Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Adventures in Portage (I like back racks and I cannot lie.)

The first time I put the Schwinn's carrying capacity to full use, I willfully engaged in folly. Friends were gathering for a casual dinner party a couple of suburbs away. That summer we had bicycled to the house many times and on many evenings. Taking us up a couple of steep hills, across a busy main road and then smoothly along the backstreets of a flat and vehicularly mild suburb of Perth, the route was one I knew well and did not feel particularly challenged by. Until I decided to transport a whole boxed cheesecake, with cream and cherries on top.

I began by neatly wedging the box between the spring-loaded trap on the Jenny's back rack and the springs under the saddle. It seemed very solid but having never trusted the rack before, I decided I should also strap it down. At this stage, I did not own any occy straps so the best I could do was a ridiculous waist belt with a bow for a buckle. The cheesecake box looked twee-ly secure with its accessory but I still had reservations about the cake transportation. I had visions of falling off and splattering baked cheese over the tarmac in a tragic waste of sugar, especially as I was wearing a mini-skirt which required some manoeuvring even to mount the bicycle. And it was dusk. But with lights and balance and low gearing, the Jenny hauled dessert at a surprisingly fast, stable rate. As we neared our destination, I was already chalking up my victory. Unfortunately, I failed to note an enormous pothole hidden in the evening gloom of an overgrown dwarf palm and rolled right into it. I felt the whole back of the bike drop and shudder but did not stop, mentally resigning myself to a decimated cheesecake but comforted by the knowledge that my friends are wholesale pigs like myself and wouldn't let a little deviation of form prevent them from accessing dessert. In the end, only a few of the decorative cherries and blobs of cream had fallen off - the rest was immaculate, leading me to create Rule 1 of Upright Bicycle Dessert Portage: Flat top cakes only.

After this modest success I transported food in a biscuit tin (bad idea, the trap scraped the tin surface), then I discovered a round, 'squashable' esky that I could force between the trap and the seat. My evening food portaging reached dizzy heights:

Dork Face delivers Dinner and drinks for 5.

Being light for a steel bicycle, a heavier load on the Jenny did affect the handling in that I could 'feel' the rear weight (and it made it a bit harder uphill) but in no way was it impossible to ride. In fact I quite enjoyed the armchair-like configuration of something tall on the back rack.

Once I had the Pashley and then fitted it out with a rear basket, I eagerly tested its child-seat approved rack - Not by abducting children but by loading it with assorted consumables and bicycling even further before devouring them. I found that the more weight I applied to the Pashley's rack, the more stable it felt during transit and the less I was conscious of carrying anything. Sadly, the terrible kick-stand did not perform proportionately. Often I had to ask Ginger to hold the Pashley while I loaded the baskets, learning the hard way that trusting the kickstand resulted in a forced realignment of the handlebars.

"I hate you, inferior kickstand."

I don't think I'd trust a toddler's face to the Pashley kickstand but the rack is certainly a worthy component, especially with a large rear basket. I'm curious as to how both bikes would perform with heavy front and rear loads (Fat Bottom not withstanding). As it is, since moving to Tasmania there has been little opportunity for local 'portage'. Although I did carry TWO ENTIRE boxes of gluten free snack chips back from town.

"Thank god I bought Carbon Flavour!"

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