Pack Mules

At the grocery store, waiting for the big Thanksgiving Day load.

Holiday grocery shopping can be a challenge for car-lite/car-free families. We’re hosting family for Thanksgiving this year, so our grocery list was long and the load was more than the bikes could handle in one trip. Fortunately we live near a well-stocked grocery store, so it was easy enough to break up our shopping into multiple excursions. What kind of challenges do you face? Will you be able to do your holiday grocery shopping by bike?

Will you be able to do your holiday grocery shopping by bike?

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17 Responses to “Pack Mules”

  • Lucas says:

    Hauled my turkey, potatoes, cranberries, and other various items in my ol’ crate just the other day.

  • Karen says:

    Maybe a Burley Flatbed trailer would help

  • Bob says:

    My answer: just a little.

    The best-stocked grocery store near our house is very close to a well-designed bike path that runs along the south edge of town… at least on the east side. The path does not continue on the west side, where we live. My choices for 2.5 of the 3 miles are (1) ride in the gravel shoulder of a divided state highway that runs by a crowded Wal-Mart (2) ascend a long, steep hill on a surface street with no bike lane or painted shoulder, or (3) add fifteen to twenty minutes both ways to go around these bike-unfriendly zones.

    I made choice (2) yesterday evening on my way home from work after stopping to pick up pet food. I will likely run some holiday shopping errands using choice (3) in December when my schedule is more flexible. I doubt I will see many others making the same choices.

  • Ron says:

    Not on a bike, not in a car, not on a train, not on a plane. We’ll be using a transportation option that’s even better for the planet than cycling; walking. We are lucky enough to live within 5 blocks of our primary grocery store.

    Have a great Thanksgiving everyone.

  • Ryan says:

    I felt like doing something different this year. My parents are coming to my place in Folsom and my parents, wife and I are going to have a Thanksgiving bike ride/picnic in Folsom somewhere along the parkway and around Lake Natoma. Should be a good time! We are doing it Wednesday and Thursday too!

  • Kirsten says:

    In my case, the bike does a little holiday hauling, which eliminates some of the shopping.

    Yesterday, I loaded up with some produce from my garden. It was distributed to those family members preparing dishes for the holiday using their ovens and kitchens instead of mine, which will be occupied by the turkey and its accoutrements.

    The load consisted of a medium-sized Blue Hubbard squash (20 lbs.), a pie pumpkin (2.5 lbs.), and numerous parsnips.

    Pumpkin and parsnips went into one of my panniers, although I could not close it due to the parsnip roots sticking out the top. I lashed a largish basket to my enormous, beautiful, (and handmade by the other half), rear rack, and put the squash in the basket.

    The whole setup worked fine, but I wished for a proper centerstand instead of my one-legged Pletscher. The weight was well balanced, and the old Chicago Schwinn rode even better with a load.

    I did notice that even though I rode on the shoulder, most passing cars slowed unnecessarily to a crawl, perhaps because they were trying to identify that enormous blue thing in the basket. Who knows, but it made for a hearty chuckle.

    As to the actual shopping, it will regrettably be accomplished by the other half and I in his 2001 Honda Insight which averages 70 mpg. I do not yet have the bike trailer I need, nor the gears to pull a loaded trailer up the double digit grades in this neighborhood, but I look forward to doing my holiday shopping by bike next year.

  • bongobike says:

    Which shopping panniers are those? Minnehaha?

  • Brent says:

    This is my first car free holiday season (well, I was carless for 6 years in the 90’s – but this time I chose to get rid of the car – so my first car free holiday!) and the scooter is waiting to go into the shop, so all shopping was done on the bicycle. Of course, that little one pound celebration roast wasn’t that much of a chore to lug home. =)

    That being said, I lug a ton of groceries home every couple of weeks on my Trek Allant – If i can strap a 10 pound bag of potatoes to the rack, while filling up the Basil Cardiff baskets that hang from the rack, I am sure a Turkey wouldn’t have been a problem either.

    I have to say, I LOVE grocery shopping on the bike – it forces me to consider my purchases a little more carefully, and I always get this happy feeling when I get home and unload the bike. Probably endorphins, or just the thrill of knowing that the car that I thought was so vital – isn’t.

  • Zen says:

    I have a BicycleR Evolution trailer and do all of my shopping for a family of 4 by bike! I need to get a front basket though to round out my hauling options. Happy Thanksgiving fellow cyclist!

  • Croupier says:

    I don’t actually buy any more groceries than usual during the holidays. The holidays are that special time of year where I let everyone else feed me.

  • Tamia Nelson says:

    With two bikes, four shopping panniers on two racks on the LHTs, and a pair of trailers, it’s possible for us to haul about 200 pounds of groceries. I didn’t say we DID haul 200 pounds the 12 hilly miles back from the grocery store, but the potential is there! We did, however, bring back enough to avoid going shopping for two weeks, and it amounted to about 100 pounds this time. That included wine and Port, of course.

  • Adrienne says:

    My solution is to just have a lot of children. They can each haul groceries on their bikes : )

  • Tamia Nelson says:

    Hey Alan, Adrienne brings up a good point. But failing the children in the household, you could call the pets in to help out. You could hitch your dogs to a trailer. Mush you huskies!

  • Aaron says:

    We use a Christiania cargo trike – plenty of room for the groceries (and the beer and the wine etc)!

  • lyle says:


    Do you find the Basil Cardiff baskets to be sturdy and roomy enough? I have some cheap and faded panniers on my Allant that I’d like to replace next year. I’m not sure if I want roomier panniers or actual baskets, or perhaps both and switch them out depending on the trip.

    I too went car free in March and the Allant is a great all round bike. Nice enough to be a good ride but not so nice that I can’t tie it up for extended periods downtown.

    That said, my bicycle will do all that I need it to do other than make a trip to Woodland for which I’ll use ZipCar. 95 miles is a little much for a one day, post Thanksgiving ride! The bicycle wouldn’t be loaded down, but I would be.

  • Brent says:


    I love the Cardiff baskets. I have had them for about 5 months or so, and I use them weekly for grocery shopping. I can easily carry a weeks worth of groceries for two people between the baskets, and the top of the rack for oversized items. Occasionally I will also tie the handles of a reusable grocery bag to the handles of the basket for additional space. The hooks on the baskets are long, and they are spaced perfectly for the Allant’s rack. If I but the baskets as far to the rear of the rack as possible they fit right in between the end and one of the rack’s crossbars, so the baskets do not slide and scratch the rack. They are pretty inexpensive as well, which is a bonus. I definitely recommend them!

  • Alan says:


    “Which shopping panniers are those? Minnehaha?”

    Yes, the Minnehaha Canvas Grocery Bag Pannier.


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