How to carry groceries on your bike

8 methods for carrying groceries on your bike

With the spread of coronavirus, many of us have had to rethink how to carry groceries on our bikes. Before the pandemic, bicyclists could make several small trips to the grocery store each week rather than one big grocery haul. But now with social distancing, it’s recommended that we go to the grocery store just once per week. While this change will take some planning, anyone can do it! Here you can learn 8 ways to carry groceries on your bike. 

1. The crate method

Capacity: ★★☆☆☆     Comfort: ★★★★☆    

If you have a front or back rack on your bike, strapping a crate or sturdy box to it is a great option for carrying groceries. You can attach it to your rack with zip ties, rope with reliable knots, or bungee cords for a less permanent solution.

2. The backpack method

Capacity: ★★☆☆☆     Comfort: ★★☆☆☆

Find your biggest, sturdiest backpack. That one from middle school that’s at the back of your closet should work just fine (just dump out the weird crumbs and pencil stubs first, and maybe wipe it down). Adjust the straps so the backpack is high on your back. Fill it with the heaviest groceries on the bottom and delicate items on top. Be strategic about placement so you don’t have a carrot jabbing you in your back. Be prepared to rearrange things mid-ride if it’s uncomfortable.

3. The pannier method

Capacity: ★★★★☆     Comfort: ★★★★★

Panniers, a.k.a. bike bags, come in all shapes and sizes, and are fantastic for carrying groceries. While panniers are great in that they are often waterproof, easily removable, and sturdy, they can also be expensive. They start around $40 a piece, and you’ll probably need two large panniers for carrying a week’s worth of groceries. With just one pannier loaded down, your bike will feel a bit off balance, so two is best. P.S. If you’ve always been too embarrassed to say the word “pannier”, have no fear. You can now say it with confidence using Merriam Webster’s pronunciation.

4. The trailer method

Capacity: ★★★★★     Comfort: ★★★★☆

If you’ve got a lot of mouths to feed at home, you might want to consider using a trailer to carry groceries. If you have a child trailer or a flat trailer that mounts to your bike, both will work for carrying a heavy load. Just make sure to bring plenty of bungees to hold everything in place. Shoutout to friend of BikePGH, Renata, who lent the trailer she uses for groceries for this pic!

5. The rack method

Capacity: ★☆☆☆☆     Comfort: ★★★☆☆

This method works if you have a wider rack, a sturdy grocery bag, and don’t need to carry too much stuff. You likely won’t be able to carry a week’s worth of groceries with this method alone, but try combining it with other methods.

6. The basket method

Capacity: ★★☆☆☆     Comfort: ★★★☆☆

A typical front basket can’t carry more than one grocery bag, so this method is best used when paired with another carrying arrangement. Use a bunch of bungees, or a bungee net to keep things in place in your basket.

7. The handlebar method

Capacity: ★★★☆☆     Comfort: ★☆☆☆☆

We’ve all been there: biking with bags dangling precariously from the handlebars. It’s not comfortable, and we definitely don’t recommend it. The bags whack against your front wheel, and your handlebars wobble. But this is an option, if not a last resort. If you live close enough to the grocery store, walk your bike when using this method.

8. The combo method

Pick two or more of the options above! Try combining methods that will allow you to balance the weight of groceries equally on the front and back of your bike.

Quick Tips

  • Air out the chips. All that air in snack bags makes them take up a lot of space. Break open the bag to let the air out, roll down the top, and you’ll save half the space! While you’re at it, munch a few for an energy boost before you head home! 
  • Perfect your volume to value ratio. When you’re in the grocery store, look for nutrient dense foods that will be worth the space they take up on your bike. A box with 14 crackers and a lot of air might not be worth it. 
  • Take a break. Can’t make it up that hill loaded down with groceries? There is no shame in walking your bike or just pausing to take a break.
  • Check your load. With a large load, make sure to look over your shoulder at stop lights to check if everything is still in place! And take your time — you’re likely much less nimble with all your provisions.

Where to buy gear to carry groceries

Looking for a bike rack or some panniers to make your grocery ride easier? Pennsylvania has categorized bike shops as an essential business since bikes are a primary form of transportation for many residents. Check out our blog on which local bike shops are open for business.

How do YOU carry groceries on your bike?

Whether you have a tried and true method for carrying groceries or you’re still figuring it out, send us a photo of your bike on social media!

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