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Big Biker Daddy

A week ago our family went for our first bike ride together: the Tour de Montclair (in Montclair, New Jersey). My wife, who is starting to ride again after a long hiatus, rode her nice new bike. Our one year old son rode in his Topeak Babysitter seat, which is mounted on a rack on the back of my own bike. The ride went very well and the little guy actually fell asleep halfway along. Encouraged by this success we went out again this past weekend on a family ride to a nearby park. We were bringing lunch and various baby necessities. My wife had initially packed these into her backpack but I was a little concerned about the weight on her back throwing off her balance and reducing her overall comfort in the saddle so I transferred the cargo to my own messenger bag. All told I was now hauling an extra forty or fifty pounds on my bike, and this was not as much of a problem as I expected, but the messenger bag was most decidedly not the way to go about it.

I couldn't wear the bag on my back because then it was in my son's face. I tried it on my side but this made balancing much too hard when added to the changed handling characteristics of my loaded bike. The only choice was to wear the bag in front. Now picture this: the messenger bag hangs from a shoulder strap worn around my neck and one arm. I usually carry it hip-high. This strap length caused it to rest on my top tube, teetering left and right. When I attempted to pedal normally my knees would knock the bag from side to side, so I was forced to ride bowlegged to avoid these wobbles. Shortening the strap brought the bag to my chest where it interfered with my arms, an even worse problem. I eventually found a strap position which allowed normal use of my arms and only some bowleggedness, but I couldn't see the pedals. And by the end of the ride I realized just how much the bag had increased my weight on the saddle and the handlebars.

Our outing was fun despite these impediments and we had a good time at the park but I resolved never again to carry things this way. The very next day I went out to a nearby bike store and bought a carrying bag designed to fit on the back of the baby seat, which at least will get the weight off of my body and out of the way (although if I overload it I'll probably be popping wheelies). The bag, made by Topeak, is called the "Ma-Ma-San" bag, and this brings me to the crux of this post: the name Ma-Ma-San is silkscreened on the back of this black bag in striking red letters and for some reason I find this an embarrassing prospect. It's not the most masculine or even paternal badge to wear. My immediate impulse was along the lines of "no problem, I'll just embroider something more macho over it, or on a patch over it." Fortunately I quickly realized the incongruity of this idea. After all, nothing says "manly" like sewing a new logo onto the back of your diaper bag. And what message to add anyway? How do you folks like "Seamster?"

No, I really don't think there's anything inherently unmanly about needle crafts and I'd actually like to learn more about sewing. I modified my son's store-bought Halloween costume last year to make it fit and a needle and thread were involved. I'm just amused that I'm not embarrassed by the prospect of embroidery but I am by the prospect of riding around with a "Ma-Ma-San" sign.



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