Going by bicycle to shop and run errands can transform a chore into a fun adventure. With an electric bike, it’s even easier and opens up possibilities to ride further and carry more. Bicycle shopping is a great option for all but the most massive of grocery runs and shopping expeditions.
In addition to sneaking in some fun and exercise, shopping by bicycle also allows you to avoid parking headaches and gas costs. Plus, you can feel good about reducing your impact on the environment, local traffic and street infrastructure!
A little planning and the right gear goes a long way to make this a rewarding and sustainable experience. Check out these tips and you’ll be able to integrate shopping by ebike into your lifestyle before you know it!
Relatively upright city bikes, hybrids, and comfort bikes are among the most popular for shopping as they are easier to balance while carrying your goods home, and allow a comfortable position to look around, enjoy the ride and be aware of traffic. They are also generally compatible with racks and baskets (see the “carrying stuff” section below). Of course you can start with whatever bike you have, and as you ride more you may find yourself wanting to upgrade.
Lights are key to safely and legally riding on city streets after the sun sets, and are even a good idea in the daytime for maximum visibility.
A kickstand is particularly nice on a bike used for shopping, as it holds the bike up while you load your newly purchased goods.
Fenders are a good idea to protect your clothes and purchases from puddles and road grime.
Electric-assist bikes are particularly helpful in making shopping by bike a regular and sustainable part of your lifestyle: hills, heavy goods, winds and fatigue won’t hold you back from riding to the store anymore!
Make sure you bring a reliable lock to secure your bike. In all but the most low-risk areas, use a “u-lock” style lock or other heavy duty solution such as a link lock or hardened chain, and always make sure your frame is secured to a well-anchored object such as a bike rack or pole.
Cable locks are easily defeated with small tools and should be used only to secure parts and accessories such as wheels, bags, and trailers unless you are in a very low-risk area.
If the businesses you patronize do not offer bike racks, consider asking them to install bicycle parking. Also, consider asking your city’s transportation department to install bike racks where you see a need for them.
While carrying lots of good on your bike may seem daunting at first, it can quickly turn into a game of “how much can I carry”, which is both fun and satisfying.
You can carry a surprising amount of stuff in a backpack, and this is a good place to start for short trips. There are also backpacks designed to be comfortable while riding (Timbuk2, Chrome, Blackburn)
Pros: you probably have one. Easy to carry into store.
Cons: limited volume, not great for heavy items, liquids, can be sweaty and uncomfortable.
Nothing says casual style quite like a front basket. They are also particularly convenient. You may even be able to bring along a little doggo!
Pros: see what you’re carrying. Easy to load. Quick-release options available to take in store, or just put a reusable bag in it
Cons: usually limited weight capacity, may affect handling if loaded heavily (unless mounted to frame)
The workhorse for bicycle shoppers, the rear rack allows you to strap items to it, mount a rear basket on trunk bag on it, or best of all use full sized panniers for shopping.
Pros: highest weight capacity and most versatility, allows use of panniers and rear baskets
Cons: cost including quality panniers can be higher, installation can be tricky on some bikes
What to put on your rear rack to increase carrying options:
Pannier bags: mount to sides of rear rack.The best option to carry lots of goods. Lower center of gravity is more stable. Some stay strapped to the bike, while others get taken along with you when you park. Waterproof options available. Typically sold as a pair, some are sold individually. Some turn into backpacks. Reputable brands: Ortlieb, Banjo Brothers, Blackburn, Axiom, Jandd, and many others.
Side baskets: inexpensive metal alternative to panniers. Usually permanently attaches to rear rack and folds down when not in use. Holds one full size grocery bag per side. Heavier than most panniers. “WALD 582” folding basket is sold at most bike shops and made in the USA.
Trunk bags: mount to top of rear rack. Convenient for short trips and recreational rides. Some expand up and/or feature fold out mini panniers.
Top baskets: fixed or removable options available. Easy to load. May affect handling if loaded heavily. Good for carrying pets. On a budget? Use a milk crate and hose clamps! Cannot be used simultaneously with panniers with most racks.
Bungees and tie-downs: great for strapping on unusually shaped goods. Make sure your items are secure and cannot flop into your wheel! Inner tubes are very useful repurposed as tie-downs.
Like using rear panniers and looking to carry more? Attach a low-rider rack to your fork and get some front panniers to expand your options!
Pros: Stable, modular, waterproof options available
Cons: cost, rack installation, many bags to manage.
The best solution for large and heavy hauls. Now we’re talking leaving the car at home for most trips! You can also take kids or pets along with them. Some people use them for delivery and hauling gardening supplies...how you will use a trailer is up to your imagination!
Pros: carry very large and/or heavy items. Stable. Disconnect when not in use. Take kids or pets along. Some child versions turn into strollers.
Cons: can be costly. Check hitch compatibility.
You really want to stop driving whenever possible? Consider purchasing a cargo bike. Designed for maximum carrying capacity, they are the workhorse you are looking for in a bicycle powered lifestyle. Options abound for carrying goods or family members!
Riding to and from your destinations, and exploring new possibilities
Check with your local bike advocacy group to see if they have a map showing bike lanes, paths and recommended bike routes. The best way to drive is often not the best way to bike. Side streets are often more pleasant, scenic and safer. Take some extra time to explore new routes and discover new views and businesses.
Shop local and support businesses that encourage bike riding by providing bike parking (some even offer discounts if you shop by bike!)
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