Beast of burden

Before I go off to Texas and back with my new backpack approach to bike touring, I thought it would be a good idea to do a mini-tour and see if perhaps this wasn’t, you know, a completely insane idea.

So tomorrow I’m heading up to El Capitan State Beach in Santa Barbara. My biggest concern is whether or not the 40-lb. backpack will make the ride unendurable, or if, as with my shorter jaunts, it really is a superior alternative to the conventional wisdom of putting all your crap on the bike.

My second concern is how well my parts will endure a fully loaded pack for 135 miles in regular pants rather than in padded cycling shorts. A buddy texted me to advise that the backpack approach alone caused him such grief on the way to Santa Barbara once that he pulled over in Carpenteria, bought a rack, and zip tied all his stuff to the rack. Others have questioned the sanity of even considering a long bike ride without bike shorts.

Of course the whole fun of doing new things is finding out for yourself what is conventional because it works and what is conventional simply because that’s the way it’s always been done. And there is the added twist that even when convention is right for 99% of the people out there, it still may not be right for YOU. How are you going to know if you don’t try?

Looks like the weather will be good and the wind won’t kick up until later in the day.

Here’s a photo of all my touring junk for the trip, followed by before-after photos of what happens to you when you start living on your bike.

Before
After

END

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15 thoughts on “Beast of burden”

  1. Is it an either / or? I started my bikepacking adventures just using a back-pack, it was heavy but I can be oxen like in character and form, so it worked just fine.

    I then, influenced no doubt by glossy pictures of beautiful people on bikes, bought all the bad-ass looking modern bike-packing bags (handle bar roll, frame bag, seat bag) and tried that. It worked great but left me curious: Why it was so important that nothing be on my body?

    I also found that my cool as all get out bags while light and lovely really didn’t really hold all that much beyond the barest of necessities . So on my last two trips I’ve done a backpack and used the sexy AF bikepacking bags.

    At the end of the day, I think I prefer a mix of both – some stuff on the bike, other stuff on me. I can change the weight allocation depending on hills / wind / distance / legs. Now most of my trips are one to two nights, and I have gone significantly lighter than you did on your grand coastal tours, so maybe this is just written flatulence from a dilettante.

    I guess I’m saying – I wanna know what you find. The tours you’re starting to do, are likely whole or in part, taking shape in my crystal ball – I appreciate that you “turn the Rubik’s cube” of problems in your mind, look at things from all sides, that you question the unquestionable assumptions and then do what in the hell you think best. Never change that.

    BTW – I’m 53 now, started road riding for the first time at age 49 – I rode BMX and then mountain bikes as a kid, but there was at least a 25 year layoff of really zero cycling. I fell in love with riding and found I like to race, though I am terrible at it. I like to race because I learn so much in races, I also like to race because it feels like play to me and I love to play. I also still play (at least when the covids will let us) in an adult baseball league – I am a better baseball player than I’ll ever be a bike rider, but I don’t play baseball angry either – I play baseball with an exuberance of joy. So sign me a not very fast, and not very angry, wanna-be racer who does it because I think it is fun, it is hard, and because I am learning how to be a better bike rider and maybe even learning about myself through the effort and struggles of racing a bike.

    That said, I am glad you’ve moved on – your story rings so true to me. You’re already gone.

    One final thought – not sure where to stick it. Maybe I am not a racer and that is why I enjoy it. I like to race my bike because its fun, but no part of my identity or self worth is tied to my bike racing outcomes. Sure I’d like to do better, but I always want to do everything as well as I reasonably can. I dunno man, I can see some people being threatened by your journey because it calls into question so many things they hold dear that they really don’t want question, but then if that’s the case the problem isn’t racing is it?

    Travel safe – I gotta get back to work

  2. That’s like taking a mule along on your journey, and carrying all your supplies on you back.

    1. Whoa! I don’t know what’s going on with that comment! I posted a DIFFERENT comment, and this one showed up! This wasn’t supposed to be posted… I shall try again! Please ignore. (Oh, and this one is “anonymous” with my picture. Nice!

    2. No, DarellDD, I think you nailed it. Let’s see what happens to our intrepid South Bay tourer!

  3. It makes me wonder… why not also trying carrying the bike the whole way instead of making it carry you in the conventional way?

  4. Third post attempt:

    I’m not sure I understand why you are going to have the bike carry YOU and the pack. Why don’t you try carrying the bike as well as the rest of the equipment?

  5. I wrote you War and Peace in another comment, but I think I used a different email address than I used in the past, and thus probably caught in your naughty new commenter filter

  6. Remember ‘The Graduate’?

    Instead of ‘plastics’ ….. I am whispering …..

    “Streamlined Trailer”

    Faster than a speeding bullet

    Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound

    It’s a bird!

    It’s a plane!

    No!

    It’s ‘Super Trailer’!

  7. Almost all the alliums. Come to think of it, that garlic might come in handy during your chamoisless experiment, considering its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties…

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