Setting up the bike for cargo

When sit­ting down to plan out the Ride in Sep­tem­ber, one of the first require­ments to come to mind was car­riage space on the bike — how would I allow enough stor­age for food, water, shel­ter, changes of clothes, etc?

Being a new­com­er to the world of bike tour­ing, I quick­ly found a num­ber of dif­fer­ent options and styles of trav­el, that when com­pared to the gear I already had, left me with three main choic­es to make:

  1. A set­up involv­ing lots of pan­niers and frame bags, or
  2. A sup­port vehi­cle to accom­pa­ny me and car­ry all my gear, or
  3. Attach­ing a car­go trail­er to the rear.

I have already decid­ed on my sleep­ing arrange­ments, and the oth­er con­sid­er­a­tions I need­ed to make were:

  • I will be wear­ing a school dress each day on the bike, and need to con­sid­er com­fort and the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of cycling in a dress.
  • I am hop­ing to take a small fish­ing rod with me to facil­i­tate some free din­ners (and recre­ation!) Although of course not a deal-break­er, it is very dif­fi­cult to com­fort­ably pack any­thing but a tele­scop­ing rod to a bike.
  • Even in spring, rid­ing across open coun­try in Aus­tralia, and par­tic­u­lar­ly around the Vic­­to­ri­an-South Aus­tralian bor­der, requires a good amount of water in case of emer­gency. Water is heavy, and although of course I can and will car­ry plen­ty of on-bike water bot­tles, it would be nice to have a 3–5 litre back­up option for those just-in-cases.
  • I need to dis­trib­ute quite a lot of weight across what­ev­er set­up I go with.

Stowage Option 1: Lots of panniers and frame bags

To be hon­est this was a pret­ty close call, but in the end I decid­ed not to just over­load the bike with frame bags and pan­niers. I must admit it was tempt­ing: being a leather­work­er, I could do it fair­ly cheap; there are heaps of options avail­able; it is the pop­u­lar­ly rec­om­mend­ed mode of bike tour­ing for solo rid­ers; and I already have a pret­ty good Topeak MTX rack and pan­nier setup.

How­ev­er, being +100kgs, I want­ed to reduce the load on the bike, and as said above I’ll be wear­ing a rather tight-fit­t­ing dress, and there­fore I don’t want to be pack­ing out the bike with too many items that I could get caught on, and rub my most­­ly-bare legs against.

Ver­dict: Close call, and nor­mal­ly the way I’d go, but this time is not the best option for me.

Stowage Option 2: Support vehicle

When I first set out to ride to Ade­laide, my love­ly part­ner Danielle con­tem­plat­ed com­ing along with me for sup­port and com­pa­ny. The issue for us came down to the length of time I expect­ed to do the trip, not want­i­ng to slam the kilo­me­tres but actu­al­ly enjoy the ride, and the resul­tant uncer­tain­ty around the sched­ule. As Danielle is a crim­i­nal bar­ris­ter, 9–10 days off work amounts to a rather large finan­cial bur­den, and we even­tu­al­ly made the deci­sion that if we were going to sac­ri­fice many thou­sands in wages, we’d be bet­ter off just donat­ing that much and stay­ing at home.

Anoth­er fac­tor in the deci­sion is my men­tal health, and the resul­tant anx­i­ety from hav­ing to rely too heav­i­ly on a sup­port vehi­cle, and be too reg­i­ment­ed in dai­ly sched­ules and achiev­ing rid­ing check­points that may not be ide­al when I’m out on the bike. Of course, if a sup­port crew even­tu­ates — or even just oth­er rid­ers to accom­pa­ny me — that would be awe­some, but being able to plan for the least out­come ensures the ride will go ahead with­out too many issues.

Ver­dict: Again pos­si­ble, but would involve a lot more organ­i­sa­tion and plan­ning to pull off.

Stowage Option 3: Towing a cargo trailer with everything I needed

A car­go trail­er, attached to the rear axle or seat post, allows the bulk of the load to be towed behind the bike. Con­sid­er­ing also that I weigh +100kgs myself, this puts a lot less stress on the rear axle of my bike.

As detailed above, I will be car­ry­ing a lot of water, and although I will try to buy most of my food each day at each town/stop, I will need a small amount of rations for emer­gen­cies. A trail­er enables me to car­ry a lot more gear.

The oth­er ben­e­fit for my par­tic­u­lar use case was in hav­ing sides to the trail­er that I could eas­i­ly make up sig­nage for, bet­ter adver­tis­ing my cause/explaining to passers­by why the f— that bloke’s wear­ing a dress, and maybe even pick­ing up some dona­tions along the way.

Ver­dict: I went with the trail­er option, as pro­vid­ing the great­est ver­sa­til­i­ty and enabling me to more eas­i­ly plan the ride itself.

Decision: Cargo trailer

With the deci­sion made, I set­tled on a Bur­ley Coho XC trail­er, which I will review in more detail after its first 200 kilo­me­tres of use, and am so far pret­ty hap­py with.

This post first appeared at bikeitinadress.org

I have since retired the bikeitinadress.org web­site as it is no longer need­ed and was cost­ing me mon­ey. I have copied the key arti­cles here.

Category: Bike It In A Dress, Cycling
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