This is the Packmule, and if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you see I talk about it a good bit. Cycling to work has become metaphoric for me in a few ways. There is a visceral connection to transportation and a unique awareness of our cultural disposition towards cars that happens when you share the road with automobile commuters. As a cyclist and triathlete, there is an abundant population of competitive and fitness cyclists, but as transportation vehicles- almost nobody out there .
As a designer that embraces paradigm shift and loves to work with change agents, I thought I ought to press this idea a bit. I am not alone in this initiative- certainly the market forces are at work- step into your local shop and see what bikes are competing for your attention in the window. It's rides like the Surly Long Haul Trucker, Specialized Langster or the Electra, not the latest sub 14lb. 12k unidirectional weave carbon masterpiece.
What has The Packmule taught me? (1) Bicycle commuting is pretty easy to arrange, but hard to do every day- I can't dump the car (2) It is physically challenging- 20 miles with 68 lbs makes for tired legs (3) Clients think it's pretty cool (4) Cars on the road, for the most part, do not think it's cool. My commute is on a fast moving route with no shoulder and crosses two interstate interchanges, so it's not an easy bike/car environment. I have been pleasantly surprised by the room given by FedEx trucks and most commuters, but I have also been run off the road and sworn at a few times. (5) I have concern for safety, but feel confident enough to keep it up- though the darkness of winter is intimidating.
Now, why I love bikes. This is easy, because I love design. Purpose, Craft, Engineering and Aesthetics in one elegant machine. The Packmule is oldschool steel-is-real construction, but I love the lugwork and details. My mountain bike is a marvel of suspension engineering and the craft of my tri bike and the design to efficiently convert force from my legs into momentum is remarkable. The great part is that it is very accessible and everyone benefits from the design exercise of building a better bike.
Look for me and The Packmule on the road, or the mountain bike on the trail, or the road bike with fellow enthusiasts and I hope you enjoy the opportunity to ride and much as I do.