A couple of weeks ago I decided to grit my teeth and invest in some panniers for my bicycle: I suddenly realized that my bike could become a much more useful tool if I could carry things with it in a fashion other than the tricky and dangerous “balance plastic shopping bags on the handlebars” method.
I remember once being in Quebec City when I was about 19 years old and needing to comb my hair. But I didn’t have a comb. And I didn’t know the French word for comb, and I was too embarassed to walk into a pharmacy and ask for “a little thing for which to make my hairs come together.” So I had unkempt hair all the way out to the coast and back.
The same fear had kept me pannier-free all these years: I’d a vague sense that those bags you slung over the back of a bike were called something weird that started with “P,” but darned if I was going to walk into a bike shop and ask for them by name; what if I pronounced it wrong in front of the cool bike guys… oh, the shame!
It was Cynthia Dunsford who helped me over the hump: she got me in line on the prounciation front (thing “pahn-yeh” rather than “pan-ear”), and once said panniers had been acquired (from the actually-not-too-intimidating Smooth Cycle), she came over and helped me affix them to my bike (if you ever find yourself needing to rebuild the transmission on a 1970 Chevy Nova I’m pretty certain that Cynthia has the tools to help you in her kit bag).
So I’ve been riding around a veritable cargo-bike for two weeks now. So far I have managed to squeeze the following into them (although not all at the same time): my 12” iBook laptop, several copies of The New Yorker and a paperback book, a complete take-out meal from The Noodle House, a 5-pound bag of flour and a litre of orange juice, and several library books.
It’s remarkable how much more has become possible since I’ve strapped on a couple of pretentious-sounding bags to the bike; I’ve had the car out once in two weeks, and might make it a couple more completely car free.
Need an extra incentive to (a) work close to where you live and (b) drive you car as little as possible? I’ve filled my car up twice since Christmas. At least on the car side, I’m almost completely isolated from “peak oil.” It’s a great feeling.