I’ve been thinking about cargo bikes this week. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at playing Tetris with groceries and fitting several days’ worth of meals into a medium-sized backpack, but recently I’ve been watching my trike-riding friend load up her basket with bags of potting soil and flats of cat food and gaining a new appreciation for just how much you can haul around on a bike.
I’ve always been happy carting my gear around in a backpack when I’m on a bike. I’ve had bikes with rear racks and I always end up taking them off.
I spend far too much time on trails and rough ground where they just clank around annoyingly and make me feel like I’m trying to ride a shopping cart. This lack of attachments does limit the amount I can carry, but backpacks of varying sizes have always worked well for the amount of gear that I most often need on the move.
The easiest way to kit out a regular bike for extra baggage is, undoubtedly, the rear rack. They’re relatively cheap (the panniers that go on them, unfortunately, not as much) and easy to install, and with the option of hooking panniers to the side or strapping gear to the top with bungees they increase your carrying capacity immensely.
If you don’t feel like springing for panniers, there’s always the option of fixing a plastic crate to the top of the rack to make a secure carry box.
If you go this route, I’d recommend investing in one of the dry bags used by kayakers to protect your gear from the Vancouver weather. (I have one of these that goes inside my backpack on really wet days. It’s worth its weight in gold for protecting easily water-damaged items like my phone, laptop, and wallet.)
For folks thinking about a bike tour or camping trip (or shopping at Costco?), a front rack doubles the amount of baggage you can carry.
One of my cycling friends has also kitted out his bike with an extremely practical handlebar-basket combo. All one piece, this is a robust option that gives him a secure space where he can throw loose bits and pieces. He has mentioned that it does affect the bike’s handling a little more than a rear-mounted rack, but the advantage is that he can keep an eye on his gear and there’s no risk of having an unsecured bag slip off without noticing.
For those with more to carry and willing to make a slightly larger investment, bike trailers seriously up the ante on the amount of gear you can haul around with you.
And at the top end of the scale, there are the custom cargo bikes that you see trekking around town delivering food, packages, and even people. There’s lots more information about the range of cargo bikes available in Canada at cargobike.ca.
Kay Cahill is a cyclist, librarian and outdoor enthusiast who believes that bikes are for life, not just for commuting. Contact Kay at email@example.com.