AXC - The bike

AXC - The bike

Monday, April 14, 2014

Loaded for bear


Carrying a lot of baggage
It was a beautiful weekend in the Philadelphia area, and I hope you all got a chance to go outside and enjoy the sunshine and warmth.

I took the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine by riding my bike with 30 lbs of gear strapped to it!
This was the first time I’ve ridden the bike “fully loaded.” Meaning that I put on the front and rear saddle bags, and strapped gear to the back luggage rack.
There were a couple things I wanted to check by doing this; first and most important was to see if all my crap was actually going to fit in my bags and on the bike!! And to that end, I was a little surprised to find that everything fit pretty easily, with a little bit of space to spare. Now, granted, I didn’t load everything in the bags yet… in fact I still don’t actually have every last bit of gear yet. I’m still finalizing that. Also, the front luggage rack isn’t stabilized and ready to be loaded yet. All said, I was probably 10 – 12 lbs shy of my final travel weight. (about 25% light)  This was fine, because the second objective was to finally ride the bike loaded down and see how it felt and how it rode! And it was ok if the first trip was a little light.

 I have christened her 'The Beast', as my beast of burden.
If you think about riding a bicycle, and how it feels and maneuvers, then think about loading it down with about 30 pounds of extra stuff hanging off the front and back of the bike - pretty much any logical person is going to expect the bike to be awkward and unwieldy, right?

Well, much to my surprise, there was almost no noticeable difference in how the bike handled! Sure, I think if I was slaloming through cones at 25 mph I’d probably notice a difference, but in regular casual riding it felt perfectly, surprisingly, fine!
The few differences I noticed was that (obviously) it was a little slower to stop, and of course it was took longer to get up to speed. And even then, my overall top speed was slightly (but noticeably) slower.

The ride on Saturday was just a trial run. I didn’t go far, just 17 miles on the flat Schuylkill River Trail (SRT) – From Norristown to Oaks and back. It was early, but there were still a lot of people on the trail, enjoying one of the first truly great spring days. Overall the ride was uneventful, and I intentionally took it easy.

The ride on Sunday, I opted to go a little further to push myself more physically and see how I felt. I had time to do about 23 miles.  This ride was later in the afternoon, and there were more people on the trail.

Front view, stop staring at her large bags.
An interesting thing happened on the Sunday ride; people kept coming up beside me and asking me “where are you going?” So it seemed that the loaded bike was an invitation to chat, or just made people naturally curious. Certainly, a bike loaded for bear on the SRT is not very common, so I can see how it would stand out. But I wasn’t expecting it to be a conversation starter. People getting in their workouts on the trail tend to be isolationists, its rare that they even return a smile or a ‘hello’, which is why I was surprised when a couple rode up beside me and started chatting me up! Not that it was unwelcome, if you’ve talked to me at all in the last 3 months you know I won’t shut up about this trip, so I was happy to chat for a bit with strangers as we pedaled in the sunshine. And, by the 4th person who asked me “where are you going!?” I wasn’t surprised at all. People were excited and interested in the idea of a cross country ride, and most of them expressed a dream to try it themselves some day, dropping the ever common phrase 'bucket list item.'

Later on during the ride I was feeling pretty strong, so when a rider passed me at a pretty nice pace, I sped up and fell in behind her in a draft. (Rider courtesy; I let her know I was behind her and drafting, she looked back to see who I was, and then said she was impressed I could keep up!) I held the draft for about 3 miles, at about 20 mph. Hell, *I* was impressed I could hold that pace! But alas, only for a short time. I thanked the woman for the pull, and dropped down to a more reasonable pace. Still, it felt great to really open up and ride at speed, I was impressed I could do that and that the bike felt both comfortable and stable.
Rear view. Don't tell her she has a big ass, she's sensitive about that.

In all, it was a fantastic weekend for riding, and I was happy to load up on the sunshine. 


  1. Great post and great pics. Your bike has nice bags. ;-)

    1. Thanks!
      It's got a nice rack too (two of them, actually.)