May 20, 2015

What's in Your Panniers?!

I was waiting for the light to cross John Nolan Drive when two MAMILs pulled up next to me on their road bikes. What’s a MAMIL you ask? That would be a Middle-Aged Man In Lycra. I noticed the man closest to me was eyeballing my bike with a bit of intrigue. Since my Dutch bike is somewhat of a novelty around Madison, I’m used to this. I anticipated him to ask about the bike as others often do. However, it was something else that caught his interest in particular. He asked, “What have you got in your panniers?! Not ALL of your possessions I hope!”

This of course made me laugh. The light changed and we were on our respective ways. I pedaled along thinking about the stark differences between myself and the MAMIL, who passed me and sped away. He rode a bike manufactured to be as light as possible. Nothing superfluous was attached to it - no fenders, bags, or racks - not an ounce of extra weight.
Carrying camera equipment by bike
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is my 45 lb steel bike. It has front and rear racks, large panniers, fenders, a chainguard, and skirt guards. The consideration here is every-day practicality, not lightness and speed, although I can keep up with the average cyclist on the paths. The bike is built for haulin’ and can carry 115 lbs on the racks. Even fully loaded, it still handles well and isn’t awkward.
Getting groceries by bike
To answer his question, no, I didn’t have all my possessions in my panniers, only those necessary for a regular weekday, and that happens to be a good bit of stuff! I had my work bag with my laptop, large planner, and writing supplies (which for me means pens in every color imaginable). I also have a gym bag with clothes, shoes, and toiletries. Then there’s my lunchbox, and the small, but essential items, such as my wallet, phone, lip balm, etc.
Some days require enough gear that I use a large gym bag PLUS my panniers!
Perhaps it takes a little more planning and preparation to set out each day on my bike, but it won’t surprise you that I think it’s totally worth it. It also can be more of a hassle to make impromptu stops or an extra challenge to meet someone at a restaurant, when I have so much stuff in tow. This sometimes means leaving my used gym clothes in my panniers along with my lunchbox. I figure if someone steals that stuff, the joke’s on them.