Sunday, June 27, 2010

Momma's Got a Brand New Bag . . . and Trailer to Haul it With

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Bicycle Transportation Alliance's annual "Alice B. Toeclips" awards dinner and auction. I have a reputation for being a sucker for charity auctions, especially when the bidding at said auctions is facilitated by a hosted bar as was this one.

The auction booklet contained a number of interesting items, but one in particular caught my eye. The "Ultimate Bike Commuter" package offered a 3-Speed "city" bike from Linus, a backpack pannier from North St. Bags, and, most enticing of all, Burley's new Travoy bike trailer.

For the last few years, I have been working on decreasing my dependence on my car for anything but really long trips or really big hauling projects. I know that it is unlikely that I will ever go car free, but I want to get as close to that ideal as possible. As it is, I usually ride my bike twice as many miles in a year as I drive my car, but I would like to see that ratio increase (or is it decrease? I can never keep my math terms straight. But you know what I mean).

Anyway, I'd looked at bakfiets and other cargo bikes, and I'd looked at Xtracycles, but none of them really suited my needs, and they were awfully damn expensive. Then I read a review of the Travoy, and it sure seemed like it would fill the bill. Thus, my excitement when I saw it in the Alice auction catalog.

I arrived at the auction with my American Express card in my hand and a number I was willing to go to in my head (and I was NOT going to go above the number, I swear). I really thought the bidding would be hot and heavy for the package, but was surprised when it came down to a battle between me and one other person, who gave up fairly easily (at one point I got confused and bid against myself, but the auctioneer kindly told me I did not have to do that). In short order, I was the proud owner of the Travoy. And yeah, yet another bike. More about the bike later.

A few days after the auction, I got to put the Travoy to its first test. I had an oral argument scheduled in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in downtown Portland, and the file for the case was HUGE. I never would have been able to fit it all in the panniers I usually use for my work commute. But they plopped down into the big black bag that comes standard on the Travoy, no problem. I then threw in my bike locks, my lunch, and my "court" clothes and shoes, and I was ready to go. I had not had a practice run and was hoping that the Travoy would be as agile and stable as advertised. The last thing I needed was to show up in court with road rash. To my amazement, I could not even tell that there was something attached to the back of the bike. I had thought that turns and hills would be a challenge, but Noooooooooooo - there was nothing but sheer awesomeness.

At the office, I simply unhooked the Travoy, folded down the attaching arm and rolled right into the building. I then unpacked and changed and headed for court. A more-than-successful "test" run!

Next up - Grocery Shopping! In the past, I have relied on my two panniers and a big rear basket for my Trader Joe's runs, but that setup was never very satisfactory. For one, the panniers really did not hold much, and when they and the basket were fully loaded, the bike was pretty unstable; I had to ride very, very slowly to make sure that I did not fall over. Another problem had to to with my own absent mindedness. The basket sides extend a couple of inches beyond the rear rack on either side and, more than once, when I dismounted from the bike I would swing my leg up and into the basket, tumbling it and its contents to the ground.

I prepared for my shopping trip by heading over to Bike 'N Hike to pick up a set of the "Market Bags" that Burley offers as accessories. The lower bag is about the size of two standard paper grocery bags sitting side by side, and the upper bag is about the size of a small messenger bag (or really big fanny pack). The lower bag is one large compartment, but the upper bag has a padded pouch for a cell phone or something (I guess), a zipper pouch for things that need to be contained by a zipper, and a rear pouch with a Velcro closure for other small stuff that maybe is not as important as the stuff that needs to be zipped in.

Bags installed, it was time to head for the market.

TJ's is uphill from my house, so I figure this would be a really good test of (1) the drag effect of towing a trailer uphill (even though it would be empty, it's still extra weight and size) and (2) the potential daredevil effect of going downhill with a trailer full of groceries. The uphill part turned out to be just fine. I was using the 3-speed, and was able to get up the hill without dropping into granny.

Once again, upon arrival at my destination, I simply unhitched and rolled the Travoy into the market, where it doubled as my shopping cart. I proceeded to go up and down the aisles using hurling products into the bags with abandon.

A watermelon? Sure. ooh, look at that cantaloupe; in it goes. Cereal? Check. Ginormous GLASS bottle of olive oil? Check. Canned beans and marinara sauce? Check. Cereal? Check. Cauliflower, avocados, cherries, bananas, a couple bags of edamame, peanut butter, cherry tomatoes, pasta, dog biscuits? Check, check and check.

At the counter, the cashier was duly impressed, especially after I demonstrated all the features and benefits (my former life as a retail seller of furniture and kitchen gadgets coming to the fore). Groceries purchased and re-loaded, it was time to make the return trip home. I rolled on out to the parking lot, rehitched the Travoy to the incredibly convenient seat-post pin, and headed off down the hill.

As previously noted, when shopping with panniers and basket, I always had to take this part of the trip very, very slowly for fear of crashing. Not so with the Travoy. I zipped down the hill with nary a problem. The all-terrain wheels took every pavement deficiency with aplomb. I arrived home intact, as did the groceries (I hadn't even bruised a banana!)

I have since used the Travoy to haul many more court files and groceries and could not be happier. Well, actually, I could be happier. I need the rain shield, because without it things can get awfully wet (so far I have just not gone out in the rain with it), and I could really use a spare seat tube hitch, so I don't have to move the hitch back and forth between bikes (for those hills that are just too steep for the 3-speed).

Ah, yes, the 3-speed.

There was much laughter at our auction table as we tried to figure out a way that I could rationalize coming home with yet another bicycle. And yes, I know that there are many people with more bikes in their garage than I have owned in my entire life who see no need to rationalize their collections, but I have a slightly more sensible husband who does not fall for the "different horses for different courses" excuse. The bike that came with the package was a basic road design, but the BTA representative told me that the bike shop had said that I could get any style of the Linus bike I wanted, including the mixte. Aaaah, a mixte. I did not have a mixte in my collection, and I sensed an opening. GREG could ride the mixte if he wanted, so it would be a bike for both of us, right? (I chose to ignore the fact that Greg has YET to ride the bicycle that I bought for him last year . . .). So, yes, I have yet another bike. One that Greg will probably never ride. But he COULD if he wanted to. And surprisingly enough, he seems to be okay with it.

And, yes, I've got a brand new bag. Sing it!, James . . .


Vance Ricks said...

Now you need to see how well it performs on a permanent or a brevet!

bikelovejones said...

"...Greg has YET to ride the bicycle that I bought for him last year..."



Well, my offer still stands if you decide you need space. Lemme know. Meanwhile, welcome to Trailer-land.

Cecil Anne said...

Beth - sadly, yes. I am not sure if it is lack of interest or lack of time, though. The abysmal weather has not helped - we'll see what happens in the next month or so . . .