Surfboards and bicycles go together a lot like surfboards and bicycles should go together: more optimistically than anything, a bit more difficult than should be required, and obsencibly awkward. Surfboards by definition are flat heavy windfoils that don’t fold or bend or pack or blow up or do anything helpful like that. They lay prone like dead dolphins in the sand, waiting for a rogue wave to carry them away, waiting to rot in the sun and into the earth beneath. Carrying a surfboard on a bicycle is a lot like doing a lumber run to your local Home Depot on a bicycle. And there’s a reason no one really does that
…or do you?
But if you’re here, and you’re this far, and you’re still curious, there might just be hope. How to carry a surfboard on a bicycle is an article written to not only save your Saturday morning commute but also, in a way, a small and indignant way albeit, it is an article written to save the world. Indelibly we will save the world by riding our bicycles to the nearest break, alleviating our congested roadways, alleviated our asphyxiating environment, alleviating our Oxford leather heated, cooling and massaging seats of salt ingress and skid marks after that one wave outside held you down a little too long.
Here we go!
On a recent surfpacking trip, (which you can read about here, if you feel so inclined), we brought two boards, a 5’8 fish, and my 7’2 mid-length, (also called a funboard, aptly enough, because they are boards, but are also fun). Ben, on his size medium Doggler, rode with a movedbybikes board carrier. I rode with a Frances Farfarer trailer. Neither really worked all that well. Both felt like carrying lumber over the desolate and destroyed back roads of Baja. But we surfed, by riding our bicycles. The ride was enlightening. The waves were bliss. The overlap will go on to save the world.
MovedByBikes Longboard Rack
This rack mounts two grooved tubes via bolts and screws onto both the head tube and the down tube. And on the head tube and down tube, into the grooved tubes, you place a piece of metal that clicks in, then drops down in a sweeping U shape, that then connects with a snappy click thing like the old razor scooters we all rode as kids, and then swoops back up towards the sky. The metal is foam padded. On the top is a little hole to run a bungee strap, which we thought we would need to use, but quickly learned we didn’t actually need to use. The boards pretty well hold themselves down. Gravity…who’da thunk?
These snaps and clicks and tubes make this rack very portable and easy to put together. It goes on in minutes, maybe five, at most fifteen, and comes off in just the same quantity. The board slots in as well, as it should, and when riding at first feels awkward and unstable but it is a sensation that one quickly gets used too. It’s like walking on a ship in high seas. You get used to these things. The human brain is remarkably adept at getting used to things. Trust me. I’m an expert.
Riding is just as easy, until you load the bike down for several days in the backcountry (or remote wave in Northern Baja that is otherwise totally accessible by car but because you/we/us are ignorant and stubborn, will decide to leave the car behind). Panniers were fine on the back, even slotting in perfectly and thus adding some protection in the case of a fall, which definitely will happen at some point, and framebgas work just as well too, but when combined with a handlebar roll, like a Roadrunner Jumbojammer, my otherwise bag of choice, things quickly get…tricky.The bag interferes with the nuts bolts and screws of the entire operation and makes turning reall difficult. The bag gets caught up all the time and turning right is hard because the bag pushes on the rack and turning left is sometimes impossible because the daisy chain gets stuck in the nuts bolts and screws. Long story short, handlebar roll + side rack = problems. Not life changing problems, not even big problems. You can still ride, but it’s now like walking drunk down the same ship in even higher seas. There’s a bit of shouting and the occasional panic, maybe onset nausea. Maybe you fall over. Ben fell down. He wasn’t hurt. It was kinda funny.
Also, the rack eats paint.
The Frances Farfarer
Undoubtedly the trailer looks cooler than the rack. In this matching pearl/matte Atomic Haystack, this thing really shines. It’s a looker. I go surfing and all I can do is sit on my board and stare back at the beach and obsess over how cool this contraption looks. Cars stop in the middle of traffic to take pictures. Airplanes fall from the sky. Mexican paparazzi follows us into grocery stores to get comments on it. The flashes pop pop popand burn my eyes. They don’t understand that I don’t understand their Spanish. The recorders, notebooks, more questions. We fight. “Get off me!” I yell. It’s just a bicycle!
“But it looks so cool!”They yell back. I throw avocados, bananas, onions, anything I can get my hands on. The garlic just poofs off. The paparazzi pull out their plastic riot shields. The flashes keep flashing. Pop pop pop.They ask more questions. Pop pop pop. I panic and run out the back door and put a broom in the handles and collapse onto the hot black asphalt and pant. It’s the third time already today.
The trailer holds the surfboard above. When strapped down with bungees and tie downs it holds it just fine. I use my wetsuit and a towel to help pad the board on the otherwise steel and wood resting faces. Also, the trailer does not hurt the paint on the bicycle which is a beautiful thing. This paint should be in the Louvre, not caked into screws and bolts and such. That’s a huge point in favor. The trailer holds onto the seatpost and swivels on a piece of pvc. It feels a little mickey-mouse, but in practice works great. It disappears most of the time, that is, until it is loaded with the aforementioned funboard and thirty pounds of water, because once again, we have decided, naively and stubbornly, to leave the perfectly functioning car behind for four days of surfing. With a board and thirty pounds of water the trailer operates mostly like an anchor. With the small, and admittedly cute, little wheel in the back it cuts into the sand and bobbles around and pounds it’s feet and cries and screams “Here is where we should stop.”
On the bike with the trailer, going is much slower, but because I have the water, Ben has to wait for me. He does, and we get there, and it’s all great because damn…we look so cool.And then we get to the wave and I pull out the board and there I see a perfect crescent moon shaped, nickel sized hole punched into the deck, placed there so kindly by the wooden dowel that the board sits atop. I patch it, luckily there’s solarez always nearby in moments like these, and we can get into the water and not drown. The ride was enlightening. The waves were bliss.
The trailer also carries more stuff, easily. I carry water and chairs and food and clothes hanging freely in the underbelly, and the board provides a nice sunshade for them so they can stay cool and protected from the harsh UV elements. It’s easy to access and somehow all of it never flew out. Convenience!
The trailer is about $650 and the rack is only $135, so….there’s that.
So, if you’re just riding down to the wave and back after a couple hours, I like the rack more. But if you’re going surfpacking, and have water and food to carry, and you ride a beautiful, exquisitely painted bicycle such as a Hudski Doggler, and want to look as cool as possible, and have the money to spare or a friend with one lying around their garage, I do really like the Frances Farfarer. Both carry boards. Nothing is perfect. Surfpacking is always going to be a pain in the ass. But it is beautiful. And maybe it’ll save the world.