Every Household Needs a Pack Mule

Civia Loring

As much as I enjoy a variety of different types of bikes, from traditional roadsters and touring bikes, to folders, high-tech commuters, and recumbents, the most useful for living car-lite have to be those that are set-up for conveniently hauling things. A bike with a catch-all platform in front and a heavy-duty rack with a pair of large panniers in back is just tremendously useful for day-to-day living. And if that bike is designed from the ground up with the appropriate geometry, clearances, and frame stiffness for cargo hauling, it’ll end up being one of the most ridden bikes in the stable of just about any car-lite or car-free household.

The Civia shown above is probably the least photographed bike in our stable, yet it’s one of the most frequently ridden. I use it for nearly every quick trip under two miles, whether it be to the grocery store, library, restaurant, coffee shop, or a friend’s house. It’s the bike that requires the least amount of fuss while taking care of the humdrum errands that crop up nearly every day.

Whether it’s a pretty purpose-made bike like the Civia, a longbike or Xtracycle conversion, a Dutch bakfiets, or even a vintage mountain bike repurposed with the addition of a pair of heavy-duty racks, every car-lite/car-free household should have at least one bike that serves as a reliable pack mule.

Disclosure: Civia is a sponsor of this website.

15 Responses to “Every Household Needs a Pack Mule”

  • Velouria says:

    I had the same experience with the Urbana bike I test-rode last month. It was not a pretty bike, but it functioned splendidly for cargo.

    The problem I have with the Civia is that the step-over is not low enough for me for convenient everyday use; I prefer a U-frame. But this is a matter of personal preference.

  • Michael says:

    This is one issue I think most average Americans don’t grasp; that this is possible, or even fun.

  • Doug Robertson says:

    Our household pack mule is a re-purposed 1988 Specialized Rock Hopper with an Xtracycle Freeloader conversion. We’re an one-car household. I first put together the Xtracycle back in 2007 so that I could pick up our weekly CSA share on my bike commute home from work. Since then it has carried many, many other things. I can’t imagine what I did before I had that bike. It makes my bicycle life so much easier…..and fun!

  • voyage says:

    I’m not understanding why Civia’s Halsted isn’t taking off (or is it?) — conceptually, it looks like it has mule potential designed in.

  • jnyyz says:

    absolutely agree about having a utility bike. Ours is an xtracycle. The one thing the Xtracycle has over a smaller bike is the potential to haul kids.


    I like the Loring, but Civia is not sold in Canada. I’m thinking about getting a front rack for my commuter, but I’ll going back and forth between something like the pass n stow and the VO rack.

  • Alan says:


    That Urbana looks plenty stiff, but most of the more traditional low step-throughs I’ve ridden haven’t really been up to the task of cargo hauling. Civia raised the top tube on the Loring to increase triangulation/stiffness, whereas Urbana did it with an oversized tube. Two solutions to the same issue..


  • peteathome says:

    Why just for trips under two miles? Is it too slow or5 hard to pedal for longer trips?

    I ask, because, for me, I want a “pack mule” I would use for trips under 6-8 miles each way. I’d use it for commuting and hauling.

  • Karen Lynn Allen says:

    I agree. Though I can fit quite a bit in a couple panniers on my regular bike, my bike with the Xtracycle is so useful. Over the last three years some of the loads I have hauled: two preteen girls together; five bags of groceries; a huge Kentucky derby hat in hatbox; two lawn chairs; irrigation tubing; a tai chi sword. Here in San Francisco I road the Panhandle once alongside a guy with another Xtracycle carrying home his surfboard.

  • jb says:

    My mule is an xtracycle conversion, but I do an awful lot of short trips/errands on my Brompton.

    The Brompton lives right inside the front door, and with the touring bag in front it’s hard to beat for trips where I don’t have to carry too much stuff or a kid.

  • Pete says:

    I’ve found it a challenge to set up a “pack mule” that both my wife and I can ride, as I’m quite a bit taller than she is. As a result, we have two bikes set up for utilty – my daily commuter has front and rear racks, her errand bike has a front basket and rear rack, and we swap around an assortment of market panniers and rack trunks as needed.

  • Alan says:


    “Why just for trips under two miles? Is it too slow or hard to pedal for longer trips?”

    I use it for longer trips as well (I’ve ridden it up to 20 miles with no problem at all). It gets used for many short trips because it’s the most convenient for that type of riding/hauling. It’s certainly not limited to only short trips though…

  • Pamela Dallas says:

    My “pack mule” is a Lightfoot Cycles Roadrunner delta trike fitted with a 24-gallon Rubbermaid Actionpacker cargo box. It gets used for all my shopping trips, and easily hauls two 40lb boxes of cat litter or several bags of groceries. If I need still more carrying capacity, I can also attach my BicycleR Evolution trailer, which utilizes another 24-gallon Actionpacker box. Ain’t fast, but it hauls!

  • Friday fun : Cycling in Wellington says:

    […] finally, a short ode to really useful bikes, featuring one of my favourites, the Civia Loring. We have one of these in our stable – I say […]

  • Brent says:

    Still love that Loring, even though I went with the Uptown Infinity instead. Honestly, if the Loring had a full chaincase I don’t think I would have gone with the Breezer. By the time I changed out the pedal, the saddle, the handlebars, kickstand (for a two-leg) and the grips the Breezer cost more than the Loring. I really wanted a full chaincase, though. The Nuvinci hub really called to me as well, and now that I have gotten used to it I really love it.

    The Breezer I have set up with Wald Folding baskets on the back with a couple of insulated Earth Totes that I use in them. They hold a ton, and are stiff enough to remain upright in the baskets. Then I have a Wald 137 up front, which is working out fine for now. I ordered a Velo Orange Porteur rack for the front, but it didn’t fit right on the bike so I sent it back. I will probably try pulling the Gamoh King Carrier off of my Allant, as I think that will fit on it (though I will have to move the light off the fork to install it.)

    Right now, however the Wald basket is working fine, and my Rivendell Shop Sack fits in it perfectly (it is made for it after-all) and since I have to take the front wheel off to remove the Wald it is more trouble than I want to go to at the moment.

    Not that removing the wheel is a big deal, it’s just that every time I do I have to readjust the brakes, and I HATE adjusting V-brakes. I hate it so very very much. LOL

    So for now I am Wald front and back. Cheap and effective. I have to say that the Wald Folding baskets are far more attractive in person than they are in most of the photos you see on the net.

    Here’s a picture of my setup:


  • James says:

    I have a Loring – black 9-sp – and it is the best bike I own. I use it daily and cannot say enough about its utility. A wicked cool ride that gets a ton of looks and comments in Chicago, but more importantly, it is an excellent car replacement/compliment.

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