Gearing Up

I’m still in the process of getting everything together to start bike commuting. If I lived closer to work, I don’t think it would have been such an ordeal. But this drive half/bike half has been a challenge.

Thursday I had to run my bike back in to the LBS where I bought it. After I took it in for its first well-bike check a couple weeks ago, the derailleur was slipping on two or three gears. I’d be pedaling, and all of a sudden it would shift itself to a lower gear, then back up, down, up… Annoying, and I was afraid it might do some damage (to what I wasn’t sure, but it didn’t seem like a good thing). I was surprised at how busy they were on a Thursday in the middle of the day (I had taken a couple days off from work), but one of the techs managed to get my bike in quickly, and had it all better in just a few minutes. He also lubed the chain, which surprised me because when I was in for the check up the previous week, the other guy had said it was fine. Puzzlement.

While I was there, I decided to finally get a rack and panniers. The girl I was talking to found a really nice pannier for me. I hadn’t heard of this brand before, it’s from a company called Banjo Brothers. That will link to the particular model I got, although mine looks a little different. The bottom is kind of tapered, not quite flat. The neat thing is it’s waterproof. There’s a removable inner liner for when it’s dry, which is good since they’re fairly heavy as these things go. They only had one in the shop but ordered another one over from their warehouse (or somewhere) for me.

So that’s good, but if you’ve never installed a bike rack before, let me just warn you that these things do not come with directions, and so I found myself with a bag full of parts that I had no idea what to do with. Nothing seemed designed to fit on my bike, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to use it. When the shop called the next day (yesterday) to say my second pannier was in, I had them put me through to one of the techs and told him my tale of woe trying to get this rack on. He thought he could have it installed for me fairly quickly, which I didn’t doubt, so I arranged to take it back in this morning to have the rack installed and pick up the second pannier. Long story longer, I ended up with a unique attachment. Apparently with all the variations in bike styles, there is no one-size-fits-all with racks. It took him probably close to an hour to get this thing on, so I didn’t feel quite so lame for having to bring it in and pay to have it done! In addition to this, he spent some time showing me a few other helpful things about the bike, showed me again how to get the back wheel off and on (that back brake can be tricky) and how to double-check that it’s seated right again. These guys have been great. I guess they figure I’m a dumb girl, so I play along and ask all kinds of questions. Anything you want me to ask them for you? πŸ™‚

Anyway, on Monday I plan to drive to work, and haul in the last few items I need to keep at work that I won’t want to carry on the bike on a daily basis, but Tuesday I plan to actually do the ride. I admit I am more than a little apprehensive about certain sections of road (the overpass to get to I-5 is particularly treacherous during rush hour, people pull some wild stunts to beat the next guy to the on-ramp). We’ll see how it goes. Maybe I should get my last will and testament in order before then…


About D. D. Syrdal

Writer of vampire stories and science fiction. First novel, "Revenants Abroad", available now at Amazon,,, Smashwords. If you like a vampire you can go out drinking with and still respect yourself in the morning, I think you'd like Andrej.
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4 Responses to Gearing Up

  1. Hey DD,

    Sounds like you’re doing well getting ready! Those panniers look cool. Don’t be afraid to look online for some things. You can find some pretty good deals on things like that because they can be expensive otherwise. Here’s the one I got:

    You know what though? I don’t think I’ll even use it. I’ve got some pretty decent hills to conquer on my commute, so shaving any weight is important. So, I just take a couple days worth of clothes to work on a Monday. I also take some lunch stuff and snacks in. I do use one small pannier I already had, but just for little things like my keys, wallet, etc.. as well as for visibility! It has some reflective material on it.

    You may consider some reflective strips like these to put on the panniers.

    One more idea. You joke about getting your will together, have you ever seen the Road I.D.? You can get it for your ankle, wrist, or shoe. I got the ankle strap, and the velcro shoe strip was only like $3 more, and I can put the tag on either one.

    Let us know how your first commute goes!

  2. Digital Dame says:

    Hi McB,

    Thanks for those links. I’ve seen the Nashbar bags (Amazon appears to be out of stock on that one garment bag), very nice but pretty pricey (or as they say here in the Northwet, spendy). I couldn’t find it on Nashbar’s site either, I wonder if they’ve discontinued it? The panniers I got at the LBS were $39.99 each, so I got both panniers and seat rack for just over $100. I know, some panniers are unbelievably expensive. Even if I ultimately decide to schlepp more stuff in once a week than carry it daily, I’m hoping to use the panniers for quick shopping trips around town, even runs to the bookstore. I want that car parked as much as possible!

    Thanks for suggesting the reflective strips, I’ll probably get some. The more visible I am, the happier (and safer) I am. I always ride with my headlight and blinky taillight on as it is. I figure if motorcycles ride with headlights during the day all the more reason for a small figure on a bike to do so.

    I saw a banner ad for those ID bracelets on, I like that idea as well. I have my cellphone with me, with my ICE contacts in it too. When I first added that I kind of half wondered if it was urban mythology, but then saw it referred to on a news site somewhere so apparently emergency personnel really do check for that.

    Thanks for all the suggestions! You can bet I’ll give a full account of my first bike commute! πŸ˜‰


  3. I didn’t see it on Nashbar either. But, I got it for $45 I think, on sale! Maybe it was clearanced.

    I didn’t know about that ICE until I just looked it up. Good idea! Except, road I.D. gives your name, up to three phone numbers, and any allergies (i.e. penecillin). Plus there’s always a chance your phone can get damaged in an accident.

  4. Digital Dame says:

    Wow, sounds like you got a heck of a deal on that Nashbar bag, I’m pretty sure they originally went for a lot more than that.

    I think the road ID bracelets are definitely a good idea, especially for when just out for a ride and probably not carrying a lot of stuff (I frequently forget to bring any kind of ID with me, the less I carry the happier I am). True about the phone possibly getting damaged if you crash, or even just the battery dying.

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