As a commuter, the #1 question I get asked is “how do you get ____ on your bike??” – usually the question is about groceries, and the answer is panniers, but showing up somewhere with live plants or a kombucha starter has made me realize that there are a few more details and tips I can share from many rounds of trial and error over the years.
The number one answer to ‘how the heck did you carry that?’ is to have quality bags to attach to your bike. My go-to brand that I use and point people towards is PoCampo, an awesome woman owned bike bag company that has thought about everything (and I do literally mean everything) a commuter needs for schlepping their stuff around. I love their bags and while I do receive a discount for documenting how I use their bags, as a commuter with lots to carry, I would be buying their products anyway!
I used my PoCampo Kinga handlebar bag all summer on my self contained Rockies tour, and it’s great for everyday use as well – it’s the perfect size for stashing your wallet, phone, keys, chargers, and sunscreen. I love being able to easily detach it when hopping off the bike for a side hike on a trip or for popping into a store when I’m riding around town. This bag comes in several colors and doesn’t need a rack or special mounting system, and fits great on just about any type of handlebars – so it’s a great gift idea as well for the cyclist on your shopping list.
For larger items, it’s a relief to get rid of the backpack and make the switch to a rear rack with panniers (in the case of my Raleigh Port Townsend above, I have both a front and rear rack – I typically carry more weight in the back since it doesn’t affect steering). I use my Mardy Cargo pannier daily for my commute and love how its thoughtful features come together to make the ultimate work pannier: recycled materials, durable and easy to clean, compartments to keep you organized including a shoe compartment at the bottom, built in rain cover and light-up zipper pulls — I really can’t think of anything it doesn’t have!
I like to stash a spare bungee in the bottom of my pannier for certain random purchases that I might want to secure to a front or rear rack – I’m the queen of impulse purchases like house plants, “but they were BOGO!” grocery purchases, and even furniture. A clever upgrade to a typical bungee that is sure to impress is the Voile Strap, which lends a more secure fit to a variety of situations. I’ve used mine on everything from stifling a rattling tent pole on tour to securing a bottle of wine wedged into a water bottle cage for a quick trip home from the store.
Since I like to frequent farmer’s markets and gardens, I’ve made my share of spills inside of my panniers – and learned that it’s much easier to contain messier cargo than it is to scrub out a bag later. I absolutely love the Flip and Tumble reusable bags because I can use them for quick and easy shopping trips, but also to wrap up items that might spill since they’re machine washable – think small plants, jars of liquids that might leak, and lunch containers.
When you’re a full time bike commuting nut, you’ll go all in and get yourself a cargo trailer. The Burley Flatbed Cargo Trailer is a definite commitment, but for large grocery trips, furniture purchases, or even moving most of your junk between residences, I’ve found mine to be totally worth it. In the case of this fiddle leaf fig, it can actually move many tall or otherwise awkwardly shaped things than an average car can’t.
Wherever you fall on the spectrum of cycling, I genuinely hope you consider experimenting with different bags and transport options so that you can ride your bike more places, more easily. I’ve talked to a number of other commuters who have struggled with the limitations of being confined to just a backpack, and then experienced the freedom that the right bag/pannier/trailer setup can bring. Money can’t buy happiness, but riding your bike can – so get comfortable and go ride!