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​The best cargo hauling solution for your bike

2017 03 31

So you’ve done it. You’re finally ready to commit to the bike lifestyle. You’re ready to buy the whole kit and caboodle that will help you stay in shape, skip sitting in your car all the time, and help the environment. That’s excellent news!

But now what? You’re surely going to need a new bike of some kind. And some cycling clothes maybe. And a helmet, of course! But those are the basics. What comes after that?

I’m going to make the assumption that you’re going to be hauling cargo of some kind at least part of the time. Whether it’s your office laptop or your groceries, there’s going to be a point where you’ll have to take more than just yourself along for the ride. So what are your options?

Backpack

This one is easy and cheap. When I was younger I used to strap on my big camping pack and head to the grocery store. Properly loaded (milk and heavy stuff on the bottom!) it was one way of getting everything to the apartment. I would also use a smaller pack on my commute to work that held my lunch and laptop. It worked out fine. But I will say that hauling a lot of groceries on your back is no easy task. I’d probably think twice about it now. It can really interfere with your balance. The smaller pack is more manageable but you can definitely work up a sweat on a ride and zero air circulation between your pack and your back means a drenched shirt for the office. I was lucky enough to work at a place with a shower so this was a non-issue but I doubt I’d make it my regular choice.

And don’t even bother asking about kids. That’s just downright dangerous.

  • Pros – Cheap! Can be reused in other areas of your life
  • Cons – Ungainly, sweat inducing, low capacity

Panniers/Saddlebags

Get the pack off your back and strap it to the sides. You’ve seen those folks pedaling down the highway, massive panniers stuffed with all of life’s necessities. Seems logical and convenient, no? Well, yes and no.

When I tour, panniers are definitely convenient. If you are going overseas, you really don’t have a heck of a lot of choice anyway and shipping a bike trailer might be a bit expensive. But panniers definitely cause some issues of their own. They take a little getting used to because they are essentially part of your bike. You lean, they lean. All that extra weight leaning with you can make things tough. You may be used to riding your bike but panniers make it feel like you’re riding something completely different. And if you intend to vary your load often (laptop one day, groceries the next, romantic picnic for two the next, etc.) you’ll be constantly adjusting your riding style. A deal killer? No. But something to be aware of.

  • Pros – Not on your back, cheap, convenient, portable
  • Cons – Part of your bike, change the bike dynamics, smaller capacity compared to trailers and cargo bikes

Bike trailers

Now we’re moving up the chain. We’re moving the load from you and your bike to another location. This is a good thing. By putting the load in another location your bike becomes yours again. Lean all you want. Wiggle like you always do when climbing a steep hill. It won’t matter because the load is isolated. And load it up if you want. Cargo trailers have plenty of room for whatever you need.

But it’s not all roses and candy. A cargo bike will weigh more than panniers or a backpack. And they will also take up more room in your home/garage. This is less of a problem if you buy a clever folding one (hint, hint). Between backpacks, panniers, cargo trailers, and cargo bikes, the cargo bike trailer is my personal favourite. It carries a good load, it doesn’t interfere with my bike, it give me good visibility in traffic, and can double as a shopping cart if necessary.

I’d be a little more cautious of monowheel trailers. I do not believe they have the same stability as a two-wheel trailer. But you may get on fine with them.

  • Pros – Take the load off you and your bike, doubles as a cart (in some cases), stable, makes you and your bike more obvious in traffic, hauls more than panniers or a backpack
  • Cons – Needs more storage space, weighs more than panniers or a backpack

Cargo Bike

And the big one! The cargo bike. If you’re into hauling a lot of stuff on a regular basis, this is the one for you. We can’t say much more than we already have (we love cargo bikes, after all) but these bad boys will make hauling anything you want a snap.

  • Pros – Hauls massive amounts of stuff, stable, let’s you dominate the road
  • Cons – Heavier than the other solutions, needs a fair bit of storage space

And there you have it. Four cargo hauling solutions for bike riders. Assess your personal situation and pick the right one for you.