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4 Ways to Carry More Stuff on Your Bike

You can haul nearly anything on your bike if you set your mind to it—but these tried-and-true options should make it a lot easier

by Elly Blue
A filled bicycle basket.

I love to carry big things by bike. Major pieces of furniture, garden supplies, lumber, people: You name it, I’ve hauled it on my trusty steel frame steed. Or if I haven’t, someone has, no doubt with glee.

It takes some logistics and muscle, but to be honest, hauling a giant thing on your bike isn’t that hard. Often, it's more difficult to figure out how to carry the little stuff: Your coffee cup (or maybe one of our own steel growlers), work things, a few groceries, an extra sweater, keys, wallet, and phone, maybe cupcakes for a party. In fact, it’s these little things that often most thoroughly flummox the beginning rider.

RELATED: A Buyer's Guide to Cargo Bikes

Backpacks and messenger bags can grow uncomfortable and sweaty after just a few miles, and most bikes you buy don’t come with even the most basic small-cargo carrying devices. You’re often left to your own devices when it comes to carrying these essential items of everyday life. I’m convinced that these are the little things that keep quite a few people from taking the plunge into more regular biking.

How do you haul them? Here are a few ways:

Add a Basket

A bike basket.
epicantus via Pixabay

Putting a basket on the front of your bike can cost you less than $20 and expand your horizons substantially. If you have a 'drop' handlebar (the curly kind you can hunch over), there probably won’t be space for a basket, but you’re good to go with any other kind of bar—the folks at the local bike shop you buy the basket from will likely be happy to install one for you for a few extra bucks.

Make sure you spring for a basket that’s big enough to carry one or two grocery bags. Then, once you have it, take some time to get used to the steering when it’s loaded up.

RELATED: 9 Amazingly Stylish Bike Baskets

Another tip: Cut a plastic placemat to fit the bottom so straps and such don’t dangle into your front wheel. Final tip: Stretch a couple of bungies or a bungie net across the top of your basket to secure your load from flying out when you go over potholes.

Add a Rack

A back rack on a bicycle.
Phil Gradwell via Flickr

A rear rack is probably one of the handiest bicycle accessories ever invented. They cost anywhere from $25 to more than $100 (the less expensive ones should serve you perfectly well). You can strap things directly to it. You can buy folding metal baskets that attach to it and that you can put your purse, tote, backpack, or grocery bags in.

RELATED: The Bike Commuter's Essential Gear Checklist

My strong recommendation is to invest a bit more and purchase some panniers—saddle bags designed to clip to your bike rack. Panniers come in a dizzying variety, ranging from capacious, waterproof carry-alls like Ortliebs to chic handbags with rack clips that hide inside a zipper compartment, like Basels.

Add Some Bungies and Tie-Downs

A bungie cord on a bicycle.
Seth Werkheiser via Flickr

Even with a basket or a rack (or a basket AND a rack), you’ll still thank yourself for always having a couple of bungie cords on-hand. If you don’t want to go out and buy bungies (or are leery of a metal hook flying up into your face), you can easily make tie-downs out of old bike tubes—just chop them in half, cut off the valve, and tie knots.

RELATED: The Best Ways to Carry Booze by Bike

With either of these options, you’ll want to make sure they are stretched as tight as possible when in use. And get in the habit of doing a quick visual check before you ride, loaded or unloaded, to make sure nothing is dangling near your wheels.

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Use Your Imagination!

A rear bicycle trailer.
Richard Masoner via Flickr

This is the key tool you need for solving any bike-cargo-related problem. Are you at the store buying milk with your road bike and no racks? Think like MacGyver: Use your jacket (or cycling jersey!) to swaddle that milk close to you, papoose style, or to hang it from your top tube. Left your bungies at home when you ran out to the library? Shoelaces will do to secure that book!

RELATED: Ask a Pro: How to Pack Pockets for a Long Ride

I don’t recommend making a habit of riding one-handed with a beverage or cruising with a bursting grocery bag teetering on your handlebar, but these near-last resorts have already been done many a time. Whatever you put your mind to carrying, I reckon you can figure it out. Once you’ve got the small stuff down, you’re ready to bike anywhere, with anything! Go forth and have fun.

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