September 13, 2013
When it comes to the stuff I carry on my bike, no one would ever accuse me of being an ultralight bike traveler. When traveling solo, I've been known to pedal with a tent big enough for me and my bicycle. Before the digital camera revolution, a large portion of one of my panniers was devoted to 80 rolls of slide film. I regularly find room to pack a bottle (or two) of wine.
How much is too much? 20 lbs? 40 lbs? 60 lbs of gear?
Although it was all of my own doing, (no one forced me to stuff three packages of cookies into my front panniers) I used to complain about the weight I was lugging around.
Then I pedaled through India. Compared to the people (and animals) I regularly passed out on the back roads, my burden was trivial.
One afternoon, in the mountains of Himalchal Pradesh, I was frustrated about my slow progress up a mountain pass. I was cursing while fantasizing about throwing my panniers of the mountain, when I passed an old woman. She was walking, her right arm stretched up, balancing a huge stack of wood. I couldn't imagine carrying that load in a backpack.
She glanced up and our eyes met. She smiled. Sweat dripped down her weather-worn face.
A wave of embarrassment washed over me. There I was, privileged with the time and money to be traveling on my bicycle, grumbling about the stuff I was carrying.
I smiled and waved at her. She only took a couple of more steps on the highway before turning off on a small foot path that headed steeply uphill.
How much gear do I carry? I allow myself to pack as much stuff as I'd like, as long as I can keep a smile on my face.
Photos by Willie Weir
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His latest book Travels with Willie: Adventure Cyclist will inspire you to hit the road and just might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their adventures at http://yellowtentadventures.com.