I’ve been using a backpack for load carrying on my bike for as long as I can remember but I was tired of carrying textbooks, shopping and whatever else I needed on my back and arriving with a damp shirt, so a couple of weeks ago I finally converted my beloved 11-year old Raleigh sort-of-a-mountain-bike-but-with-thin-tires into a load carrying longtail, and joined the growing ranks of Xtracycle users.

If you’re wondering, an Xtracycle is a frame that shoves the rear wheel backwards by about 30cm and gives you space to add a set of load carriers and a deck. I fitted it immediately before the bike tour, which is against all the advice given for touring as it meant I was relying on an untested piece of equipment to get me around the 300km and back home without dropping onto the road. Fortunately it behaved impeccably throughout: I was usually the last to arrive anywhere, but that was more due to the physical state of the rider than the bike. (Note to self: Build up fitness levels up a bit before attempting to go riding again with people ten years younger)

So far it’s made a big difference at home too: instead of eating food trucked in from goodness knows where by the local supermarket we’re starting to pick it up from the local farm; we can take things to people without using the bus, pick up garden tools, and go for picnics, and I can give my family rides- although we need to work on that as we’re a bit wobbly at the moment.

I hesitate to use words like ’empowerment’ because it sounds like I’m about to go and hug the nearest tree, but it does feel like we’re being part of the solution. We’re reducing emissions and noise pollution, and reducing our dependency on oil.-and is it a coincidence that most major wars in the last century were fought over oilfields?- so going shopping has become a radical empowering, peace-encouraging, friend-making health-improving; world-changing act.

I’ll keep telling myself that as winter approaches. That reminds me: I need to get mudguards.