Putting on Weight

We’re frequently asked how much we can comfortably haul on our bikes, so when we made our weekly grocery run today, we thought we’d take the opportunity to find out. When we arrived at home we put the groceries on a scale. The total weight came to 54 lbs., 44 of which were loaded on a Civia Loring, with the remaining 10 lbs. carried on a Rivendell Betty Foy. 14 lbs. were carried on the front rack of the Civia, with 30 lbs. evenly distributed between the two rear panniers. This 33/66 weight distribution seems to work well on this bike. The Betty Foy carried 10 lbs. in a single rear grocery pannier and it could’ve easily carried triple that weight if spread between a pair of rear panniers and the front basket. It’s not unrealistic to think we could comfortable carry 75-80 lbs. of groceries between the two bikes.

21 Responses to “Putting on Weight”

  • Seth Hoyt says:

    This is great stuff, Alan — Would love to see EcoVelo run additional pieces on weight distribution, bike balance, and which bikes favor more weight carried on front, vs those designed to schlep it on the back. Focus on practical bikes, practical uses, daily riding. On my Giant Cyprass, for instance, I run two panniers on the rear rack, and load them w/groceries, papers and mags for recycling, etc. The front end feels really light, skittish. Is there a mfgr. recommendation for weight distribution? See where I’m headed with this? Could be valuable info for new-bike buyers who never think of asking questions like that as regards their own new machines and how riders intend to use bikes. Thank you, Alan, as always. Seth.

  • Doug R. says:

    Alan, those are some kinda bags! (Godzilla size) Great! I live too far from my local trader Joe’s
    to go shopping on my pedal powered bikes, however, I use a back pack and tank bags for shopping on my motorcycles. The clerks always laugh when I use my helmet as a shopping bag!
    Great stuff man! Dougman

  • Alan says:


    I’m extremely interested in frame geometry and how trail effects load carrying and weight distribution front and rear. I’ll definitely be delving deeper into this subject in future articles.


  • Alan says:


    I was just saying to my wife this afternoon that the Bontrager Eco Grocery Pannier could swallow a whale. According to the manufacturer, the capacity is 1,950 cu.in. which is 300 cu. in. larger than even the big Arkel Utility Basket pannier. You have to resist dumping everything into that one pannier. The nice thing is that the large size makes it easy to slide a full reusable shopping bag in and out, and it’s great for bulky items like TP.


  • Brian C says:

    When I get up to this much weight I like to have the Bob trailer along (with a big Rubbermaid container in it) to haul the heavy, bulky items. This is what I have done for the last 3 years to get the 18 pound turkeys for Christmas.

    It is amazing how much you can get into the large backroller Ortliebs as well. I always carry a net to secure stuff on the rack that I cannot fit into the panniers, but rarely exceed the capacity of those large panniers. And I do like the ease of adjusting them for our many different bikes: Catrike pocket, Rocky Mountain Hybrid and my old Canadian built Mikado touring bike, even my Jamis road bike in the summer, albeit for smaller loads…

  • Dweendaddy says:

    How is the heel clearance on that Loring with those big bags? God I dig that bike! A few more Loring Q’s: How do you like their stock handlebars? Have you come to accept the long seatpost (I remember you commented once how you don’t always like that look)? And the stock racks… Form AND function?

  • William says:

    No troubles with our ~4 mile (RT) grocery trips with up to 80 lbs in two panniers on the rear rack. I may be pushing it, though =).

  • mike says:

    Another timely post! Just the other day, I put 20+ pounds of groceries into a single, Louis Garneau rack bag. I was impressed that it all fit, but it was a bit wobbly and the rear end seemed to groan and creak a bit more than usual. The whole experience left me wondering about ideal arrangements and finding the line between being ready to carry a load and keeping the bike looking trim.

  • Alan says:


    “How is the heel clearance on that Loring with those big bags?”

    No problem, plenty of clearance.

    “How do you like their stock handlebars?”

    They’re good. Similar to the North Road and Albatross bends.

    “Have you come to accept the long seatpost (I remember you commented once how you don’t always like that look)?”

    I don’t mind on this bike; it makes sense because of the step-thru frame. It’s nice to be able to step through instead of throwing a leg over when the bike is fully loaded.

    “And the stock racks… Form AND function?”

    Yup. Stiff and well-designed. The front rack is killer – plenty of room, rails are a nice height, and zero sway. The rear rack is stiff and accepts standard bag hardware.


  • Alan says:


    If you had a pair of panniers in back and a basket up front, you could have balanced the load by putting 5 lbs in the basket and 7.5 lbs in each pannier and the handling would have been much better… :-)


  • Doug D says:

    Whenever someone passes me on my bike my race switch gets flipped. In that spirit:


  • Rick says:

    Alan, it seems like we had similar Sundays: first, a trip to the Farmer’s Market for a 4lb chicken (pastured-raised and humanely slaughtered, lovingly and appreciatively roasted this evening with nothing more than olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper), then to the Co-Op, where 20 lb of weekly goodness was placed in my Breezer grocery panniers, and then to the local purveyor of vice–Safeway–where a bit of Gallo and Seagram’s was added to the load–which meant the Quickbeam was about 75 pounds in all for the trip home, and me ready for a good cup of tea at the end of it all after hauling everything up three flights of stairs!

    The best part of the trip was two lovely older ladies, upon our leaving the Co-op, went on for several minutes saying how beautiful our bicycles were, asking how much they cost, and where did we get them, etc.; you know, to paraphrase Wells, maybe there is something to this “adult on a bicycle” thing…

    Don’t forget–this week’s bowl of soup is on me–talk to you soon.

  • Jeff says:

    I dig that bike too!

  • David says:

    I’ve never weighed how much groceries I’ve carried but I can say that my Santana triplet with my self and my two teenage daughters on board is over 500 lbs of rolling weight.

    Add four huge panniers full of groceries, your guess is as good as mine.

  • Wannes says:


    I’ve been following your blog for a while now, and with great pleasure!

    Is it possible that I only saw fork-mounted front racks on the bikes you tested? Do you have any experience with frame-mounted front racks?
    They shouldn’t effect the steering of the bike, which seems a great advantage to me.
    What’s your opinion?


    (from Belgium)

  • Sharper says:

    I’m in William’s camp; I take my old Specialized HardRock out to the grocery store and farmer’s market (~2.5 miles away from home, in opposite directions), and with my simple Trek grocery panniers, I’ve come home with as much as 65 pounds of groceries handled surprisingly well, if not as stylishly as on Rick’s Quickbeam…

  • doug in seattle. says:

    HI wannes —

    I’ve only used fork-mounted racks: the steering is indeed affected, but unless the load is hugely heavy, it’s not a huge deal.

    I’ve read that frame mounted racks are ideal for short, slow trips with many stops. Some steering issues (related to wheel-flop) are exacerbated at high speeds, however. When the weight is mounted on the fork, it actually stabilizes the load somewhat, causing the bike to handle better if you’re going to be riding longer distances at cruising speed.

    That’s just what I read. I have experienced big loads on fork-mounted racks and can tell you: it’s not that bad. It’s really not. You can’t expect every bike to be racing quick. I’ve carried 40lb (18kg) loads through the city, over varied and rough terrain, and through heavy traffic with no issues.

  • Pamela says:

    My current main ride is a Lightfoot Cycles Roadrunner recumbent delta trike equipped with a 24-gallon Rubbermaid Actionpacker box, which will hold 3 or 4 bags of groceries, probably averaging 35 to 40 lbs. And several times a year I visit the nearest PetSmart (a couple miles from home) and haul back two 40lb boxes of cat litter. Fortunately the ride to PetSmart is almost all uphill, so the ride home is easy!

    I also have a HP Velotechnik Grasshopper recumbent bike equipped with mid-ship and rear racks and Jandd panniers, which I think can hold about the same volume of groceries as the Actionpacker box on the Roadrunner.

    Lastly, I also have a BicycleR Evolution cargo trailer, also utilizing an Actionpacker box, that can be towed by either the Roadrunner or the Grasshopper.

    Utilizing trailer plus panniers, I think I’ve done a few shopping runs over the years that totaled in excess of 100 lbs. Makes me appreciate my granny gears!

  • Alan says:


    “Do you have any experience with frame-mounted front racks? They shouldn’t effect the steering of the bike, which seems a great advantage to me. What’s your opinion?”

    I’ve ridden bikes with frame-mounted front racks, but only for short periods.

    Having weight on the front, even if it’s mounted on the frame, always has some effect on steering, but the effect is more pronounced when it’s carried on the fork. This can be mitigated to some degree by designing in lower-than-typical trail to compensate for the swing weight. The advantage to fork mounted racks is that they can fairly easily be mounted on any bike with standard touring eyelets. Bolt-on frame-mounted racks are available, but they have to be clamped to the frame which is not ideal in my opinion. Of course, dedicated cargo bikes with frame-mounted racks integrated as part of the frame are a great solution for heavy-hauling, but there are a limited number of these bikes to choose from and they tend to be very robust (heavy), so they may not appeal to everyone.


  • DerrickP says:

    Well, it seems that I’ve forgotten snack for my son’s class today. So I’m about to find out how many boxes of vanilla wafers will fit on a bike if anyone is interested.

  • Wannes says:

    @doug in seattle

    Thanks for the information both of you. I asked because I’m preparing a bike for my wife espessially for groceries. I understand that the back rack is the most important one, therefore it isn’t necessary to invest a lot of money in an expensive front rack. A good basket with support will do, so that we can add some weight to the front, to keep a bit of balance in the bike.


    (from Belgium)

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