* Editor’s note: This story published originally in September 2012.
By Dani Lee
So you live in Davis, right? Mostly likely, you own a bike.
And you’re probably used to hauling yourself to and from destinations on that vintage Raleigh or rocking the bike lane on your single-speed cruiser. Sometimes you might find yourself in that oh-too-common situation of balancing grocery bags from each handle, or trying to carry that item in your hand while simultaneously braking for the upcoming traffic signal.
There are ways to prevent that humiliating grocery-bag-handles-breaking, produce-spilling-everywhere situation that some of us — OK, admit it, many of us — find ourselves in when trying to move stuff when traveling around Davis on our bikes. Why move more stuff with our bikes? Why not? Davis is flat, and the Earth and your body will give you a hug for getting outdoors and on your bike and not driving your car around town for simple errands.
Here are a few solutions that our bike experts have helped us pull together to encourage you to move more with your bike — be it that six-pack of beer to your next potluck or that new “used” couch from SPCA to your living room!
If you are riding a short distance, a simple backpack will do for most small grocery store trips and campus/work commutes. Careful with the one-armed reusable grocery bags, or those cute messenger bags that sling over one shoulder and dangle at your waist. These likely will fall off your back or shoulder and down your arm, creating an unsafe situation for you, your cargo and the cyclist or motorist next to you.
Still want to look hip with that messenger bag? Then get a real one. Chrome-brand messenger bags are available at local bike stores. They don’t fall off your back and they stay secure with a seatbelt buckle across your chest and a security buckle that swings underneath your arm.
I swear by the two Chrome bags I own — the Citizen version for my larger hauls and the Mini Metro for my regular work commute to the UC Davis campus. I don’t mind cycling around Davis or the Bay Area in crazy weather so the weatherproof feature of Chrome bags has saved me a few times.
Racks, panniers and baskets
“The simplest way to get around with cargo is to buy a bike basket or a bike rack with panniers,” says DK Kemp, the city of Davis’ active transportation coordinator.
Simple to install, and available from most bike shops in Davis, bike racks are great because they allow you myriad options once installed. Racks range from $25 to $60. You might even be able to salvage a rack at Bike Forth, the bike collective at the corner of Fourth and L streets. I love my spring-clip rack that allows me to secure small- to medium-sized items underneath the spring-loaded arm.
Are you a super commuter? Or a grocery store errand cyclist? Get some panniers and clip them right onto the sides of your rack. Panniers can run from $40 for a simple grocery-style bag to upwards of $400 for a super-fancy touring pannier. Choose a waterproof pannier if you plan to use them in the rain.
Baskets, between $25 and $80 new, can be installed directly onto your new rack, clipped onto the sides of your rack or onto your handlebars. One downside to handlebar baskets is their potential to affect your ability to steer. Baskets, like panniers, are detachable for easy toting but, unlike panniers, are often non-closing.
Cargo and kid trailers
Need to move that 5-gallon water jug? Or get 3-year-old Timmy to his next play date at the Central Park jungle gym? Then you might need a bike trailer.
“Local bike shops offer a variety of bicycle trailers to carry your precious cargo (children and pets) and non-precious cargo (laundry, groceries, books, etc.),” Kemp says.
When shopping for a new/used trailer, the important thing is finding a trailer that can easily attach to and detach from the frame. Most trailers can attach to your bicycle seat post or chainstay, the part of the frame that connects from where the pedals attach to the back wheel. Some require installing a hitch onto your back drop-out, where your back wheel attaches.
Typical trailers can carry up to 100 pounds of cargo.
The Davis Food Co-op sells a sturdy EcoShopper BicycleR Evolution bike trailer available for about $129. Emily Tracy of Davis Bicycles! and project coordinator for Walkable and Livable Communities borrowed her father’s EcoShopper trailer to return an empty keg of beer — about 40 pounds — to Sudwerk after a house party.
“We made a pit stop at the grocery store on the way,” Tracy says, “and added a week’s worth of groceries in the trailer with the keg.”
Burley is one of the most popular brands for bicycle trailers, especially those used to haul kids. Burleys typically run between $280 for a simple trailer (fits two kids or up to 100 pounds) to $630 for a deluxe trailer with extra space for groceries. Burley trailers keep your child safely strapped in and are covered in reflective tape.
Timmy is now 5 years old and can cycle on his own, but can’t possibly keep up during a “long” ride with dad to the Farmers Market. Keep him active and not sitting in a child trailer by investing in a trailer bike, a back half of a small bicycle that attaches to the seat post of dad’s bike and allows Timmy to cycle along. Trailer bikes are also available in tandem so two children can be in tow behind an adult.
A single Trail-A-Bike brand trailer bike will be about $250 while a tandem will cost upwards of $580.
XtraCycles and Yuba Bicycles
XtraCycle created what’s called a long tail bicycle that can carry up to 300 pounds. The XtraCycle rides like a bike and has various accessories that can customize your hauling experience — be it for everyday groceries, hauling kids or hauling your newly salvaged bookshelf.
You can even get a special addition to turn your XtraCycle into a bicycle-powered Fender Blender — perfect for making smoothies to fuel you up after you burn off all those calories hauling stuff across Davis! XtraCycles are a bicycle that has built-in hauling capacity. They start at $350.
Yuba Bicycles, a Northern California company, also makes cargo bikes with extended frames similar to the XtraCycle. Maggie Gonzales carries her two kids around on a Yuba Mundo Cargo Bike, starting around $1,200 and available at Ken’s Bike/Ski/Board in Davis.
Need to haul something more than 400 pounds, like three kegs of homebrew beer to your next gathering? There are options for that as well.
If you’ve been on campus in the past five years, you might have seen Mike Griffith of the UC Davis grounds department riding a blue and gold three-wheeled flatbed bike to haul equipment, green waste or trash. In 2007, he co-wrote a proposal to get a campus sustainability grant that provided funding to purchase the work bike.
Griffith’s bike cost just over $3,400, and was custom-built by Main Street Pedicabs. The cargo trailer on the bike can hold up to 600 pounds. Griffith switched out his gas-powered cart for the human-powered work bike to save his campus department money and reduce air pollution and natural resource consumption.
My Dutch Bike is a San Francisco-based company that imports Dutch Cargo bikes, also known as work cycles. The Bakefiets model is a great family bike that can be used to transport children, haul compost to your community garden plot or general grocery shopping.
Hauling and bike safety
Regardless of whether you are hauling things behind you or not, bike safety is always important when cycling around. Kemp offers some tips to ensure the safety of you, your cargo and other cyclists and motorists as you are hauling cargo.
* Make sure to have a 360-degree awareness of what’s around you when bicycling;
* Be careful not to take turns too quickly;
* Install tail lights on the back of the trailer;
* Make sure your children wear helmets while riding in the trailer and are properly buckled into the trailer;
* When hauling cargo, don’t overload the trailer; and
* Ride with about 30 psi (pounds per square inch) in the trailer tires if you are carry heavy loads and remember that your braking time will be slower.
Move your house
Need some additional inspiration to move more with your bike? Robb and Nancy Davis used solely bike power to haul items between houses during their move in November 2010. With the help of 17 of their friends, numerous trailers and work bikes — and beer and pizza at the end of the day to incentivize the hard work — Robb and Nancy were able to move most of the items into their new home in just over three hours.
“We had a Bikes-at-Work trailer; we had Burley trailers of various configurations; we had old-style trailers that attach to the seat post; we had some homemade trailers; we had a PediCab work bike that we borrowed from Village Homes,” they said of their move. “We also had a Dutch Bakfiets, an XtraCycle and some of (Whymcycle designer) Peter Wagner’s homemade designs that are hard to describe but quite well adapted to moving large pieces of furniture.”
What was the hardest thing for the couple to move?
“Our queen-size box spring and mattress was the hardest thing to move,” the Davises said. “Peter Wagner had a large bike that was able to accommodate that; otherwise that would’ve been difficult.”
— Dani Lee is the sustainability manager for UC Davis’ Dining Services. Reach her at email@example.com