Sunday, April 04, 2010

Bicycle grocery shopping, part 2...

So, in a previous post, several commenters made helpful suggestions about bicycle trailers. Which are kinda cool and all, but I'll probably never use one for shopping. (It might not hurt to have one on hand for "just-in-case" purposes, although it'll probably be hard to get enough air to pedal through the post-EMPocalyptic wilderness with a colander on my face.)

I like my bicycle so much, not for the exercise or for the massive cloud of smug it emits to blanket the Prii and clapped out Volvo 240 diesels with their ass ends plastered in "Free Tibet!" stickers in the grocery store parking lot, but for the convenience.

Those who live in the 'burbs or the country will find this hard to believe, but it's probably just as quick, and less hassle, to use the bike to run to the store when you have two grocery stores less than a mile from the house. It's like this:
  • Car: Get in car. Start car. Open garage door. Fiddle with stereo or iPod controls. Back out. Close garage door. Fasten belt. Diddle with HVAC controls while inching down cratered gravel/mud alley to street. Do I take the main street, which involves pulling into traffic and some traffic lights and possibly congestion at the far end, or the side street that involves alertly dodging potholes and stopping every tenth of a mile at a 4-way? Find parking space. Et cetera...
  • Bike: Open garage door, hop on bike, and close garage door. Pedal a mile on flat, shaded side streets. Lock bike to rack at store.
Seriously, unless it's raining or experiencing some godawful temperature extreme it's probably just as fast and just as comfortable to take the bike; thanks to stop signs and road conditions the car never makes up in speed what the bike has in hop-on-and-hop-off convenience at both ends (although if you add another half-mile or two, that changes.) Adding a trailer to the equation would really put a dent in the whole "convenience" factor of the bike and I might as well just take the car. Is this making sense?

29 comments:

og said...

Ooh, a challenge. I bet I can make a folding bike trailer that stays on the bike and only gets used when it's needed. I can already envision how it would be made. I smell cottage industry!

Sabot said...

This makes perfect sense. It is easier with a bike and has the additional benefit of being able to withstand side impacts better than the Chevy Volt.

As for the trailer no dice. You can put a trailer on a plane and get more storage but you don't.

Anonymous said...

So...no-go on the "adult-trike with giant rear basket" idea huh? AT

Keads said...

If I tried to ride a bike to the store I would become a hood ornament on something real quick! Two lane road with 55 MPH speed limit. I would love to, but I do want to live a bit longer!

K

netfotoj said...

I bet you're cuter than a speckled pup on your bike with your hair flying in the breeze. You don't wear one of those Obama-weenie helmets do you? Where was I? Oh yeah, adding a trailer into the mix would blow the cute factor away. Nix the trailer.

Anonymous said...

I live about half a mile from the nearest grocery store, so I know what you mean about the time factor.

As for the convenience of putting the trailer on the bike, if not for the fact that ours doubles as a toy box in our basement, it would only take me a few extra seconds to connect it to the bike.

Speaking of which, it's a beautiful 75deg day here in NoVa, I'm going to take Things 1&2 for a ride in the trailer. :)

Chris

Fred said...

The 10+ minute drive to school is a 5 or less minute bike ride for me. The stoplights despise me, but I can flit down side streets and skip half of them on my skinny little single speed.
Plus I can only imagine that getting that baby up to speed is as close to flying as I'll ever get, smooth, quiet, and very responsive, all in the fresh air.

Will Brown said...

I like the idea of a bicycle trailer, until I have to pedal the damn thing home full of whatever (in addition to my X00# ass of course). Personally, I'm holding out for one of these before I decide on a trailer option. Sadly they're not yet being manufactured for the general market (the pictured item is the/a prototype). A potential investment opportunity for the fiscally flush, I think.

Actually, I'll probably end up buying something from here this summer. No patience.

TJP said...

Everything makes sense except for the colander. I'm pretty sure you can dremel a mouth hole in a plastic one.


wv = "ratein"; the kind of protein that you can only get from eating vermin in the post-EMPocalyptic world.

On a Wing and a Whim said...

Makes perfect sense to me. Biking a couple miles on a nice route to pick up a bag or two is fun. Hauling an off-tracking trailer with that extra mass and inertia is work.

alath said...

We live a couple blocks North of you in Carmel, and ride bikes frequently for much the same reasons. I have a trailer on my bike essentially all the time, due to kids and groceries and whatever else needs to be hauled around. Most of the new trailers can be attached and detached with a cotter pin in about three and a half seconds.

It is more work to drag a trailer around (especially with a headwind!) but that's part of the reason we cycle anyway.

D.W. Drang said...

As Tamara noted, the convenience of riding a bike to/from stores is dependent on many factors, most of which can be rolled up into "Where you live."
"Where I live" it's a very short straight line distance to the nearest grocery store, but there's an interstate in the way, which more than doubles the road distance, most of which is 40 MPH highway, with no sidewalk. I could do it--if my bike were ridable, which it's not--but I feel safer in the car.

Back in then70s when I was working at my buddy's bike shop, a lady came in with a flyer for a motor to mount on your bike, called a "Chicken Power." Which would do nothing to make the ride safer...

Anonymous said...

Skip the trailer thing, google "xtracycle" and "radish" for an example of "long tail" bikes.

Jenny said...

Ayup. Makes sense.

Saddlebags? You could get a little extra storage without the inconvenience, and pull 'em off sometimes, throw 'em over your shoulder, and go all John Wayne impersonatin'. :)

karrde said...

Reminds me of the day...back when I was in grad school, and everything in town was within 2 road miles.

There was lots of good stuff at the 10-minute-plus driving distance, all the way out to an hour of driving. But in town, I didn't need the car.

In the winter, it was drive/walk; in the summer, it was bike.

Roberta X said...

It's very location-dependent; it works here.

With my bum knee, I can't walk nearly as far as I can bicycle.

Noah D said...

Is this making sense?

Completely. I'm lucky enough to live in a great suburb that's within a mile of the only real 'shopping center', and within 2 of 'downtown'. Ah, Zionsville. :) The bikes work great for that, and my kids love it. Bike to the 3-playground Lions Park and hit Grandma's house along the way? No problem.

For longer trips, I have Homer.*

*Honda Odyssey. Best. Minivan. Evar.

Anonymous said...

You couldn't just wear a backpack like the Maxpedition rig that I got you instead of screwing with more gear for the bike? Simple is better.

Shootin' Buddy

Tam said...

"You couldn't just wear a backpack like the Maxpedition rig that I got you instead of screwing with more gear for the bike? Simple is better."

You may have missed the earlier discussion, which was about transporting 8-roll packs of Bounty and 18-roll packs of Charmin on the bike. They're not going to fit in that awesome Maxpedition pack, either. :)

Tam said...

And besides, I have no intention of buying more gear for the bike.

Well, maybe a front basket.

And if I get rain gear, I may buy fenders.

But that's it.

Anonymous said...

You Americans and your obsession with more. You can't just get the four pack or the single roll of paper towels?

Paper products make Gaia cry.

Shootin' Buddy

mike said...

Maybe too much money to be worth it, but maybe you could think about one of these. I have one as well as two other bikes but I use this for the grocery run and taking my dog to the park or the beach.

Joanna said...

You don't wear one of those Obama-weenie helmets do you?

Hey don't be hatin' on the helmets. Some of us want more than coloring books for Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Noah D: We just bought an Odyssey and love it! With two kids and a dog, family trips in the sedan or SUV just weren't working. It was nice to have only one vehicle to deal with while the inlaws were visiting this weekend.

Tam: Fenders are fantastic. I leave them on my Surly LHT full time now. BTW, there is a growing "utility cycling" movement out there for folks who use bikes as tools rather than toys. While my lifestyle and home base doesn't allow for full time utility cycling, I welcome the movement for what it means for the activity.
If you ever want/need a 2nd bike, this might be ideal for your grocery runs: http://www.konaworld.com/bike.cfm?content=ute

Lest you think I'm mocking, I'd have one in a minute if I had somewhere to store it. MSRP is $900, which is pretty reasonable for the bicycle equivalent of the pickup truck.

Chris

Earl said...

Yep, makes sense, and you are producing the power for the movement, double bonus points, ride on, ride on. Why do we think we have to have more storage room?

Matt G said...

I knew an elderly lady in the local college town nearby who could be seen tooling around the campus in a trike with a huge basket in the back. Her reasoning was identical to yours, Tam. I was shocked the first time I saw her in a car-- she had places to go outside of her two mile radius.

jesperskibbey said...

To me, a bike with all sorts of gizmos and attachments is like an AK with gizmos and attachments. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Tam said...

Depends on the purpose to which it's being put, I guess.

I don't want to wear spandex and special shoes, I just want to get my stuff from the store.

jfruser said...

Howdy:

I apologize up front for the length, but this might give you an idea as to options.

I have managed to haul ginormous things with my otherwise unremarkable mountain bike.

Let me take you through an evolution of my bike-hauler concept...

In the beginning, there was the bike rack:
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3260/2670377876_6b8c9ce43f_b.jpg

This is my "rack, bag, & 550" concept. Stuff all your booty into a sea bag and use 550/para cord to secure it. When done, you have a slim, svelte bike with no big mass up top or side projections.

Given that bulky paper products are not too dense, going vertical is not a big deal.

One downside to the rb550 is lack of the "toss & book" option, as you gotta tie it down.

And the bike rack was good. But the bike rack needed a companion or two...
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3192/2714212936_a459d28066_b.jpg

Yes, those are milk crates. No, I did not steal them.

The crates work great for "toss & book" as well as giving a hellaciously big platform to strap things on. I'm talking Costo-sized volumes of TP, not those wimpy gro-store "bulk packs."

The downside is fixed width. I found them a pain when using the local light rail money pit, when I'd hop on that to make some major distance. Too stinkin' wide for public transpo.

But those companions did sin in the sight of jfruser, and were banished when the One True Basket was vomited forth by Grainger, the Light Bringer...
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3290/2859346513_e01bb1b66f_b.jpg

The basket is one from the Worksman industrial tricycles. I couldn't find one retail to save my life online or anywhere. So, I called up Grainger, set up an account, and ordered one. Honest, I tried to pay retail. Here it is:
http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/items/1VJX2?Pid=search

550 or bungees are still advisable, but it will haul a lot of stuff and has remained my preferred solution for a long while.

I did add on soft, water-proof panniers on the rear for even more space, but those collapse and don't take up space when not in use.

And, LO, jfruser was fruitful and multiplied, increasing his load and taxing his strength...
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3046/3008109757_bfe8d46329_b.jpg

Yes, that _is_ a small child's bike strapped to the top of my bike basket.

The trailer is a cheap Wally World steel-frame dealie for $100. One kid starts out riding his bike and then tires. He goes in the trailer with the younger kiddo and his bike goes on top of my basket.

Total number of pounds hauled is..._considerable_ for an all-day outing with wife & kids.