OK, so maybe you don’t want to ride your bike to work. Maybe it’s too far, too early, too dressy, too fussy, whatever. That doesn’t mean you can’t still use your bike for getting around the city, town, village or neighborhood when you are not going to work. One of my favorite ways to use my bike it for shopping (grocery, hardware, Dr. Visit, Costco/Sams, etc.). If I ride my bike, I don’t have to vie for a parking spot, and I can carry a lot more than when I’m walking.
Click here for the link address to the map above. This is my errand run today, first to the Bank, then to Lowes and finally to Publix. If you zoom in (satellite mode) you can see the bike path that connects the City of Riverview with the City of Sun City (a 12 mile transportation corridor). There are sections that are still under construction and plans for extensions.
With some well-chosen equipment, my bicycle is capable of carrying significant loads.
The number one, most useful item is a rear carrying rack — an aluminum platform which sits over the rear wheel of you bike. It provides a good place to carry your u-lock, and, with a couple of bunji cords, it will allow you to carry an unanticipated load in an emergency. Best of all, racks are designed to fit a variety of standard bicycle bags (or panniers) which make carrying stuff on your bike a breeze.
The most versatile bike bag I can think of it the grocery pannier, a collapsible carrier shaped like a paper grocery sack. It attaches to the bike rack with a combination of metal hooks and an elastic strap. Unlike heavier metal baskets, these bags can be taken off in seconds or folded flat when not in use. You can use them to carry your “regular” bag of briefcase (no need to move stuff back and forth between bags when you are cycling). These panniers can be carried singly or in pairs, and are great for carrying take-out, six-packs, library books, small packages to be mailed, groceries (of course!), and many other things you can think of. I personally carry a full set of panniers which allows me to pick up that unexpected purchase, which always seems to happen.
If you are serious about carrying loads with your bike, you may be a candidate for a cargo trailer. The BOB trailer is a great single-wheeled device with a light cromoly construction. It attaches to the rear axle of most bikes, and will carry up to 70 lbs of load, so it’s equally useful for touring, and weekly supermarket trips for the family. The single-wheel design makes it narrow and maneuverable in traffic. If you prefer a two-wheeled design, Burley, Croozer, and modified child carriers make a very nice and versatile open flatbed trailer that I use for my Lowes/Home Depot expeditions, and a covered trailer that is a great cargo trailer for my Costco/Sam’s excursions and as you can see, fishing!.
A relatively new option that is gaining popularity among load-carrying cyclists is a bike with an extended rear triangle, such as the Kona Ute (as in “utility”). These bikes come with an extra-long carrying rack that is integrated into the frame of the bike. The top of the rack will accommodate large and heavy loads (charcoal bags, potting soil and kitty litter come immediately to mind), while the sides of the rack can be used to mount not one but two pairs of panniers.
And, don’t forget, that you may be able to use what you already have. If you don’t have a rack and panniers, use your backpack. Use a milk crate on top of your existing bike rack.
If you have a child trailer that your kids are not using or have outgrown, use that for shopping expeditions. Urban commuting doesn’t have to be about spending money on more bike stuff. It’s about using your resources creatively.