If you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for ways to merge your everyday tasks with a delightful ride. A common conundrum, especially for urban cyclists like us, is how to get our groceries home without resorting to a car.
Fear not! I’ve been down this road, and am here to share some strategies, techniques, and gear recommendations for carrying groceries on a bike with ease.
Gear Up Your Bike
It’s time to figure out the best way to haul those groceries on your bike. There are plenty of solutions, from very cheap to very expensive. We’ll start on the cheap end of the spectrum.
Backpacks and Messenger Bags
The fastest and easiest way to carry groceries home is a sturdy backpack or messenger bag. Just make sure it’s on the larger side and that it’s durable.
My favorite backpack is the Two Wheel Gear 2.0 PLUS Pannier Backpack (that can also be used as a pannier). But you can use any backpack you already have. If you have a large backpacking backpack you can use that too–it’s large enough to fit quite a few bags of groceries!
The only downsides of a backpack is that it can’t fit as many groceries as other options listed here, and it can be somewhat uncomfortable. A heavy load can be hard on the shoulders and back, and if riding in warm weather, your back might get quite sweaty.
One tip for packing a backpack is to take it into the store with you and load groceries directly into the backpack rather than into plastic bags. It’s easier to Tetris everything in this way.
If you’re planning to haul a slightly larger load, bike panniers are a game-changer. Attached to a rear rack, panniers can carry a surprising amount of groceries.
They come in various sizes and materials, from waterproof fabrics for those rainy-day errands to stylish canvas for sunny market runs.
You will need a rack for panniers to work, but if your bike doesn’t already have one, you can add one.
Remember those charming wicker baskets on the front of your childhood bike? Well, they’ve grown up and are one of the simplest solutions for carrying groceries.
Whether wire, fabric, or the classic wicker, front baskets attach to your handlebars or onto a front rack. They’re great for lighter items, but remember, too much weight can affect your steering.
A more robust option is a basket mounted to a rear rack. This can be a fancy basket, or something as simple as a milk crate. Again, if you don’t already have a rear rack on your bicycle, you can add one.
For the serious grocery getter, consider a bike trailer. With their high carrying capacity, trailers are perfect for those big shopping trips.
They hitch onto the back of your bike, and you pull them along behind you. You might need a little practice to maneuver your bike with a trailer, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly.
If you have already have a child bike trailer, you can use that. If your kids are all grown up, take out the seats! (That’s what we’ve done with our Burley Encore X*).
Or, you can find cargo bike trailers that work even better. The Burley Travoy* is a great option.
And if you’re on a budget, look on Craiglist or Facebook marketplace. You can usually find a used trailer for cheap.
The easiest (but most expensive) method for carrying groceries is a cargo bike. These are bikes that are designed specifically for hauling things!
Our family has used a variety of cargo bikes, including the Madsen and Flyer (both pictured here), to haul groceries. This is a great option if you want to haul a week’s worth of groceries for an entire family.
Many cargo bikes also have an electric assist, which makes it much easier to ride with a heavy load.
Packing Your Groceries for the Ride
Successfully carrying groceries on your bike is all about the packing. You want to distribute weight evenly and ensure that nothing will fall out during your ride.
Heavy Items First
Load your heaviest items, like cans and bottles, at the bottom of your bag, pannier, or trailer. This keeps your bike’s center of gravity lower, which makes balancing easier. It also keeps softer, fragile items from getting crushed.
Balance Your Load
Try to balance the weight of your load as much as possible, especially if you’re using panniers. Put an equal amount of groceries on your left side as your right side. Uneven weight can make handling your bike tricky.
Protect Fragile Items
Nestle fragile items, like eggs or soft fruits, in the middle of other groceries to give them some protection. You can also use a plastic egg carton (like the ones you use for camping).
Riding Safely with a Load
Cycling with a load is a bit different than your usual, unencumbered ride. Here are a few tips for staying safe on the road.
Adjust Your Riding Style
You may need to adjust your riding style when you’re carrying a load. Take corners more gently, allow more time for braking, and keep your speed down, especially until you’re used to the extra weight.
Be Aware of the Extra Width
If you’re using panniers or a trailer, remember that your bike is wider or longer than usual. Be extra cautious of your surroundings, and give yourself plenty of room to navigate.
You Can Do It!
There you have it! Not only can you comfortably carry groceries on your bike, but it can also add an extra layer of fun to the otherwise mundane task of shopping. Plus, think about the added benefits: you’re cutting down on carbon emissions, getting a good workout, and becoming more connected with your local community.
Remember, it all comes down to planning and finding the right gear for you. Start with smaller loads and work your way up as you become more comfortable. Happy cycling and shopping, everyone!
More Info On Urban Biking
- Your Ultimate Guide To Bike Commuting
- 9 Best Women’s Commuter Bikes And City Bikes
- Podcast: Bike More, Drive Less: How I (Mostly) Gave Up My Car
About The Author
Kristen Bonkoski is the founder and owner of Femme Cyclist.
An avid cyclist for a few decades now, she took to cycling during her late teen years — a time when she needed something to help boost her self-esteem and confidence.
Mission accomplished, the sport has become an important part of her life. Kristen’s favorite disciplines are mountain biking and bike commuting, although you can also find her cranking out a century on her road bike and touring with her husband and son. If it has to do with two wheels, she enjoys doing it.
Kristen is a certified USA Cycling coach, and she runs Rascal Rides, a website about biking with kids.