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Packing Light - Commuting with Less Stuff

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Packing Light - Commuting with Less Stuff

Old 08-06-11, 03:31 PM
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Sir Lunch-a-lot
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Packing Light - Commuting with Less Stuff

Hey all. So, I started taking the bus for a while this past winter/spring, and one thing I quickly noticed was that I did not need to carry a lot of stuff with me while commuting this way. Commuting by bike (in non-winter weather) on the other hand, I filled about half of a pannier (or more) with my rain jacket and pants. Then there were my shoes (I have riding shoes, and then work shoes), tools, spare tube, pump, zip ties, work clothes, and then my books and lunch. I may be missing a few items, but I’m not sure. This fills my panniers round full (usually with the shoes and my water bottle outside of the panniers). When I was riding the bus, I needed pretty much none of this stuff. I had a compact umbrella for rain, but otherwise my “man purse” fit everything I needed by bus: any books and lunch, work clothes depending where I was commuting to, and indoor shoes (so I could switch out of my winter boots). At any rate, I feel like I was packing less by bus than by bike. And going by bus, it was nice because I could just grab my “man purse”, and go check out a store on a whim without having to awkwardly lug such a tremendous amount of stuff with me. Depending which job I was commuting to, I have at times (and may again) have no place to keep my stuff, so I am continuously lugging my 2 heavy panniers, my helmet and my shoes around the building.
Anyway, the point of this thread is not to complain about the problem, but to come up with a solution. There has got to be a way to be adequately prepared for a bicycle commute without having to have so much stuff. I imagine that many of you, being seasoned bicycle commuters, will have already tackled this issue in part or in whole. So, let us pool our knowledge and ideas to see what we can come up with to solve this problem.
Please also note: while “leaving stuff at work” is a great idea, it is very likely that it will not be a viable option for me in the near future, and I imagine there are other commuters for whom this simply will not work. So, while I welcome some of those kinds of ideas if they are REALLY good ones, I am more so looking for ideas that do not involve leaving stuff at work.
I have done a bit of thinking about how to solve bits of this, and here is what I have so far:
Rain Gear:
-Emergency Poncho: These things pack up really small, but do not seem very durable. Perhaps this is a flaw that I will simply have to live with (or try being gentler with them to reuse). I wonder if rain pants would be necessary for this.
-Shoes: I really need something to cover shoes with so they don’t get soaked when it rains. Modded heavy duty garbage bags with elastic straps or something, maybe?
-Something small and compact to cover pannier (Ideally, I would get my requirements down to one pannier that can have a shoulder strap attached to it so it is easy to go places by bike) with. I guess for now, garbage bags, though something compact and reusable would be ideal.
-Change of clothes: I wonder if I can get hold of the camping variety of those vacuum bags so that I can compress any change of clothes I bring. How would they faire as far as wrinkles go?
-Shoes: Some sort of compactable but comfy shoes offering support? Does such a thing exist?
-Books: Bring only my e-book reader, possibly.
-Tools: Keep it down to a multi-tool, pressure gauge, spare pump, tube, patch kit, tire irons, my Swiss Army knife, and a crescent wrench. Possibly make a fabric pouch with slots for the tools so it can roll up nicely.
-Water: Is there some sort of collapsible/foldable water bottle on the market that would be well suited to riding?
So, those are a few of my thoughts. I would love to hear from others presenting their own ideas, sharing their experience, or commenting on any of the ideas presented here.
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Old 08-06-11, 04:23 PM
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Raingear: I use a rain cape, which weighs 8 oz. No need for hefty jacket, pants...
Shoes: leave a pair at work and wear a pair on feet.
Tools: I leave a small multi-tool on the bike in a small bag with tube.
Books: I have become illiterate since started riding a bike, so no need for books.
Water: carry water on the bike, so it doesn't impact the bag. I empty it while riding too, so it gets lighter.
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Old 08-06-11, 05:20 PM
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I get around all the issues mentioned above, by riding an Xtracycle so I can carry anything I want or need to.
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Old 08-06-11, 05:29 PM
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I carry everything I need in a large seatbag. Seriously, it sounds like you are carrying a lot of stuff you don't need. Think like a backpacker -- everything that is not necessary stays home. I keep a pair of shoes in my office as well as a supply of clothes and food, which I restock on days that I drive.

The two photos attached show my seatbags. My large bag is the Carradice Barley, but most of the time I use the Acorn bag that holds about half as much gear.
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Old 08-06-11, 06:21 PM
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I have a small seat bag that carrys my spare tube and small multi-tool. I only ride right now 1/2 to 2 miles in the morning so no change of clothes. I carry my padded shorts for the ride home (which is 6 miles)in my back pack. I also carry a rain cape which folds compact. A water bottle that stays empty until the evening ride. Also my job is dirty so I need no special clothes.
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Old 08-06-11, 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Sir Lunch-a-lot View Post
Please also note: while “leaving stuff at work” is a great idea, it is very likely that it will not be a viable option for me in the near future, and I imagine there are other commuters for whom this simply will not work. So, while I welcome some of those kinds of ideas if they are REALLY good ones, I am more so looking for ideas that do not involve leaving stuff at work.
For several years before I had a place to leave stuff at work, I had to tote everything back and forth daily. What I came up with was using two bags. I used a trunk bag for all the bike stuff and anything heavy. I used a small pannier for clothes, rolling them gently to avoid wrinkling.

As for the things you specifically mentioned,

-Emergency Poncho: Not required. If it's above 55°F (13°C) any sort of raingear makes me wetter from sweat that I get from the rain. I just ride. Below those temps I need a jacket anyway. My regular cycling jacket, an Endura Gridlock, keeps me warm and dry.

Since you're concerned with carrying work clothes on the bike, I assume you're using bikewear on the ride. This stuff dries fast at work. I've never had it still be wet for the ride home.

-Shoes: I use regular cycling shoecovers. The Endura Luminite Overshoes I use fold flat.

-Something small and compact to cover pannier: Ditch the cheap pannier and get waterproof ones. Ortleib, baby!

-Change of clothes: Gently rolled and placed in the pannier, I've had no issues. Compressing them--either with hands or a vacuum--is a sure route to wrinkles.

-Shoes: This is a personal thing that also is dependent on workplace dress code. I can, and do, wear sneakers. When I had to tote them, I put them under the outer straps of my trunk bag. (My trunk bag, a nice Canadian Arkel Tailrider, has outside straps for strapping things to the top. In the rain, the Tailrider's built-in raincover was big enough to cover the shoes too.)

-Books: For me, this is an occupational hazard. Before I upgraded to Ortleibs, I put them in my trunk bag with all the heavy stuff. The Ortleib Sport Packer Plus panniers I now own have a nice internal pocket hanging on the inside back panel that's big enough for even very thick hardcover novels, or two thinner ones, or four mass-market paperbacks.

-Tools: Seat bag containing multi-tool with chain tool, 2 Pedro's tire levers, one tube, one patch kit, chain master links for each of the bikes (8, 9 and 10-speed), emergency cash, spare key to my building. Keeping the bike stuff separate means no cross-contamination (think grease) with work stuff.

-Water: Water bottles in the bottle cages.

Last edited by tsl; 08-07-11 at 08:06 AM. Reason: typos
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Old 08-07-11, 10:34 AM
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In my opinion, shoes are the hardest/bulkiest thing to carry (unless you have to bring a computer). I know you mentioned that you can't leave stuff at work, but if you can find a space to stash just those, I think it would make your commute that much easier. Aside from that, if your commute is short enough & depending on your work dress code, you can just wear your work shoes on the bike (there are plenty of shoes that are athletic enough for the ride in, but also dressy enough for dress casual).

Again, depending on your commute distance, I find that I can wear my work pants (Dockers) if the temperature is less than 55-60. If it's hotter than this, I wear shorts & pack the pants.

If it were me, I'd skip the rain pants & get a very lightweight rain jacket. I have a GoLite Echo jacket from a few years ago. It's not waterproof, but is good enough to get me home dry unless it's raining hard (7 mile commute home).

I'd mount the pump to the bike & put the tools in a small bag under the seat (unless you park in a place where people will steal the tools). Also, you can probably get away with just a multi-tool, patch kit, pump & extra tube (maybe a wrench if you don't have quick release wheels.)

If you can bring a kindle or ipod/iphone type device to replace the books, that should drop the weight dramatically. Kindles are small, but ipods/iphones (and droids, etc) are multi-purpose, so if you're carrying a phone already, this is even more weight to shave.) I wouldn't want to make an iphone my main reading device, but it works great for me for work & with the kindle app or ibooks, you can sync amongst devices, so if I get to page 100 on my iphone at work, when I start to read on my ipad at home, it syncs to page 100.)

Bike water bottle cage for the water bottle.

I commute with a backpack strapped to a rear rack (using Surly junk straps). I roll up my work clothes into the backpack, along with a light jacket (GoLite Echo or Nike pullover, depending on the weather) & put my wallet & iphone in the top pocket.
I leave my tools on the bike, but if I felt unsafe doing so, I'd put those in the top pocket on the backpack along with the iphone & wallet. If I carried a lunch, I'd put that in the pack as well. Put a water bottle on the bike. then when I get to work, I can throw the bottle in the bag (Camelbak Podium bottle-when locked closed, it never leaks) & carry everything with me over my shoulder. I've seen lots of bags that have a helmet carrier on the outside so you could even put that in the bag as well. I'd be surprised if my current setup weighs more than 5 pounds. Adding lunch, a helmet & a pair of shoes would increase the weight somewhat, but overall, I'd still never call it heavy.
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Old 08-07-11, 03:35 PM
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Get some panniers like Jandd Saddlebags and eliminate everything that wont fit. They're not waterproof, but can be coated w/Thompson's Watersealer inside and out to great effect. 3 coats minimum. But, still double wrap the contents if knowingly riding in rain. And I'm a +1 about keeping shoes at work. Along w/some foot spray. Depending on one's job situation one can keep several shirts, pants or shorts, socks, briefs, jackets, etc. Personal items like deo, toothpaste and brush, cologne, soap, towel(s), etc as well. This greatly reduces what one has to carry on a daily basis.
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Old 08-07-11, 07:38 PM
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I LOVE the suggestion of a raincape (I had to google it to see what it is, but now that I know...). In my experience riding in Saskatoon if it is raining a little bit, there is a good chance that it will soon be raining heavily, and I will get far wetter from the rain (even through my shell, which keeps out light rain) than from my perspiration.

The water bottle is fine strapped to the cage while I am riding, but it is afterwards that I was thinking about. But realizing that - when stopping at a store on my way home - I should still have water in it for the remainder of the ride, compactability becomes a moot point.

For any of the stuff, I would not feel comfortable leaving ANY of it on my bike outside for hours on end (or even a few minutes). I have little doubt that it would not take long before stuff just started walking away on me.

As far as the clothes I wear while riding, in the warmer weather I am not wearing anything specifically made for bicycling, but rather some active wear (not sure of the specifics) shorts and t-shirt from Old Navy.

The one thing that is looking to be a bit of a nuisance is the shoes. I would love to find something that doesn't take up a lot of space. At the moment, I am thinking of investigating Vibram FiveFingers, Sandals, and Water Shoes to see if there is anything that would be suitable. Basically something that takes up less space in my bag (I ride with riding shoes. I find if I do a lot of riding on non-riding shoes my feet start to hurt, so riding with my work shoes is out).
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Old 08-07-11, 07:46 PM
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I have a job with more lax clothing requirements than most but it seems like you guys commute with a lot more stuff than I do.

Shoes: I leave a pair of Puma Speedcats at work. When I need to bring them back and forth for some reason they are nice and compact.
Clothes: I work in shorts and a T-shirt most days. These plus underwear and socks are half my messenger bag.
Entertainment: I generally leave something at work to read on lunch breaks. When I'm at school my commute is short enough I can ride to class in my school clothes and leave the bag totally free for other stuff.
Food: I think it is generally accepted that a granola bar, sandwich, banana and other snack item are not too large.

Rain gear: This consists of shoe covers and nothing else. I am at work for 9 hours at a time usually. If I get wet on the way in, I hang my stuff up behind my work station for it to dry. If it doesn't rain, I drape it all over my top tube.
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Old 08-07-11, 07:50 PM
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I pack a lot of gear, and I normally leave nothing at work. I'll switch the type of gear depending on the weather conditions, and on some occasions I will leave some items, that are not needed for the next day, at work if I need the extra room for an after work shopping trip.
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Old 08-07-11, 08:31 PM
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I haven't used panniers for commuting for a long time and when I did it was to show off, not out of necessity. A change of clothes, shoes and incidentals fit in a small backpack bungeed on the rack. Bringing a lunch, I'd strap on top. That's all that's needed.

Books, just leave at work. An extra set of clothes, the same. Extra food in a desk drawer. Rain gear? If it's pouring down or wet and cold I'll put on a poncho, otherwise I'll just dry off when I change. There's no need, for me anyway, to carry all that stuff around.
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Old 08-07-11, 09:16 PM
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Ah, so it's not so much as packing lighter, but more of how to carry it. When the OP uses the bike, s/he has to lug around a pair of shoes, helmet, and panniers after locking up. The option to drive in one day with a weeks worth of clothes and food is not viable at this point.

OP- you mention a "man purse" that you used when riding the bus. Is it something that is wearable like a backpack or messenger bag? If so, then maybe a separate bag to put your shoes in that you could carry by hand. Consider replacing the panniers with a crate or baskets. Below is a pic of what I use during the months were layering occurs.
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Old 08-07-11, 09:18 PM
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If you can get away with them, and don't mind looking like a dork, Vibram 5 finger shoes are very light and you could just shove them in the bottom of the bag. The soles are semi-rigid, but the tops are just neoprene. They are also very comfortable when you get used to them.

Don't use compression bags, they wrinkle the **** out of everything.

Everything else can fit pretty easily in a bag. I carry a folio, laptop, change of clothes, lunch, a few toiletries(Deodorant, a travel pack of wipes and some hair gunk) a towel, multi-tool and my gadgets in a large-ish messenger bag without problem. It gets on the heavy side with the laptop, but everything else is easy. Defiantly get an e-reader for space saving, or just use your phone if it's an option(I read on my phone at lunch, and then on my kindle when I'm at home).

The bag is water-resistant, and it's so freaking hot here that rain is just something I ride through(when we get it!)

Edit: I don't carry my helmet around, just stick it on my desk at work. They take up enough space that you're probably going to have to just resign yourself to carrying it separately.

Last edited by Zrane; 08-07-11 at 09:19 PM. Reason: moar info
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Old 08-08-11, 06:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Sir Lunch-a-lot View Post
The one thing that is looking to be a bit of a nuisance is the shoes. I would love to find something that doesn't take up a lot of space. At the moment, I am thinking of investigating Vibram FiveFingers, Sandals, and Water Shoes to see if there is anything that would be suitable. Basically something that takes up less space in my bag (I ride with riding shoes. I find if I do a lot of riding on non-riding shoes my feet start to hurt, so riding with my work shoes is out).
Check out Sanuk sandals. They are really compactable & some of their shoes (the boardwalks) look like dress shoes (I have them for work). Of if you're looking for something a little different (but less different than the Vibrams), check out the Timberland folding shoes:

https://internetsiao.com/convenient-a...oldable-shoes/
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Old 08-08-11, 07:23 AM
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How DARE you start such a blasphemous thread! Two panniers, full to the brim. That's my story and I'm stickin' with it.
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Old 08-08-11, 11:35 AM
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Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
OP- you mention a "man purse" that you used when riding the bus. Is it something that is wearable like a backpack or messenger bag? If so, then maybe a separate bag to put your shoes in that you could carry by hand. Consider replacing the panniers with a crate or baskets. Below is a pic of what I use during the months were layering occurs.
Excellent suggestion! This would solve much of my problem. Thank You!

Originally Posted by MK313 View Post
Check out Sanuk sandals. They are really compactable & some of their shoes (the boardwalks) look like dress shoes (I have them for work). Of if you're looking for something a little different (but less different than the Vibrams), check out the Timberland folding shoes:

https://internetsiao.com/convenient-a...oldable-shoes/
Cool. I may have to see if I can find those anywhere.


Originally Posted by Zrane View Post
If you can get away with them, and don't mind looking like a dork, Vibram 5 finger shoes are very light and you could just shove them in the bottom of the bag. The soles are semi-rigid, but the tops are just neoprene. They are also very comfortable when you get used to them.
Well, I will also look into those Vibram shoes, then.

Originally Posted by Zrane View Post
Defiantly get an e-reader for space saving, or just use your phone if it's an option(I read on my phone at lunch, and then on my kindle when I'm at home).
Yeah, I have a Sony e-book reader I bought a couple of years back. I may just start limiting myself to whatever I can find for that through my library and public domain/free ebooks (and the odd one I buy).


Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
How DARE you start such a blasphemous thread! Two panniers, full to the brim. That's my story and I'm stickin' with it.
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Old 08-08-11, 12:41 PM
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water should definitely be kept on the bike, not in your pannier, backpack, messenger bag, or what have you.

not having a spot at work to keep shoes and other stuff would be really, really annoying. having a stash place at work is how you can be really bare-bones about commuting.

i ride everyday, and here's what i bring with me in my backpack:

shirt
pants
underwear/socks
keys
wallet
phone
flash drive

i'll throw in a rain shell if the forecast calls for rain, otherwise i don't bother. that's it for the non-winter months.

i then have a small saddle bag with tube, levers, mutli-tool, CO2 pump, and patches.

the water bottle goes in a cage on the bike.


shoes & toiletries stay at work.
lunch is take-out.
computer files needed between home and work are on the flash drive.
i've got indoor secure storage at work, so no need to carry locks.

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Old 08-08-11, 01:04 PM
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Do you have a MEC nearby? They've got some nifty things, like a pannier that turns into a backpack (if you're willing to buy a new one). You can also get both pannier and shoe rain-covers, though that's adding to the "stuff".

Also, maybe check out the Merrel "glove" shoes. They're like the five fingers without the toes, so they look like normal shoes, but they're equally foldable. I can even shove mine into my (woman) purse, though it helps that I've got tiny feet. They're also the most comfortable shoes I own and I wear them all the time.
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Old 08-08-11, 02:32 PM
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Oh, I WISH we had a MEC in Saskatchewan. Sadly, I would have to travel to either Manitoba or Alberta to find a MEC. But I think at this point I'll rig up a basket or a mount for my "man purse" (I thin it may actually have been designed as a laptop bag or something. I got it at Bently's and it works pretty good).
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Old 08-08-11, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
How DARE you start such a blasphemous thread! Two panniers, full to the brim. That's my story and I'm stickin' with it.
You left off the rack, you could bring even more with you.
I've used backpacks, panniers and a rack trunk in different combinations over the years and decided however I do, I prefer to carry less overall and have found I've been able to get by with less stuff overall or by having some of it serve more than 1 function as others have already mentioned.
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Old 08-09-11, 07:36 AM
  #22  
Surrealdeal
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I forgot my lunch today, I don't know if that counts. :-(
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Old 08-09-11, 01:15 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by Sir Lunch-a-lot View Post
Hey all. So, I started taking the bus for a while this past winter/spring, and one thing I quickly noticed was that I did not need to carry a lot of stuff with me while commuting this way. Commuting by bike (in non-winter weather) on the other hand, I filled about half of a pannier (or more) with my rain jacket and pants. Then there were my shoes (I have riding shoes, and then work shoes), tools, spare tube, pump, zip ties, work clothes, and then my books and lunch. I may be missing a few items, but I’m not sure. This fills my panniers round full (usually with the shoes and my water bottle outside of the panniers). When I was riding the bus, I needed pretty much none of this stuff. I had a compact umbrella for rain, but otherwise my “man purse” fit everything I needed by bus: any books and lunch, work clothes depending where I was commuting to, and indoor shoes (so I could switch out of my winter boots). At any rate, I feel like I was packing less by bus than by bike. And going by bus, it was nice because I could just grab my “man purse”, and go check out a store on a whim without having to awkwardly lug such a tremendous amount of stuff with me. Depending which job I was commuting to, I have at times (and may again) have no place to keep my stuff, so I am continuously lugging my 2 heavy panniers, my helmet and my shoes around the building.
Anyway, the point of this thread is not to complain about the problem, but to come up with a solution. There has got to be a way to be adequately prepared for a bicycle commute without having to have so much stuff. I imagine that many of you, being seasoned bicycle commuters, will have already tackled this issue in part or in whole. So, let us pool our knowledge and ideas to see what we can come up with to solve this problem.
Please also note: while “leaving stuff at work” is a great idea, it is very likely that it will not be a viable option for me in the near future, and I imagine there are other commuters for whom this simply will not work. So, while I welcome some of those kinds of ideas if they are REALLY good ones, I am more so looking for ideas that do not involve leaving stuff at work.
I have done a bit of thinking about how to solve bits of this, and here is what I have so far:
Rain Gear:
-Emergency Poncho: These things pack up really small, but do not seem very durable. Perhaps this is a flaw that I will simply have to live with (or try being gentler with them to reuse). I wonder if rain pants would be necessary for this.
-Shoes: I really need something to cover shoes with so they don’t get soaked when it rains. Modded heavy duty garbage bags with elastic straps or something, maybe?
-Something small and compact to cover pannier (Ideally, I would get my requirements down to one pannier that can have a shoulder strap attached to it so it is easy to go places by bike) with. I guess for now, garbage bags, though something compact and reusable would be ideal.
-Change of clothes: I wonder if I can get hold of the camping variety of those vacuum bags so that I can compress any change of clothes I bring. How would they faire as far as wrinkles go?
-Shoes: Some sort of compactable but comfy shoes offering support? Does such a thing exist?
-Books: Bring only my e-book reader, possibly.
-Tools: Keep it down to a multi-tool, pressure gauge, spare pump, tube, patch kit, tire irons, my Swiss Army knife, and a crescent wrench. Possibly make a fabric pouch with slots for the tools so it can roll up nicely.
-Water: Is there some sort of collapsible/foldable water bottle on the market that would be well suited to riding?
So, those are a few of my thoughts. I would love to hear from others presenting their own ideas, sharing their experience, or commenting on any of the ideas presented here.
Books: either kindle or nook. I read a lot. Booksd will weigh you down. Unfortunately, when riding the bus it does allow me to read. But a kindle reduces the weight of books in bag.

Clothes: I pay attention to the weather. Maybe I don't need that rain coat or heavy top. Most days I can leave clothes at work which i change into. I pay attention to where I am going. Can I get away with just wearing what I rode into work that day. (jeans day). Otherwise I fold my work clothes carefully into my bike bag.

Shoes: If I can i will leave a pair at the job. Otherwise I pack them in my bag.

Tools:
My tools are always on the bike in a small pouch on the bike.

In general I also give consideration which bike I am riding that day. Some bike allow for wearing office clothes and shoes. Some days I feel like wearing sho'nuff cycling clothes with clippless pedals.
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Old 08-09-11, 10:34 PM
  #24  
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My ride is less than a mile each way. I don't bring any stuff back and forth except a lunch now and then and commute in my street clothes.

Paul
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