Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gorgeous day for a ride

As a matter of fact a whole watermelon WILL fit in my Linus Panniers!

Saturday was an absolutely gorgeous day for a ride here in Boston  and I took full advantage by running errands all day!   The advantage of running all your errands by bike is that you can be out in the fresh air, getting a bit of exercise instead of cooped up in the car, shuttling from parking lot to parking lot.

I don't think I'm unusual in getting grumpy and irritable when I slog through a day of errands in a car.  I've come this close to being reduced to tears in a Target, feeling overwhelmed by all the options, and just dragged down by a day of necessary inconvenience and artificial light. But on a bike, any frustrations of the retail experience get soothed away on the ride to my next destination,  and the worst complaint is getting hungry!

I've always been a "trip chainer"  but on a bike, even for someone who prides herself in being able to carry vast amounts of stuff, there's a limit to how many errands can be run before I have to head back.
On a bike, I tend to organize my errands in loops, stopping and dropping stuff off before heading out again.   Sometimes there's things to carry away from home which needs to be factored into the capacity equation too.  Very occasionally I find myself playing the fox the chicken and the grapes problem,  where I can't combine two errands, even if it would make sense spatially.  Yesterday, I had two giant bags of compost, after doing a massive post-vacation fridge purge.  Even though the route to the compost dropoff passes the library, I didn't want to either risk dripping compost juice onto my books, so I went oe.

Once I've done the big errands, like a big grocery shop  that fills my bags with one stop (5lbs of onions,  a watermelon, half gallon of milk), I can do a longer loop with more stops, picking up only a couple of things each stop- filling my panniers over 5 or 6 stops.  I generally don't worry about theft from my panniers.   It would be a real pain to remove and re-attach the filling panniers at each stop, so I take a small purse with my keys/wallet/phone,  and run in to get coffee beans without worrying that someone is going to steal the bread or cheese out of my bag.  I do worry a bit about leaving things strapped on top of the panniers, that seems like it's tempting fate, and if I have to do it, I try to organize things such that I'm not leaving the bike somewhere where I feel it would be easy for someone to mess with it.

By the end of the day, after three loops of errands (brunch, grocery store, home, compost, other grocery store, library, home, bank, third grocery store, hardware store, cheese shop, coffee shop), and a bike date to get indian food and see the new Batman movie, I was as tired as is I had gone for a long ride that was just about riding for its own sake.

Do you run errands on your bike?  What's your strategy for multiple stops and combining trips?
Do you consider running errands by bike "a real ride?"  or is that only a trip that involves no errands?


  1. I rarely run errands on my bike, but I'm getting set up to do so when I move out of Texas in another year or so. That explains some of my recent purchases...

  2. I'm always surprised at my mileage when I do errands. I can easily rack up 10-20 miles in a day. It's exhausting! I have a cargo bike so I can haul a ton along with my two kiddos. Sometimes too much! Since my bike is my main form of transportation, I do consider it as a bike ride. I'm also obsessive about planning my routes for proper food storage, safety, hauling, etc, but I often like to ride the "long-way" home, if I can, so it feels more like journey and not just errands.

  3. Yes, I run errands on my bike. I plan my trips so that I have as little back tracking as possible, unless it's a nice day and I want to ride further. My biggest "strategy" is having those HUGE Basil "Cardiff" baskets on both sides of my racks. I can fit a week's worth of groceries for a family of five in them. To me any time in the saddle counts. Leisure rides are kind of sissy compared to the stuff I get up to using a bike instead of a car.

    I should once again thank you for inspiring to powder coat and customize a vintage Raleigh Sports. I ADORE that bike!

    1. "To me any time in the saddle counts."
      I commute to work by bike, usually 6 days a week, working days that are often 12 hours long (I'm expecting 5 twelves and an eight next week), sometimes getting groceries or hardware parts on the way home, so I don't get much time for long "leisure" rides!

  4. I rarely do more than one errand for two main reasons: capacity (a number of library books or heavy groceries but not both) and theft concerns. As for the latter, when shopping alone one doesn't leave one's goods from Store A on the bike while one runs into Store B; you take everything with you. If the errands involve curbside exchanges, or a companion, or bringing the bike through the store (a la Veloria's recent post) then it's more feasible to combine trips.

    At our common CSA the load burgeons as the summer goes on and I had real trouble fitting it all some weeks last summer - I bought Timbuktoo saddlebag-type panniers to deal with this. The lower you can get the center of gravity, the more stable the ride.

    Which leads me to think that one of those kid's trailers (I used one this weekend on Martha's Vineyard - where there are no old 3-speeds!) would be just the thing for hauling. It would turn any bike into a work bike as needed. A talented fabricator could make one, I suppose, from a couple of wheels, pipes and other loose parts.

    1. I don't have the prices in front of me, but they make trailers for dogs that don't have to meet the same standards, and are more inexpensive.

  5. I've recently acquired a Burley Travoy trailer (, specifically for the shopping that I find myself doing by bicycle. I can take this trailer in to all the shops with me without too many sideways glances.

    I really hate having to stop at home before going back out, just to drop things off -- so I'd found myself skipping shops or tasks just to avoid it. No excuses anymore!

  6. Speaking of which, was that watermelon as big as the photo makes it look? If so, your masochism is showing. String cheese is MUCH more bike friendly.

  7. I'm lucky:
    1) 'cos I live in the UK :-) Go Olympians! - we are doing pretty well (so far) for a country with only about 20% the population of the USA!
    2) 'cos I live in a "Cycle Demostration Town", where money has been spent on at least some cycling infrastructure
    3) I live close to an official "sidewalk" cycle route that runs to the town centre
    4) I live less than 1 mile from 2 small supermarkets, and within a two mile range of 5 (maybe 6)supermarkets, as well as market stalls, health food shops, coffee shops, hardware shops, banks, etc. etc. (in other words, the "town centre", plus the shops in the surrounding area)

    I use two bikes for groceries and errands - my folding bike with a cheapie clip-on fron basket, and my wife's bike (moving the saddle up!) with a nice big "Basil" fixed front basket (it's called Boston XL, or something like that).
    My wife actually does most of the errands on her bike, with me helping out, and sometimes getting a few things on the way home from work - you know the sort of stuff: milk, cheese, special offers etc. etc.

    We also use a pair of BikeBins hard-sided lockable panniers that clip onto the luggage rack of whichever bike we want to use (we lock the panniers to the rack with a bike chain!).
    The panniers are rated at 5kg (11 lbs) each, as is my clip-on basket, but the Basil fixed basket is rated at 10kg (22 lbs), and I've loaded it to 16kg with no apparent ill-effects (other than dodgy handling for the bike as a whole!)

    I can shift about 15 kilos (33 pounds)on my folding bike, and about 25 kilos (55 pounds) on my wife's bike (plus whatever is in a backpack etc.).
    We carefully arrange the order of trips so we get the smaller things first so they can be locked away out of sight (out of sight, out of mind!), leaving the store where we are getting the biggest things until last.
    Then with panniers full, and basket almost overflowing, it is up the hill :-( home.
    It's not too much of a hill, but with a full load and a top-heavy basket, it sure seems big!

    Biggest things we have moved:
    * my wife takes duvets that are too large for our washing machine to the laundrette using the tops of the BikeBins panniers to provide a decent "flat bed" to strap the laundry bag to.
    * I moved a paper shredder on my folding bike the same way.
    * The heaviest object I have moved is probably a 4" Irwin bench vise (aka vice), or a 12 litre (six 2 liter bottles) pack of mineral water, (the water weighs, not unsurprisingly, about 12 kg (c. 27 lbs), but I did that with my wife's bike - to move a similar 6 pack of water on my folding bike I had to split the pack up - two in each pannier, and two in the clip-on front basket.

    I'm impressed with your watermelon.
    That would have to go in the basket on my wife's bike!
    We would arrange the journey to visit that shop last!