Bike Commute Hoarder

Quickbeam commute

Lifehacker recently posted an article called the Cycling Commuter’s Daily Bag that essentially emptied out a bike commuter’s pannier. Curious, I looked through the items listed and the accompanying photos. The number of items this person carried to her job was shocking.

The article did not go into the mileage of the woman’s daily commute, but during my own review I concluded she was carrying way too much unless she was heading out on a multi-day trip.

Then I started considering my own commute. Taking the short route, it’s two miles one-way. Not far at all. I bring clothes to the office and then leave them there, and have the additional benefit of an on-site dry cleaner’s.

How much stuff could I possibly need, especially on days where I only log four total miles by bike?

I have two main commuter bikes, and currently I’m riding a single-speed Rivendell Quickbeam. It is set up with a Tubus rack in the back, and to the rack I have added a Carradice College.

This particular model of Carradice is designed to hold legal folders and does not have side pockets. I call it my magic hat bag, and originally purchased it with the idea that I would not use a pannier as this bag fits all my stuff.

Over time I fell into using a small Ortlieb pannier along with the Carradice College. Space galore. So ridiculous.

If you were to ask me what I consider my commute essentials I would reply with this list:

1. My purse;
2. Gym clothes;
3. Healthy (or not) snacks;
4. A bike pump;
5. Tools;
6. A patch kit; and
7. My Abus lock.

With all this additional space, however, I’ve just been throwing more stuff until it has exploded into what you see here.

More bag contents

Ortlieb Pannier Contents

I generally stash the items in the photo above in my small Ortlieb pannier. They include:

  1. Lightweight cycling cap
  2. Water bottle for lunch runs
  3. Small taillight. I have an excellent taillight affixed to my Tubus rack, but this light found its way into my bag somehow, and there it has stayed for who knows how long.
  4. Wallet
  5. Sunglasses
  6. Contact lenses
  7. Glasses case for holding my glasses when I put in my contacts.
  8. Mp3 player.

Small Rickshaw

Some of this stuff gets hauled around in my purse which then goes inside the Ortlieb, but in order to give a more comprehensive inventory I also dissected my purse, aka Rickshaw Mini Zero Messenger bag.

My bag contents

Most of what you see in this photo is in my purse/Rickshaw. Are you sleeping yet?! WAKE UP! There’s still more stuff! Okay good.

  1. Neosporin. I’m not sure how it ended up here.
  2. Bicycling “business” cards
  3. Notebook for deep thoughts and revelations
  4. Light & Motion Urban 400
  5. Two lip tints
  6. Travel-size perfume. Also not sure how it ended up in my purse.
  7. RoadID for midday runs
  8. Two pens
  9. Tampons
  10. Sample-size moisturizer from a recent trip to the Aveda store
  11. Travel hair brush
  12. Spare hair tie
  13. Keys

And there’s even more stuff floating around in the Ortlieb!

My bag

I generally tuck my Rickshaw bag into the Ortlieb, and there it travels along with these other items, a few of which I discovered during this inventory.

  1. One remaining Clif Shot Block from a weekend ride (this was in my purse).
  2. The D.C. Public Library’s instructions for how to download and access magazine subscriptions from an eReader.
  3. Healthy snacks (really!) in an insulated lunch bag
  4. Lunch run clothes
  5. Spare plastic bag for ______ (insert purpose here).
  6. Two tea sachets. They are chamomile and lavender. Maybe I should hand them out to angry drivers. This tea is supposed to have a calming effect.

I’m not through yet, though. Getting there, but not quite. I am now (possibly, definitely?) entering the zone of bike commute hoarder.

Bag contents

Carradice College Contents

With the exception of my cell phone, all of this crap can be found– or excavated– in the Carradice College saddlebag.

  1. Sunblock
  2. Chain lube– Prolink, if you’re interested– and a rag for application
  3. Cell phone
  4. Bike-to-Work Day 2013 ankle band from the CASCADE BICYCLE CLUB, WHAT? It’s still wrapped in plastic and I have NO IDEA how an ankle band from Washington state came to be in my Washington, D.C., bag.
  5. Blackburn tire pump.
  6. Hairclip
  7. Little bag with bike tools, including a wrench for removing fender bolts, tire levers, multitool, and a patch kit for you-know-what.
  8. Spare tube
  9. Abus lock (not pictured)


I never should have scoffed at the commuter featured in Lifehacker! People who live in glass houses and all that.

Because my commute is so short, I don’t worry about weighing myself down like I would if my commute was longer. Throw it in, I say to myself. I’m only hauling it two miles. Even if I extend my commute, it’s generally flat and the weight is no issue. This is a big contrast to my streamlined stuff approach to run-commutes.

The Quickbeam’s gearing is forgiving enough that it will ride well with a load and not strain my knees despite it being a single speed. It’s such a great bike for commutes and rides in and around the city.

Given all the space I have, I’m enticed to fill it with things I don’t really need for days at the office. When the day is done I am lazy about doing a thorough search and removal of what I don’t need on a daily basis. The result is the occasional discovery of random items like ankle bands from cycling clubs in the Pacific Northwest and expired sachets of herbal tea.

I think the most basic conclusion to this post is “My name is Mary. I’m a bike commute hoarder.”


  1. for 6 years i bike commuted, 7 miles roundtrip. i was fortunate that i had a place in each to store clothes and a place to park my bike [in my office or in the lunch area] so my commuting bag, a sling backpack, included: small purse [7 x 5 x 1] with lipstick, eyeshadow, money, id, pens; notebook; calendar; phone; newspaper; good eyeglasses. total weight about 2 lbs. once a week i switched to a large backpack and brought a 3 lb bag of salad, salad dressing, container of hummus, chips for a week of lunches. i travel light.


  2. I could’ve used a rag for chain lube application this weekend! After my poor bike was drenched on a long drive, I ended up having to use the edge of my pillowcase.


  3. I am laughing. My commute stuff for many years (6.5mi RT) – work clothes. lunch, whatever items normally lived in my Jandd Briefcase – pens, pencils, wallet, cell phone… On Mondays, I carried running gear for the week in, on Fridays, carried it home. Patch kit, spare tube, tire irons, multitool. Once I upgraded to the Ortliebs, because the Jandd disintegrated after 15+ years of use, if needed, I could stop by the grocery on the way home. For the 20 mi RT commute, work clothes, lunch, spare tube, patch kit, tire irons, little multitool. Knitting project. Spare batteries if my rear blinkie decided to give it up.


  4. Haha! I recently had to clear out my Ortlieb pannier as it was starting to smell, so I have a good idea of what’s in there on a day-to-day basis: hand pump, lock, lights, spare inner tube, puncture repair kit, tyre levers, the remains of a multi-tool (it fell apart a long time ago), chain oil, bungee cords, baby wipes, deodorant, comb, hair styling wax, notebook, multiple pens and broken bits of pens, another notebook, lip balm, hand cream, ibuprofen, gloves, waterproof trousers, rain jacket, plus a change of clothes and my lunch. This for a round trip commute of about 18 miles. I think I’m definitely a bike commute hoarder.


  5. I transfer a small toiletries bag, roughly 10 x 20 x 3cm, into whichever one of the three panniers I use. It contains a mini pump, puncture kit with tyre levers, band aids & sterile water, small pack of baby wipes, small note pad & pen, and a fold up map of Melbourne.

    Depending on the pannier & destination I also have some of the following: an Eagle Creek Folder with clothes, lunch or snack, sunscreen, makeup kit, tissues, a laptop & cables, iPad or kindle, USB key, purse & a small hairbrush. Rarely everything all at the same time, in the one pannier although my Ortlieb office bag can take it. On the bike goes my phone, drink and D-lock. I have a smaller & prettier Basil single pannier that gets a lot of use, or I can use my Po Campo rack top bag which is smaller still.

    Not quite a hoarder, but close!


  6. the bigger the bag, the more crap accumulates in it on a daily basis. My handbag is the same. The only answer is to get a much smaller pannier bag. Or just consider it weight training


  7. You bicycle commuters fascinate me, and provoke envy. I know myself well enough that, if I were so fortunate, my bags would fill to capacity over time. But there’s no way to predict what sort of non-essentials would accumulate there.


  8. wow, it’s a bit like Russian dolls!
    I’m an admin for the “What’s In Your Bag” Flickr group and this whole topic fascinates me. It’s not just what’s in people’s bags that’s intriguing but the motivations – both for sharing what’s in THEIR bag and for wanting to know what’s in others’! Last year a friend and fellow blogger Dave posted what he was carrying around while cycling –
    so I did the same –


  9. Another hoarder here! Though I must admit that being a slow rider and my commute at about 12km (route choice dependant) I am quite conscious of extra weight. As such I tend to check the contents of my bike bag off and on. I cleaned some of it out the other day — I could stand to be a bit more rigorous. and check more often.


  10. Haha, yep! I wrote this 3 years ago and it’s still true. Stuff accumulates.
    I’m guessing you got the Casade ankle strap at the National Bike Summit or Joe Platzner gave it to you 🙂
    I usually have 3 electronic devices: cell phone, Kindle, tablet. I know I can read the Kindle app on the other two but it’s habit to grab that because it’s lighter than the tablet (in a case with a keyboard) and bigger than the phone. Being spoiled adds weight. And my ride is 10+ miles one way.


  11. 30 mile roundtrip, courier bag contents:
    Wallet, keys, work ID
    Clean socks, shorts, t-shirt, underwear
    Baby wipes
    Pump, tube, multi-tool, chain tool, patch kit


  12. About once a month, it seems, I have to dump out whatever bag I’m using for my commute to get back to the point where I can fit my work clothes and lunch in it again (except when I’m using the MW Vandal backpack, which just keeps expanding). I always find fascinating things, and usually things that I’ve been missing for a week or more.

    It’s now the first place I look for the missing arm warmer, since it’s almost always there.


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