by Julia Creet
I wrote in my first post that every material aspect of touring by bike seems to have a metaphorical one as well. How you pack your bags might be the most obvious.
Baggage. It’s a loaded word that translates directly to a loaded bike.
The multiple decisions of what to take and leave tell you so much about your need for comfort, the things you think you can’t live without, the fear that you might need something and not have it, or suffer for not having it, or feel foolish for not having it, or feel equally foolish for having pushed it and hauled it and never used it.
The novice bike adventurer, that is me, has to rely on other peoples’ lists, what experience has taught them is necessary—or extraneous. The first decision, and one with the biggest consequences for your route and weight is whether or not to camp.
Cruising from bed to bed is delightful—and much lighter—but a tent and sleeping bag and a little mattress and a tiny stove and pot and an areopress gives you ultimate freedom and coffee in bed in the most delicious places. It’s a paradoxical combination of baggage and freedom. Camping will easily add ten lbs to the bike but will allow you to pull off the road wherever you can. Everything else is a question of comfort and fear.
Like most riders, I performed the ritual of unloading, sending home a package of heavy and accumulated light things—each light thing feels like nothing on its own—after riding for just a few days. Some of my protection and comfort and cleanliness went with those things, but hauling them around just wasn’t worth the weight. You see the obvious psychic metaphor here.
And, a week later, as I contemplate the mountains of Cape Breton, I’ve deemed another bag of stuff not worth the drag. The bike is still very heavy. I haven’t weighed it; I don’t want to know. I’ve climbed a few steep hills now and know that I can crawl up just about anything, but no question, I feel every ounce.
Have I missed anything I’ve let go? Can’t even remember what I packed off, except that most of it I bought last minute and because I was checking off other peoples’ lists. What’s the heaviest thing you cannot do without? Water. Unlike everything else, you need more of it than you think you do.
I think about weight and baggage with almost every pedal stroke. If even the minimum I have now feels too much, what about all the things I have left behind? The one object I keep excising and adding back in—and here my attachments as a recovering English Prof are most obvious—is a book.
Julia Creet is a recovering academic who just wants to ride her bike.