i spend a lot of bike time hauling junk.
on mondays (or what passes for them) i carry all the clothing and accoutrements required for a week at work twenty-five miles along the coast - usually a three or four kilo load. on equivalent fridays i drag it all home again. in between times there are parts to ferry from one place of work to another, laundry to shuffle when the washing machine breaks down and ride gear for before/after work rides on other bikes, food shopping to collect and library books/mail to deposit on my way through town, and all the odds and ends like phone, diary, tools, ipod, lock, etc that congregate unseen in dark corners conspiring to add another kilo to the load.
all this schlepping has finally worn out my old, prized, beloved timbuk2. the lining, though not pierced in any place that i can see, is no longer waterproof. the clasp doesn't clasp properly anymore. the whole bag smells like wet dog in the rain. that bag is part of me. my left shoulder and left abs are a different shape to the right, just because i've carried everything off the left shoulder for five years. putting it on is the tightest hug and sometimes when the weather is very cold or very wet i'll carry it anyway even though the items i actually need to take with me would easily fit into my pockets, just to get the snug warmth shining through my back, to know that the little reflective tabs are fluttering out behind me in the darkness and like the eyes on a butterfly making me seem bigger and tougher than i really am.
hauling junk gets me down. it makes hill climbs hard. it rules out any fun stuff like, er, intervals. and sometimes if i don't pack the bag right and there's some unspecified object digging into my ribs all the way to or from wherever it is i'm going no matter how much i snap and jerk the bag about trying to shake it loose, it can mess things up to the point where i want to sling the whole lot into the middle of the a27 and watch it be flattened by the 700 coastway sled.
but the ability to remain self-sufficient, to exist within my own physical limits, is heartening. i don't own a car. i could have done with one tonight grinding my way slowly up the hill out of town against a northerly wind, with a heavy load and tired legs from too much yoga and a bit of a sore throat that may or may not be a cold in waiting. but then i would have been parked in the traffic jam i was carefully picking my way along.
the fact that the human brain can adapt to the size of an object that alters its proportions (in this case, one full timbuk2 topped off with a new ergon bd-2 strapped untidily to the top, its stiff harness sticking out above my left shoulder at transit wing mirror height making me six inches wider) and judge clearances accordingly without any apparent difficulty is amazing. likewise the human body's ability to still carry weight despite years of machine dependance. read some of the iditarod reports. start with jill homer. and carry your own stuff to work.