Archival Baggage I

Ever since dragging the Pencil around Washington state on the Cascade 1200, I’ve been obsessing about the encumbering weight of my personal possessions–and the Pencil in particular. During the Cascade’s pre-ride bike check-in, I grew panicky comparing the Pencil to all the sleek ti and carbon bikes equipped with shockingly minimalist luggage, bento boxes and hideous looking trunk racks (so much for the design influence of NAHBS on workaday randonneurs). By comparison, the Pencil was packed up like a pilgrim’s donkey with full hammered honjos, old timey drivetrain, leather saddle, canvas luggage and chubby, 650b x 34c tires. Fellow randos took turns lifting the Pencil and commenting on its dramatic heft. Hours before the ride, I found myself jettisoning practical items like a spare 650b tires, food provisions and clothing layers just to keep the bike in the ballpark of 40 lbs…

Now that I’m through with longer brevets for the season, I’ve started to streamline The Pencil, removing the rear rack and wind sucking mudflaps and swapping out the Berthoud handlebar bag and rear saddlebag for a canvas, under-the-saddle burrito roll. I’ve even swapped out the so called Maxy Fasty tires for the less reliable Grand Bois Cypres tires (resulting in two explosive flats in less than an hour).

Friend Tom has arrived in town for the summer with a new Frost River rucksack. Like the packed Pencil, the rucksack is absurdly overdressed with a crazy array of side cinching straps, sub buckle systems and a special strap designed to let Tom support some of the bag’s weight with his forehead. Tom and I lamented the fact that many of our beloved bags–for me, my main Brady game bag–are so well made, so dura-built, so encumbered under the weight of waxed cotton, brass fittings and top quality leather, that they’re nearly impossible to use/carry for daily use. Tom is looking to purchase a second, scaled down version of the FR rucksack (the child’s mini bookbag) and I find myself lusting after the balsa wood frames in the Tour de France.

I need Winter to hurry back before I swap out the Pencil for a bagless, fenderless Cervelo.

14 thoughts on “Archival Baggage I”

  1. Be careful, you’re verging on heresy 🙂

    Jan Heine has shown that the most significant factor is not weight, but wind resistance (BQ v6n1). He found that a handlebar bag only increased drag by 2.5% at 22mph, and resistance increases as a square of velocity, so at randonneur pace, it’s maybe 1% difference. If you make the assumption that drag is the only thing slowing you down (discounting friction), then we say you’re 1% slower because of the bag. You can more than make this lost time up if the handlebar bag prevents you from needing to make a single one-minute stop per hour riding. So, I think you’re worrying too much about this and not riding how you want to ride.

    Part of the appeal of randonneuring to me is in the self-sufficiency and “historical re-enactment” aspects. I don’t think it would be the same if I had to abandon because on of my 20 carbon fiber spokes broke.

  2. I hear what you’re saying for shorter distances but when these rides start stretching out over days the mind goes bonkers and you start obsessing over how much more sleep you might enjoy if your tires were a wee bit narrower or there were not so many curly q’s in the shoreline of your lugs.

  3. “was packed up like a pilgrim’s donkey”

    …this phrase is testament to your status as a woman of taste and learning. Seriously, I am ripping it off and using it a lot, starting now.

  4. Mr. Kufuramon–

    Meaning to say: I’m expecting thorough documentation of gentlemanly outfits and classic city bikes during your stay in Paris. Anything less than two full flickr sets will not be tolerated!

  5. Thank goodness you’ve returned to the fold.

    I’ve been thinking about the shorter/smaller/slower riders.
    You’re probably right that the tests don’t equally apply to s/s/s riders than they do to Jan, but there’s the same problem as they apply to the other direction too since compared to “typical male cyclist”, Jan is of average height, below average size (e.g., skinny), below average weight, and far above average strength.

    s/s/s riders have the least disadvantage when it comes to forces trying to stop you: they have a smaller area for drag (from both being shorter and usually narrower), lower average body weight than an average male cyclist (who wouldn’t be able to drop the same amount of weight from the bike/cargo, only relevant when accelerating anyway (though one does tend to dwell on it when climbing)), and quadratically decreasing drag due to speed.

    Reducing gear weight would have a proportionately larger effect because of the lower rider+bike weigh, but reducing bag size would have a proportionately less effect because of the lower speed.

    The disadvantages are that riders with shorter legs have less mechanical advantage because of shorter levers. Smaller riders are also likely to have less strength because they usually have smaller muscles, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they have a lower strength to weight ratio than average. Women, on average, have lower strength to weight ratios that men because of higher “floor” fat percentages and less testosterone to build muscle.
    (If I forgot to prefix any of those statements with average or typical, I’ll include a few more here for good measure: average, typical, average, average, typical, typical). I think that a heavy weight training regimen would do more than dropping bits off the bike, since it increases your strength to weight ratio with a higher ceiling than reducing bike weight/aerodynamics. I’ve been doing this the past few months, and it’s been much more effective than an equivalent amount of riding.

    The psychological aspect of believing your bike is slowing you down is more difficult to contend with. I guess the only tactic is photocopy the tire tests from BQ showing narrow tires aren’t necessarily faster and tape them next to your cue sheet for when kilometer 1100 rolls around 🙂

    This is a really long comment.

  6. I’m so relieved your coming back into the fold. Can you imagine yourself at the Brevet start with one of “those” bikes and “that” equipment. I think not. I must say haven’t ridden a 1200K myself but I don’t mind going a little slower on my Riv with Ostrich bag. I know I put style on the road. The loss in speed is a small price to pay for any extra weight.

  7. True. I wore a plastic jersey tonight on my Wed night hill climb and I felt sooooooo silly. I actually felt like a visual punch line–as if I were wearing a high school cheerleading outfit. I’m sure the experience of riding a plastic bike with plastic luggage–though affording me a radical 5 mph gain in my average traveling speed–would generate even more silly self loathing.

    I will say that I do feel more sluggish on the Pencil when riding my 650b x 32c tires–the narrowest, go fast option for my wheelset.

    All I’m asking for is a skinny, sporty 650b tire.

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