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Running Errands on Your Bike: It’s Easier Than You Think! – Part 1
Aug 19, 2015
By David Rodenhiser.
One of the great things about a bike, especially an electric bike, is how you can combine exercise and fun with the daily tasks you need to get done.
We’ve already talked about how to commute by bike, but now let’s think about adding even more riding to your day, or just some at all – commuting by bike isn’t possible for everyone, or maybe you’re retired, or like me, you largely work from home.
When you think about what you dislike the most about running your daily errands, like shopping, what is it? For me, it’s sitting in traffic, and trying to find a parking space. Even if there’s a parking lot, you still have to cruise the lot looking for a spot, and that’s incredibly stressful.
I know a person who used to be an insurance adjuster for a major insurance company, and she told me that nearly a quarter of the cases she dealt with involved parking lot fender-benders. I have no problem believing this!
Like any new endeavor, the hardest part is getting started. Until you know the tips and tricks, the perceived (and real) challenges can seem daunting. Let’s list them, and then we’ll talk about the solutions.
It’s important to realize that like almost everything else in the world, this isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. If you need to buy groceries for a family of four, maybe you still will want to do some of your shopping by car. Do your big shopping trip once every few weeks for the things that are heavy and/or bulky and last a long time (think: big bottles of laundry detergent, 24 packs of paper towels and toilet paper, cases of soda, canned goods, etc.) in your car.
Then, buy the perishable items more frequently. The Europeans have this down to a fine art. Think of the French person who stops daily at the boulangerie so they always have fresh baked goods. Vegetables and fruits are another good thing to buy this way, especially if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere that has farm stands or farmer’s markets. Same with dairy products and eggs.
Maybe daily isn’t an option for you, but perhaps every 2 or 3 or 4 days works better. Of course, if you do want to go all out, there’s ways to do all of your shopping by bike. Especially in urban areas, not everyone owns a car, so there are plenty of people who do all of their shopping without one, even in the car-dependent USA. It can be done!
Number One on any list has to be the question of how to carry your cargo. As we’ll see, there are many options, and the ones you use depend on what you want to do.
Firstly, I want to start by saying that hanging grocery bags off of your handlebars is a really bad idea! I’ll admit I’ve done it, but you definitely compromise the handling of your bike quite a bit, and that’s not a great thing to to do. When they start swaying around, you can easily lose control. Which is bad – trust me on this one 🙂
Say you want to start small. So, first you equip your bike with racks and bags. There are some great combination rack-top pannier bags that are big enough to fit a surprising amount of stuff!
Some bikes, like the EVELO Luna can carry quick-releasing front baskets that go on the handlebars: Electra QR Steel Mesh Basket. These are great for quick trips: just pull it off the bike on your way into the store, and put your items right into the basket – no need for a separate bag!
If you want to regularly carry more than 30 lbs of cargo on your bike, dividing the weight between the front and back of the bike starts to make sense. Some combination of the above is one way to do that.
But say you want to carry even more. Well, you can add a front rack, that will take the same panniers and bags mentioned above. This one fits front suspension forks, including the ones on all EVELO bikes: Zefal Touring Raider Front Bike Rack.
Be aware, though, that before venturing out into traffic, it’s important to get comfortable with extra weight on the front of your bike. While this is good advise no matter where you put the weight, it’s especially important when it’s the front wheel.
And of course, there’s always a knapsack. For short trips, and light loads, that might be all you need. I often put the more fragile items in mine, like eggs, and fresh fruits, since they’re a bit more isolated from the bumps on the road.
That’s it for now. Stay tuned for part 2 with ideas on cargo trailers and more ways to incorporate running errands by bike into your life.