By Barry Gantenbein
Before I opened the door, I knew the awful truth. The beer fridge was empty. I had unplugged the fridge when I grabbed the last beer, and it remained unplugged. No sense in cooling an empty refrigerator. But hope springs eternal when searching for stray beers, and the Packers were playing that night, so I thought I’d take a look. No luck.
From the time that the grass turns green through November, the dorm-sized fridge in my garage is usually stocked with beer. When the grill is sizzling in the backyard, it’s pretty nice to have cold beers only a few footsteps away. And when the Packers are playing, it’s always a good idea to have beer in the house.
That dark, empty space in the garage provided inspiration. Instead of driving a car to the store, I could ride my bike. When I was a college student, and recent grad without a car, I regularly strapped bungee cords to a bike rack to transport store purchases.
This was a great opportunity to increase my practical bicycling. By practical bicycling I mean riding for purposes other than pleasure or exercise, specifically tasks that would typically be accomplished driving a car. Bicycle commuting is one way that I do this, and cycling to stores is another that I am working to increase.
With panniers strapped securely to my bike rack, I pedaled to the store, and selected two 12-packs of Capital Amber. I slipped a pack into each of the bags to balance my load, and started for home.
I hadn’t carried such heavy, dense weight in my panniers since my bicycle-camping days, and wasn’t quite prepared for the load-shift when I pushed off and began pedaling. The weight threatened to drag the bike down on my first couple of strokes before I figured out how to balance the load. Steering the bike caused the weight to pitch downward, so I mostly pointed the bike in the direction that I wanted to go. No sharp turns on the ride home.
That said, anyone who can ride a bike can ride with fully loaded panniers. Because the bike handles differently, it requires a bit of practice. That’s why you’ll notice riders on bikes laden with gear, practicing before they leave on long trips.
I quickly recalled, as anybody who has carried beer on a bike knows, the load bounces. As a result, the beer must be allowed to settle before pouring a cold one. Not a big deal. By game time, the beers had chilled, cans could be opened without an explosion of foam, and I had gotten out on a bike on a day that I hadn’t planned on riding. And to top it off, the Packers won. A pretty good day.