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Utility Cycling Want to haul groceries, beer, maybe even your kids? You don't have to live car free to put your bike to use as a workhorse. Here's the place to share and learn about the bicycle as a utility vehicle.

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Old 02-02-07, 02:08 AM   #1
Prime Directive
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What are my best cargo solutions?

Hello! I'm a fairly new cyclist with a single bike: A '92 Schwinn Impact Mountain Hybrid. Someone else's bike with an identical frame can be seen HERE. Note the position of the saddle, the rear cantilever brakes and the two knobs (eyelets) at the end of the seat stay. My bike came with a Blackburn rack (looks like THIS one) attached to the upper set of eyelets. Are racks supposed to be on the upper or lower set of eyelets?

Anyway, I'm looking for either panniers or a trunk bag or both to meet my current and potential future needs. Right now my rack is empty and I carry mail and anything that will fit in a plastic grocery sack that's tied around my top tube at the front. I also carry library books and more bulky store items in a sack tied to the front of my rack which I then secure, laterally, with my cable lock around the rack. Larger boxes (like to the post office) I also carry on the rack using my cable lock. I don't have easy access to an LBS and don't have any bungees or proper straps.

I want to carry large grocery items like lettuce, 1 gallon of milk/water (if at all possible), eggs, and cereal boxes (not necessarily at the same time), BUT I also want the bag or bags I end up buying to adequately serve future commuting needs. I was originally interested in the Wald wire basket panniers maybe paired with a trunk, but I don't want that weight having to go up several stairs at home (and more likely in the future). Now I am leaning toward some kind of trunk/rack bag because I love the idea of being able to throw purchases and other stuff semi-loosely in the trunk on utility or errand trips.

Finally, what I really need you to consider are the physical clearance issues I may be having with my bike. The first affects the trunk solution and the second affects the panniers (go figure!). The first is the fact that my saddle (and associated seat bag) hang over the front 4" or so of my rack about 7" above the surface of the rack with seat bag (11-12" without). The second issue is the fact that my cantilever brake arms extend 1 1/2" outward from the side of the rack in the potential pannier mounting area. They are located 2 3/8" back from the start of the rack and 5 1/4" below the surface of the rack, giving me only 9 7/8" of clear space rearward that is still under the rack's top surface.


Cargo options I've been eyeing:
  • Lone Peak RP-700 - My best candidate for a trunk, high quality, good looks, shoulder strap hooks, carrying handle, lots of space--able to hold a 1 gal. milk carton in the back (I have no idea how that would affect balance/handling or if the pack would deform under that weight)

    DRAWBACKS: Height, when full, would barely fit under my saddle at the forward end (no seat bag) and that could easily limit how much I can open the lid as well. Replacing my seat bag means I need to find a place to put its contents and there is no room for a frame bag due to water bottle clearance issues and because I lift my bike using the top tube near the seat tube. A handlebar pack is also out of the question due to riser handlebars with barely enough (straight tube) room for a cyclocomputer and a reflector (later light) mounting. Because this trunk wouldn't be secure from theft, I'd have to bring it with me. That's fine except I wouldn't want to drag my seat bag contents (in the top pocket, hopefully) around wherever I go if I can possibly avoid it.

  • Otivia Cargo Cache or DIY tool box - A great way to keep things waterproof and secure that I can leave with my bike--a real trunk! The Cargo Cache can also keep my helmet when empty (so I don't have to drag that around like I do now). Unfortunately, they won't hold some of the larger groceries and would prevent the addition of panniers due to their permanent mountings. Perhaps this could be compensated for with some kind of DIY spacer, but we run into the same saddle clearance issues as above. It would also prevent me from using the flat surface of the rack to haul large boxes.

  • Banjo Brothers Saddlebag Panniers or Lone Peak P-099s - Good commuter solutions, but would either of them carry many groceries? Major issue here is brake arm clearance (more than heel strike). Likely more stable than a trunk if I keep them balanced.

  • Sunlite Grocery Getter Panniers - Great for groceries! ...but I'd have to find a net cover somewhere and there would be no rain protection. Not very suited to commuting I would think. Basic hook and elastic attachment system, as well, that doesn't appear to allow me to move it back and forth on the rack (nor do any of the other panniers, AFAIK).

Right now it seems like I should buy the first, third, and fourth items to suit my future needs! That's too expensive right now anyway. I don't know where to go with my seat bag (or contents) as well.

A backpack or messenger bag is a last resort, please.
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Old 02-02-07, 07:22 AM   #2
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For carrying cargo, I have gone to a pair of Sunlite Traveler 2 panniers.

If what I want to take won't fit in them, I go back to my Burley Flatbed trailer.

Grocery shopping is the wife's department and something into which I have very little input, but if I did it, I would most likely use my Burley Solo as a covered utility trailer, or the flatbed with a box on it.
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Old 02-02-07, 11:03 AM   #3
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I made a frame from PVC plumbing pipe for attaching a backpack to my rear rack on my touring bike. I gave $2 for this backpack at a thrift store and have less than $5 in the pipe, glue, and fittings. I can haul lots of bulky items in it. I made no modifications to the backpack so it's easy to just remove it from the frame and use it as intended.
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Old 02-02-07, 01:04 PM   #4
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A lot of people here in Flagstaff, AZ will just one of those huge plastic crates and tie it to the back rack. Provides enough space for 2 bags of groceries. Seems like a cheap solution if you can steal one from a local grocier.
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Old 02-02-07, 01:41 PM   #5
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There are 2 sensible options:
A pair of large panniers
A pair of permanently fixed buckets.

With grocery panniers you need tough material, a heel-cutout profile, flap top with an extendable collar for overloading, stiffening on back and base, one external pocket and preferably a quick-release locking mount rather than hook and elastic. Cheap panniers tend to be cheaply made and home made ones are often better. Look at Carradice for an ideal model, these are expensive but good for the bae of home made panniers.

Buckets can be used to contain bags of groceries. Ridgid one are made by cobbworks but I think that semi ridgid ones (think laundry basket material) are good. Wicker is another good option. Again you need a heel cutout so you can mount the bucket further forward on the rack for better weight distribution.
Rack-top crates place your load quite high which is bad for stability. They work well for carrying bulky, light items or heavier stuff short distances.

The std QR mounting system is by Rixen and Kaul. You can rivet these to anything tough.
Correx corrugated plastic (For Sale signs) is an excellent stiffener than can take rivets. One forum member made some pannier/buckets out of folded, glued and rivetted correx.
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Old 02-02-07, 03:04 PM   #6
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Here's what I use. I went to Cost Plus and bought a wire reinforced wicker basket. I got some STURDY zip ties and zip tied it to the top of the rack. Total cost: 10 bucks.
It doesn't look techy so I don't worry about theft and it costs so little no big deal if it were stolen.
Actually I think it looks much better that a nylon rack trunk or pannier.
I have also zip tied it to the side of the rack, pannier style. This works great. If I needed a lot of space I could zip tie one on each side.
I carry my stuff in one of those nylon bags where the draw string doubles as shoulder straps so that it can be worn like a back pack. On they way to the store I put it in the basket. In the store and on the way home I wear it on my back. Of course, the groceries go in the basket.
It doesn't rain much here in Southern California so I don't know how well wicker holds up in the rain but in the dry conditions here it holds up real well. I have seen plastic wicker look baskets.
I have thought of going touring with two of these baskets on the sides of both the front and rear racks.
Larger ones in the rear, smaller on the front. Front and rear panniers for 40 bucks!

Last edited by GeoKrpan; 02-02-07 at 05:55 PM.
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Old 02-02-07, 10:40 PM   #7
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Very nice, n4zou! ...and thanks for your replies, everyone.
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Old 02-02-07, 10:54 PM   #8
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I personally have a messenger bag, which isn't great for hauling big things (if you have to stand up and pump, you take all your gear up and down with you). I do have a detachable rear rack which i use from time to time. i have found that carrying a paticularly heavy load directly above the rear rack gives the bike a tendency to twist itself downward when turning. I would say go with the panniers or grocery bags.
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Old 02-03-07, 04:31 AM   #9
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If you go to any of the old university towns in the UK (eg Oxford, Cambridge) you will find hundreds of old bikes kitted out with wicker front baskets. These are used and kept outside in all weather and the wicker lasts for many years. Wicker is much lighter and more durable than wire or plastic, the weave will prevent small objects falling out but will let water through.
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Old 02-03-07, 06:25 AM   #10
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jandd makes a waterproof grocery pannier. found here.

I used to use one regularly. it will handle gallons of liquid just fine, in addition to serving all kinds of other random purposes. folds up when not in use.
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Old 02-03-07, 06:46 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by n4zou
I made a frame from PVC plumbing pipe for attaching a backpack to my rear rack on my touring bike. I gave $2 for this backpack at a thrift store and have less than $5 in the pipe, glue, and fittings. I can haul lots of bulky items in it. I made no modifications to the backpack so it's easy to just remove it from the frame and use it as intended.

How did you attach the pipe frame to the rack? Can you post more pictures from different angles and with out the bag on it?
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Old 02-03-07, 08:17 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bolo Grubb
How did you attach the pipe frame to the rack? Can you post more pictures from different angles and with out the bag on it?
Here is a photo of the back.

If you look closely you will see the shoulder straps just go around the top and bottom pipes. This does cause the back part of the pack to try and fold up when empty but as you put stuff in the pack it straightens out. The shoulder straps are cinched up tight around the pipes. The extra webbing that would hang down and passably get tangled in the wheel is wrapped around the bottom pipe and I used a Velcro strap to hold it tight to the pipe. The same Velcro straps go around the pipe and the rack to attach it to the frame in three places. I stuck a strap to the top/front of the rack so you can see what they look like. You just put the end of the strap through the slot on the other end and keep wrapping until the full length of the Velcro strap is wrapped around whatever your securing with them.
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Old 02-03-07, 10:05 PM   #13
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Brilliant!

Not to hijack the thread, but... I see a hitchhiker in the background. I have one of those too, and my 4 year old son and I have riddent many, many difficult singletrack mountainbike trails using that thing. It's not perfectly designed but it works well.
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Old 02-04-07, 10:44 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hopperja
Brilliant!

Not to hijack the thread, but... I see a hitchhiker in the background. I have one of those too, and my 4 year old son and I have riddent many, many difficult singletrack mountainbike trails using that thing. It's not perfectly designed but it works well.
I found that old TRI hitchhiker in a thrift store for $2. I removed the handlebar, seat, and crank and attached a rack. It's now a one-wheel bike trailer! A very good one as it connects to the seat post. Hooking it there distributes the weight where the towing bikes frame is designed to support the most weight. I find it's much better than a BOB which puts the entire tongue weight on the rear wheel and axel. The only time it gets used is to pickup trash on a 5-mile section of the Chief Ladiga Trail. Sometimes I find abandoned bikes on the trail and zip tie the front wheel to it and tow it home. That’s a sight to see!
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Old 02-05-07, 07:22 AM   #15
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n4zou - any pics of the tow along trailer made fom the old kiddie bike?

that could be quite helpful for a cheap trail maintenance trailer around here. GREAT IDEA!
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Old 02-05-07, 10:20 AM   #16
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n4zou - any pics of the tow along trailer made fom the old kiddie bike?

that could be quite helpful for a cheap trail maintenance trailer around here. GREAT IDEA!
Plastic grocery bags filled with trash are easy to hang off the trailer's rack. I removed the Coroplast I zip tie to the sides of the trailer to keep the bags out of the wheel.
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