The Easy Rider: How to carry stuff
By Phil Hnatkovich
As the cliche goes, “it’s as easy as riding a bike”… right? The reality of buying, riding, and repairing a bike can be confusing, even downright intimidating. Today we introduce The Easy Rider, a series of posts that simplify the process of putting pedal to the road.
The ability to carry extra stuff on your bike has the potential to revolutionize both your daily commute and long weekend rides. Finding the right option can be its own adventure, however, especially if you find yourself short on cash.
While new gear might satisfy your cargo needs, often the best solutions are found closest to home. We’ve gathered together some useful do-it-yourself luggage hacks using tools and materials you may already have, or that you can grab for a few bucks at the hardware store. Whether it’s an upcycled basket or simply a more practical way to cart around your lock, adding custom cargo options to your bike can be fun and fashion-forward.
The most essential accessory for a city cyclist apart from wheels and pedals. The negative? Good ulocks are heavy. And with an oblong shape, they don’t have an obvious place on a lot of bikes. Some locks come with custom brackets or clips, but these are prone to breakage. While tucking a lock in the seat of your pants remains a popular move, we recognize that this isn’t always the most practical choice, especially for commutes with dress clothes or long rides. What to do?
Two Fish Lockblocks (available for $12) are among the best bets. A set allows you to secure your lock in multiple places on your front triangle. If cables or water bottles make this difficult, they also mount on your handlebars or stem. Don’t have the money? Velcro straps or ball bungees work nearly as well at a lower price.
Also recommended: An empty front or rear rack serves as a happy home for a lock (if you don’t mind a little rattling as you roll down the road).
Phone, wallet, keys
Saddlebags are a classic option if you are looking to keep things like a phone or ID out of your pockets — simply strap one below your saddle and go. While they can be had cheap at any bike shop, DIY options exist that are fashionable or barebones.
Also recommended: A front basket keeps your valuables within arms reach on a short ride. Craft a stylish one for under $10.
Yoga mats: they’re light enough, but their length and tendency to unroll have frustrated many a rider. That said, we’ve seen a variety of creative techniques for getting your mat to class.
Many of us think of racks in the context of bulkier items, but a yoga mat will secure to the top platform with nothing more than a bungee cord. A back rack is the most expensive accessory that we will mention here at $30 and up, but it opens up a world of possibilities when it comes to carrying cargo. Racks attach to eyelets included on many bike models, and installation is as straightforward as a few turns of a hex key or multitool.
Also recommended: Putting a makeshift strap together for your mat is simple and costs next to nothing.
Getting back from the market with delicate produce, break-prone jars, and heavier foodstuffs poses its own unique challenge. A backpack is a simple, yet somehow-still-underrated option to tote home a bag of groceries. If you want to step up your game, a ruck with MOLLE webbing allows you to add extra compartments, which can be used to separate out and protect fragile items. For instance, combine a wet/dry MOLLE bag with carabiners for extra capacity in your soft pack — a great option for carrying a loaf of bread or fresh greens.
Adding a crate to your bike rack also makes running errands easy. We see a lot of milk crates around the city and for good reason: many people already have one lying around the house and they are perfectly sized to handle a basic trip to the store.
There’s just one other tool needed for this project — zip ties! Large packs are available for next to nothing at the hardware store and have so many other helpful applications on a bike. Make sure to fix the crate in several places, and clip the ends to keep a flat surface for packing goods inside. A bungee also works in a pinch, but placement is key and you may find that it’s less secure. Better to stretch that bungee over the top the the crate in order to make sure that your food stays in place.
Also recommended: A collapsible produce crate offers extra capacity and, when flattened, doubles as an extra large cargo platform.
There are as many kinds of bikes as there are riders, so these ideas will not work equally well for everyone. Experiment with some different cargo solutions and figure out what works best for you and your needs. For more information, check out these links:
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