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We’re good

My first biking experience every morning is a short but speedy descent down a hill. It’s a 72-foot drop over 539 feet (with a traffic light at the foot of the hill so I really have to be alert). It’s a fantastic way to wake up in the mornings. However, early on, I knew it wasn’t going to be all fun and games:

If every morning started off with a descent, every evening would end with an ascent. I’d have to climb a 13% grade every day. At first, I couldn’t do it. There’s a certain point where it becomes extremely difficult—when I can see the end in sight but my lungs and legs refuse to work any harder.

Gradually, I was able to conquer the hill. I would huff and puff up this tiny but mighty hill, with my legs turning into jelly when I finally get off my bike. These days, I’m much better but it’s still a struggle. I’m still out of breath and panting at the top of the hill, with a slight wobble to my gait when I dismount my bike.

…But not this guy:

This guy climbed a 38% grade (that’s 3 times as steep as my tiny hill!) and he didn’t even break a sweat. Ah, to be a tiny man on a lightweight steed who rides a bike for a living…

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What’s in the bag?

For someone who cycles just under 6 miles (each way) in one of the world’s most urban cities, I carry a lot of stuff with me on my commute. So what’s in the bag?

Allie's bike on the Staten Island Ferry

  • Tool bag (with wrench, multitool, tire levers, spare tube, etc.)
  • Lunch
  • Sunglasses & case
  • Lip balm
  • Wallet
  • Cellphone
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sunscreen
  • Clif bar
  • Clothes (wrapped in a plastic garbage bag)1
  • Rain gear (pants, jacket, cover for bag)2
  • Tail light

And that’s just the bare minimum. On days when I have off-site meetings, there’s also hair product and shoes in there. (I keep a collection of shoes under my desk–and a hair dryer, straightening iron, styling creme, and hair wax in a drawer–but when I have to travel to meetings, I need to bring some with me.) Last week, I baked cookies that I took with me to a meeting. Today I brought my glass jar of coffee because I ran out yesterday.

I don’t normally carry a lock (because, luckily, I have a bike storage locker at work) but I do have to bring one if my day requires travel. I keep a Kryptonite U-lock in my storage locker at work (for when I have afternoon meetings) and a heavy-duty chain lock at home (for when I have morning meetings). If I didn’t have to carry a lock with me, I’d be a happy camper: it adds considerable weight and bulk to my bag. But, unfortunately, I live and work in a city where bikes are stolen in broad daylight on a regular basis so I just have to suck it up and deal with it.

Given all the stuff I carry with me, I’m extremely grateful for my rear rack and trunk bag combo. They work great together and I get to haul a lot of stuff. The bag has a carrying handle and a shoulder strap so it’s easy to slide the bag off my rack and carry it with me into the elevator and to my desk. I’ve also used it to go grocery shopping. It can do it all! But maybe not for long: I got it 4 years ago and it’s starting show some wear and tear. When it finally breaks down, I’ll be replacing it with the same model. Actually, I’ll probably upgrade to a higher-capacity one. Bigger is better, right?


1 Why the garbage bag? Rain! My bag isn’t waterproof so I need to make sure my clothes don’t get sopping wet on my morning rides. And it’s also easier to then transport the clothes into a bag I keep at my desk that I take with me to the bathroom to change, do my hair, etc.
2 I don’t trust meteorologists anymore so I take my rain gear with me everyday and everywhere.

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Hands in the air like it’s good to be alive

Planning a bike tour is no easy feat. Depending on where one goes and for how long, one would need a lot of gear to get through the trip:

    Bicycle leaning against rail on boardwalk; overlooking ocean

  • Tent with footprint and rainfly
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Pillow
  • Clothes (cycling & street)
  • Stove, pot, bowls, and utensils
  • Food
  • Water bottles & filtration system
  • Camp towel
  • Toiletries
  • First aid kit
  • Bike tools and spare parts
  • Bike cover
  • Bike lock

I’ve been looking at /r/bicycletouring/ for inspiration as well as advice. I’ve also come across a complete bicycle touring gear checklist that’s proving quite handy.

However, since Alex and I are planning a short weekend trip before we embark on a longer (week- or 2-week-long) tour, we will require less gear than this. Essentially, we’ll just need the necessities: tent, sleeping bags, pillows, cycling clothes, street clothes, camp towel, toiletries, bike tools, spare tubes, pump, and bike locks. The problem is that we don’t currently have camping gear (nor have we ever camped!) so we’ll have to make that investment. We were looking at REI and Dick’s but then I remembered about craigslist! We can get a lot of the items we need second-hand without breaking the bank while helping me curb my tendencies to over-consume.

The trouble now is trying to figure out where we should go and for how long. I’ve long considered State Bike Route 9 for such an adventure but I’ve read some less-than-stellar accounts of it. New York is a big state with a lot of bike routes… and that’s if we decide to stay in NY. New Jersey and Pennsylvania are nearby and we’re considering them, too. (I’ve always wanted to bike through the Amish country!) So there’s still quite a bit of planning to do before this trip becomes reality but we’re excited for this adventure!

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