Monday, April 13, 2015

Bike Grocery Accessories

A week ago, when I described how our family is now a one-car family, Penn asked,
Re: biking, can you do a post on your favorite accessories for helping you be more successful with biking? How do you carry your groceries, etc?
I aims to please.  The short version of bike-grocery-acquisition accessories is this:
  1. Attitude.
  2. Backpacks.
  3. Clothes (Gloves, hat, shoes).
  4. Dark glasses.
  5. Effervescent* lights/reflectors.
*Effervescent? Well, I noticed the ABCD theme,
and wanted to find a word that started with "E".
Here's a slightly more detailed version of the same list.

1.  Attitude
Before the first time or two I ventured forth to buy groceries on my bike, I felt like I was getting ready to trek to the North Pole, or climb Mt. Everest, or something.  Did I have all my equipment? What if something went wrong?

And then I realized:  it's just a ride to the store.  And then a ride back. If I get a flat, I can walk home (our stores are less than 2 miles from my home).  If the groceries don't fit in my bag, I can just put them back, or even abandon them on the side of the road.  I'm not really blazing trails through the Amazon Rain Forest or guiding a team across Antarctica.  

Once I had that amazing revelation, everything else got easier.

2. Backpacks
Our family has been gifted with numerous backpacks.  On the table (below) are three of my favorites. The green messenger bag closest in the photo is small and fun, but the one-strap mode means that it's more likely to swing off my back onto my belly while I ride.  There's a medium sized backpack (with two straps) further back, and I use that one occasionally as well.

But the backpack I actually use the most for grocery shopping is the biggest of these three. It was a gift to my husband from his sister many years ago.

What I like about it---apart from the size (and the size is amazing)---is that it has two shoulder straps (so it doesn't slip around while I'm riding) . . . .
. . . plus it has hand straps, so once I'm inside the store I can carry it around like a normal shopping bag.  I store empty containers that need refilling in the bag during the week, so this bag becomes my shopping list as well as my shopping bag.  This week, you can see I need refills on milk, eggs, and yogurt.

For really really big loads (when I buy my turkey, or when I buy 50 lbs of hamburger, or when I buy 70 lb of dog food), then I'll use a bike trailer.  The boys also use the trailer to haul donations to Goodwill or to take hazardous materials to our Waste Authority.  But we don't use this trailer very often; the backpack seems to work well for us most of the time.

3.  Clothes (Gloves, hat, shoes jacket)
The wind and cold really do make a big difference on a bike.  But the good news is that the frugal versions of warm clothing work very well -- often better than expensive bike stuff.

Case in point:  gloves.

Last summer when I was doing training rides of 25 miles or more in very hot weather, I appreciated fancy bike gloves that have "sweat pads" so I could wipe the sweat out of my eyes instead of going blind.  But for around-the-town riding, a pair of hand-me-down faux(?) leather gloves work great.  The main criteria is that they should stop the wind -- knit gloves are essentially worthless.

Case in point:  hat.

Here is my teddy bear, modeling my expensive balaclava, designed to keep my face warm.  I really don't like this particular hat; it fogs up my glasses, and the chin part gets ice and it freezes.  Mr. Frugalwoods had similar problems, and he bought what he calls a "face mask".   I may check this out in the future.

But me, I just substituted a whole bunch of fleece ear bands (either purchased at yard sales or harvested from local sidewalks); I'll I wear several, one around my neck, and one over my nose, and one around my ears.

Likewise for shoes.  In cold weather, priority one is stopping the wind from getting to my toes.  My fabulous (and very expensive) clip-in bike shoes were perfect for making sure I could go 112 miles in one long 92-degree day last summer, but they stink at 2 mile trips in cold weather.  For short trips to the store, my pair of yard-sale-purchased Ugh-like boots totally rock.

4. Dark Glasses.   Actually, any good glasses.
I would like to tell you that my free (harvested from a parking lot) sunglasses are great for biking.

Alas, they're not.

They look fab, but they don't stay on my head when my head is pointing down.  I really do need eye protection that has curved ear pieces, and also that fits close to the head so that wind doesn't slide in sideways.

I splurged and bought a pair of $20 "IronMan" glasses (not shown here) from the drugstore.  I'm glad I did, because that got me back on the bike.  But I am also glad that found a cool pair of yellow bike glasses for cheap/free.  These work really well in low-light situations.

5.  Effervescent Lights/reflectors

Any bike store can and will sell you great bike lights. These can be pricey, but they're worth it.  

Even more, I've become a total fan of "Lightweights" spoke reflectors.  You don't have to turn these on; you don't have to charge these up, and people can see these from the side as well as from the front and back.  My husband hasn't put these on any of his bikes, but my kids and I have them on ours.  Love, love, love these!

And that's how I get my groceries on a bike; it's really pretty easy.  But I've only been doing this for two years, so I'm sure I have more to learn.  Suggestions for improvements are ALWAYS welcome.

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