Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Anything Goes Commute Challenge: pannier commuting

Yesterday, I took my first trip in on my "new" commuting machine: my old road bike repurposed with a rack and single pannier.  My goal: ride into work with the clunker heavy laptop nestled in the pannier.  As noted, I won't ride into work with the laptop in my backpack as the weight bothers my back.

My pannier-equipped bike takes in the view on the Bay Trail.

My equipment: my first road bike, long neglected since I got my nicer road bike a few years back. To repurpose the bike as a commuter bike, we added a rear rack and a single pannier and I also upgraded the handle bars to a more comfortable set since the original bars never fit well.  The bike has been ready to go with rack and gear for a few months, but I'd been apprehensive about riding it in.  Mostly, I was worried that it would be less fun to ride in on the heavier rig: the old steel framed bike weighs in at about 25 pounds un-loaded, and the rack, pannier and leadbrick laptop add another 10 pounds (estimated). 

 View of San Bruno Mountain on my ride in - exceptionally clear this morning!
How did it go?

I had a surprisingly good time. It was pretty nice to ride in without a backpack!  The bike is indeed heavier, but it has lower gearing so I made it up my steep (18%) initial climb with no problems. The bike handles well in general and the addition of a single pannier didn't impact handling much except when I was out of the saddle when it felt a bit wobbly.  I felt sluggishly slow on the ride, but my ride in took 55 minutes which is within normal range albeit on the slow side of normal.  I did notice the weight while carrying the bike downstairs to exit my home in the morning and when lifting the bike to put it into the company bus on the way home from work.  But the weight was manageable.

My bike admires itself in the mirror in my work locker room. The pannier had plenty of room for my laptop, some work papers, and my clothes.

The lesson I learned: overcoming barriers to alternative commuting can be pretty easy. A corollary lesson: sometimes the biggest barrier is mental, in my case, my concern that it would suck to ride the clunkier bike loaded with a laptop, pannier and rack.  Thanks to Dan for helping to set up the bike and prodding me to do this ride (for months), and thanks also to LadyFleur and the Anything Goes Commute Challenge for the added motivation to actually ride the "new" bike in!

It was easier than I expected to put the heavier bike into the bus storage compartment for the ride home
 The Stats:
Route: surface streets, bike/pedestrian trail
Distance: 10.4 miles for basic route
Elapsed time: 50-58 minutes (depending on light cycles)
Exercise time: 50-58 minutes basic trip
Reading/relaxing time: 0
Bliss factor: 6
Cost per trip: -$1.40 ($0.60 basic bike cost estimate* -$2 company reimbursement for riding my bike to work**)
Enables: Can carry heavy laptop and work papers, panniers get all of the weight off of my fussy back (no backpack), exercise, 1.5 breakfasts, earlier start to my work day, fixed departure time from work on company bus (forces me to leave work rather than working into the night), lower environmental impact, stress prevention/relief
Disadvantages: bike is a bit heavier to carry down stairs and put into bus storage, probably would not want to ride bike when riding with a faster group, dislike commute in heavy morning traffic so must leave before 7:00 am for enjoyable commute, must leave by 6:30am to make 8am meeting once or twice a week, must pack clothing (I leave shoes and sweaters at work).

This post is part of my Anything Goes Commute Challenge series. Click here to read more posts in the series.

1 comment:

djconnel said...

Nice! I agree there's something about unbalanced rear panniers that looks particularly clunky and slow. But liberating your back from a loaded pack, plus providing the flexibility to carry other things, seems like it makes it a very attractive commuter option.