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By Janet Lafleur

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About this blog: My love affair with the bicycle began with a crush on my first red tricycle that I pedaled in circles on the driveway. The crush grew into full-blown passion when my dad threw Stingray handlebars and a banana seat on my older sist...  (More)

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Big Box Store, Little Bike Trailer

Uploaded: Dec 12, 2013
For the vast majority of my shopping trips, my bikes do a great job. Between a pair of oversized panniers in the back and an ample basket in the front, I can carry up to three bags of groceries filled to up to 40 pounds. I've also figured out how to attach garment bag to my rear rack for dry cleaning or for buying clothing at the mall. You'd be surprised how easy it can be to carry things on a bike if you're creative.

But every once in a while I make one of those shopping trips where what I'm buying something too heavy or too bulky for my bike alone. So last year I asked Santa for a cute little bike cargo trailer.

It felt a little frivolous. After all, we have a car we can use for those rare shopping trips. But now that I have the trailer, I realize it's pretty darn useful. Especially during those times, like right now, where driving to the mall or shopping center is painful and parking is a nightmare. So when our microwave gave up the ghost last week, I hitched up my little trailer and pedaled over to a few big box stores for some comparison shopping, holiday shoppers be damned.



Target, Costco and Best Buy are all within 2-3 miles from home and it wasn't tough to plot a route that hit them all. Before I left home, I checked online for what each store carried and read the product reviews, but I wanted to buy one off the shelf so I could have a replacement immediately. You'd be surprised how some microwaves had really poor ratings after hundreds of reviews, by the way.

With the critical consumer data in hand, my little trailer and I rolled out in search of an oven with all the features I wanted, in the color I wanted and sized to fit my countertop. It took visiting all three stores, but I found the perfect oven. I probably should have measured to see if the box would fit in my trailer before checking out, but it fit nicely with several inches to spare. The ride home was delightfully uneventful and my new microwave fits my kitchen as well as it fit my trailer. Thank you, Santa.



If you haven't done much shopping before by bike here are a few tips:

* A rear rack with large panniers can carry more than you think. Most racks are built to carry at least 40 pounds.

* Front baskets are great for overflow items, but be aware that heavy items up front can affect steering.

* Bring bungee cords for securing bulky items on top of the rear rack or to secure them in a front basket. A deep pothole or hard bump can bounce your purchases right off of your bike.

* Treat packing your purchases on your bike like working a puzzle. Sometimes I'm sure I've bought too much, but it always works out. Knock on wood, I've never had to return anything.

* If it's dark or dim out, make sure your purchases don't block your bike lights.

* Bike trailers don't have to be expensive. My cargo trailer cost $250 new and is holding up well after a year. Another alternative is buying a used child trailer from someone whose kids have outgrown it.

* Parking can be more challenging for bikes with trailers. Bike racks are designed for single bikes and many are placed without enough room for the extra length of trailers. Bring an extra lock to secure the trailer, either to the bike or to the bike rack.

What's the most awkward thing you've purchased by bike? What made it tough? What made it work?

Want to see 36 rolls of Costco toilet paper on a bike? Check out my Shop by Bike gallery for that and more.

Comments

Posted by KW, a resident of Shoreline West,
on Dec 12, 2013 at 6:49 pm

KW is a registered user.

Great tips! Now, how about an article on how to fit 11 bikes plus a trailer in a one car garage? My husband and I would love a trailer again but don't have the space.


Posted by Janet Lafleur, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Dec 12, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

Eleven bikes? Whoo, you're into the addict zone!

My trailer folds up flat, which could help. But I leave it open and store helmets, bags and other gear inside of mine. When I need to take it out I take it all out and leave it in a big heap until I return. It's actually been a benefit to keep the gear in the trailer because the trailer is a lot easier to move out of the way than the heap of gear ever was.


Posted by Elaine, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 13, 2013 at 10:42 am

This is really cool! I need a trailer. I've seen them around and maybe now it's time.

In the past I've used my town bike and panniers to shop at Costco and Trader Joe's and Target. The whole parking nightmare really goes away. And I was surprised how gracefully the bike handled a heavy load from Costco. Guess that's why the wheel was invented...

With a trailer it's even simpler to pack your purchases because it's not as critical to balance the load.

Of course it's a no brainer to take your bike to the bike shop when you need something there. My bike goes several times a week to Ava's for grocery shopping without the parking hassles. (My parking space is right in front of the store.)

Yes, shop by bike!


Posted by Janet Lafleur, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Dec 13, 2013 at 11:26 am

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

Elaine, you're so right about the trailer being easier to load. I do try to balance the weight front to back and pack so things don't shift but I have more issues keeping the bags from falling over in my car than I do in this trailer.

And I must say that loading a Christmas tree in the trailer was much easier than the last time we put it on top of my car. That was such a pain that we put it inside the car the next year only to spend forever picking out pine needles. The trailer was much so much easier. Web Link


Posted by Zeaphod, a resident of Monta Loma,
on Dec 15, 2013 at 2:47 pm

I bought a B.O.B. Yak years ago to avoid driving to the grocery store just because I anticipated having 3 or more bags to bring home. It's paid for itself many times over in saved gas.
The most awkward cargo: a card table and chair set. Needed to use lots of bungee cords to keep the load stable.
The heaviest load: 100 lbs of plums from a friend's tree brought home to make jam. Not recommended. Really should use a cargo bike designed for such a load.


Posted by Janet Lafleur, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Dec 15, 2013 at 4:23 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@Zeaphod What's the max load on the BOB trailer? I think my trailer is rated about 75 pounds and I've definitely pushed that limit.


Posted by Zeaphod, a resident of Monta Loma,
on Dec 16, 2013 at 1:05 pm

The Yak is rated for 70 lbs. It attaches to the rear axle with a special skewer. So, the load carrying limit is as much a matter of the strength of the bike's rear forks as the trailer load limit. 100 lbs was pushing it on a standard road bike.


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