Here at BikeAthens we use bikes for all types of purposes: transportation, fun, exercise, and errands. When using a bike for utility, we need to carry stuff. Laptops, books, groceries, pizza, clothes, tools, school supplies, office supplies, car batteries–you name it, we’ve put it on a bike. For anyone interested in increasing the cargo capacity of their bike, here is a quick run down of methods for hauling stuff.
Traditional Racks, Front or Rear
Traditional rear racks with bags (panniers) are an easy way to maximize the “trunk space” of a bike. There are a whole host of racks and bags in different shapes, sizes, and materials. You can pack a lot into one rear bag. You can pack a ton into two. If you don’t want bags, you can always go with the adaptable milk crate.
Up front, a basket tied to a front rack provides a lot of cargo space and you do not need panniers. Depending on the size of the basket, you could fit in your usual backpack or messenger bag. Or perhaps a load of groceries, or a pizza, or a case of…soda. The options are endless.
Things to keep in mind: while you can probably jury-rig a rack to fit any bike, some bikes, especially performance-oriented models, are not made with the proper rack attachments. With heavier loads, full rear bags may give the bike a swaying-pendulum feeling. You can also find racks for the front of the bike. Bags for front racks are usually smaller. Weight up-front will also effect how the bike handles.
Saddle & Handlebar Bags
If you only want to carry a few smaller items, you can find bags that attach to the saddle or to the handlebars (sometime the same bag will work in both spots). Generally, a saddle bag can fit more stuff than a handlebar bag, but it really depends on your set up.
Some handlebar bags will attach directly to the bars. Others use special front racks to support heavier items. One advantage of a front bag? You can often access it while riding.
There are now even smaller options, designed for snacks or additional water bottles. They also work great for phones, wallets, journals, small books and keys.
Off road bike touring AKA bike packing has become very popular. As its popularity increases, the number of options for reckless bags has exploded. These may be harder to access while riding but may also provide more weather protection. Plus, as noted, they do not require an additional rack. Since they do not require a rack, these bags can fit on almost any style of bike.
Full Cargo Bike
Finally, the ultimate in cargo-carrying. If you want to bring everything, including the kitchen sink and the all the construction materials to house the kitchen sink, there is the Cargo Bike. These bikes are specifically designed to carry people and things. There are a few in Athens, used to ferry kids and lug cargo. We have used ours to carry all of our tabling materials, including a stool and table. The main drawback, surprisingly, is not going up hill. The bikes are geared so hills are slow but easy. The real downside of cargo bikes are their price and size. You cannot fit a cargo bike on the bus, and they may not even fit in a downtown bike rack. Still, when you need to carry ALL the stuff, this is the way to go.
This discussion touches the surface of a deep topic. Ultimately, how you carry stuff on your bike is only limited by your imagination (and the strength of your bikes wheels). Flip through the slider for more