More and more people are choosing to use bikes as their primary way of traveling from place to place. The more times we reach for our helmets instead of our car keys, the better it is for everyone… But there is one slight problem… Groceries. We all have to take a trip to the store at some point. What if there is a way you can still use your bike AND carry groceries at the same time?
The best ways to carry groceries on a bike besides using a backpack are mounting a rear or a front rack with a crate or basket or pannier(s) on it. You can also use bike-packing bags on the frame for additional storage, or trailers attached to the back of your bike.
The point is, there are many great ways to carry groceries on a bike – you just have to get a little creative. Well, you don’t, because we already did. That’s right, in today’s post we’ve put together a list of the best ways to carry groceries on a bike so you can decide what works best for you!
To Backpack or Not To Backpack…
If you’re heading out to the grocery store, you might think that carrying a backpack is enough. And whilst yes, it’ll be fine if you just need to pick up a few things for dinner tonight – it won’t help you if you’re doing a weekly shop for a family of four.
Besides, backpacks can be really uncomfortable, especially when loaded with goods, so it’s probably best to leave your backpack at home when heading to the grocery store.
Instead, consider the following list of the best ways to carry groceries, because they’re definitely way more practical and they also make your bike do the work – not you.
However, if you decide to go with a backpack, here is a review I wrote about the Osprey Radial biking backpack, which in my opinion is a great choice.
Use Your Rear Rack
If you’re new to biking and haven’t seen a lot of people around you use bikes for practical things like shopping for groceries, then you might not be familiar with how easy it is to attach a crate or pannier(s) to your rear rack.
A pannier is essentially just a backpack for your bike, and they come in a range of sizes. The advantage of the pannier is that it is mounted on the bike and not on your rack. If I have to carry something heavy I much rather prefer a pannier to a backpack.
You’ll be able to decide which size you need based on the amount of groceries you buy in a week, but we’d recommend a 20L pannier as a minimum for everyone, just so you can fit everything in comfortably.
Top Tip: Look out for panniers that are waterproof. You might not use your bike for grocery shopping in the rain anyway, but there’s no telling when the weather will turn, and waterproof panniers are essential for keeping your groceries dry.
If you just opt for an open crate, that’s a great idea too. In fact, crates on your rear rack can be a great idea because they usually hold quite a lot and you can stack things in their rectangular, sturdy frame much easier.
When mounting a crate on the rack try to avoid using bungee cords. I’ve had a really bad experience with using a bungee cord carrying my stuff around… You can use zip ties for a permanent solution and velcro straps for temporary use.
If you are interested in more detail on how to use your rear bike rack here is an article I wrote on the topic.
Use Your Front Rack
Don’t just let the back of your bike do all the work though – your front rack can be used too. All you need to make sure when using front panniers to distribute the weight evenly on both sides, otherwise steering will pull one side.
Using a front rack can be also advantageous if you are a heavier rider because the weight will be distributed more evenly between the rear and front of the bike. Most of your body weight is on the rear tire and using front panniers means that the extra weight you carry rests on the front wheels.
We can also learn a lot from the French here because they have been putting baskets on the front of their bikes for practical purposes for years – and we should do the same. They’re pretty stylish, too.
A basket on the front of your bike can hold a lot of groceries too. Just make sure you stack them sensibly so you can see where you’re going.
Don’t Forget Your Frame
We might as well consider the bike frame as additional storage. The more groceries you can load onto your bike, the easier the trip will be anyway, so it makes sense to get as much storage on your bike as possible for these sorts of trips.
The best things you can add to your bike frame are bike-packing bags.
Frame packs come in all shapes and sizes for different parts of the bike. These are basically packs that follow the shape of your frame to make use of wasted space.
Look at/picture your bike now. Do you see the triangle of space between the top tube, seat tube, and down tube? There’s a pack for that. Meaning you can store even more things on your bike when you head out for groceries.
Besides the frame packs, there are also seat packs and handlebar packs with even more storage solutions. Wondering why these bike-packing bags were created in the first place?
Well, bike-packing is essentially backpacking on wheels. You pack up everything you need – clothes, necessities, maybe even a tent – and then hit the road for a breakaway using nothing but your bike and everything you have with you.
It’s a great activity, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Still, this activity made storage solutions for bikes so huge, and now we have these awesome packs that people like us can use for grocery shopping. Neat, right?
Consider A Trailer
Another great idea for grocery storage on your bike is trailers. You’ll have seen trailers on the back of bikes for children, so parents can take them out for the day easily, but that’s not all bike trailers are for.
They’re wonderful for storing groceries too. Think about it. They have to be safe and secure for children so they don’t accidentally fall out of the trailer when the bike is moving, and they have to be waterproof so the little ones don’t get soaked on a day out with their mom or dad.
They have to be quite big to, you know, store a child, and they can’t be too heavy or else it’d make riding the bike too hard.
And whilst yes, trailers are designed this way for children’s safety and comfort, there’s no denying it works surprisingly well for groceries too.
They won’t fall out or get wet, and there’s plenty of room back there for a week’s worth of shopping, easily. It might not exactly be conventional, but if it works, it works!
Here is a video about my experiment using the trailer for shopping
Burley Travoy Trailer
Before we leave you, we just wanted to highlight one trailer example that works amazingly for grocery storage and transportation. The Burley Travoy trailer can transport groceries and fragile goods without damaging them.
The Travoy has the capacity for 60lbs of storage, meaning a grocery shop is a simple work for this trailer. It’s a pop-up trailer too, so it’s easy to build and put away after use, making storing the trailer convenient and incredibly user-friendly.
This trailer comes with a tool-free attaching towing arm, so you can easily attach it to the back of your bike and the trailer itself is surprisingly stable on roads and paths. Just avoid rough terrain with this one as it’s specifically designed for grocery shopping, not off-roading.
There is, however, a small fly in the ointment – the price. Whilst expensive though, it’s difficult to argue with the price considering how practical and easy to use it is, so if you’re looking for a trailer to store your groceries, this might just be the perfect one, despite the price tag…
There are multiple best ways to carry groceries on a bike, so you can mix and match them to decide which will work best for you. Are you living alone and only shop once a week?
Then fix some panniers to your front rack and a crate to your rear rack and you should be golden. Shopping for a family of four? Then consider a trailer at the rear and some nifty bike-packing storage solutions and you’ll be able to carry everything you need.
There are multiple ways to increase your storage capacity. Oh no, grocery shopping is no longer just for the cars with these storage solutions, so grab your bike for your next grocery shop – you’ll feel much better for it.