How to Carry Groceries On a Bike

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Mind if we start this by saluting you if you schlep groceries home from stores and get them into ‘fridge as adroitly as a well-choreographed ice skating performance?

Toting raw eggs should be an Olympics event, and if you can get your soft drinks to their destination without having one explode, you get a gold medal.

Savvy cyclists know that the secret to success is tricking out a bicycle so cleverly you couldn’t damage food packed into your carrier if you tried.

Toward that end, we offer five options to help you transport life’s essentials like pizza and ice cream. Assess all five, so you make a wise buying decision.


Bike Basket

Simple, affordable, and available in myriad styles, prices and materials, bike baskets usually require little installation time. Decide between a front and back mount before you shop. Front baskets typically mount on handlebars and give you constant visuals, but if you carry items in a front basket, it could impact the stability of your ride.

Rear baskets tend to support heavier weights and require a frame or rail to stabilize the carrier. That stated you have choices.

Wicker baskets are traditional, charming and tend to be chosen by girls and women, but that doesn’t mean guys can’t appreciate them, too. Wicker makes an ideal basket to tote groceries because the material is strong and durable, most are finished with clear shellac or finish that seals the wicker, so it stands up to rain.

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

Metal baskets are popular for their “industrial” look and resiliency, but the type of metal you choose can determine its longevity. Browse metal baskets and find carriers made of wire mesh, tubular steel, and solid metal.

These tend to outlast and out-perform wicker, metal won’t add weight to a bike, and solid walls can safeguard your contents, though full mesh could allow small items to escape in transit.

Fabric or plastic baskets aren’t convenient–even if they’re constructed of sturdy textile-like canvas. Most fabric baskets are packed with features that include zippers, extra compartments, and liners, while plastic baskets are cheap solutions for toting groceries.

Lightweight and easy to clean, they withstand bad weather, but if you own a pricey bike, plastic could ruin your image and call into question your taste!


Bike Rack

Bike racks are available in front and rear designs. Both offer a stable framework, so if you deliver groceries rather than just buying them for yourself, a rear- or back-mount bike rack is an ideal investment.

Shop for a rear rack that allows you to fill it with between 20 and 50 pounds of goods, but if you intend to carry more, a heavy-duty touring rack offering 80 pounds of capacity is a better option.

Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

Installation of rear-mount racks usually requires attaching between 2 and 3 supports to braze-on mounts, but if your bike has none, find metal C clips at a hardware store, wrap them around your frame’s tubes and attach the rack to the lower mounting bolt.

Rear bike racks work great on mountain bikes and hybrid bikes. Not so much on a road bike.

To install a front rack as either your main grocery carrier or to supplement a rear one, choose from a standard “mount top” style so parcels can be carried above the front wheel. Or a low rider rack that accommodates a load on two sides, giving you a more balanced ride because weight is shared. Both attach to braze-on mounts.


Use a backpack for groceries

If you don’t mind looking like a beast of burden or prefer not to ruin your bike’s styling by adding baskets or mounts, the number of roomy backpacks designed just for grocery shopping on today’s market is staggering.

This essential, for folks who do everything by bike, offers the advantages of a regular backpack with the convenience of panniers.

Photo by Lina Verovaya on Unsplash

Extra padding, lightweight and insulating materials make for a comfortable ride with a heavier load of items tucked into various compartments within the backpack. Efficiency is one of the best reasons to consider an oversized backpack.

You needn’t worry about anything falling out or extreme weather because your stuff is encased. Once you arrive at your destination, there’s no unloading. Just head for your kitchen, and you’re done.


Mount some panniers

If you’ve eliminated the three carriers above, you may be receptive to mounting panniers.

These easy-on, easy-off units protect your food from the weather, offer plenty of storage room, and are easily connected to your bike using a system of bungee cords, clips, or spring-load hooks. Pannier systems (2 racks and two panniers) are lighter, more compact, cheaper, and they cause less drag and rolling resistance.

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Because you’ll load your groceries into separated bags, it’s easier to find things once you’ve arrived and you can install up to 4 if you’re in the business of being a Sherpa. These products are technically simple, reliable, require little maintenance are easy to pop on and off. As a bonus, they are known to cause fewer broken spokes.

That stated, panniers are not perfect solutions. You will have to install racks; panniers can accelerate tire wear and raise your center of gravity. Further, winds are not your friend when panniers are attached to a bike.

They add weight and must be removed each time you service or clean your bike. Finally, don’t let your heel make contact with a pannier, or you could trigger an unsafe riding situation.


Mount a cargo trailer

The popularity of bike cargo trailers has grown so much; you can find these units in all price ranges, so your budget needn’t determine your ability to acquire one.

While there are a few single-wheel cargo trailers on the market, most have two wheels beneath a cargo area consisting of a flatbed with enclosure features that run the gamut from bars to fabric, so groceries don’t roam.

Tricked-out cargo trailers come with custom features like seats for kiddos or pets.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

You attach the trailer at the rear wheel or seat post, depending upon design, and the weight of the cargo trailer will determine carry capacity. Choose a trailer weighing around 10 pounds and don’t expect to carry more than 60 pounds of goods without a struggle.

If your typical load includes cases of beer, chopped wood, and a side of beef, you need a more substantial carrier, mate.

While cargo trailers are excellent options for tandem bikes and are much easier to pack and haul because they have a low center of gravity, cargo trailers add momentum to the bicycle, so stopping fast could be an exercise in disaster.

You’ll be required to adjust your style once it’s attached, adapting to the shimmy can get more annoying at higher speeds. Given this fact, use your imagination to assess how a bike with a cargo trailer is likely to react if you regularly carry groceries over bad or dirt roads and potholes.

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