Running errands on two wheels

Grabbing your groceries, picking up a prescription, stopping by the post office – sure you CAN do these things by traditional four-wheeled transit, in your car, but if you’ve got a bike you can do them with just TWO wheels and get a dose of exercise while you’re at it!

Richmond is a great city for biking for any number of reasons, but one great reason to ride is simple utility! Running errands.

The good news is that you can probably start running errands by bike with what you already have.  There are lots of bikes and bike products that can help you carry more, be more comfortable hauling heavy or big items (even kids!), or to cart stuff over longer distances, but don’t be fooled! You don’t need anything special or fancy to begin running errands on your bike. It’s easy to just get started with things you probably have already. Here’s how:

  • You’ll need your bike (duh!), a decent bike lock, a backpack, and a smile!
  • Pick a useful destination and route you’re comfortable taking to get there.
  • Pedal out! Your heart rate gets going, a little heavy breathing, and you’re there!
  • Lock up outside. Use a rack if it’s available or a nearby post if it isn’t. Try to leave room for pedestrians to easily walk by, so your bike isn’t an obstruction.
  • I like to keep my helmet with me when I shop to send the message that “bike riders shop here”, but you can leave it with your bike, too.
  • After you’re done, load up. There’s nothing wrong with a bag or two on your handlebars but it can throw you off balance, so test it first and use a backpack if you’ve got one. In general, it’s easier for you if you use a backpack.

All in all, you can shop basically the same by bike as any other way.  Bring friends to make it more fun (and riding with friends is great, too!).  Stop for refreshments.  Enjoy the day.

Extra credit:

Now that you’ve had a simple and enjoyable experience running an errand by bike, you can consider what you could use to carry even more (say a full grocery trip, a few kids to/from school, or heavy tools).

At first it can be good to avoid racks on the handlebars or otherwise on the front end of the bike, unless you’re experienced, because the weight can significantly affect bike handling.

  • Trailers. There are bike trailers that can attach to any bike.  With many of the same advantages of racks and panniers, trailers are also easy to remove when not in use.  The right trailer can also be used to cart kids, or dogs too, which can make a great day at the park or trip to school!
  • Cargo bikes. If bike utility trips are really important to you, you can invest in a bike specifically designed to carry cargo.  They often have longer wheelbases to make room for extra cargo and to engineer extra stability while loaded.  Some push the front wheel out several feet in order to make room for a cargo platform in front of the rider, keeping the weight low and the bike very predictable while riding.

More than equipment:

Consider what would make running errands by bike more feasible for you.  Do your favorite shops and stores have proximal bike racks?  Do you have a safe and comfortable route to take?  Could you choose businesses that are closer to where you live or work?

There are lots of ways to make running errands on your bike comfortable, efficient, and fun. It’s all about what you need. Your best ally to make sure you have the optimal set up for you is your local bike shop. They can mount any new gear you’re adding and advise you on the best options for racks, baskets, and more.