10.17.2005 | 3:16 pm

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been having to quit work by 5:30 if I want to bike home if I want to avoid riding home in the dark. And before that, I’d been skipping a couple of bike commutes because of the rain.

Well, the rain isn’t going to stop — this is Seattle — and it’s only going to get darker. And this year, I want to bike through the whole winter.

So over the weekend, I finished “winterizing” my bike.


Fender Heaven

I had fenders on my road bike last year — briefly. They were always rubbing on the wheels and making rattling noises. Then at a start once, my toe caught the bottom of the front fender and tore it loose, after which I just got rid of the fenders and abandoned Winter riding for the year. Yeah, that was the year I got up to 192 lbs.

This year, I did things a little smarter. I took my road bike in to Sammamish Valley Cycle, where Kent Peterson said they specialize in fitting fenders to road bikes. $30 for the fenders, $20 for the labor.

It was the deal of the century.

I’m honestly not even sure what brand these fenders used to be, and it almost doesn’t matter. By the time these guys finished cutting, fitting, zip-tie-ing, and ad-hoc-bracketing these fenders, they were a Sammamish Valley Cycle Special. They don’t rub, they don’t rattle more than is reasonable, and they fit my bike and give me great coverage.

With these on, riding in the rain has beeen nowhere near as miserable. I don’t love it — I doubt I’ll ever seek out a ride just because it’s raining — but it’s no longer a reason to abandon the ride.


I Will Not Call This Subheading “Let There Be Light,” Because Everyone Who Has Ever Written About Bike Lights Has Used the Subheading “Let There Be Light.”

One of the things I like about living in the NW is how much daylight you get in the summer. I mean, you get great heaping globs of daylight. It gets light at 5 and doesn’t get dark ‘til 10.

On the flip side, though, is fall and winter. Already, it doesn’t get light ‘til around 8, and it’s close to dark by 6. And it’s going to get much, much darker. If I didn’t have a good light setup, I could just forget about biking to work.

Luckily, years of mountain biking at night has left me with all the lights I could need. I’m using a NiteRider setup I’ve had for years. It only holds about a 90 minute charge, but that’s enough for commuting, and with dual halogen beams, it’s super bright. I’ve zip-tied the bottle cage-mounted battery in so it won’t rattle out, then uses more zip ties to route the cable along the bottom side of the top tube. Then, by setting the switch and status indicator up on the stem, I’ve left most of the handlebars free.


Interlude: An Ode to Zip Ties

Between the fenders and the light setup, I estimate I have 16 or more zip ties on my bike now. Apart from duct tape, has there ever been a more useful thing in the world? I love their elegant simplicity. I love how cheap they are. I love that you don’t need any tools at all to use them. I love the sound they make as they go on. I love how snugly they hold stuff together. I love how you can chain them together to make as big a fastener as you like. I love that when you want to remove them, you just snip them with scissors or cut them with a knife.

Let’s hear it from zip ties. Yay.


Carrying More Stuff

In the summer, it’s easy to fit everything I need for my commute into a small messenger bag: shorts, t-shirt, towel, computer and that’s about it. When biking to work in the Fall and Winter, I find it’s almost impossible to fit everything into my old Timbuktu messenger bag.

What you’re looking at here is:

  • long pants
  • t-shirt
  • sweater
  • socks
  • towel
  • tights for trip home
  • long-sleeved jersey for trip home
  • computer in carrying case

All this doesn’t even come close to fitting in my messenger bag. And with all the rain and crud, I wouldn’t dare put the computer in, anyway.

Luckily for me, a little startup company — Banjo Brothers — has sent me a prototype of their big messenger bag to test. The thing’s got a 2000 inch capacity, so it holds all of this stuff, easily (and it came with a computer sleeve, which is nice), and so far seems totally weather-proof.

I’ve only had this a couple days, but it seems like it may be just the thing for making it possible to bike commute right through the winter. Expect to hear more on this bag as I get used to it.


Weight Penalty

Of course, a big bag with all that gear isn’t light. I’m carrying about 14 pounds on my back, including up Inglewood Hill (slooooowwly) at the end of each day. Plus, between the fenders and the lights, my road bike now weighs about the same as a mid-priced mountain bike: 23.2 lbs. I’m not sure why, but you can really feel that five pounds on a road bike — a lot more than you can feel it on yourself. The bike is hard to get up to speed and just doesn’t feel as limber.

I guess, though, that riding in the fall and winter isn’t about speed, it’s just about staying on your bike. I figure if I can do that, I’ll have a better chance of keeping the weight off.


Today’s weight: 163.2



  1. Comment by Unknown | 10.17.2005 | 3:51 pm

    Dude, nice bike. What brand? JedClampettMobiles, Inc.?I shouldn’t mock. I’m trying to work out a halfway safe commuter route from Northeast of D.C. into the downtown area, and looking for lights & a pack to bungee on to my back deck, which attaches to my seat post. My mountain bike looks to be a better candidate for this “upgrade” tho, given its rugged Mavics and fat tires, and the mostly urban route possibilities – when (not if) I have to flee an oncoming car, I don’t want the bunny hop into the ditch to taco my wheels. I’m keeping a few suits in the locker room/gym at work, and hoping to use a nearby dry cleaner, driving in maybe once or twice a week to swap out clothes. This should cut down/eliminate the need to ride with a big bag full of clothes. Ever considered maybe “blending” your commute – storing clothes at work, driving in and doing a clothes swap once a week? Might be easier on the back…

  2. Comment by Jeff | 10.17.2005 | 4:14 pm

    A nice leisure suit or some coveralls — perhaps with "Fatty" embroidered over the left breast pocket — might cut down on your need to pack. Plus, as Al suggests, you might just bring a week’s worth of clothes in and take them home once a week. I’m really fond of the coveralls idea for you. It would be both practical and distinctive.

  3. Comment by Unknown | 10.17.2005 | 4:45 pm

    Fatty–I had the same (too much crap to carry to work in a pack) problem. My solution to de-crappify my ride is much like what Jeff said in an earlier comment. I drive to work on Monday morning with the week’s clothes in the car. I leave the car at work for the week, as I need a car at work. Then I ride the steely steed (actually it’s aluminum) to and from work until Friday when I drive the car home for the weekend. Then I repeat. It cuts out two rides a week, but hey, it’s nice to drive home on Fridays, and it really helps me feel like a rider and not a beast of burden. With the lesser weight, I am more likely to take the longer routes home, too. Plus, my clothes are not all in a wad when I get dressed at work. Just a thought.

  4. Comment by Unknown | 10.17.2005 | 4:56 pm

    Forgive the long post – Winter should never be an excuse to stop riding (except for snow on the ground or temps below 25 (my personal demarcation line). Plus I have a race I’m geeked for in February so I’m just getting warmed into my base training block so…Commuting tricks. I look at that towell and think you should drive one into the office and leave it there. Dragging something back and forth you don’t absolutely need is nuts. I’m sure you’ve done these – I keep a solid pair of shoes and a leather belt (black) at the office because they’re the bulkiest/heaviest edition to the bag on commute days. This may sound gross but I also will wear khaki’s day 1 and leave them at the office for day 2 so I don’t have to carry a complete set of clothes every single day.I’ve experimented with leaving the computer at work and using VPN to work at night but after many tries to live without it, I realize I have to bring the PC home every night so I’ve settled on a Dell 600 – it’s lighter than the D800 workhouse my company usually gives out but is a little lighter. I had one of those super-slim 3.1 lb jobs for a while but the screen is too small, they don’t have the handy-dandy docking station.The bottom line on all of this is that I look at everything in my bag and if I can;t keep a set of it at the office, I’d better absoluetley need it before I’ll lug it on my back twenty miles a day.I just installed my MTB night light for winter but don’t have fenders yet; they sound smart. As for bags, I use a standrad laptop backpack. it’s comfortable but I worry that it’s not waterproof so I wrap everything in kitchen trash bags before I pack it on days I think it will rain.I also installed 26×1 street tires on my MTB. I want to train in the MTB position as much as possible but for winter but I’ll be sticking to the road so these are slick and can take 70lbs of pressure (better rolling) so…Oh, and baby wipes – the thick, adult kind. If you don’t have access to a bathroom with showers and towels, a friend of mine who commutes uses them every day and has never had a hygene emergency.

  5. Comment by Unknown | 10.17.2005 | 5:05 pm

    Hey Fatty,I’ve been thinking about commuting on the bike lately & I’m curious about the messenger bag you’re using. Is this type of bag to use over say a backpack?Up here in the Canadian Great White north I do have a few more items to carry. No I’m not using sled dogs either.

  6. Comment by pete | 10.17.2005 | 5:49 pm

    H’mmm. Keeping cycling through the winter…I generally make it up to Christmas, then wimp out once it starts to snow. Of course, I then stay wimped out until long after it’s stopped snowing. Maybe around April or so.As just about everyone has said: take a few shirts and a towel in on Monday and keep a pair of shoes there all the time (this has the added advantage of dissuading people from looking for things in your bottom drawer when you’re not there.)Alternatively, buy a tourer and/or some panniers.By the way, what the hell were you eating this weekend? As I don’t want to seem nosey, you might like to know that I made a six-egg Spanish Omelette. It was pretty righteous, but not as good as my girlfriend’s mum’s version.

  7. Comment by agreenmouther | 10.17.2005 | 5:57 pm

    Steve–If only the winter here in the NE was ever above 25 and without snow. Then I would be one happy camper and riding my bike, instead of having to pack it inside around November 1…

  8. Comment by Unknown | 10.17.2005 | 6:54 pm

    Hey Al, You’ll have to tell me how that goes, I would love to commute on my bike into DC too (from dc suburb) but it seems like an absolutely insane idea as the roads here are no where near as bike friendly as Seattle. Fatty, how long is your commute anyways, and how much is on regular road (no bike lane)

  9. Comment by Adam | 10.17.2005 | 7:02 pm

    Wow…i can’t climb hills as well as you but my commuting logistics suck less :) Does that mean I win?* Sweater is a great candidate for leaving in the office* You seem to be carrying a lot of bikewear besides the stuff you rode in….why? If its the temperature difference, just go with layers. Kent is the layer expert* Socks? Wool — wear them in, wear them during the day, wear them home.* Commute gear should be just the clothes for the day — have a spare set in the office for the days when you forget your underwear.As an alternative to the clumsy messenger bag experience which i personally detest — panniers/rack which messes up the pretty bike or a carradice bag hanging off a mount off the seat rails (bagman support) — i’ve got this setup on my Pista now. There is also a quick release SQR version as well if you’ve got enough seat post showing. Anything but a messenger bag.

  10. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 10.17.2005 | 7:04 pm

    everyone – the nice thing about having both a large and a small bag is that on days when i need to bring a towel, computer, etc., i can use the big bag. i expect that at least 3 days per week, i should be able to continue to use the small bag. the nice thing about where i work is that there are locker rooms with showers. i leave shoes, a towel, a jacket, and hygiene stuff there. al – i admit, a road bike takes on a really dorky look when loaded up with fenders and lights. for me, it’s too late to be fashionable anyway. it may not be too late for you.jeff – i don’t own a week’s worth of clothes. since you have around three month’s worth, maybe you could give me some of your castoffs?rocky – if i had to wear a suit to work, i’d handle things just the way you do. but i don’t. i dress for work the way you dress on saturday. oh, and i’ve learned this really cool way to fold clothes so they don’t come out any more wrinkled than they would have been otherwise.steve – first off, count me in for the 24 hour race. i’ve got spousal approval. next, i do approximately the same thing you do — leave what i can at work as often as i can. there are days, though, when the stars align and i’ve got a lot to carry. i think it’s cool to not have to drive in on those days.remdog-moots – i prefer messenger bags over backpacks; i like that they don’t cut off the circulation under my shoulders. it’s a personal preference, but if you haven’t tried biking w/ a messenger bag, you should give it a try. i find them really comfortable.collegiatecookiemonster – i biked through the winter in finland a couple years, including one winter above the arctic circle. i suggest that if you layer properly, you can ride even in weather where people are dying on the streets from frostbite. not that i recommend you do that.cosh – i like the idea of a tourer w/ panniers, but i’ve got to do this on the cheap.

  11. Comment by Ariane | 10.17.2005 | 7:47 pm

    Hey, so if that company sent you a bag to get the word out, it worked. If they’re not astronomically high-priced, I, packer of multiple textbooks (which, on Tuesdays and Thursdays bring the weight on my back to almost thirty pounds), could really use a bag just like that. I’ve got this regular’ pack now, but the straps make my arms numb…. I’ve been looking for a messenger bag, but none are big enough to accomodate all the books. (And, for the record, I leave as many books and clothing as I can at school. that’s how much my pack weighs after leaving everything in the locker.)

  12. Comment by Big Guy on a Bicycle | 10.17.2005 | 8:25 pm

    I would find it difficult to think of anything invented in the 20th Century that is any more elegant and versatile than the big three; Velcro, Duct Tape, and Zip-Ties. Sure, there may be more "important" things, but none with so many uses. Computers are great, but other than using it for computing (in one form or another), they’re only useful as doorstops or bludgeons. Zip-ties keep all of computer’s wires from becoming a tangled mess. I’ve used duct tape and zip-ties to keep several different cars running. I had about 200 zip-ties in the engine bay of my old autocross race car, and about 15 feet of duct tape. On and on it goes. Good call on the ode to the humble zip-tie.

  13. Comment by Adam | 10.17.2005 | 8:57 pm

    Get someone to blind you with their HID light — you’ll want one. Good way to blow the budget though.

  14. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 10.17.2005 | 9:47 pm

    I have just come out of an Australian winter and it was absolutely freezing. Riding required significant layering to stay alive… socks under shoes and a singlet under the jersey most days. It was so cold one night we even had to close the front door. We had the best part of a week where the nights were below 40 fahrenheit, but mostly it was around 50 at night and getting up to 65-75 during the day.Now spring is here we have already had a nasty few days with maximums over 100. I don’t understand why people live closer to Santa than the equator.

  15. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 10.17.2005 | 9:49 pm

    phil – my commute’s 12 miles long. 7 on regular road, 5 on bike trail. although the city is currently extending the bike path, so in a year or so, i’ll only have to do about 3 miles on road. i’m lucky — wide shoulders for the road parts of my commute.adam – i bring extra bike stuff because on rainy days the bike clothes i wear into work are soaked. good tips, tho.a.toad – i’ll do what i can to hook you up w/ the good people at banjo bros. they seem to be interested in keeping prices fair. i’d point you to their website, but i don’t think they have one yet.bgoab – of course, you’re right: velcro is the third genius fastener. a few good velcro straps can change a shaky bike on a rack to a stable bike on a rack.adam – i have a HID light, and you’re right: those things can set fire to the ground you point them at. when mountain biking, i like to have one mounted on my helmet, with the niteriders mounted on the handlebars.

  16. Comment by Sun Goddess | 10.17.2005 | 9:51 pm

    Reading your blogs make me want to go out and get another bike. *sold hers in a garage sale a few years back*

  17. Comment by Carolynn | 10.18.2005 | 4:27 am

    A helpful hint: Your weight is up (in case you didn’t notice.) Try weighing without your fancy new bag.

  18. Comment by Adam | 10.18.2005 | 6:56 am

    Lycra and wool dry real fast. I’ve certainly commuted in the Seattle rain, and the stuff has been quite wearable for the commute home. The shoes dry faster with paper stuffed in them. Only thing that doesn’t dry is the rain jackets with the standing water.

  19. Comment by Unknown | 10.18.2005 | 11:15 am

    Riding through the winter in Seattle, I’m impressed.I always thought taking off in the winter was the payoff for working so hard all summer, I think this idea is easier to accept and adopt the older you get. You know that recovery time is important, about 3 months at least.Take care, hope the bag works out, I have my doubts, is it waterproof so it will hold cold beer.

  20. Comment by Fat | 10.18.2005 | 1:31 pm

    I’ve always wanted to try biking in the winter. I’m just afraid I’ll fall off and freeze to death somewhere, that’d just be my luck, lol.I can’t wait to hear how the new bag works out and your new winter accessories.~ Fat Chick

  21. Comment by Jim | 10.18.2005 | 3:20 pm

    I’m a bit miffed that you bought a track bike with winter coming on. Putting fenders on your road bike is great, but in February or March, there will be a week or two of fake spring weather when you will want to strip your bike and set it free. Then when you do, the rain will return until oh…about July 4 and you will have lost your rainy ride options. It’s far better to have a dedicated rain bike up there, a bike you will rarely worry about cleaning and which you can take anywhere. So I guess I scratched my head when you got a track bike instead of a ‘cross bike with winter coming on.

  22. Comment by Unknown | 10.18.2005 | 3:40 pm

    Cool diaper bag.Your looking good. If you weren’t my brother I’d ask you out. Ha ha. Oops. I wish I hadn’t made that joke. I hope I don’t accidentally post that.

  23. Comment by Unknown | 10.18.2005 | 9:54 pm

    Ooooo, I’m so jealous of your fenders. I haven’t found any to fit my Calfee, all the local bike shops I’ve hit in Oakland/Berkeley CA have just given me blank looks when I’ve asked them for help, and I’m too lazy/inept to make my own.Dang, I’m going to be a mess again when the rains start.

  24. Comment by Unknown | 10.19.2005 | 10:11 pm

    I bought a Mtn. Bike last February, the really nice week before my birthday (I had been SUCH a good boy), and started riding to work. I had a 4.2 mile commute throught the south Bronx from my house to my school. (I am a school teacher) I am now riding again, but to a different school this one 3.2 miles. I use a courier wear messanger bag (my second in 10 years) and I can fit most of my stuff in it. I carry my laptop back and forth a few times a week, and I usually have several books, a few notebooks and a boat load of papers. I usally carry a shirt, a pair of boxers and an undershirt. I leave three sets of shoes at work, as well as a few pairs of pants, I then rotate through. Last winter I prooved the Sweedish saying "No such thing as bad weather, just bad gear". Layering like an eskimo is the only way to go, and good breathable tops are necessary in the rain. I dont mind the snow, as NYC is fanatacal about plowing, and when I pedal in fresh snow I just gear up my torso and gear down my bike and feel superior when I make it to work. My kids think I am nuts, but my co-workers respect what I do. For a light I use a CatEye LED light that runs off three AAA batteries, but it is more for letting the drivers know I am there, rather than for illumination; although it is good for that as well. I am currently getting around 4 hours of continious light off one set of batteries, LED is the way to go in my oppinion. I also have one of those three pattern blinky lights attached to my messanger bag. Good for you riding, I went down two inches in my wiast size just riding to work and eating healty. Good luck to you all, and ride safely.

  25. Comment by Erin | 10.20.2005 | 9:48 pm

    Mmm…. and where might one locate a tasty Banjo Bros bag?Inquiring minds…

  26. Comment by DM | 10.24.2005 | 12:36 am

    yah, so, i’ve been meaning to leave this vomment hre for a few days now. damn, life does get in the way.i was a courier in london for almost two years. in the summer it was the best job in the world. on my bike, in the sun and heat, zipping around traffic at hight speed, and generally being a hooligan (but in a polite, well brought up, canadian way)winter was awful. it rained. and rained. and rained. 12 hours a day outside, in the rain. squishing into offices, trying not to drip on their important papers as they came out of the bag. sure, tjhe bag was waterproof, but the journey from the bag to the desk was fraught with drips. my first week on the job, i realised i needed more than spandex. i walked, dripping, into a cycle shop and said – i need some waterproof pants please. after a moment’s strained silence, i remembered pants are underwear in england. i quickly clarified, and got some rain gear.the carrying huge amounts of stuff. yes. i remember this vividly. so does my back. and my knees. a day’s worth of food, clothes, radio, paperwork, money etc. and leave room for your packages.the best (?) parcel i ever got was three 35mm movie cans from the british council. i couldn’t lift the bag over my head. so i had to put it on the counter, sip the strap over my head and settle it on my shoulder, then step forward to drag the bag off the counter. i nearly fell over. bit, did i tell them to get someone stronger? hell no! admit defeat, as one of only three female couriers in the whole city? i think not.i staggered out, got on the bike, and zoomed off (heavy loads on big hills add greatly to momentum). at the next stop, some smarmy office git, feeling superior to the troglodyte girly messenger, said, that looks heavy love. (and, no, he wasn’t sympathising) i said, yeah, wanna see? he held out his hand, obviously thinking it can’t be that bad, a little slip of a girl is lifting it. i put the strap in his hand, and he fell over. hah hah hah. gloating dance.i don’t miss cycling in the winter at all.cheers,c.

  27. Comment by DM | 10.24.2005 | 12:37 am

    must proofread before publishing, must proofread before publishing, must proofread before publishing, must proofread before publishing, must proofread before publishing, must proofread before publishing, must proofread before publishing, must proofread before publishing, must proofread before publishing, must proofread before publishing, must proofread before publishing, must proofread before publishing.

  28. Comment by Unknown | 03.30.2006 | 2:56 am

    this is probably too late but check out Chrome Bags out of San
    Fransico. They have a great big bag called the kremlin. I have used the
    Metropolis for a few years now. I havent found much I couldnt fit into


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