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Posted by on Aug 28, 2011 in Uncategorized | 43 comments

Getting Groceries

This morning I needed to make a trip to the grocery store for provisions. The store is a couple of miles from my house. Less than two years ago, there was only one option: I drove my van to the store. There was no need to think twice about it. I had several bicycles then, but there was no way I would have considered riding on the city streets. Here are my Before Cycling Savvy (BCS) and After Cycling Savvy (ACS) “grocery getters” side by side.

Here is my current grocery-getter set up.

I found insulated cooler bags at Target that fit the folding Wald baskets, and they are easy to carry into the grocery store. The bike is an old Canadian-made Raleigh that I bought used, and outfitted with wide City Slicker tires and a center kick stand. It has twist grip shifters on the right, and lever shifters on the left. It certainly doesn’t scream, “steal me!”, but I always lock it.

Recently there was a bike sharing the rack with mine that used a lock alternative: a paper napkin and a ball point pen. Just stick a note in the handlebars.

The note says,” Think Hard before U take this Bike.

This bike is actually one of those $89.00 Next brand ย “bike shaped objects” from WalMart, which always kind of break my heart. Anyway, the note apparently worked.

Sometimes the bike rack at my Publix is crowded.

Had to deploy the center kickstand (that’s why my front wheel has flipped around backwards) while I cleared the rack of non-bikes.

This morning I was able to park at the end of the bike rack, which was good because, as usual, I purchased more stuff than had intended. I enjoy a challenge, and I get a kick out of figuring out how to transport stuff ย by bike. I managed to get everything loaded, balanced, and secured.

The ride home was enjoyable, and I just cruised easily along. I have tried to emulate Keri’s friendly , easygoing interactions with drivers, pedestrians, other cyclists, and just people out in their yards, and it really does make a difference. To me, it’s the complement to knowing (thanks to Cycling Savvy) how to ride safely, confidently, and courteously. For ย me, it’s the difference between a tense, jaw clenching, tooth grinding experience (my modus operandi)ย and a relaxed good time on my bike. It still surprises me that a little friendly interaction with others is like putting a little Dumonde Tech Lite on your chain. Or something.

You could say that I’m saving money on gas and reducing my carbon footprint and getting some exercise and saving the world or whatever, but the real reason I choose bike over van is for the fun.


  1. Your last paragraph says it all for me! As an LCI, I try to teach the skills so that folks can enjoy the fun. The “saving the planet, or at least my corner of it” is tertiary.

  2. Those green coolers are the bomb! They fit in most grocery panniers. I threw them into the trailer Saturday and did an 11 mile loop to the WP Farmers market and Whole Foods. The ice packs were still half frozen and the groceries were cold.

    It is amazing how much sweeter it makes a trip to exchange smiles and waves with people. It’s one more factor that makes the bike my preferred choice. Trip quality is far more tangible to me than carbon, fuel or money.

  3. I like the gratification of being able to say YES to the question, “Did you haul that by bicycle?”.

    Most of my trips are planned out, but occasionally, there comes the need to be resourceful. Diana can tell you about my most recent “haul”. I was very afraid I would have to leave and come back with my trailer.

    Nice set up Diana. Keep up the good work and riding.

  4. Rodney, maybe you could post your recent grocery-haul photo to the Flickr Group. Then everyone could see if I was justified in expressing concern that you appeared dangerously close to crossing that line between “Extreme Utility Cyclist Warrior” and “Bag Lady on a Bike.” ๐Ÿ˜‰ Of course, you have hauled enough manly loads of gear, equipment, tools, and motor oil to coast for some time to come…

  5. Why lock the bike up outside? When I bike to the grocery store I bring the bike in as my carriage. It works really well.

    • Matt-you may have solved a problem for me, as I live in Pine Hills, where even the toughest lock seems no match for thieves. Do the stores ever mind you using your bike as the carriage? I have had enough stolen from me in this lifetime and I’d love to just bring it in and use it that way!

      • I’ve only started bringing the bike in recently, but it’s never been a problem. I do walk the bike very carefully, and I go out of my way to stay… out of the way.

        I’ll say that the bike pictured is optimal – the center kick stand allows the bike to stand confidently without the rider holding it up. My bike has no such thing (just ordered one recently, to make shopping easier). Some shopping demands a reach, or two hands, and I think a center stand is all I’m missing to make the bike be a perfect substitute for a carriage.

        Oh, or you can build one of these:

    • Where do you go shopping that they allow you to walk your bike through the aisles? I’ve taken my bike into various stores and left it up front by the shopping carts, but I’ve never thought about taking it in to the store proper.

      If I did I would expect to be stopped by an employee.

      • At one particular grocery store, as I was checking out, the cashier admonished me to use the bike rack outside next time. Otherwise, I’m either ignored, or the occasional customer or employee will comment on how neat it is that I can shop with my bike.

        When I go in, I typically take one of the store’s hand-held baskets and bungee it on top of my bike. That makes it obvious that my bike is my cart.

        • To the saddle or the top bar? I wouldn’t mind seeing a picture of it the next time ya go shopping.

  6. Great article Diana! This will have to be my next step as a “Savvy Cyclist”. One of my local routes takes me past my local Publix, but I haven’t really started shopping and toting with my bike. I need to make that leap – adding proper storage will be a first step. Really like the idea of taking the bike into the store – why not, Publix has those SUV sized shopping carts for kids that take up twice the space of a bike, so they shouldn’t mind. I met Keri and John Schubert for lunch recently and had forgotten my lock (as well as the fact that the Thai restaurant in a strip mall didn’t have any suitable bike racks), so I talked the restaurant into letting me “park” the bike next to our table – took a bit of convincing but there was plenty of space for the servers and other guests.

    • John I’ve found restaurants pretty accommodating too. I ride a folding bike, but as my only vehicle, it’s perpetually rigged like a touring bike (meaning: even folded, it’s pretty big, heavy, and imposing). I’ve had lots of restaurants let me take the bike in with me.

    • Once when I arrived at the grocery store without a lock, there was a table near the bike rack where a girls sports team and a couple of moms were raising money. I asked them if they would mind keeping an eye on my bike, which they were happy to do, and I gave them a donation. I can’t quite picture myself taking my bike into the store. I like to be kind of low profile.

      I did take my bike into the post office once when I was unable to find anything outside to lock it to. No one made any comment, at all. I mentioned to the postal worker who served me that they should have a bike rack, and he agreed. He said that they were unable to get one approved (USPS has serious financial problems), but that I was welcome to bring my bike inside anytime.

      But I must say, finding some place to secure my bike is frequently no harder than finding a parking space for a big vehicle.

  7. What’s with the attitude towards the $80 Walmart bicycle? It’ll probably last him thousands of kilometres without servicing, which is great value, and he’s definitely on a better track than the owners of five-ton SUVs. Let’s save our smug attitudes for them!

    • Though I must mention that this post has further encouraged me in my somewhat mulled intentions to become a cargo bicyclist!

    • Been there, done that. I don’t recommend a walmart bike, it will break too quickly to be of any real use.

      On the other hand, if you use your walmart bike, it will break during the 3 month return window, and you can return for a refund. If anyone is sceptical about wallybike durability, buy one, make it the only bike you ride, and return it when it fails.

      That’s what I did. Tore it down, lubed everything 9didn’t touch the hubs), and rode it. blew out a cheap pedal and then the freewheel. took it back in 29 days.

    • Our kids use cheap bikes to commute to school. We get the basic single-speed coaster brake model so there’s less to go wrong. They last a couple years before they become unrideable and unfixable. That’s perhaps a few hundred miles before we consider the bike unsafe to ride.

    • I bought a Wally Bike when I went to respond to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill last year. I did pretty much nothing but work, but the 9 mile commute from lodging to work site was nice on a bike. I know I would only be there 60 days, so a Wally Bike was better than renting or bringing one.

      When I was preparing to leave I donated the bike to someone in need.

    • Believe me, I am no snob about bikes. I see a lot of these Next bikes (this exact model, in fact) and have examined them closely. I don’t see how any bike could be sold new for $89, considering it was shipped halfway around the world, and Walmart has to make a profit on it. These bikes, besides being poorly made, are especially unsuited to carrying any sort of cargo. There is no way to mount a rear rack, or even a seatpost-mounted rack. The strange handlebars would be a challenge for mounting a basket. The people I see riding them slowly from the store, with plastic bags of groceries swinging precariously from the handlebars, are mostly the people who need their bikes for transportation, and this bike is a cruel joke in that it is unreliable and unsuitable, and bordering on useless and dangerous. A person riding a bike like this around the neighborhood for recreation is fine, but for transportation or utility, they fall short.

      The Rusted Chain Bicycle Collective (currently on hiatus, I believe) worked hard to help people in Orlando fix up mostly old steel frame bikes for decent transportation. There is a real need in our area.

      Anyway, Zionicman, if you are in the Orlando area, you should come on our next cargo bike ride. Always a good time, and some interesting and ingenious rigs.

      • Just to be clear, it’s this particular model of Next bike that I was describing, and ranting about:
        It apparently has gone up in price. I guess it would be possible to mount a seatpost rack to it. The ones I have seen “in the wild” have had the seat positioned all the way down. I have a K-Mart Huffy Santa Fe cruiser which I bought at a neighbor’s garage sale for $8.00, but it could be a possible cargo bike for short trips. It’s when you try to make a bike with gears, shocks, etc. for under a hundred dollars that you have to use some pitifully low quality components.

        • Wow! Now the Next Power Climber men’s 26″ has a price roll-back to $88.00. I am going to see if someone will let me ride theirs. I see these bikes all over town. Might be able to rig some sort of cargo carrier to one. I do like a challenge…

  8. This is my rig when I ride to the store…

    It’s a little ride, pretty much up and down hills the whole way but it’s worthwhile. For the first time, I weighed all of my bags before putting my groceries away. 88 pounds not including the trailer.

    What strikes me as odd is the difference in travel time is less than 1 minute, you would think it should be much longer of a ride.

    Home to store:
    Store to home:

    • What a cool trailer rig! And what a nice ride.

  9. Justin and Matt C, loving the links to cool rigs! Thanks!

    zionicman, having encountered people who are broken down with a long walk home dragging their poorly-made bike shaped objects, I think Diana’s comment about how it breaks her heart is sincere and not at all a smug comment. $80 or $100 is a lot of money to the people who buy those things and they really are being duped into buying something disposable.

    • Keri,

      I agree with you. The LBS that I go to won’t even work on the P.O.S. B.S.O.’s. They’re just not worth the time or effort that it’ll take to get them road worthy again. The ONLY thing that they’ll do with them is fix a flat tire. Anything else, and it’s “sorry but, we just don’t work on those bikes.”

      They had one person who after being told that, goes “but I spent $125.00 on it.” The response to that is, “exactly, and you got what you paid for.”

  10. Yes, apparently my interpretation of the remark was completely off base, and I apologize.

    • Oh, no problem. I wasn’t offended, and it sparked a good discussion. I have been meaning to do a post about some of my favorite things, which would be ingenuity, creativity, repurposing, recycling, duct tape, bungie cords, zip ties, old steel frame bicycles, and utility cycling. I would love to see what other people have come up with.

      • Did I ever send you the photo of the trailer made out of a fertilizer spreader? I saw it parked outside Target one day.

        • You did! I have also snapped some shots of bike trailers made from grocery carts, baby stroller, TV stand (at least I thnk that’s what is was) and something that was probably part of an old fence and some casters. Sometimes I am just not in a situation where I can get a camera out in time. Some of them did not appear to be roadworthy. Necessity can be a real Muther.

  11. I take my bicycle into a local grocery stores lobby/foyer since there is no bike rack. The local OfficeMax hasn’t commented on my bringing my bicycle in either. Both instances are in public view.

    On a side note, I get nothing but raves when I use the drive-thru at Taco Bell. It’s a shock and awe thing when, at the window, I place my order in either my grocery bag pannier or on the rack.

    • How’d you get Taco Bell to let you ride your bike through the drive-thru? I’ve tried it in the past with various places here in St. Pete, and was told that for my “safety” that they couldn’t allow me to do so. Which is ironic given that the state says that we can ride on the vast majority of roads within the state.

      • I’m surprised that Rodney is able to get served on his bike at a drive-thru, too. Maybe no one else has tried it at that location before, so it hasn’t been called to anyone’s attention as a “problem.” I’ve seen drive-thru windows with “motorized vehicles only” signs. And I read a news story about a guy who went through a drive-thru by dogsled, which immediately lead to that being banned.

        • I’ve had mixed results. One Suntrust location says “no” but helpfully offers that I may bring the bike inside with me. Other Suntrust locations serve me without comment at the drivethru. I went through Starbucks on Colonial and the kid at the window was sure it was against policy because car drivers are so dangerous. I asked him if motorcycles in the drive thru were against policy, too, then. He had no answer.

          • I suppose if you’re refused service at the drive through, just bring the bike inside with you. If they ask you to remove the bike, go back out to the drive through…

          • That would make a fun video! ๐Ÿ™‚

          • I asked that question to, the response I got back (IIRC) was because of the “motor.” Even after I pointed out that basically for intents and purposes that a motorcycle and bicycle basically have the same “footprint” I was still told that for my “safety” I couldn’t use the drive-thru.

            Which as I said above is ironic given that the “traffic” at a drive-thru is much slower than what we see on the roads that we regularly ride on. How are we at “risk” at a drive-thru? And if we are then doesn’t that say more about the negligent operation of the car rather then anything else?

            A month or so back I stopped in at the BK that is closet to me, sadly they do NOT have a bike rack, so instead of taking the chance by locking it to a tree or sign post. I just wheeled it inside with me and parked it in front of the windows. I ordered my food and stowed it on my bike and left.

            One of the things that I think might have helped is that it was late(ish) at night and I was the only one to walk in. I think had it been during the day that I might have been questioned as to what I was doing. It might also have helped that I was getting my order to go and not dine in.

            At one of the forum’s that I visit on a regular basis there has been a discussion about bringing one’s bike inside a store or not. Reading this thread I would have to say that given that a bicycle actually takes up less space (if I’m not mistaken) than a standard shopping cart I don’t see a problem, plus I would have to think that anyplace that provides shopping carts for their customers already expect to deal with dirty wheels coming into their stores so again a bike shouldn’t be a big deal.

          • Yesterday I was confronted about bringing my bike into K-Mart by the store security guard. I took the issue up the chain of command, to the service desk worker. The supervisor she called offered a compromise – let me store my bike at the service desk while I shop.

            While pressing this issue I kept calm, rational and courteous, using questions like: “can I ask your boss”, “what is your written policy”, and “how is my bicycle any different than a wheel chair, baby stroller, or shopping cart.” All the K-Mart people were courteous and professional (albeit a little frustrated), but I was floored by the crappy attitude of the customer seeking help from the service desk next to me. She felt it appropriate to to spout some bicycle bigotry.

            When I got home I wrote Yelp, asking them to consider adding a “Bike Friendliness” category to their ratings.
            [ ] Reachable by bike
            [ ] Bike rack
            [ ] Allows bikes inside

            Knowing for certain I can reach a place by bike, and lock it up, would really be a decision maker whether I go to a restaurant or store. I would recommend anyone who rides a bike contact Yelp and other review sites suggesting they add a “bicycles” category.

    • Tonight after I got done with a group ride I wanted something to eat, but didn’t feel like cooking (I’m sure that we’ve all been there), so I hit the ATM to get a little money and went to BK’s but they were closed both inside and at the Drive-thru. So I went a little further down the road to McD’s. And got a pleasant surprise when they actually served me at the Drive-thru.

      I say pleasant surprise, because in the past when I’ve tried to ride through a McD’s or BK’s Drive-thru I’ve been denied service for my “safety.”

      One thing I’m wondering is how did they know I was there?

  12. Hi, Diana – can a Sacramento bicyclist post here? (Thanks for loaning me the bike when I was in Lakeland riding with John A.)

    I adore my errand-running bike. I have folding baskets that I bought from LL Bean 30 years ago, hung onto my son’s old mountain bike. As you know, I’m really short so need a kid’s frame size (my road bike is 43 cm). I’ve got it all – fenders, rear view mirror, bike computer – well, I guess I could add a bell, and I should have side reflectors, so I guess it’s not quite ALL.

    I love the reaction that I get when I am loading up the bike with groceries. At our supermarket, the bike rack is very inconveniently at the end of the store, and I ask the bag boy/girl to help me carry out the groceries. I figure, they help people load their SUVs, why not me???

    Balancing the load, and putting heavy stuff all the way to the front of the baskets is really important. I don’t bother with coolers even though it can be hot here – I’m just a mile from the store. I take bubble wrap along to cushion things.

    We have Farmer’s Markets all over town on different days and carrying all of the produce that I want home is a challenge. Also, I need more cushioning for tender things like berries. My husband has a BOB trailer. I try to convince him to ride along to the Sunday market, which is about five miles away. But it means he needs to get out of bed earlier than he likes, so my next frontier is to start using that trailer. The insulated coolers would be good for that, both to keep things fresh and for added cushioning.

    I say hi to everybody I see, dogs and cats too, and it really is friendly and fun. I feel so strong and independent when I bike for a purpose. It’s a different feeling altogether than a recreational ride.

    • Anita,

      That’s a nice ride.

      Like you I also use pannier bags, I also pull a Yakima Big Tow behind my Specialized Hardrock, and I can usually count on at least one person asking me “how are you going to get your groceries home on a bike?” I also have a set of pannier bags on my recently acquired Giant Seek 2.

      You’d think that given that one has ridden their bike to the store that they’ve more likely then not had already thought of that. But I still get asked that question from time-to-time.

    • Anita, next time you come to this area, I will have a bike small enough for you!

      • Diana, your loaner bike worked just fine!

  13. HI Anita, Sacramento bicyclists are most certainly welcome to post on Commute Orlando. In fact, feel free to contribute a story sometime about the cycling opportunities and atmosphere in your California. The folks here would enjoy hearing more about “biking with a purpose”, though there are some great recreational rides in your area too, like the American River Trail.

    You would enjoy the social rides in Orlando. If you are ever back in this area, plan on joining the group for a First Friday ride, an ice cream social ride, Sweet Ride, Food Truck Ride, or a Cargo Ride to the Farmer’s Market – you would fit right in and have a great time. You know that you could count on Diana to help supply a terrific bike – she might even be convinced to loan you one of her new folding bikes!

    John A.