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Davis, California

Monday, April 15, 2024

Column: Junk in the trunk

I am not a bicycle cougar – I like to ride bikes that are my age, not 20 years younger. While this terrible metaphor is extended, let me go farther to say that I don’t mind a little junk in the trunk … so long as it’s junk on a trailer attached to a bicycle.

Bicycle trailers get a terrible rap – only new mothers and homeless people seem to use them – but they are a great way to save money, burn calories instead of gas and can be a flexible tool for the creative environmentalist.

Whenever I decide to move something massive via bicycle across Davis, onlookers express every emotion from disgust to inspiration. I must admit, upon moving to Davis five years ago, I was just as uncomfortable with the bulk, on-bike, transport. Over time, I’ve joined in, moving through downtown with a variety of different laundry hampers, long loaves of French bread, and recently, a 12-person bike rack.

I decided to make some additions to my new house by subtracting from my old home. Several bicycle racks were placed by TAPS four years ago for the Davis Bicycle Collective, and we left them there during our movement downtown. These old things were taking up space at the Domes and to help with the Save the Domes effort, the ministers recently sent over a bevy of bike trailers and a few trucks to clean up.

The trucks easily removed heaps of old wood and rust but I was committed to the grueling and dangerous task of bicycle-powered hauling. I borrowed two bike carts and placed the 12-foot, 200-pound steel bicycle rack on top. The transfer required almost a surreal amount of initial momentum, but once we were rolling, I got cheers from ARC bikers and looks from Davis pedestrians. It’s amazing how wheels, legs and a good plan can move something that unwieldy with relative ease and without petroleum distillate.

Most of our daily trips aren’t this well planned however, and often people run into a time crunch: a party, a deadline or some need to get a good from point A to point B. Suddenly their bike becomes insufficient and their car steps in. No one that lives in my house has that excuse. We have a house-owned trailer-bike and tandem for transporting people and goods. When loads are small, my housemates are actually much more efficient. They get by just fine using bicycle racks or baskets on their personal bikes. I would suggest that everyone have some sort of rack or small storage on their bike. It really comes in handy.

I may actually be more into bike storage and transporting than biking. My fellow ministers often joke about my need to put two or three bags on each bike I own. My approach is quirky, as always. I’m into “pre-vintage”. I’ll leave new bikes and bags to you cougars out there – my bikes have thirty-year-old hot pink fanny-packs.

Storage methodology is deeply personal for bikers – everyone has their own way. The polo-playing ministers are quick to accept band-aids and alcohol directly from my mounted first aid kit. The nerdy ministers use the plastic bucket pannier, which is tacky but utilitarian. The fixie ministers obtain expensive hipster purses (i.e. shoulder bags). The old hippie ministers have baskets full of kombucha and nutritional yeast. The mountaineer ministers don’t even have bicycle storage – they just hold their things with their teeth. The cycling team ministers eschew all weight. The salaried cyclotourers in Davis buy proper Ortlieb panniers (based on an old French word for bread basket), made in Germany from stitching Euros together into Chinese finger traps.

A friend and I have been jokingly planning “The Polyester Ride”, which is our sarcastic retort to “the Tweed Ride”: a parade where everyone wears clothing from the ’20s and rides crappy deathtrap bikes. My reasoning: if you want to celebrate the bicycle’s actual golden age, you should be riding on the steel classics of the late ’80s and early ’90s. And of course, dress like Kurt Cobain, MJ and Pat Benetar.

In general, very little about transporting goods, shopping and hauling with your bike is sexy or stylish. It’s point A to point B. It’s also a design solution and for non-traditional engineers like myself, it’s a bit of fun and something to boast about later.

And of course, there’s nothing wrong with a little junk in the trunk.CHRISTOPHER SALAM is a minister and master malapropist at the Davis Bicycle Collective, and can be reached at mrsalam@ucdavis.edu. If you are interested in DIY bicycle repair visit the DBC at its Bike Forth location, on L Street and Fourth, Monday 1 to 5 p.m., Tuesday to Thursday 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturday 12 to 6 p.m.

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