Living car-free can be a wonderful thing. As long as you live close enough to your workplace and a grocery store, ditching your car is a possibility. But one thing that can make the transition difficult is trying to transport large amounts of stuff.
Whether you’re moving moving or just bringing home groceries, transporting goods may seem like the breaking point: You just need to use a car. But with the right equipment, your existing bike can haul just about anything. Here’s what you’d need to turn your bike into a freight-hauling machine.
The first thing you’ll need to store things on your bike is a bike rack. Many bikes come with a bike rack built in or at least already included, so you might already have one. But if you don’t, you’ll need something to create a nice shelf above your rear tire.
There are two main kinds of bike racks. Traditional bike racks mount to attachment points near your rear axle and on your frame below your seat. These attachment points are typically built into any standard bike frame.
The other bike rack to consider is a seat-post rack. These typically clamp around your seat post and are not universally compatible. One benefit of this kind of bike rack is that it works well on bikes with rear shocks. The tradeoff is that they don’t play nice with panniers and bags and so are less suitable if you’re trying to maximize your carrying capacity (which we assume you are).
Rear bike bag
You’ll likely find that your rear bag is a bike storage tool you’ll use frequently. What kind of rear bike bag you get is going to depend on your specific needs, as well as what kind of bike rack you have.
You can get standard bike bags that sit on top of your rack and, unless you have a seat-post-mounted rack, you can get panniers that sit on either side of your back tire. With panniers, it’s important to store items evenly on both sides of your bike, to avoid throwing off your balance.
If you want to save on fancy bike bags but want that extra storage space on the back of your bike, there is a DIY option. If you have a plastic milk crate, you can secure it to your bike rack with some bungee cords. This solution is a little unwieldy, as a milk crate is a little wider than a normal bag, but it can have the added benefit of giving yourself some additional “visual width.” Passing cars will have a better feel for how much leeway you need on the road.
The front basket is the classic bike storage unit. A lot of vintage bikes and kids’ bikes have baskets mounted to the handlebars. If you’re looking for a grown-up version, you have a couple of options.
You can get a handlebar roll designed for carrying drinks, or you can get a smaller handlebar bag that can hold keys or other small items that you want to have close by when you’re riding. One thing to take note of is whether or not you want to mount a headlight on your handlebars. Some handlebar bags and baskets will get in the way.
Triangle bag, top bar bag, seat-post wedge
There are three additional spots on the bike for storage: the top bar, frame, and seat post.
On the top bar, next to the stem, is a great place to place a bar bag. This smaller bag can hold keys, a phone, or anything you might need to access while riding.
A triangle bag sits within the frame of the bike, and is commonly used to store everything from tools to snacks. Some triangle bags have room for a water bottle and some small items, while others take up the whole triangle space within your bike’s frame.
Another fairly common spot for storage is the seat post. A seat-post wedge is a great spot to store maintenance tools like bike lubricant, a patch kit, or a multitool.
If everything so far isn’t enough space for whatever you’re trying to haul, two wheels may not be enough. You might need to spring for a bike trailer. The first thing to consider with a bike trailer is the connection point. Some trailers hitch near the axle and some hitch to the seat-post bar.
Take into consideration whether a bike trailer will conflict with your bike rack or panniers. Talk to the experts at your local bike shop about which connection point would work best for you based on how much you want to haul and how often you want to haul it.
Bike trailers that connect to your seat post tend to sit upright, kind of like pulling a hand truck behind you. There are some bike trailers that convert into shopping carts once you detach them, and these typically mount to your seat post. You can also get adapters that let you mount them to the back of your bike rack instead.
With bike trailers that mount near your axle, be careful to preserve visibility on the road. Since these trailers sit low to the ground, cars can’t see them. Attaching a flag to let passersby know that there is something there to avoid hitting is important.
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