Late last week I installed my new bike rack and panniers, and properly mounted my taillights. I also fabricated a very basic bracket to attach the front fender to the fork. When finished, the commuter rig looked like this:
Although I expected my homemade bracket to be totally mediocre, it's actually not bad. I used a flat piece of aluminum, cut to length, deburred, and drilled for mounting. It works pretty well, except it really needs square holes and carriage bolts or two mounting holes to help square the alignment. I like the way it looks, and as long as I keep the bolts tight, it will function properly.
I installed all of this hardware and equipment last Wednesday night in preparation for a Thursday commute, but that night my oldest daughter took a trip to the ER. All is good now, but I had to postpone my 2nd commute to Tuesday. On Monday night, I loaded the panniers with notebook, clothes, toiletries, and shower shoes, then woke up early Tuesday morning and was on the road by 5:45a.
I immediately appreciated the panniers. It is much more comfortable to ride without a backpack, and except for when turning, I really didn't notice that the panniers were even there. I kicked them a couple of times when clipping in, but after a few stops I figured out how to engage the pedals without ever touching the panniers.
At one point in my ride, I have no choice but to travel on a busy road. There's just no way to get to the office without choosing the lesser of multiple evils. It's busy enough that today I decided to ride on the sidewalk. As I made a left turn on to the busy road, I had to execute a very sharp s-shaped series of turns in order to get on to the sidewalk. The weight of the panniers took me by surprise as I started the turn. As I quickly unclipped and attempted to transfer my weight and rebalance, I crossed up the front tire. I hit my knee pretty hard on the bike, and came to a complete stop at the entrance to the sidewalk. I pushed the bike over to the sidewalk and had a look at my knee.
The knee didn't hurt much, but blood was already dripping down my leg and into my sock. What the heck? It was dark, but from the street lamp I could tell that I didn't have a big injury. It looked like a puncture wound. I inspected the bike, and found the source of the damage. When my knee hit the fender of my crossed-up front wheel, I hit it hard enough that a protective cap on the end of a fender stay was punctured by the fender stay, which then punctured my leg. Check the black caps in the below photo.
I made sure nothing was rubbing on the bike and that the bleeding had stopped, and then rode on to the office. Once there, I snapped this photo of the injury:
The wound is only about 3/8" long, but it's pretty deep. The end of the fender stay gouged a little channel into my leg, but I'm happy that it wasn't just a straight puncture. I cleaned and dressed the little wound, and it feels fine now.
I learned the hard way not to underestimate the impact of panniers on bike handling. I'll think twice before I try to make another series of sharp turns at low speed. I almost forgot -- even with the injury, it was another great bike commute in Houston!