the start. Re locks... We lock the bikes to bike racks and to each other. We do not lock the bags to the bikes, nor do we lock them shut in any way. It is safe here, and after the first couple of days we decided to trust in the universe. But we do take the cameras with us when we leave the bikes. I would not do this in Boston, of course.

    Amy - Yes, I like the boxiness too! It has 2 small pockets in the back (towards the cyclist), a large pocket in the front, and two large pockets on each side. There are also "D-rings" and a strap included in case you want to remove the bag and carry it with you.

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  5. which handlebar bag did you end up getting?

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  6. I'll typically take the bag with me as easier than unloading the valuables.

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  7. Good thoughts on the car as a home away from home. I've never seen the idea expressed quite this way. My only concern when travelling with bags full of stuff on my bike is securing them while I'm away from the bike. It can be a bit of a hassle to remove the bags. Anyone have thoughts on this?

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  8. Patience - I got the Ostrich bag from VO.

    Steve - It depends on the situation. The way we operate here, it makes sense to leave the bags on the bike.

    Re security - I have seen elaborate cable systems used to secure the bags, and I have also seen locks on them. In Europe no one removes touring equipment from a bike when they leave the bike, so many of these bags were simply not designed to be carried.

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  9. i've always liked the ostrich bag over many of the others on the market, if only for its understated looks.

    i'm curious how the bike handles with the front bag fully loaded. how much weight have you carried in it, and how would you describe the handling with this weight compared to without the bag?

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  10. It's wonderful to read about your "at-home-ness" on the Cape, and on your bike. I hope it is a mobile feeling you will be able to carry back to the city.

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  11. somervillain - to my amazement, while cycling it handles the same as before. I have put what I am guessing is 10-15lbs in the handlebar bag. While the bike is parked it is a little challenging, because the front has to be turned carefully - or else the weight can dis-balance the bike.

    Thanks Anne. In the city, the large single pannier I use on my upright bikes does a nice job of making me feel like I have everything I need. I am never away from home for so long that I need multiple changes of clothing and different kinds of equipment. But for long trips away, the set-up I have now is just the ticket.

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  12. Regarding Ostrich canvas bags, I have treated my pair of their panniers with a tin each of Barbour Thornproof Dressing, with great success. They're nearly due for a touch-up, and I have just enough left. Disregard the directions and keep the wax molten throughout the process via a double-boiler arrangement, stove-top. The leather parts will take on a darker hue but are not otherwise affected. The hair-dryer finishing is not optional, as they suggest - with canvas this thick, it is part of the process.

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  13. V -- for porting a laptop, it depends on the machine, but on occasion I've gotten the following into the main pocket of my Carradice Super C

    Lenovo T400 14" laptop
    pair of jeans
    carefully rolled wrinkle resistant shirt
    U-lock

    and that takes up almost the entire main compartment. I can squeeze in phones, wallet, toolkit, and spare tubes into the side pockets, but the bag won't take much else, and making it sit on a rack properly can sometimes be a trick depending on the bulk of the contents

    As you might imagine, I don't do it too frequently. If I need to commute with my laptop, nowadays, I tend to either go with the messenger bag or panniers. For touring, I'd stick with panniers or contemplate getting a netbook if you can swing it in your budget. I went on a nice little dirt road \ pass hunting tour of Vermont with some friends in 2009 and one of them totted around a tidy little Acer netbook that took up very little space in their luggage and probably didn't weigh much more than a full water bottle.

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  14. oh and on the topic of security ... if I am riding around with my Carradice, I'll normally leave it on the bike in the city as well. If I have valuables, I'll usually keep a small bag inside the Carradice (like a Crumpler Soup and Salad) and put my belongings in there, then take that with me when I lock up the bike.

    Though, I have been dying to implement Charlotte's nifty little quick release clip hack on my Carradice to make it easier to remove and carry around.
    For now, if someone wants to help themselves to a couple of old patched tubes and a bottle of chain lube, then I suppose they can sully their soul that way.

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  15. Mike - Thanks for the suggestion. It would be nice to darken the leather parts, too.

    cris - It would be 2 Macbook Airs. If yours fits into the Super C, I wonder whether it would also fit into the Nelson.

    Though I like panniers for commuting, for long rides with hills and bumpy roads I prefer saddlebags. Plus, if the bicycle falls over to the side, it won't land on the laptop.

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  16. 100 percent with you on this Velouria - I like to take a homely bunch of stuff with me on my rides too. A good book, a snack, tools and a waterproof. You never know when you might want to stop at a bench, have a bite and a read... I solve the leaving the bike unattended issue by using a Carradice SQR with my Camper Longflap bag. It allows the bag to detach in seconds.

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  17. I was thinking about quick-release bags, too. The front bag is easy to detach, the decaleur undoes in seconds, and there is just one bottom strap. The saddlebag is a pain to undo three straps and you can't even do it when it's full.

    So, if I had "infinite" resources and was setting up a touring bike from scratch, I would get the same Carradice bag I have now, except it would be hanging (low) on a quick-release bagman. Under it would be a constructeur rack whose purposes would be (1) to look as if it is supporting the bag (hate the look of it suspended in space), (2) to provide space potential panniers and, not least, (3) to make the rear fender rock solid with two more fender attachment points.

    Since we're talking about infinite resources here, I would also get an Ostrich rear bag which would replace the Carradice/Bagman system when I need to carry laptops or really bulky stuff.

    Next, in my virtual plan would be a front rack similar to what this Sam has, or potentially a constructeur front rack (depending on my brakes, I guess), on which I would have the Ostrich handlebar bag.

    So, in essence, I would have three modes:

    1. light--empty front rack and Carradice on QR bagman.

    2. medium--front Ostrich, rear Carradice same as in #1.

    3. heavy--both front & rear Ostrich bags.

    It's fun to imagine infinite resources. :)

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  18. That's a good point about the easy detachment of the handlebar bag, as well as about having different "modes" of loaded-ness, depending on the nature of the trip. I plan to remove the handlebar bag once back in Boston, unless I go on a ride of > 50 miles.

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  19. Feeling the bike is a little bit of home is even more true if your touring. I love that I know where to find everything. Even my tent is so familiar that I can set it up anywhere and immediately feel at home (so unlike how I feel in a strange motel room). To know you have the option to brew a cuppa in your usual mug, read that novel you're half way through, or grab your favourite jumper always feels very reassuring. (I've even been guilty of packing my favourite frypan).

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  20. Interesting set up. Any advantage over using a rear package rack and side panniers?

    JS

    Http://www.flyingpigeonproject.org

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  21. mmm ... on paper, the Airs should be ok. I put my laptop in from the top down and so would compare the machine's depth against the bag's height. The T400 is about 7 cm taller than the Super C (add 2cm for the protective sleeve) so it pokes out a bit, but the flap of the Super C still keeps it covered and ok. Your Airs look like they should just fit without poking out of the flap, which is nice -- lets you overload the bag slightly with soft goods that can be secured inside the drawstring and flap.

    oh, word on quick release -- I bought my Super C back in 2007 when Carradices were still a little touch and go for availability, and Elton also cut me a decent deal on a Bagman QR saddlebag clamp that was missing its accompanying rack. Like the Co-Habitant, I was just planning on having the Super C sit on the rear rack of the Club Racer, so didn't need a bagman rack anyway.

    The Q/R lasted about two years of nearly constant use before one of the support pins fractured and became unusable. Generally it seems fine so long as you aren't planning on having it hold a lot of weight. If you plan on using a loaded 20+ ltr saddlebag, then you'd be better off with the SQR; or using clips to attach the bag to saddle loops.

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  22. JC - I like for the bicycle to feel balanced: 1 thing int the front and 1 in the back, rather than everything in the back. It's just a personal preference.

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  23. I don't know why but cycling and photography are hobbies that quite often go together...film photography and vintage cycling are my hobbies too...

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  24. Lovely bags. Your earlier article inspired me to think about saddle bags for some of my bikes. I have a raleigh that just does not want to have racks, but sometimes I end up buying more than I can carry at the store and it ends up on the handlebars. Not being able to carry much also limits how much I use the bike too.

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