Bike Stuff is a Gas

02.14.2011 | 12:55 pm

Today’s post is about luggage, and some very persuasive and scientific theories I have about luggage. Cycling road trip luggage, to be precise.

To set the stage for my theories, I offer to you the following photographs as evidence.

First, here is a photograph — taken yesterday — of the backseat area of my BikeMobile:


As you can clearly see, two road bikes fit in that area easily, without the necessity of removing any wheels.

Next, here is a photograph — also taken yesterday — of the bed of my truck:


And here is another, to give you a bird’s-eye view of the contents of that truck bed:


Looking at all that, please take a moment to answer the following questions:

  1. How many people are on this trip?
  2. How long is this trip?

I know that you’re waiting on tenterhooks for the answer, so I’ll get straight to it.

It was a two-day trip (to Saint George, UT) for two people: The Runner and me. Here’s. Here’s a picture of us somewhere on the Goulds / Jem / Hurricane Rim loop yesterday:


Don’t we look happy? Well, of course we look happy, because we are happy. How could we not be happy? After all, by driving for 3.5 short hours we got away from winter to a sunny, warm pavement and desert-singletrack paradise.

But still. All that luggage? For just two people? For just two days?

Which is what brings us to the heart of today’s post.

Bike Stuff Is A Gas

As anyone who has ever farted in a room knows, gas expands to fill all available space. Which is why I have to believe that bike stuff is a gas. I mean, a few months ago, I went to the Ride for the Roses weekend in Austin, then directly from there to work for a week in Chicago, and I fit everything I needed into a single suitcase.

Because that was the amount of space that was available.

Last weekend, on the other hand, The Runner and I had The BikeMobile all to ourselves and — sure enough — our stuff exactly filled the truck.

Hence: bike stuff is a gas.

A Closer Look

Let’s look a little deeper into what what, exactly, filled the truck. This time, however, we’ll number the various items, for easy identification.


Item 1: The Backpack. This contains food items, such as PRO Bars and Fruition bars, and Honey Stinger fruit chews. And Salted Nut Rolls. And Dried Mangoes. And cashews. It’s also got a number of non-bike-specific food items, such as Chex Party Mix. And chips. And Oreos. Gee, I wonder why I’m not losing weight very fast this Winter?

Item 2: The Large Black Samsonite. This suitcase contains all of The Runner’s clothes for the trip, both for cycling and for non-cycling. I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit that The Runner is a more efficient packer than I am.

Item 3: The Small Yellow Tote Bag. This bag contains The Runner’s non-clothes-related items for the weekend. And now suddenly I’m not feeling so bad about the fact that all her clothes fit into a single bag.

Item 4: The Large Grey Tote Bag. This bag contains all my biking clothes for the weekend, and is almost certainly the most perfect example of my theory. Since I knew I had plenty of room, I filled this bag with a pair of bib tights, knee warmers, arm warmers, three pair of bib shorts, three long-sleeved jerseys, three short-sleeved jerseys, a wool base layer jersey, three pair of lightweight wool cycling socks, two pair heavy wool socks, shoe covers, one pair lightweight cycling gloves, one pair middleweight cycling gloves, and one pair cold-weather cycling gloves. And three different beanies, of varying weights and colors.

The thing is, when all was said and done, what I actually wore, cycling-wise, was two different pair of bibshorts (one each for the two rides we did), one long-sleeved jersey (I wore the same jersey for both rides, because I love my new Fat Cyclist Long Sleeve jersey so much), two pair of socks, and one pair of gloves. In other words, the cycling clothes I actually used could have fit in the side pocket of The Runner’s suitcase.

Item 5: The Purple-and-Brown Tote Bag of Hideousness: I have owned two very ugly nylon tote bags for about 17 years. I’d get rid of them but they are pretty much bombproof, and incredibly practical. For this trip, the purple-and-brown bag contained four pair of cycling shoes (two each for The Runner and me) and two helmets. The side pocket contained spare tubes (both road and mountain), lube, CO2 cartridges, a triangle hex wrench, and an oil rag.

Item 6: Ice Chest. I make no apologies for this item. There’s nothing better than a cold drink after a ride.

Item 7: The Purple-and-Teal Tote Bag of Hideousness: This bag contained all my non-cycling clothes. This, embarrassingly, contains enough clothing to last me a full two weeks. I threw in multiple pairs of pants and about half the t-shirts I own. I could have done just fine by bringing two t-shirts (and the second one would have been just in case I spilled salsa on the first). I mean, it’s a biking trip, after all. Not a fashion show.

Items 8 & 9: Gary Fisher Superfly, Superfly SS: Our bikes, plus of course the road bikes (Orbea Orcas for both of us) inside the truck. I don’t feel bad about bringing these, because we did in fact go on both a road ride and a mountain bike ride. But if we had less space, it would have been easy to just bring one bike per person.

Item 10: My foot. As I perched precariously on the top of the bed of the truck and taking photos of the contents therein, looking like a fool to anyone in the parking lot who might be curious as to what I was doing.

The Consolidation of Stuff

So, suppose we hadn’t had all that room? Well, Item 1 could have been eliminated altogether, by stuffing whatever food we wanted into our helmets for the trip. Item 2 — OK, Item 2 stays as-is, but Item 3 could maybe have been pared down?

Okay, maybe not. I don’t want to go there.

Items 4, 5, and 7, however, could easily have been combined into a single bag, as long as The Runner was willing to share her toothbrush. And doesn’t mind me smelling a little bit bad by day 2 of the trip.

I’ll have to ask her about that.

So sure, we could have easily fit everything we needed into a smaller space for the trip. But you know, there’s something luxurious about lazy packing — just throwing stuff in there, so you know you’re covered, no matter what the weather or your mood.

And besides, there’s no fighting physics.


  1. Comment by roan | 02.14.2011 | 1:04 pm

    I think it is time for the Fatcyclist Team ride across America, non-supported of course !

  2. Comment by MattC | 02.14.2011 | 1:08 pm

    You are SO spot on with this one Fatty! I have work trips now and then, and if I go up to Sunnyvale I drive up. And I somehow FILL up the entire vehicle (and yes, like you, both road and Mt bikes). Yet I can fly away to a trip and bring only a single carry-on and somehow survive a week or more. It’s all about how comfy you want to be. Didn’t George Carlin do the routine about ’stuff’?

    As usual, a great post on a totally relevant topic. And as to the “Tote Bag(s) of Hideousness”, function over-rules fashion any day of the week in my book. You can always put them in a large brown-paper-bag or something to prevent people from walking off a subway ramp after having seen them (in order to end their visual misery).

  3. Comment by rich | 02.14.2011 | 1:12 pm

    “But you know, there’s something luxurious about lazy packing — just throwing stuff in there, so you know you’re covered, no matter what the weather or your mood”

    This is the exact reason I bought a full size truck. When we go camping/fishing/biking/skiing…I pretty much just empty the garage into the back of the truck, close the shell and head out…

  4. Comment by bikemike | 02.14.2011 | 1:27 pm

    just curious, do you have any proof that physics can’t be fought? is it a physical thing or just a time constraint thing?

  5. Comment by Philly Jen | 02.14.2011 | 1:33 pm

    Hey, it’s Valentine’s Day!

    I ♥ Graeme Obree.

    That is all.

  6. Comment by Erik | 02.14.2011 | 1:33 pm

    You only brought 1 foot?

    Why are you nuts enough to leave your bike computer attached to your bike while in transit?

    Not so much nuts as forgetful. But it’s never fallen off! Yet. – FC

  7. Comment by Dan | 02.14.2011 | 1:39 pm

    Been there and done that! I think it is human nature to always take what you can. Not much room, don’t take much. Loads of room, that anything you might need. When I used to travel, I could live for 2 weeks out of a 2-suiter and not use all that I took. It is just human nature.

    Happy Valentines Day to The Runner and you.

  8. Comment by Owen | 02.14.2011 | 1:41 pm

    that is my wife and I as well on every trip – you just never know what you’ll need.
    Are those KEEN boots your wearing in #10?
    Does The Runner ride a Superfly 29er? WSD?

    Keen shoes, not boots. I love Keen. The Runner does in fact ride a Superfly 29er — 17.5″ size. Not a WSD; she inherited this bike from me. – FC

  9. Comment by Mike | 02.14.2011 | 1:47 pm


    Who takes care of the kids while you are on your many adventures? I’m looking for pointers.

    I recommend having a responsible 17-year-old son and good neighbors. – FC

  10. Comment by Jeff | 02.14.2011 | 1:50 pm

    Curiousity question: Hey Fatty, what happened to “The Shack” Madone Johan gave you last year.

    I don’t think I’d be able to leave home without that one. Or is the Madone reserved for the “special” rides?

    I gave that bike away in a raffle last year. – FC

  11. Comment by Dan O | 02.14.2011 | 2:18 pm

    Fun post – looks like a fun trip.

    Yeah, whatever space is available will be used. Try car camping with a family of four, everything wedged into an old RAV4. To make it more fun, the stuff also seems to expand for the trip home.

    That’s cool your Ridgeline can hold the two road bikes inside – pretty damn handy.

  12. Comment by MOCougFan | 02.14.2011 | 2:24 pm

    My spring fever is officially in full gear. My Toyota Tundra fits 2 bikes in the back seat perfectly as well. However, I have a shell on the back so my stuff doesn’t get wet when I drive from Missouri to Utah. Plus it made for the perfect truck a couple years back at RAWROD.

  13. Comment by NYCCarlos | 02.14.2011 | 2:27 pm

    So I have an ACTUAL bike luggage question – When you fly with a bike, what do you do? If you don’t fly with bikes, do you know anyone that has and recommends anything? I’ve been offered a Pika Packworks EEP Standard bag ( to travel to Davis by a friend… any recommendations there?

  14. Comment by Laidlaw | 02.14.2011 | 2:54 pm

    Many of my road trips are combination mountain bike/backpacking trips, and some have kayaks thrown in for good measure, so I know how you feel!

    So St George is currently warm and dry? Maybe I need to pack up tomorrow and start driving…


  15. Comment by lkb3 | 02.14.2011 | 3:05 pm

    Orbea Orcas, Superflys, and a Honda Ridgeline. Yup, I’m jealous!

  16. Comment by MattC | 02.14.2011 | 3:22 pm

    NYCCarlos…I’ve flown all over the world w/ an ancient Performance hardcase (clamshell type). They’ve broken the case almost each time (cracks in the shell) however the bike has always been fine. Over the last few years though I’ll pack it in said Frankencase (due to the numerous blind-rivets to aluminum plates holding it together) and ship it via Fedex ground. Takes about about 5 days to a week each way, and if you can ship it to a business (ie: a hotel) it’s cheaper than to a residence. AND you can get insurance. Airlines don’t like to talk about that, but I once tried to insure my bike when I flew and they were going to charge an INSANE amount to fully cover my expensive carbon bike. Fedex is cheaper by far, even w/ insurance. You just have to plan ahead. I like NOT having do deal w/ my bike as I travel thru airports anyway I have decided. Just my 2 cents worth. See u in Davis!

  17. Comment by Grizzly Adam | 02.14.2011 | 4:26 pm

    When I read “Bike Stuff is a Gas” I thought you were going to be writing about how much fun – as in “that’s a gas!” – it was to have all sorts of bike gear.

    But your theory is true, and applies to backpacking packs as well. Want to make sure you will be carrying way to much stuff on a 4 day trip into the Uintas? Carry a big pack.

  18. Comment by Turn The Damn Cranks | 02.14.2011 | 5:51 pm

    NYCCarlos — Here’s a quick primer about traveling with a bike:

    (Just in case anyone here works for an airline, I take no position on dodging bike fees.)

  19. Comment by GJ Jackie | 02.14.2011 | 6:21 pm

    There is definitely a law of physics regarding vacation items expanding into the space available. Whether camping, riding or just going to a hotel, our auto is always stuffed full.

    I’m surprised you didn’t bring your bike work stand in the truck too. And a cooler full of burritos to go with that beer.

  20. Comment by Rob L | 02.14.2011 | 6:41 pm

    It does seem that way withh bike stuff. I’m always amazed out how much crap I have to haul out for winter cycling, and thats in general without a hydration pack.

  21. Comment by Lonster | 02.14.2011 | 7:27 pm

    It always seems that the amount of bike stuff needed is n +1. You can never pack enough stuff – and never forget the racing license – the one thing that will cause a fit, lean racer to develop tachycardia the moment he realizes it is not in the all of the stuff that he packed for the weekend and hauled halfway across the state.

  22. Comment by stuckinmypedals | 02.14.2011 | 7:30 pm

    I have a hideous purple and turquoise tote that gives your hideous totes a run for the money. Looks like you had a great trip!

  23. Comment by bradk | 02.14.2011 | 9:47 pm

    I looked through my inbox, spam and trash folders and couldn’t find the St George invite email anywhere, did you snail mail it?

  24. Comment by skippy | 02.15.2011 | 2:11 am

    When i ride the Pro Tour Routes i only carry a small pack on the Tri bars. But these past weeks at the various events i have had the car available.

    Getting the bike in and out means unloading several back packs with gear that i did not use. Put these things in the car as i thought they may come in handy but did not get used.

    Each time i unload asnd reload the car the mess gets worse, now in Ita<ly heading back to Austria to throw the excess out and start again.

    Race across America would interest me but still think that getting a “Fatty Relay Team” to the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France would send powerful message of support for those 28 million+ suffering cancer !

    Still awaiting the the 100 miles of nowhere to take place on a Giro TT day !

  25. Comment by franky | 02.15.2011 | 7:49 am


    Bike transportation can be a hassle and I am still looking for the best (affordable) car for the job. Currently I manage to transport all that bike stuff and our two road bikes with my trusted Beetle, I even finagle to get my bike into the back of the bug when the weather doesn’t cooperate. The idea of just throwing the stuff into the car is tempting though.

  26. Comment by a chris | 02.15.2011 | 8:58 am

    “Cycling road trip luggage.” I thought for a second you meant this.

  27. Comment by Microchip | 02.15.2011 | 9:31 am

    Nice post Fatty! Those road bikes look super, not that the mtbikes don’t, they do also. I use a Trek hybrid (7100) to cover my bases of road and off-road, although I’m always on the road. Your trip looked great.

  28. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.15.2011 | 11:21 am

    Kudos for the archaic reference to tenterhooks, Fatty. The more modern equivalent, however would be tenterclips. And it would cause even more anxiety to be on tenterclips, because they are attached to a dynamically expanding raceway.

    The tenterclips, BTW are parts 90/91, figure 8 of the patent illustration.

    This nerdy sidebar brought to you by ANPET – The Association of Nerdy Portly Engineer Cyclists

  29. Comment by Jen | 02.15.2011 | 12:40 pm

    My garage attests to this theory. 14 bikes for a family of 7 is just weird.

  30. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.15.2011 | 12:52 pm

    @NYCarlos – If you do go the airplane route, and I do, at least for LSC Austin, be sure to get a bike box that has wheels that allow pulling through the terminal edgewise.

    Most bike boxes are (roughly) 40″ long x 30″ wide x ~10″ thick. If the wheels are set up ~30″ apart so you have to pull the thing sideways, that cuts an uncomfotably wide swath. You keep knocking little old ladies to the ground.

    If the wheels are set up ~10″ apart, it is a MUCH easier package to pull around. Especially if it also has front wheels so you do not have to hold up one end when you are schlepping 1/2 mile from long term parking.

    I like the TEAM bike box from Performance Bike:

    I see they have a 2011 version for more money. The older one ought to come on sale at some point – I paid $199 3 years ago.

  31. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.15.2011 | 12:53 pm

    Ahh! $219 at Nashbar right now:

  32. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.15.2011 | 12:55 pm

    Guess the reference: “Ahh! A luggage problem! LIGHT??? or HEAVY???”

  33. Comment by David | 02.15.2011 | 1:27 pm

    Love that there are knee warmers in your large grey tote bag, when you clearly despise them. Change of heart over the years?

  34. Comment by Davo | 02.16.2011 | 10:44 am

    Thanks for letting us inside your packing. My hottie and I likewise take two day trips with four bikes and a mountain of gear and feel kind of silly. I’ve gone back and forth on the one humongous bag or one bike stuff bag and one casual bag. We’ve been caught underdressed in bad weather before, so we pack heavy to have options. Then we get there and I wear one pair of casual shorts and flip flops and the long pants never get unpacked…
    Thanks again,

  35. Comment by rusesc | 02.20.2011 | 10:38 am

    Its human nature I think.
    Humans love luxury, if you the space/the trunk, why not bring you whole 5 o’clock tea set, why not bring your polar rug and so on.


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