Haulin’ a Load

We’re big fans of cargobikes, trailers and other load-hauling bikes here at Bikecommuters.com…the bigger and badder the load, the more respect we’ve got.

So, it was very nice to check my inbox today and find a photo sent by our friend Ann Rappaport (Rapps)…she snapped this photo of an enterprising youth in Huntington Woods, Michigan towing what appears to be a homemade wooden trailer with his lawncare gear aboard:

trailer

Ann told me it was well above 90 degrees that day, too. MUCH respect!!!

Review: Po Campo Rack Tote

For several weeks I got to test Chicago’s very own Po Campo Rack Tote during the perfect time of the year to be heading out around town on a bike.

My set-up with the Po Campo
po campo rack tote

Versus my usual voluminous pannier set-up
pannier

First order of business was to empty my current “gender-neutral” pannier and repack this rack tote for my daily bike commute. The founders of Po Campo say that their bike products “bring Functional Freedom to women who bike.”

I was skeptical that such a bag could possibly suit my needs and carry all the odds and ends I often find myself toting around, so I packed and unpacked it on a day I met a friend for a picnic lunch to test if this stylish bag could indeed be functional:

To my amazement, this tote held all my needs – spare tubes/tools, mini pump, hat, cosmetic bag, random papers, camera, rain jacket, snacks, wallet, keys and cell phone – plus a Neat Sheet for laying out our picnic lunch. It’s a real “Mary Poppins” bag. If I needed to carry an extra pair of shoes, I’m sure I could fit those in the bag, too, though I may suggest adding a separate shoe/large item compartment that would help keep the grime of shoes off the rest of the bag’s items.

Unlike the awkward handles that can make carrying my pannier unwieldy, this tote’s adjustable shoulder strap tucks neatly away while riding and allows for ease of carrying off the bike.
po campo off the bike

This bag comes with reflective striping on the velcro straps along the front and back – that also serve to stabilize the bag on the bike rack as needed and can be a useful place to attach a rear light. These straps will not work quite as well to stabilize the bag on a rack with a solid platform since there is no place to loop the straps in the center. Perhaps straps that loop around at each corner of the rack (like a typical trunk bag) could offer more stability. I also would prefer additional reflective striping along the side of the bag – maybe added to the adjustable straps that loop around the bottom of the rack – so as to increase side visibility. With the solid gold vinyl tote I tested, however, the fabric provided some of its own reflectiveness. In fact, this rack tote/purse got noticed quite a bit during my rides with it and I received plenty of compliments and questions from both guys and gals.

reflection at night

The fabrics Po Campo uses are water and fade resistant; it seemed the gold vinyl may have been a bit more water resistant – and the couple times I did get caught in a rain shower, no water got into the bag. Even without waterproof zippers, I had the shoulder strap tucked in along the top of the bag and it rested over the top zipper to sufficiently keep the rain out.

On the bike commuting days that I knew I might need more cargo space – like for that grocery trip after work – the rack tote fit nicely on the rack with my pannier. My pannier does not rise above the level of the rack, so it did not interfere with the tote resting on the rack; if you are using it with a pannier that will not allow the bag to site flush on the top of the rack, the bag may tilt to one side.
Sitting flush:
rack tote with pannier

Slight tilt:
rack tote tilt

This bike rack tote comes with ample interior space – not so cavernous that your items will get lost or buried but not limiting. This gold tote came with a flashy purple lining and and a single zippered interior pocket which was good for holding a slim wallet , pen or other small incidentals.
interior lining/pocket

The external pocket is also flush against the bag so as not to catch on your clothes when you carry it off the bike. For me, it held my keys and cell phone which I wanted to keep readily accessible. A few extra conveniently accessible pockets / compartments would have been useful for quickly stowing my bike light and computer when I would park my bike.
exterior pocket

The ladies (Emily and Maria) behind Po Campo continue to update their products and add new styles to their bag and accessories line-up. Having tested this bag, I can say they know their audience and have developed bags that will not disappoint.
emily and maria

I enjoyed bike commuting all around Chicago with this sleek Po Campo rack tote.
po campo in motion

A bit of trivia – do you know where the name Po Campo comes from?

If you guessed the character in Lonesome Dove, you’re right!
Just like the character, this Po Campo dances to the beat of its own drum , developing a bike business geared at female cyclists and keeping its production running locally in Chicago.

Please read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Commuter Profile: Peter Beers

From Northern Virginia, Peter Beers is a bike commuter who rides his bike to Washington DC; here is his bike commuter profile:

How long have you been a bike commuter?

Part time (1-3 days per week): 15 years, Full time (250-300 days per year): 3 years.

Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is your commute?

I’ve been a bike geek since I was old enough to ride. As a kid, it was my freedom. Mom worked a lot to pay the bills. I was left to myself. I went for a lot of bike rides.

These days, living in a city with gridlock issues like the Washington, DC metro area, riding my bike to work is a natural extension of that feeling of freedom. I could sit in a car in bumper-to-bumper traffic, or I could be riding my bicycle.

I change up my commute route during the week. It is a minimum of 30 miles round trip, but I often take the long way home – 45 miles round trip. My weekly mileage for commuting is between 150 and 200 miles.

How does Bike Commuting help you with your lifestyle (economics, health, relationships)?

Riding 200+ miles per week throughout the year has both an up and down side. I’ve lost around 50 pounds over the last 3 years. I’ve had to increase my beer consumption in order to keep any semblance of a belly.
The down-side of riding in the city that much is that there are many more opportunities to get up-close and personal with taxis, buses and cars. I’ve been hit 4 times in the last 18 months. None were too serious, though I did miss 4-5 weeks of riding this winter with a dislocated shoulder. On the good side, I also missed 4-5 weeks of snow shoveling. All of the incidents happened because drivers were not paying attention.

The mental health/attitude improvement benefits of riding to work are beyond measure. I’m happier and more energetic at work. I arrive at the office with my blood flowing and ready to work. I’m productive from the moment my butt hits the office chair. I arrive home having de-stressed from the day and carrying no work-related baggage.


What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?

I’m a computer geek (software lifecycle management) who lives in Northern Virginia and works in downtown Washington, DC. I’m fortunate enough to work in the same building as the US Environmental Protection Agency. They let us non-government wonks use their bike facility and showers.

What kind(s) of bike do you have?

I’ve got a wide variety to choose from. Spring, summer and fall commuting these days is done on a Surly Big Dummy cargo bike. Riding a 75+ pound bike gives a bit of extra workout value to the commute.

Winter commuting is done on either a Surly Steamroller fixie (with fenders) or a mutant fixie cross bike (with studded tires for ice and snow) made from an old 26�-wheeled single speed mountain bike frame that now sports 700c wheels drop bars and a front disc brake. When the weather is really bad, I break out the 29er dinglespeed (2 chainrings, 2 cogs for the drivetrain) based on a Salsa Mamasita MTB frame.

Any funny or interesting commuting story that you may want to share?

Anger management has been a challenge when dealing with cars, taxis and buses. I used to let my emotions get the best of me when someone would cut me off or actively threaten me with their car. The high point (or low point depending on your point of view) of that was when a woman ran a red light and ran me off the road twice in 2 blocks because she was talking on the phone. She never did see or hear me beating on her window. I was so angry that I chased her for 20+ miles through DC rush hour traffic. I wanted to give her a piece of my mind. At the end, I found myself 30 miles from home and pretty dang tired and no less angry. Not good.

Honestly that day was a red flag for me that I needed to change how I approached cycling. I had my own little intervention (Can you intervene with yourself?) and started a quest NOT to avenge any wrongs perpetrated against me on the road. I now do what I can to get rid of the “Us versus Them� attitude between bicycles, runners, cars, buses, taxis, tourists, etc. That is my new quest. Am I 100% successful? Hell no! I definitely try to be a good example of riding at peace with my environment.

This is a great transition into my next topic…

In early April I added a sign to the back of my cargo bike aimed at aggressive drivers. It says, “Honk if you’re horny!� I wasn’t exactly sure how well that would to over with the road ragers in the DC area. After about 3 months, I’d have to say that it is an unmitigated success. It has completely changed the demographic of people who are honking at me. I’ve had only one or two people honk in anger at me since. It has helped my attitude too, because my reaction isn’t to respond in anger… it is to laugh at them professing their amorous intentions so loudly. I get people laughing, waiving and honking playfully every day. Sure beats getting honked at in anger every day. It has changed the dynamic of my riding.

What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?

Mixed. In the winter people just think I’m a mutant that cannot possibly be in his right mind. Few if any can fathom the idea that the decision whether or not to ride is rarely made by me. If it is physically possible to ride, I will. If I can’t get through by bike, I probably can’t get through by car.

Spring and fall people think it is nice and express an interest in getting out there and riding with me.

With the summer heat index up over 100 degrees, I seem to fall back into the category of “crazy bike guy� with co-workers.

I’m the self-appointed person who promotes commuting on bicycle at the office. I’ve inspired a few to start riding a few days per week during nice weather. We have great access to bike facilities. On a good day we’ve got 5 or 6 people who commute on bicycle. In an office that usually has between 40 and 50 people working in it each day, that isn’t too bad.

I have a lot of co-workers that comment on my photographs.

How about bicycling advocacy? Are you active in any local or regional advocacy groups?

My advocacy is kind of all-over the place. I show up to and support Washington Area Bicycle Association (www.waba.org) functions. I contribute to BikeArlington’s forums (http://bikearlingtonforum.com/forum.php) to help facilitate people choosing to incorporate bicycles into their life more often. I rebuild and donate bikes to charity on my own, though I haven’t had time to do that much this year. Up until this year I worked pretty avidly with the Mid Atlantic Off-road Enthusiasts (http://www.more-mtb.org/). They’re the local mountain bike club. I lead beginners rides and conducted skills clinics for many years as well as taking part in trail maintenance and building days. Work has not allowed me to do much of that for the last year.

I guess my bit of advocacy is just leading by example. I get a lot of comments on the cargo bike. My answer to most questions is simple. “This is the bike that lets me do what I want to do without having to drive.�

Though not really bicycle advocacy, I distribute water, clothing, food and what-ever to the homeless people I encounter on my travels. This morning I encountered one of “regulars� who had decided that the middle of the Custis trail (the main bicycle/pedestrian artery into the city) was the best place for him to be sleeping. Nothing I could do would convince him this was not a good thing. I left one of my flashy lights 15 feet in front of him so people would know to avoid him. I left him a bottle of water in case he was thirsty when he woke up. Not sure yet how that turned out. I did what I could.

Is that bicycle advocacy? No. I guess I’m being an advocate on a bicycle though.

Anything else that you want to share with us?

I belong to a small band of people who have a group on Flickr to document their cycling. The group (Bike180 for 2009, 2010Bike180 for this year) was an active photo essay maintained by a group who ride at least 180 days per year and contribute one photo for every day we ride.

The 2009 Bike180 (http://www.flickr.com/groups/bike180/) group had 54 people in it and a total of almost 2100 photos contributed. Many rode more than 180 days, 4 rode more than 200. 2 of us rode more than 300.

The 2010Bike180 (http://www.flickr.com/groups/bike180-2010/) group has fewer people (38) but they’re much more prolific. We’re at mid July and we’ve already surpassed the number of photos/rides of last year.

For me the challenge isn’t to make 180 days per year… it is to take interesting photos every day. Starting in June I decided that I needed a theme. I started documenting one statue, sculpture or monument each day. It has forced me to stop and smell the roses. It has renewed my love affair with Washington, DC.

Thanks for the opportunity to share.

Thank you Peter for sharing your profile and your pictures with us. We are still working on other commuter profiles, so be patient if you haven’t seen yours yet!

Commuter Profile: Miriam Gee

Next up in our recurring commuter profiles category is Miriam Gee — funny, irreverent and very excited to be profiled here on Bikecommuters.com. Plus, the scenery of her commute absolutely trumps the competition…imagine riding your bike in a place where “the air is so dewy sweet you don’t even have to lick the stamps!” Take a look for yourself, and read on:

Name:

Miriam Elizabeth Gee

pro style
(Miriam in her “PRO-STYLE” orange sunglasses)

How long have you been a bike commuter?

More or less since 2005 – or since the birth of the overhauled, hand-me-down from my college roommate’s sister, old Costco bike, known as “the purple GROUNDPOUNDER.�


Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is your commute?

I started riding my bike to work in Seattle when I moved to Capitol Hill and worked just 2 miles away in downtown. After a few months of constant lurching, putrid smells, and unreliable scheduling, I broke up with my commuter nemesis, the King County “Metro� (fancy name for the bus) and chose bike therapy over nausea. Not to say that I don’t love the shame train on extra rainy days or for the express routes, but the time it took to ride the bus, and the amount of Dramamine it took to ride it just wasn’t worth it! Naturally, my Seattleite cycling friends convinced me to invest in shiny new Kona Dew, and I rolled my way down the hill faster than the Metro from that day on! I love my bike like some people love their Mom.

mountain

Now I live in Honolulu. My first commute was about 5 miles round trip. But, in the past year I’ve moved out to the ‘burbs for cheaper rent, amazing views, and a longer, more scenic commute; I’m racking up close to 25 miles per day now. Eff you 24-hour fitness: hello Scott Speedster! Okay and sometimes, I do take TheBus (non-fancy name for the bus) when my legs are shot or if it’s super voggy. But everyday I ride it’s still faster than waiting for the bus! It took a few months, but now I’m able to bike to and from work 5 days a week – no sweat (figuratively speaking).

diamondhead

How does Bike Commuting help you with your lifestyle (economics, health, relationships)?

Bike Commuting has upped my social status fo sho: before I was just lame bus girl who always needed a ride to the north shore. Now I am badass bike girl who rides to Hawaii Kai every day – the envy or dismay of all of my co-workers, clients, friends, and family. More women than men in my office commute by bike and my boss brags about us “tough girls� whenever a client sees a sweaty face rolling into the office in the morning. I’ve also made some of my closest friends in Hawaii through cycling camaraderie. Bikes for Life! If it weren’t for my bike sisters, none of us would have entered the Haleiwa Metric Century Ride as the “Greasy Threesome�.

fisheye

As far as economy, nothing beats $ Free.99! My boyfriend and I have been car-free and bus pass-free for about two years now, which leaves money for a 401K, sweatpants with words on the butt, a gold jet ski for my grandma, and feta cheese.
And as for health, it must be doing something right. Even though I eat whatever I want whenever I want (this isn’t a dieting blog, right?) I just flew home for a wedding where everyone referred to me as “the bridesmaid with the nice legs.� Thank you, Chinese genetics for my calves, but I guess the 2-hour daily commute workout must be helping too.

What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?

I’m an architect, and I’m into the “S-Word�, or sustainability and green building. I’m fortunate to bike commute in Honolulu on the beautiful island of Oahu.

What kind(s) of bike do you have?

1. 2007 Kona Dew – on permanent loan to another friend who wanted to start commuting to work. The Kona Dew was my main commuter/hybrid and first real love, I ditched the yellow Planet Bike Fenders and the rack when we boxed and flew it to Hawaii.

kona

2. 2009 Scott Speedster – my bumblebee colored entry-level road bike. My first roadie and attempt at clippie-shoes. A note to fellow Oahu cyclists: don’t be fooled, I’m not that fast – it’s the racy paint job, and I’m not that rich – I bought the bike buy-one-get-one free! After getting used to the numb-crotch feeling and gearing down for stops on inclines, this Scott road bike is my newfound love. I love this bike like I love my step-Mom.

speedster
(Speedster on right)

Any funny or interesting commuting story that you may want to share?

I’m really bad at spitting while riding as it often ends up on my face. A funnier one though is the first time I was testing out my long commute route in Honolulu. I had borrowed a friend’s junk-a-lunk MTB with shimano SPDs. I rode the busted thing about 15 miles in sandals equipped with only one water bottle, a huge backpack, and a trendy helmet without enough vents. At about 3pm, the Hawaiian Sun beat me down with heat exhaustion, and I ended up in a quivering pile on the side of the road by the beach. A Jehovah’s witness in a painter’s truck picked me up and drove me back home. I ended up instantly puking the vitamin water from my mouth and nose into a paint bucket all the way back. My boyfriend thought I was kidnapped by a crazy rapist, but instead the nice man sent me home with a jar of homemade lilikoi butter and a paper copy of The Watchtower. Awkward yet comical commute of the year.

What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?

Coworkers often say, “You should get pegs so we can go pick up lunch� or “I think you need to take a shower.� I do take a pirate shower in the sink at work in the a.m.

Friends and family often say, “Biking to work is HOT, I want to buy a bike!� in my dreams. In reality, they say the typical, “Do you want to die!?� To which I reply, “It’s actually tons of fun if you’re careful, you should try it!� I think I’ll make a commuting jersey that says: Yes, I am Crazy. No, I don’t want to Die.

road

How about bicycling advocacy? Are you active in any local or regional advocacy groups?

I advocate by waving profusely and smiling at all cyclists, pedestrians, and car drivers at red lights. I participate in Hawaii Pedal Power’s annual Bike to Work month events and practice individual bike commuting evangelism. This means I preach fun, fitness, and $ free.99 by fixing up bikes and doling them out to friends as much as possible!

Anything else that you want to share with us?

Swamp crotch is the worst. You cannot cure it with anything but a shower. Baby powder does not work, nor does fancy anti-bacterial underwear. As a cyclist in humid Hawaii weather, it’s something to embrace. You are not alone, humid-weather riders.

sunset

We’d like to thank Miriam for sending in her profile, and ask the rest of you to do so if you’re interested in sharing your experiences with others. Ride on!