Start practicing now. The first thing people ask about shopping by bike is how they can carry their purchases home. The good news is that there are lots of options beyond the basic backpack: a basket, a rack and panniers, or even a trailer. Here are some gear ideas and tips to make it all much easier.

Before Your First Trip

While it’s easy enough to slip a bottle of pills into your pocket or a small package to mail into a backpack, for errands like groceries you’ll want a bike that’s set up to carry a load. Before you hop on your bike and head out for to the grocery, hardware or clothing store, consider gearing up with some of these options:

Rear racks support loads over your bike’s rear wheel, making for a stable ride. Most attach to the frame near the rear wheel axle and to the seat stays, the frame area just below the seat.

Panniers are bike-specific bags that attach to racks. Touring panniers are designed to be more aerodynamic and weather-proof for long trips, while boxy open-topped panniers like Katie chose are convenient for quick stops and shorter trips.

Baskets are usually mounted on the handlebars but can also be attached to a rear rack. Handlebar baskets are great for keeping things close at hand, like purses and small pets. Having weight on the handlebars affects steering more than when the weight is on the back, so be careful with a heavier load.

Elastic straps work well when you have an odd-shaped object or a few too many items to carry. The best ones are flat instead of round with two or three straps emerging from a single hook at each end, but I also keep micro-sized bungees on my bike just in case.

Kickstands are handy for making quick stops on errand runs and almost required when you’re carrying groceries on your bike. It’s a lot easier to load up when you don’t have to balance the bike too.

Bike trailers can carry far bigger loads than a bike alone. I use my cargo trailer when I’m buying the big stuff like 30 rolls of toilet paper at Costco, or when I want to buy more than three bags of groceries in one trip. Note that they’re more stable when full, so fill ’em up. I learned the hard way.

Tips & Tricks content is courtesy of Janet Lafleur, biketoshopday.com

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