New bike? Check. Night ride? Done that. Long distance ride? Once on the weekend / one for the weekends. Commuting? Sure. Grocery runs? Don’t leave that just for the messengers out there. Why don’t you give it a shot and get your weekly needs with your trusty steed?
You’re wondering how you are supposed to fit a week’s worth of goodies on a bike? Below, are some of the most common way for carrying groceries (or any cargo for that matter) on a bicycle:
1 | The Backpack
Surely you must have some sort of large, sturdy backpack somewhere tucked in the back of your closet. It is a solid start for your first grocery run, though having an expandable feature is a plus for those who are easily tempted by the discount shelves near checkout. When talking about backpacks, ergonomics is the foundation as they determine how comfortable it is to carry. Please consider a model that offers stability and comfort while you’re carrying it so that it doesn’t get into any uneasy positions while riding.
With that being said, for us, a backpack is relatively easy to carry so you don’t lose your balance while riding your bike. You don’t need to mount them with straps or clips, just swing it over your shoulder and off you go. On the other hand, carrying a lot of volume can be a little trickier and it’s hard to hold as much weight on your shoulders. Besides, in hot weather, carrying a backpack will lead to a sweaty back.
2 | The Front Basket
Can’t go wrong with the trusty basket. Whether you’ve got ones that are built-in to your bikes, or fancied up with the foldable/detachable ones, it’s still one of the most reliable ways to carry stuff on your bike.
If you have a large enough basket, you can even put the bag you’re wearing in that basket (messenger bags work great with baskets). If you make an unexpected stop, you can wear your bag and then load up the basket. It’s speedy and easy to get things in and out of a front basket. Also, you can see everything you’re carrying, should anything shift around or fall out. However, as soon as you add any weight to the front of the bike, it will significantly increase steering effort. We found that 5kg is the magic number to put on the front rack, any higher will be too unstable.
3 | The Cargo Rack / Cycle Truck
Want to be as fly as Yudish from TrackJekarda? Get yourself a Clydesdale cargo fork, then strap a crate on it – milk, beer, whatever you can find. It works if you’ve dreamed of a cargo bike but unwilling to take the plunge into a longtail or bakfiets, the Clydesdale fork is a rad option that preserves your wheelbase and increases storage capacity. Fits more than the average basket, and you can even bring your furry buddy with you.
In addition, if you are looking into overnight bike touring it is the easiest way to make a simple pack bike for carrying all your gear. Though, just like the front rack, the more you bring, the heavier the effect on handling.
4 | The Rear Rack
Don’t like having things weighing down your handling? Try attaching your rack on the rear of your bike. But keep an eye out for your groceries back there, apples are known to be excellent rollers. Having a few bungee cords is handy should anything need to be secured down.
Pro tip: mounting a basket to the top of a rack is a quick way to increase carrying capacity. Although, if your load is inordinately heavy until it sways, chances are the effects will not be as noticeable in action. Additionally, rear mounted weight makes climbing considerably harder, so this might not be a good choice if you live on a hill.
5 | The Rear Pannier
If you’re buying more than two large bags worth of groceries, consider investing in some panniers. You can carry more weight and volume efficiently, as well as freeing up your body, reducing the strain to your back and shoulders. You will be able to pedal and control your bike unhindered when riding with panniers. This will make longer journeys much easier on your body.
That said, adding the weight to your back does have its disadvantages. You increase the width profile of your bike by putting bags on it, so you’ll need to be more spatially aware around vehicles and other cyclists. It also suffers the same con as the rear rack when it comes to pedalling on an incline, and arguably even more so with it having a lower center of mass. Another thing about panniers, is that you need two of them to balance the weight properly on your bike. With just one loaded down, your bike might feel a bit off balance.
6 | The Bike Trailer
If you’re shopping for a family, or you can’t go to the store that often, a great option would be using a trailer, where all of the awkward, bulky, or heavy items like a 10kg bag of rice, can fit into a trailer with no problem, whenever you like.
Despite the many advantages to a trailer, there are some problems that you have to consider. The problem became apparent very quickly the first time you use trailer and then stop at the grocery store. It’s hard enough to park your bike, let alone with the trailer tugging at your bike. Another, more serious concern is the risk of a car driver unable to see the trailer behind you and turning a bit too close to your bike and hitting your trailer. This can easily happen at an intersection when there is a lot of traffic. So, making your trailer as obnoxious looking as possible is both a fashion icon, and a safety measure.
7 | The Bakfiets
Cargo bikes nowadays comes in different shapes and sizes, from the aforementioned Cycletruck, all the way to the enormous Bakfiets.
Just like a trailer, the Bakfiets can fit groceries for a family (or two), in the style of Rangga Panji did a few weeks ago. You can even bring your kid along for the ride with you. However, there are some downsides to a bakfiets, or any kind of front box cargo bikes, is that they all have linkage steering, which requires a few trial rides to get used to its handling. Though a much bigger problem is hills-- going uphill is a struggle, going downhill is a greater feat. You either need thunder thighs or live someplace where bakfiets are accommodable. Finally, you may have to pay a pretty penny to get your hands on these bikes. Bakfiets are a hefty investment to make, but as it can, in many ways, be a car replacement, it is very much worth every penny.
8 | The Bikepacker
If you happen to already have a set of rackless bikepacking bags such as frame, saddle, top-tube, or handlebar bag, why not use them? this can save you from having to install fiddly racks, especially if you’re not planning to use the rack on a day-to-day basis. While not perfect (as they have limited capacity), bikepacking bags can be utilised for groceries in a pinch.
With the help of velcro and cam buckles, bikepacking bags are relatively easy to attach, and detach. Although, when using these bags, you will need to pay attention to your items’ size, shape and weight. Sure, you can’t carry your 5-pound protein powder or a liter of your favorite soymilk, but you’d be surprised how many energy bars and small essentials you need throughout the week can fit in them!
Whichever of these options you pick for transporting your groceries, please make sure to make a grocery list beforehand, then start picking the items that you will pack at the bottom of your bag/crate, so when you check out and start loading into your bag/crate everything will run smoothly, as to avoid impatient queuers’ eyes. Not to mention to bring your bike lock, you probably want your bike to still be where you left it. And finally, never overload and that hauling bags over your handlebars is not recommended. Not only that it’s uncomfortable, it is also very dangerous . The bags can whack against your front wheel, making your handlebars wobble.
So, how do you carry groceries on your bike? Tag us on instagram @lbbjkt if you bring home your groceries like we do. Think we left something out? Sound it off in the comments below.