Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bike transportation and hauling

Last night I sold my baby. My ultra-light aluminum Klein racing bike. The one that's been collecting dust in my basement since the kids were born and my back decided it can't tolerate being in a racing position. On one hand, I'm happy to have all the cash in my hand, but on the other hand I'm very sad to see it go.

It had a lot of dreams and wishes tied to it, but now I have the money to fund another obsession: getting a bike that I can comfortably ride with the kids, use as transportation instead of driving and outfitting it so I can haul things. Things like groceries, library books and sailboat driven CSA deliveries.

Since I'll be taking a leave of absence starting in September for six months from work (to finish writing my book), I'm determined to use my car as little as possible. Plus, if I have to bike to get somewhere I'll be less inclined to hop in the car and go somewhere and, most of all, less inclined to spend money.

What would I like to get? A longtail cargo bike that makes transportation easy, but can haul larger items when necessary. There are a few bikes on the market since the Xtracycle FreeRadical system came out that I may look at, but I may just settle for a comfy cruiser with some nice racks.

Do you commute by bike or otherwise use a bicycle for transportation? Do you have it fitted with racks to haul yer stuff and if, so, do you like your set-up or do you wish you had something else?


Sam said...


I don't have recommendations. But I ride a touring bike which I bought primarily for long distance riding but now commute daily with it. I have several panniers (3 pairs now) that I use to haul everything I need. I love it because San Diego is so damn hilly and I need all the gears I can get. I like the ram horn handlebars as I find it comfortable and I have lots of room to move my palms when riding on distance.

A few months ago I needed to haul a case of wine and 96 rolls of toilet paper. I borrowed an xtracycle and found it to be surprisingly fun to ride (despite the length, it was very stable). And the thing is very roomy.

If I was going to be hauling lotso stuff on a regular basis and had more room, I'd get an xtracycle.

Oldnovice said...

I don't currently have a bike. My husband does, but when he uses it he complains about his knees. Still in the fantasy stage, but I think about getting us each the bikes that can haul stuff AND get a little electric kick when our knees start to give out on the hills.

Tricia said...

I ride a comfy urban bike (Trek Allant) with a huge basket on the front. Its a rear basket that I put on the front because on the back i have a child seat.

I feel like Mary Poppins and love it.

I also sold a rarely used racer to fund this bike. I wish I'd done it years earlier.

Enjoy :-)

The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

A few years ago I gave away my Italian racer - a bike, not a guy ;) I'm hoping to get something like it next spring. (the bike.... and maybe the guy)

My Schwinn Collegiate 3 is a great town bike, but this area has been in a weird heat pattern this summer. Commuting in 90+ degree heat and humidity isn't for me. Hoping for a better Autumn!

Love the cargo bike!

Tree Huggin Momma said...

I use my bike to commute to work in the spring/summer and am hoping this year to extend it out into the fall/winter. I take the bus when I am not biking, and they have bike racks on the front so if the weather turns dodgey I can grab the bus home.

I want paniers for my bike, but am having a hard time finding some made in America. I just picked up a bike basket at a garage sale and now need to get the rear mount in order to put it on it.

Chile said...

Both hubby and I sold our racing bikes years ago to fund getting Xtracycles. Best decision we ever made. They haul a load of stuff which can even include kids on the snapdeck. Many parents pad the snapdeck, add the foot pedals and handlebar (attached to the seatpost). 'Course it's better to get the kids on their own bikes as soon as possible so they get used to a biking lifestyle.

Have fun!

Greenpa said...

Old biker here. I had a 4 speed "English Racer" when I was in high school, rode it all over the county, and was universally considered really really weird.

Having watched my 95 year old dad zooming around on his trike, I really came to be of the opinion that was the way to go for cargo and any kind of worries about instability. If I was carrying kids on public roads on a regular basis, I'd want a trike. Sure, the bike is totally stable - when it's stable. But it doesn't take that much to destabilize a bike with the center of gravity up high- and recovering from a bad bump can be just about impossible.

These guys will drive you nuts with the choices;

Options for 3 and 4 wheelers have exploded in the last decade.

Desert Lean-to said...

My husband and I both have vintage touring bikes with racks and panniers. The upright bars help with back pain and we use them to haul everything: groceries, car parts, canning jars and even 50 lb bags of clay for a home plastering project. We can also go camping on a moment's notice!

Given the hilly nature of the Seattle area, getting a fairly light bike with more than 3-5 gears might make running those errands more enjoyable.

Tree Huggin Momma: Have you seen the panniers by Swift Industries? They are out of Portland and make high quality panniers and bags.

Greenpa said...

oh, yeah, the other thing about trikes - they are MUCH easier for motorists to see; and will NOT tempt them to pass you pretending you don't need any space.

Shari said...

I have a mountain bike with a basket on the back but what I really want is a tricycle. I had to remove my basket now that my kid is on a trailer bike (and I don't have his bike trailer for when I need extra space for hauling).

I know someone who has an xtracycle and she hauls both her kids and still has room for lots of stuff.

Rosa said...

When it was just me, I had a series of random bikes (mountain, road, and comfort) with a rack and panniers. I liked that a lot.

Then, the baby. I've been hauling a 2-seater Burley with just one child in it for the last 4 years. I love it, and it's totally spoiled me for haulage - I can haul 80 pounds of bagged manure, or a child and 4 bags of groceries, or 6 empty 5-gallon buckets, or a random combination (poor child, sitting in the seat with a bag of produce in his lap, 2 gym bags behind him in the cargo area, and 3 dumpstered buckets bungeed to the back...)

Now he wants a trail-a-bike. I *think* I am getting an Xtracycle Radish and finding someone to custom-weld me a connector so I can pull a Trail-a-Bike with it and still have decent panniers.

I wish there were more kids & stuff-hauling solutions out there - I see a lot of people with trail-a-bikes with Burleys behind, and also lots of custom-built stuff, but not a lot of off-the-shelf stuff for intermediate-sized kids.

Bullwinkle said...

Just offering alternatives... I don't know anything about the xtracycle; I do know several people with one of these.

Rosa said...

Bullwinkle, where do you live?

I've seen the Madsens online, but never in person, but we've got xtracycles all over the place (including one parent I see with a Free Radical with a homemade sidecar for the kids.) I wonder if it's because we don't have a Madsen dealer that I never see them.

Anonymous said...

My husband loves his Surly Big Dummy with the Xtracycle on it. It's a comfy ride but it weighs a lot. If you're looking for comfort, Electra has some really nice models that are incredibly comfortable. They have one where the pedals are slightly forward so your feet are just a little bit in front of you rather than straight down, and it makes a world of difference.

Kristijoy said...

We're one of Portland car free bike centric households. We have uh, a lot of bikes. Commuters, folders for travel, even a chopper low rider freak bike.

My next project is to take my trek MTB, with super low gearing that we currently use for hauling with a cargo trailer and make it into a longtail. Xtracycles are awesome.
They are not the only rig out there though. Yubas are also super nice as are Bakfeitsen. Portland and a lot of builders making interesting cargo bikes. Joe Bike make some affordable options.

Check out for links or past articles on hauling kids and cargo.

I currently have a hybrid with a rack that I can srap some pannier to and that does me well. I have a trailer hitch for my cargo trailer for larger loads.

I should note we moved by bike last year and that it's common for us to help on other bike moves very frequently... There are all kinds of cargo options out there! Wow.

I really want a longtail though because it eliminates dealing with the trailer and I will be able to haul the nieces and nephews around AND groceries and whatever.

There are all kind of family rigs here though, you might check out Bike Portland's flikr photostream for some of the family bike rides and events we have around here to get a good look at some of the set ups.

Sammie said...

This post is so timely for me! I just got my hand-me-down mountain bike tuned up and started riding it a bit, with the goal of someday using it instead of the car for things like grocery shopping and visiting local parks and playgroups.

I've been drooling over Xtracycles, but right now I'm working up the fitness just to pedal me around, along with a one-seat Burley child trailer some friends gave us. My next purchase will be a rear mount so I can actually carry something on the bike without it being on a bag on my back!

Loving reading all the comments - the adult tricycles are definitely intriguing. Please keep us updated as you look into this more.

Kristijoy said...

Some options for folks out there who want greener local/usa(Portland) assembled (materials who knows) panniers - like the above mentioned Swift bags:

You can make them out of old buckets, like the square kitty litter kind. I have one, very utilitarian. You can buy them from City Bikes or they sell kits now I think to make your own (minus the bucket)

Black Star bags out of Portland:

Queen Bee (love):

North St. bags:

Robj98168 said...

I don't commute by bike. I do once in awhile haul my fat ass on one of my old single speeds to go to the store. I am interested in getting a public bike 3 speed how ever. I would also like an electric bike in the future so I could conceivably bike to work. As far as baskets and all that jazz- I have fender baskets on a a handle bar basket on one of the single speeds, my honda scooter has a metal shopping basket attached to the rear.

debmoulton said...

I have a vintage 5-speed Schwinn beach cruiser and an old trailer that I use for the farmer's market and any other trip that is three to six miles away. Closer than that, I walk, and further I either take the bus or rarely, drive.

Sarah said...

I mostly commute and otherwise get around on an old Trek mountain bike, but my husband and I share a Yuba Mundo for hauling. Love them both! It's nice to have a lighter bike for the transport that doesn't include kids/ groceries.

Veronica said...

I have a Raleigh bike that I use to get from home to campus and to work. I live in a college town so there are some bike lanes, but because it's Texas motorists just don't like sharing the road. I have a rake on the back of my bike and two collapsible metal baskets on each side of the back wheel. They make my bike kinda heavy even without a load, but I just call it a leg workout.

Amy said...

I would love to be able to ride a bike, but my injured knees just won't allow it :-(

Anonymous said...

We run small errands with a backpack and larger ones with the 2-child-sized Burley.

We started the 2009-2010 school year with the then 8-year old on his own bike for the 3.4 mile ride to school and the then 5-year-old on a trail-a-bike, but the smaller child was more interested in riding his own bike pretty quickly. He likes getting "help" on hills, but it's no big deal to reach over and put a hand on the middle of his back to give him a little boost.

Our grocery stores are little more than a mile from the house, so the kids ride their own bikes and I pull home the groceries in the Burley. (On an old mountain bike, with low, low gears.) Ditto for the Farmer's Market, where bike parking is much, much easier than finding a spot for a car. I actually once pulled place settings for 12 home in the Burley, but I think that may have been a little much.

We live in Boulder CO, though, so we have bike paths and lanes galore. And the city typically gets the bike paths plowed by 7 am when it snows during the night!

Crunchy Chicken said...

Thanks for all the links and suggestions everybody! I've been busy checking them out. Greenpa - I did come across that site the other day and the choices are overwhelming!

Unknown said...

Wow! I'm so glad you got all these comments. They're very helpful b/c I'm about to buy a bike and I'm not totally sure what to get. The bike I have now is a Trek mountain bike from my teenage years when I was more interested in looking cool than I was in utility. It's definitely not a comfortable bike for be-boppin' around town. I live in bike unfriendly suburbs in a mostly bike unfriendly state so I don't see a lot of variety in bikes. Most people here aren't using bikes for transportation - just recreation. So, I only recently realized there were all these options. I'm planning to get a bike that's pretty upright (the Trek has me all hunched over), big cushy seat, plenty of gears in case we move somewhere with hills (I'm in the coastal plains at the moment), a basket on the front, a bell, and a rack and bags on the back. Then my plan is to limit my trips to the grocery store. Unfortunately, our local grocery store doesn't stock that much that we buy (not a lot of organic and no grass fed dairy) but it's still good for onions, etc. If we got a goat I would hardly ever go to the store!

Sonja said...

I don't own a car and I do pretty much everything by bike (or public transport when the weather is bad or I need to go further).
I mostly use my normal backpack and the bike basket, but I'm dreaming of replacing my broken luggage rack with a real good one and get those special bags :-)

SusanB said...

I remember the giving up my road bike moment -- it was sad. But moving on, after suffering with a free longtime bike loan that just wasn't right, I bought a Trek Bellvue and love it, the same frill as when I first got my road bike. It has super integrated racks and other communting features, but might not be good in really hilly terrain, 3 well spaced speeds. Very stable and comfortable. It's not the lightest thing out there but it sure is easier to ride than the much lighter loaner I had.

LHT Rider said...

Yay for hauling by bike!

I commute year-round in WI on a touring bike and my DH and I share an Xtracycle conversion for hauling (we added the free radical kit to an old touring frame). Of course this means that it's not set up ideally to fit either of us, but boy can that baby haul! We took great pleasure the first couple of years in trying to come up with crazy things to load it up with. For everyday use, the best thing is that you don't need to carefully plan the size of your purchases at the grocery store. The Xtracycle can easily handle 4-6 bags of groceries, plus bulky items strapped to the snapdeck.

If we were to do it over again, the first factor I'd consider is *fit*. If the bicycle doesn't fit you or isn't set up for your particular body, then you won't want to ride it. Find someone to help you who understands that women are not proportioned like men, and I'm not just talking about our curvy parts.

Secondly, gearing that's appropriate for your intended use and terrain is important. On our Xtracycle, I wish we'd more carefully considered this when building our conversion because frequently I want at least one or 2 more lower gears when carrying even moderate loads.

Finally, if we were to do another conversion, we'd use a mountain bike or some other style of frame with a low top tube. When the Xtracycle has a tallish load on the back (read higher than the saddle), my DH is not flexible enough to easily get his leg over!

Samantha said...

i currently ONLY use a bike for transportation (in and around downtown san diego). i have a rusty old 70's columbia townie. (you have to have a rusty, old, ugly bike where i live because people are always stealing bikes and bike parts). it has three gears that hardly work. i have a basket on the front and one of those racks over my back tire. it works great for groceries but not so great for laundry. luckily i work from the boat so i have no commute and i can bike back and forth to school. i'm trying to live without a car but it's getting harder by the day.

Maudi said...

I have a question regarding the weight of the bikes people use to commute and haul. I was under the impression that using a road bike might be easiest because of the weight. What do most people think? Espcially taking them up and down stairs of subways,lifting to buses, or going to apt. complexes. On the other hand, I see how unstable they can be on the road, esp. when hauling and the way your back is positioned... What is the consensus on the best commuter bike? and errand running bike?

Kristijoy said...

Maudi- road bikes are ok for commuting. I'd reccomend hybrids or touring bikes as they have a slightly wider tire and a little more burly frame that is general better for mixed riding environments and for handling gear like panniers. They aren't too heavy.

Everyone has their preferences though so mostly, whatever is going to be comfortable to you is going to be best since you'll be on it a lot. A bike that fits you well an dis outfitted you your needs is a personal thing. =)

general to thread:
I have more links for ya'll. I know these are local bike shops or builders for me, but they have between them a good selection of cargo bikes an commuter bikes for research. I always recommend test riding a bike if you can before buying one though.

Clever Cycles(best for family biking options):

Splendid Cycles:

Joe Bike:


Ashley said...

I have a cruiser that replaced my old, busted bike. As much as I like riding it to work, I miss driving my electric golf cart. Long story short, we didn't keep with maintaining the batteries and killed it. Almost argued in public because my idea of replacing the batteries and using it didn't go well (Grandma insists I've never used it... I insist Grandma has flawed memory...aparantly I lose even though it was my main mode of transport to work for some time). I have to sell my cart. At least I still have the bike.

kidk4m said...

I gave up my road bikes years ago after yet "another" driver in a pickup truck, purposely crossed the double yellow line and drove straight at me-sending me into someone's front lawn. Since then I've only ridden mtn bikes-even when taking tours. I just switch to narrower tires.

I live in Northern Vermont.
As long as the roads are free of ice and snow, I commute on a 20yr old Trek mountain bike with panniers. Once the ice/snow comes, I switch to my Surley mountain bike with studded tires, longer fenders, internal hub and disc brakes. Both bikes are pretty heavy once loaded. Fortunately, I can lock my bike on the ground floor so the weight isn't a problem. The panniers are usually adequate for most trips to the post office etc.I figure that the added weight/rolling resistance makes for a better workout :)

I only grocery shop once/month and for that I do use the car.

Tristin said...

I'm car-free and have a 3 year old. My current set-up is a hybridized mountain bike with 2 panniers and a Cougar Chariot. I found a plastic Pepsi rack that fit perfectly on top of the trailer that a large rubbermaid tote can sit in, giving me lots of room to haul things. I'm going to upgrade soon to an Xtracycle as my daughter is getting too tall for the trailer.

Kerri said...

Don't fear the cargo bike! I'm petite and had no trouble balancing one.

Looking forward to hearing about what you decide to do.