For this one, we have to go back in time. Back when I commuted a very long time to work in a sea of cubicles and wanted a bike for weekend fun. This is five or six years ago, and I got a “road bike.” At the time I didn’t have any beef with REI and didn’t really know what “road bike” meant; it was a previous year’s clearance so price was nice, it would fit my frame, and it was aesthetically pleasing to me. That was truly the extent of my needs at the time.
Back then, which seems like so long ago now, I went into Sellwood Cycle Repair and got a U-lock. Really nice crew, they actually did quite a bit on kids’ bikes for me and the U-lock was just something else I needed. The guy at the time said something about liking the mid-size model because it easily fit around bike stands and it still fit in his back pocket. To be honest, I was only half listening. Momlyfe requires 50% of all brain activity to be working on other issues during any conversation. You want me to remember something? Put it in writing. It’s not a legal request; it’s an efficiency request.
Apparently, I lost the U-lock bracket mount at some point. It didn’t matter back when I got it. I had always thrown the lock (and water bottles and full size air pump and all snacks and blankie and…you get the idea) into the Burley trailer when we had it. We’d do the weekend thing on trails and rarely ever hit a road unless briefly enroute. Now that I can bike around solo and my needs have changed, I tried putting the lock around my bike in various places. Nope. I tried putting it in my back pocket. HAHAHAHA. No. The backpack option isn’t the most ideal in every situation, so I dropped off my youngest at school, and headed over to the closest bike shop expecting to find a bracket, best case scenario, or worst case scenario I’ll have to buy a new lock.
“What’s the protocol here? Is it cool just to stroll into a bike shop and start asking questions? Can I just walk in and get whatever I need done, done?”
So far, I feel I have had really good luck in this department, but I’m not sure if I’m doing it right. I’ve only been snubbed at a few places, one of which, rightly so. I mean, let’s face it, no, I’m not buying a $5,000 Italian bike. That’s totally cool. No hard feelings there at all. This time I went to Kenton Cycle Repair, and Rich literally spent hours helping me right then and there. Which is why I’m asking – is that cool? To just go in, and take up hours of his time without making an appointment first?
I hear you. Hours for a lock bracket? Ok, well, they didn’t have any that fit my Abus. Rich offered to order one; but after hearing my story (I left out the part about the FBI), he asked if I was getting a bike rack at any point and showed me how the lock can thread through a rack. That was so cool. I honestly had no idea. The bike rack and bags was all stuff I was already researching, so when 2-3 hours later I had a bike rack and two panniers, I feel like I came out winning. Time saved, some poor guy had to listen to my 100 questions, even another worker, Claire, got roped into helping at some point. Money well spent, and now I can get groceries!
“How are you getting groceries? Do you get delivery? Shop every 2-3 days? Have fewer children so don’t have to worry about it as much?”
While I respect the possibility the last of those questions may apply to you, I can’t put mine back, so I’m going to have to find some solutions here. I have found the max capacity of my tiny waxed canvas backpack, and I’ve found that my backpack + two panniers can work pretty well for some things. I have managed to fit quite a bit and not lose balance, but I’d love your input and advice. We don’t eat out; I’m an avid cook. I even make our weekly bread from scratch. Like I’ve said, many of you have been at this longer, and there may be more like me out here lurking, or maybe some that are curious and haven’t jumped on board yet.
Note from author: This is not an ad, native advertising, nor paid endorsement. Rich/Kenton really was very helpful, as was Sellwood, Block Bikes, and most other shops I’ve been into; I like to shop local as much as possible.
— Becky Jo, @BeckyJoPDX — Get our headlines delivered to your inbox. — Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.
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Totally ok to go to a shop and ask a million questions, BUT if you find a shop that is willing to be kind and answer all your questions you have to make it your shop. Finding a good shop is HARD, everyone wants something different in a shop and when you find one that works for you keep going. They need your money, even if something might be cheaper at another shop or online keep going. Keeping them open and having a comfortable shop to come to is worth it.
As for groceries, this is the biggest challenge. Plan it out. Figure out your meals and go frequently. It sucks, and honestly, this is one of the chores that being able to pick up a car-to-go would be worth it but that is not an option anymore. This is also done best as a team if you can bring your partner with you they can take half a load and you can take half a load. And sometimes you actually can bring more home if the two of you bus it rather than bike.
A agree with Amy, you’ll get used to shopping more frequently. You’ll also end up buying more frozen concentrated juices rather than liquid, concentrated 3x detergent and bleach instead of regular, fewer liquids, less pop, etc.
Put the heavier items (cans, bottles, liquids, milk) at the bottom of the panniers/bike bags. If you use both front and rear bags, put the heavier items up front and bulkier items in the rear, balance the load left versus right so you can steer. Use frozen items to keep refrigerated items cool if you are traveling far (such as from a WINCO on the east side.) Make sure bread flour is not in any bag with liquids or frozen goods.
Don’t forget to lock your bags if you are leaning them outside; it helps to bring a 7-foot Kryptonite cable with you, the really thick kind, and use your U-lock to lock the cable to the frame, rear wheel, and post.
Amy & David, thank you! I really do like the two bike shops I’m between, so I guess I’ve lucked out. Kenton in particular has been super on it with us, including fitting my youngest and now she’s getting the hang of riding too. Also, after I wrote this up and just before it posted, I did take the husbeast’s bike in for a tune-up and as a surprise got him fitted with a rack as well, thinking we could take on the groceries together here and there. I’m excited to try it out! I get this weird pang of guilt taking the bus sometimes… you know? Like, when it’s a distance I can bike… I think I’m still feeling all of this out quite a bit, but no regrets whatsoever.
and yeah – bread flours went into the backpack last time. Juice concentrate! Good one! Also, I intentionally bought the last pack of eggs in this crazy super constructed plastic carton thinking it could be my egg carton for all trips? I don’t know. I’ll keep you posted on that one. I’m unconvinced of transferring a dozen eggs into my reused carrier every 4-6 days. That sounds pretty kooky…but I hate broken eggs…so kooky it may have to be.
Personally I leave the eggs in their commercial Styrofoam-like packaging and put them near the top of the bag that has the grapes, leafy veggies, tomatoes, and fresh herbs, or else the bag with my spare clothing, the rain jacket and caps (usually the same bag.) Make sure nothing in put on top of them and that the package is more or less horizontal at all times, and that the bag isn’t too tight on its straps. I’ve never had a broken egg yet from carrying them (any that were broken were broken in the store and I didn’t inspect them very well beforehand – my bad.)
As extra insurance, carry or ask for a rubber band to put around the egg carton, in case they shift in the bag. (New Seasons does this automatically – not sure if that’s for everyone, or if it’s because it’s obvious I’m hauling it on a bike.)
Hair bungees or cargo bungees cords work great also. I try to keep one under my saddle for securing an unneeded jersey, extra tube, etc…and they weigh just about nothing.
I may be in the minority on this one (at least in the States) but I have a hybrid bike with a front basket. I’m still relatively new at doing grocery shopping by bike, but I basically wear a backpack and bring a reusable bag that I put in the front basket. I’m still open to refining my system, but this has worked well for me so far. Lightweight items go in the front basket in the reusable bag, and heavy items go in the backpack so that my steering isn’t affected. If you’re using rear panniers, then steering probably won’t be an issue for you. I’ve also put eggs in their original packaging in the front basket and rode on pretty rough pavement and never had a single egg break during the trip, which in my case is about five minutes each way. I pretty much assume that I’m shopping every couple of days unlike when I used to live in Southwest and drove to the store. I also have some family in Japan, particularly in Tokyo where car ownership is very low. From what I’ve observed, people there tend to walk or bike to the neighborhood grocery store (they would take the highly efficient train network for longer distances) and pretty much buy only what they can carry, so shopping tends to be a daily activity there, not a weekly activity like it is here. Of course, Tokyo is a much denser city than Portland, so I’m guessing there are more and smaller grocery stores per capita so some lessons from that might not apply here. But the frequent shopping lesson is applicable here I think.
for some reason, I always end up being the designated egg carrier on bike tours. the cardboard carton seems to be plenty, though I sometimes break it in half to make fitting eggs inside a bag or basket easier. for normal in town grocery runs, I generally just pile groceries willy-nillily in my front basket and/or saddlebag. inclement weather obviously requires consideration of what can and can’t get wet, but that’s not usually a big deal.
I won’t say I’ve never broken an egg, but it’s rare. they’ve survived several spills on loose gravel forest roads and my bike tipping over because I wasn’t careful enough leaning it against something.
Sellwood to Kenton, you get around. I wonder about stuff like this as well. Nobody’s getting rich running a bike shop, so how much of their time is it fair to take up on a small purchase?
If they’re willing to spend the time when you, then it is OK to use their time. If you really value this service then, when you come to deciding on where to make bigger purchases, show it. Buy the item there instead of for $30 less on Amaz*n. This is when you will pay for their time. Otherwise your local bike shop will close.
I can’t second Jim’s advice more. Shopping local at a store you love beats amazon’s likely cheaper prices every time.
I use a child trailer for groceries. The trip takes me through some quiet residential streets, and some busy roads with wide bike lanes. At the store there’s a bike rack away from most of the pedestrian traffic so it’s not in the way.
I use one of these, which is also nice because I can take it right in the store with me and use it as a shopping cart. It also folds up pretty small if space is at a premium. It comes with a pretty big bag that sits on the lower half of the trailer. The bike still handles remarkably well, even when the trailer is heavily loaded.
Yes HK, thank you! I think you even commented that previously and that’s where I saw it (brain like a sieve, I tell ya.) Putting on short wish list. ^5
Yes, a trailer for groceries is the way to go! I have a pet trailer (Burley Tail Wagon) which is flat inside (no seats), which makes it really good as a grocery getter. I can put five bags of groceries in there, which is about the max I would buy on a single trip to the store anyway. Toilet paper is the only sticking point because it takes up so much room.
To a lot of my coworkers and extended friend circle I’m The Bikiest Person We Know so I get asked a lot about “what kind of [X] should I buy” (usually: what kind of bike). My advice is always: “before you shop for [X] you should shop for a shop.”
The corollary is “if the folks at a shop act like they’re too cool to take your money, they are.”
We replaced our cheapo burley trailer with a longtail cargo bike & TBH this was not an upgrade. I miss the trailer, it was much more practical.
I’m super pleased with my local bike shop options, and I think you’re spot on. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t being an oblivious jerk and missing some sort of unknown-to-me etiquette. Thanks for letting me know my instincts aren’t out of whack.
I’m not super sad I got rid of our Burley as it was overkill, but I may look for a lighter option on Craigslist this summer. We temporarily have the youngest learning to ride, but until then she goes on longer trips on the tandem hitch, and I don’t regret not going cargo. It’s easy to drop the tandem off at the house and head back out, or even leave it locked up at the school until she’s ready to ride on her own… I did see a grocery hitch that looks like it hitches up like the tandem does to the seat post – that might be a good thing too?
Question 1: Just like in dating or any other part of human life, the person you’re asking is expected to indicate whether they consent, and you then are expected to honor that indication. And if they help you they deserve the usual gratitude and repeat business.
Question 2: You said you have a rack, so get a pair of these: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=ortlieb+backroller&t=ffab&iax=images&ia=images Each one will hold at least a standard grocery bag’s worth. If you’re used to buying more than that at once, plan on making smaller, more frequent trips. Gone for you are the days of infrequent industrial-sized grocery runs enabled by industrial-scale machinery fed by an industrial supply chain. Bonus: Everything you eat will be fresher because you just bought it like a day or two ago.
A strong second to Glenn II on the Ortliebs: I take one or both of them to the store, stick them in the bottom of the shopping cart, then ‘bag’ groceries directly into them at the checkout counter. The locking system takes a little practice to learn to attach it smoothly, but then you can lift the bag right off by the handle – yet the bag is positively anchored while riding. (When we first got these bags, I spent some time finessing the position of the adjustable bottom ‘hook’ so that either bag can go on either side of the bike rack, on either of two bikes.) If it’s not raining, you can leave the bags standing open rather than rolling them closed, for some additional capacity. Definitely worth the cost.
I have a midtail with a deck on the rack, but even without that, think about the top of the rack (with two bags on the sides) as a makeshift platform to strap on something bulky (TP, a case of cans/bottles, a big bag of rice, etc.) or a sturdy bag of non-breakables. I carry a couple different bungee cords wrapped around the rack and frame so they are always available for those unexpected over-purchases…
And a definite yes! to MonicainPDX on the center stand – it’s an amazing improvement in your ability to manage loads on a bike. You can get so much more … aggressive … in your experiments in hauling things when you’re not trying to balance the bike while you load it.