Sunday, June 17, 2012

My Newest Commuter Upgrades

Working at my children's school comes with blessings too numerous to count. One of the less convenient aspects of the relationship though involves commuting by bicycle. Since we live 15 miles from school, the shared bike commute is pretty much out of the question. Sure, my son has humored me once or twice, but this is not a sustainable solution. As a result, riding into work often involves me arranging to pawn the kids off either on one of my colleagues or my wife. The loose ends generally come in the morning, since they have reliable bus transport in the afternoon if necessary.

When morning rides for the kids are arranged successfully, everything generally works out, but other issues arise, such as how to transport my laptop bag to and (more importantly) from school in the evening. On at least one occasion, my kids have actually forgotten my laptop bag by the kitchen door which is NOT GOOD. It's also generally a hassle to arrange to have someone drop my bag off at my house in the evening. So, needless to say, a more sustainable solution was needed. Enter: Ortieb.

After doing a little research I found that the Ortlieb "Office" pannier would perfectly suit my needs. This large, spacious bag comes highly rated and includes flexible internal paneling to help organize a laptop, papers and assorted smaller objects like chargers, phones, keys and pens. It's completely waterproof which gives me great peace of mind as far as my laptop is concerned. I also bought a sleek laptop sleeve to ensure that my precious cargo would have a little extra padding for the ride. This particular model from Timbuk2 even has interesting vent holes to aid in laptop cooling after a hard day of work.

Since panniers don't hang by themselves, I also needed to install a rear rack on my old Bianchi to round out the picture. I chose a Topeak Explorer rack since it looked pretty darned solid, was not too heavy and was priced considerably lower than the high-end touring racks I might have used if money was not an object. Finally, I added a Busch & Muller Toplight to the rear rack for early mornings and late afternoons in the fall and winter.

The attachment hardware is ingenious. Here's a video from Ortieb showing how it works.

With just two days under my belt, I already love the arrangement. The bag is spacious enough to fit my work materials, a few personal items and a change of clothes. I even packed and successfully transported a bottle of red wine to an evening potluck on Friday! The best part, though, is my total self-sufficiency as a commuter. Now that summer has arrived and my kids no longer need to travel to and from school with me each day, I can really see what it's like to live the bicycle commuter lifestyle.

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