Thursday, September 28, 2006

Where to put my stuff?

Snap! That's the sound of my eyelids popping open. It makes me think of those silly vinyl roller shades people put on the windows. You're supposed to pull down gently and then let the thing roll up. Sometimes they slip out of your hand and go crazy. That's how my eyelids felt. No gentle opening here. I'm suddenly awake with a bang. The alarm's set for 5:05 AM. The red numbers on the clock taunt me with 4:33. Trying to go back to sleep now is futile. Time to just give in and get up.

I don't mind, really. Waiting for me later this morning is a group of twelve riding students and an eager, bright new instructor. I told you about this class a few days ago. They're enthused and lively. Now it's time to go start their adventure.

A steaming mug of "good-morning" coffee sipped while looking out into the darkness lets the fog of sleep clear. The upside to waking up earlier than planned is that nothing's rushed. I'm a firm believer in Karma. The start of a day will dictate what tone the rest of it takes on. To me it's criticial to realize that, as riders, we have the power to control our own minds and moods. It's our choice how we react to things. Serenity and anger are both within our reach at any moment. Choose wisely for the circumstances and we are rewarded. Choose badly and we are punished. I think a lot of motorcycle accidents come from bad response choices.

For a man who's such an independent soul, I'm surprised how much I love small routines. Take the subject of carrying cargo on a bike. Daily commuters are always faced with how to get our "stuff" from home to work and back gracefully. Packing to go teach or for work has become a small ritual for me. There's a certain sense of calm and order that directly correlates to how prepared I feel for the ride to work. It's kind of like a craftsman laying out their tools. Everything's in place. Not all the tools will be called upon but they're there just in case. As I put the physical things in place the mental tools are laid out, too. Over the years I've fine-tuned what works well for me.

A long number of years ago I found this bag. It's perfect for what I do. Take a look:

First off, for what you don't see. The main compartment has a zipper that opens it up like the rear door of a C-130 plane. I just happen to use a lunchbox every day that's really a cooler. It has a large, hard plastic box covered by a liner with a zip up top. On Friday night I dump all the stuff out of it. I swear my lunchbox has become more like a woman's purse over the years. The box is perfect to hold a can of V-8, a Nalgene water bottle, and a couple 20 z. bottles of Gatorade. There's room left over for a couple of those little blue ice things to keep it all cold. The front compartment has small things like a stopwatch, my Rolaids, aspirin, sunscreen, a pair of small magnifying reading glasses, a few mints, a couple of pens, and a dry-erase marker. By the way, the reading glasses are for the combination padlocks on our file cabinets.

At each college we have a designated classroom where we also have a file cabinet with our materials. A couple of the rooms are kind of dark and the numbers have worn off the wheels. I just can't see the darn things, sometimes. On the one hand, I get frustrated by the slow physical deterioration. On the other, I take comfort in the fact that old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill every time!

Back to packing. The side pockets have hook and loop fasteners to hold the flaps down. Notice I didn't write "Velcro", since that's a trade name and not the generic description. Whatever. What counts is that the flaps have never blown open, even when the bag has been hooked to the back of the CBR. In the left side pocket I stash snacks. Usually cookies ( I love Fig Newtons; and I DO mean that brand ) , trail mix, jerky, or granola bars. In the right pocket resides a very important piece of equipment.

The drinking lid always goes into the right pocket. When I brought this thing home the first thing I heard was,
"What! You spent $40.00 on a travel mug?"

Hey, this wasn't a purchase, it was an investment. The thing's lasted for years. Hard rubber and stainless steel are difficult to destroy. The mug has a solid lid that makes it into a leak proof way to carry coffee. As long as I pre-heat the thing by letting hot water sit in it for a while, coffee stays drinkably warm for about three and a half hours. My ritual makes sure I always have the drinking lid with me. Works much better that way. I've been called a "coffee hound" before. Come on, how do you think I stay in the "high energy" mode with students?

So that finishes out the bag that goes on the seat. This bag has bungee hooks. A couple of years ago I built a rack that I thought would be a clever way to add carrying capacity to Sophie. Here's a picture:

Over the years I've managed to learn a thing or two about a thing or two. Knowing which end of a welder is the hot one, I've done some fabrication. The expensive part was getting it powder-coated. Total investment is around a hundred bucks.

Trouble is, I should have made it a little longer. At the time I had this real aversion to anything hanging out there very far in the back. Sort of an aesthetic thing, I guess. That's why I've never installed a hard tail bag back there.

Most bags don't sit securely on the shortened distance. The rack turned out to be a fancy place to secure the rear bungee cord hooks for the big seat bag. The front bungee hooks go around the passenger grab rail I installed. You can see that in the picture of the bag up above.

There's also a slim compartment on the back of the bag. It's just right for sliding some papers into it. A zipper keeps things from flying away. I've usually got a current instructor assignment schedule and contact list in there. Three of us rotate emergency call duty for the weekends.

Next in line is saddlebag loading. The left saddlebag gets my Camelbak, coffee mug, and hat. This portable hydration system is a real life saver to someone beating feet on hot blacktop, let me tell you! I've heard of some riders who use them on the bike. Personally, I don't like feeling like a hunchback with the thing crammed under my jacket. The right saddlebag gets the things I don't want to get wet in the event my Camelbak suffers a leak. I've been lucky so far. My buddy Patrick had the bite piece come off of his. Flooded the whole saddlebag!

Everything's laid out the night before so there's no sense of scrambling at 5 in the morning. It's all a part of the mental preparation for me. I can't stress enough how important it is to create an empowered mental state for riding. The fewer distractions, the better.

The last piece of the cargo puzzle is the tank bag. I bought this one because of the mounting system. Sophie doesn't have a metal tank so magnetic mounts aren't an option. This bag has a strap mounting system that works on this bike. There are buckles on each corner of the bag. That lets me take the bag off while leaving the mounting system in place.

I've seen a lot of bikes with tank bugs stuffed to the gills. Mine doesn't get used much. Once in a while I'll put driving directions or a map in the clear pouch. Sometimes a small portable radio. Today I'm going to use if for something in particular. I'll tell you about that in the next post.

Everyone's got their own system. Two-wheeled commuters are a resourceful bunch. I just wanted to share what has evolved over the years to work for me. You've probably got your own little rituals, as well. Share them if you care to.

With the help of my pre-planning and the calming effect of my packing ritual I'm ready to ride. Mentally I'm relaxed which, interestingly enough, increases the ability to stay alert. My head's into the commute. I'm ready to "lock and load". I'll tell you about the ride and the class in the next post. This one seems to have turned into a novelette!

Miles and smiles


dan_durham said...

I can certainly relate to the 2 wheeled luggage "challenge". The sport Joe Rocket soft saddlebags work good for the hurricane.

Ahh if only that bike inspired more confidence in I went out to load it up and she's leaking gas from somewhere. Just a little, but definetly going to stay parked until fixed. (Right on cue for the 40k service!)I don't want a bike that is going to nickel and dime me, but am not quite ready for a shiny new bike payment...hmm the all too common dilemma we all face at some time or another...


irondad said...

It's bad enough to be "nickel and dimed" but I find it worse to just suffer the irritation of little problems. With more than one bike at least we can switch over until we get the other one fixed, huh?


Krysta in Milwaukee said...

I bought a Platypus this summer, and love it. It even has a red LED strip on the outer flap, to give me more visibility at night. (I'm big into lights and reflective fabric.)

And yes, I drink while riding. I don't feel like a hunchback, but then again it's on the outside of my jacket. Since it has a couple interior pockets like a regular backpack, I can carry small things (PDA, purse, small towel) and not bother with another bag.

Olsa [1995 BMW R100RT] has saddle bags and a trunk, which have been more than adequate even when taking a weekend trip. for longer than that I'd bungee a waterproof bag on the passenger seat.

irondad said...

Thanks for the input. That's one of the things I'd like this blog to do. Namely, give others who commute on a bike "how-to" tips. What kind of jacket do you have? My 'stich feels a little bulky to put the Camelbak on the outside>