Training: How Far?

Bike Errand Distances

I’ve had quite a few of you email me and ask questions about the bike riding. Things like:

“Riding your bike? Don’t you live in the suburbs? That can’t be practical.” The flatter roads of my town seem vastly more practical than riding the hills of San Francisco, but that doesn’t stop the city-dwellers.

“How far are your rides?” It varies. On a normal day I’m going a minimum of 2.6 miles, to and from school in the morning and afternoon. On Thursday, I went to and from school twice, to Safeway and to Peet’s, which can really add up (7 miles), and on Friday I went to school once, plus Sprouts (12.3 miles). Here are a few examples of roundtrips:

    • Home > School: 1.3 miles
    • Home > Peet’s Coffee: 1.8 miles
    • Home > Safeway/Bagels/Starbucks: 2.6 miles
    • Home > Sprouts/Target/REI: 11 miles
    • Home > Gym: 5.2 miles
    • Home > Farmer’s Market: 3.8 miles
    • Home > Baseball Practice: 2.8 miles

“Do you really, seriously take your bike to the supermarket?” Yes, I really do.

Keepin' it cool.

Keepin’ it cool.

And that brings me to a funny story. On Friday, I headed to Sprouts for my weekly Big Shopping Trip. The forecast high was for the mid-90s, and it was already feeling pretty hot by 8:30. I was a little bit concerned about this, since the ride home takes the better part of half an hour, and I was going to be toting dairy and perishables. So I went to Target and bought an insulated cooler bag that was thin, cheap and promised to keep frozens frozen for up to two hours. Excellent.

Then I went over to Sprouts. I did my shopping carefully (although not carefully enough; the weight total was well past 40 pounds between my panniers, backpack and basket), and approached the register. I loaded all of my stuff onto the conveyor belt: milk, dried beans, canned tomatoes, canned coconut milk, sausage, cabbage, yogurt… the list went on and on.

A bag inside a bag. A dweam within a dweam.

A bag inside a bag. A dweam within a dweam.

I handed my bags to the bagger and carefully set up the cooler bag inside the pannier, like so (see left), with the cooler bag open and ready to be filled; when it’s open, the effect is similar to a plastic bag lining a garbage can, and the contents can be stuffed in there to fit.

The bagger immediately pulled the cooler bag from the pannier.

“No, no,” I explained. “I need the cooler inside the other bag. This one clips onto my bike. This one is just to keep the stuff in that bag cool while I ride home.”

She shook her head. “But see, if I pull this one out, you haveĀ three bags to work with, not just two. It’s better this way.”

“No,” I explained again. “These clip onto my bike. They kind of act like a trunk. If you put the cooler bag separate, I have no way of getting it home on my bike. Because I’m on a bike. And these [pointing to the panniers] are what let me carry the stuff home.”

“But you’re wasting bags,” she said, clearly baffled by me.

“No, don’t worry about that. Just fill that bag inside this one.”

“If that’s what you want….” And then she delivered the killer line with all the earnestness in the world: “You know, if you got a car, you could totally carry as many bags as you wanted!”

I told her that I’d take that under advisement. In the end, I had to repack my bags in the parking lot because there was just no amount of explaining that was going to get the point across. It was annoying, but honestly, so few baggers seem to think at all. I guess I’m kind of glad that she actually put some thought into how to bag my groceries and why, even if the thinking behind it was completely wrong.

Here’s hoping that your weekly shopping trip was more uneventful!

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