Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Veni Vidi Visa*

* With apologies to Latin speakers everywhere, "I came, I saw, I shopped."

On Saturday, I needed to get a little bit of shopping and pop some books back to the library.  To be honest, even as a regular cycle commuter, I would normally have hopped in the car but this week, fancied a change for the better.  Recent inspiration from a few blogs I've found via Twitter had a hand in the decision I’m sure, in fact I really ought to do a roll of honour at some point!

Anyway, with the decision to cycle made, I emptied out my rucksack (except for puncture repair items and a lock) and headed out on the Dahon.
Firstly, it was lovely to be out pedalling in the daylight for a change!  Most of my riding these days tends to be done in the dark or, at best dawn or dusk so broad daylight was a welcome break from the norm.  Saturday was one of those bright and clear, but cold winter days which I find so nice for cycling as it takes that much longer to heat up and get sweaty. 
Over all I probably covered about 7 miles on the round trip to the small town near where I live (dropping in the library book en route) and then out to Morrisons and back.  I could have used the smaller supermarket in town but (a) it’s more expensive and (b) I wanted to ride a bit further than that! 
And so, a short and pleasant ride later, I parked up outside Morrisons and got on with the shopping.  Like any large supermarket, it was exceptionally busy on a Saturday afternoon.  I however did not have to join the queue of cars crawling around looking for an empty parking space, I cycled straight up the shop and locked my bike to the rack without hindrance.  Another win for cycling over driving.  Smug? Moi?
After filling a basket with what I had come to buy, I paid at the checkout and loaded the groceries straight into my rucksack.  It’s a Lowe Alpine bag I have had for quite a few years and have used for all sorts from overnight trips, skiing, days out walking and more recently cycle commuting to and from work.  It is a very reliable bit of kit - not a specialist cycling rucksack but it holds stuff comfortably on my back so I can't ask for more than that really.  In total it has a 35l capacity but compression straps at each side allow it to be, well err, compressed I suppose if I don’t need the full volume.  It is water resistant enough to keep out a shower and usually anything important (clothes, phone, laptop etc.) get packed in plastic bags anyway.  With the compression straps loosened, it swallowed the shopping with ease. 
Hefting the bag up onto my shoulders, I knew that it was much heavier than it usually is fully-laden (which is about 7kg) but given the nature of some of my items (a large bottle of Pepsi and four cans of beer among other things) that was not entirely surprising.  Sometimes, you just have to grin and bear it for the greater good.  Furthermore, although heavy, it was not intolerably so and I cycled home without problem or incident.  Total fuel cost – nil.
As an afterthought, I had a bit of a weigh-in when I got back to the house and found that the full rucksack weighed 11.5kg.  As I said there were some bulky items but also enough food for Saturday dinner, drinks and popcorn for Saturday night plus Sunday breakfast and lunch.  Knowing the scale of the weight I had just lugged made me feel like I had earned those beers all the more.  “Hobgoblin” from Wychwood Brewery, if anyone’s interested.  Delicious.
And like any good cycling blogger, I was penning this piece in my head on the way back from the supermarket and so had the uncharacteristic presence of mind to take a few pictures:

My rucksack fully laden on the kitchen floor.  The orange hi-viz thing is a small viz vest folded
and held in place by the elastic straps on the back of the bag.  It's there to make me a bit more
visible when the rucksack is obscuring whatever bright clothing I have on.

And the goods laid out on the work surface.  The beer went down a treat and I could just
do with another right now.  Sadly, they all got drunk on the weekend.

We often have to pop out for a few bits from the shops – often fewer items than I had been to get on Saturday.  It just goes to show that cycling is definitely a sensible and practical alternative to a short hop in the car.  With so many journeys under five miles (according to the oft-touted statistics) I think that more people should cycle for small shopping trips.  Yes, my rucksack was pretty heavy but had I used panniers the load on my shoulders would have been much less.  Or had I used both panniers and the rucksack, I could have carried much more shopping.  All on a folding bike.  I’ll be doing it much more.  Maybe I’ll get really committed and buy one of those extra-long shopping bikes like this one or even a Dutch-style “Bakfiets” cargo bike with a huge front bucket.  A guy I follow on Twitter has even built his own - the details are here.  A fine bit of engineering indeed and a very useful bike.  I could probably haul a whole week’s shopping in one of those!
It’s really easy to talk ourselves off the bike and back into the car, especially with things like short shopping trips, where driving has been our default for so long.  However, as with many things in cycling (rain, wind, hills etc.) the reality is always much easier than we imagine it will be.
For me, another small part of my life just became car-free.  A happy feeling indeed. 


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