Using Your Bike to Run Errands

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Looking to make your lifestyle a little greener and a little healthier? Bike commuting to work is a popular option, but another often-overlooked activity is even simpler: Use your bicycle to run errands in and around your neighborhood. You may be surprised by all of your gear-carrying options.


For Medium to Large Loads

Daypack: It conveniently attaches to you rather than the bike. Your options are many; look for a pack with a relatively narrow profile for maximum stability. Daypacks are a good choice because they balance the load between your shoulders. Their downside is that, on warm days, you may end up with a sweaty back.

Messenger bag: Popularized by bike messengers, this offers a single long strap to sling over your shoulder. Many include a cross-over stabilizing strap and a padded handle to carry it like a briefcase. Interior compartments are usually designed to hold a laptop and other office needs. Some offer extra room for errands. The downside is that their asymmetric carrying position is a bit less stable than a daypack.

Panniers: Often used in pairs, these attach to the rear rack (and sometimes the front rack) of your bike. They are a great solution for groceries or larger amounts of work/touring gear because they take the load off of your back (or simply add more capacity). Some include secure clip systems.

Shopping baskets: These grocery-bag sized carriers come in versions that can attach to the handlebars or to a rear bike rack. Many are sized specifically to hold a grocery bag. Some are detachable with a handle, so you could use it as a shopping basket inside the store, too.

Bike trailer: You have a couple of options here. You can use the sturdy gear-only trailers (shown here) favored by touring cyclists. Or, you can repurpose your child-carrying bike trailer as a grocery hauler as well.



Options for Small Items

Handlebar bag: This attaches to your handlebar to carry small items for easy access. Some have a clear, waterproof compartment so you can see your map or a shopping list.

Saddle bag (a.k.a. under-seat bag): This fits directly under the saddle. It is usually used to hold core bike-repair items and other small necessities.

Rack trunk: If you have a bike rack on the rear, these bags fit directly on top and hold enough small gear for many riders.


Related Cycling Tips

Security: Be sure to lock up your bike securely whenever going into stores. Avoid leaving gear on your bike unsecured and unattended.

Comfort and safety: Don't forget to use a helmet, bell, bike light and water bottle.

For more information, read the REI Expert Advice article on Getting into Bicycling.