Katie Pimps Her Ride as a Grocery Getter

25 Jul

This post is an excerpt of the Bike Fun story I wrote for the online edition of the Mountain View Voice today.

When people think of bicycling for practical reasons, bike commuting usually comes to mind first. But since work commutes are often the longest trips we make all week, it may make more sense to bike around town for short errands at the pharmacy, post office, bank, coffee shop or grocery store instead. While it’s easy enough to slip a bottle of pills into your pocket or a small package to mail into a backpack, for errands like groceries you’ll want a bike that’s set up to carry a load. You need what my friend Katie calls a grocery getter.

My friend Katie works as the marketing director at Giro, which means she has all the hottest performance-oriented bicycles: sleek road bikes, plush mountain bikes and a custom cyclocross bike so hot it made the rounds as a display bike at trade shows internationally. What she didn’t have was a practical bike for errands. But she did have her 1995 Trek Mt Track 850 in the back of her garage.

Before the Transformation

With a little work and the same cost as two trips to the gas pump we gave her old bike a new life as a grocery getter. First, we pumped her tires, checked the brakes, cleaned and lubed the chain and wiped the bike down. Then we replaced her worn saddle with a spare she had on hand, and rode a couple of miles to her local bike shop to get geared up. She chose a basic rear rack, grocery-specific panniers and a kickstand which we installed ourselves in less than 30 minutes. Total cost: about $120.

We tested out her new rig with a quick trip to the grocery store and discovered a quieter route on the way back. Katie was thrilled. “I live within 2 mile of all the stores I need: Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, coffee, restaurants, the farmers market. Doing errands by bike makes sense,” she said. “Panniers rock.”

Katie and her Grocery Getter

If you’re a cyclist that doesn’t have a grocery getter, go get one. Doing errands is so much easier with the right equipment. And when it’s not your prized bike you don’t worry as much when you lock it up outside a store. You probably have an unloved bike in the back of your garage that’s itching to get back on the road. For tips on recommended gear and how to shop by bike, read the full article in the Mountain View Voice.

Do you have a bike set up for carrying groceries or other big loads? What’s the most you’ve ever carried?

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Posted by on July 25, 2013 in Around Town, Gear Talk


11 responses to “Katie Pimps Her Ride as a Grocery Getter

  1. Richard Masoner (@cyclelicious)

    July 25, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    +1 on leveling that rack!

  2. Richard Masoner (@cyclelicious)

    July 25, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    And can you ask Kate to put me on whatever mailing list Giro has for new product announcements? I live three blocks from them but I’m always the last to hear about their new stuff.

    • ladyfleur

      July 25, 2013 at 1:39 pm

      Will do. They are launching a women’s version of their New Road line early next year, btw. Katie was supposed to show me photos after we finished with her bike but we got distracted.

      • Richard Masoner (@cyclelicious)

        July 26, 2013 at 9:00 am

        That’s exactly the kind of stuff I’d be very happy to tell the world about on Giro’s behalf!

  3. archergal

    July 25, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    That’s a fairly bodacious rack. I like it. I only eye-level mine though. Your way is more exact!

  4. anniebikes

    July 26, 2013 at 4:53 am

    I never thought of using a level on a rack. Great idea!

    • ladyfleur

      July 26, 2013 at 9:29 am

      That was Katie’s idea. Problem is that the driveway wasn’t flat so it wasn’t that accurate.

  5. Dave

    July 26, 2013 at 7:35 am

    If Katie wants to keep her saddle I suggest swapping the seat post quick release skewer with a bolt.
    and ….
    Next step, a trailer. Hate driving to the grocery store just because I’m going picking up 3 bags groceries.

    • ladyfleur

      July 26, 2013 at 9:34 am

      Replacing the quick release is a good idea, but it didn’t prevent our Brooks saddles from being stolen in San Francisco. Thieves come with tools.

      Katie is single so I doubt she’ll be buying more than three bags of groceries at a time. There are two hungry people in my house and I rarely buy more than three bags at a time. I generally visit two stores anyway (Trader Joes and Safeway) since neither has everything I want. I also usually do a three bag trip on weekends and 1-2 single bag trips on my way home after work.

  6. Martin

    July 26, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    I find that full grocery bags sometimes don’t fit into the panniers, or if I squeeze them in, then I have a problem getting them out. I find it easier not to use grocery bags at all, but just load the items from the grocery cart directly into the panniers. That way I can even the load on both sides, and stack them more efficiently. It takes a few trips from the back door to the kitchen to unload them, but I find it’s worth the trouble.

    Another hint is to carry a couple of bungees, for those bulky items like paper towels and toilet paper. They can be stacked across the top of the panniers and bungeed down.

  7. gasstationwithoutpumps

    July 28, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    I’ve been shopping by bike for over 30 years (I’ve still not bothered to get a driver’s license). I’ve found that the Ortlieb panniers last better and work better in rainy weather than any others I try. Like Martin, I find it easiest to treat the pannier as the shopping bag. Of course, the Ortlieb panniers have shoulder straps and unhitch from the bike in about a second, so I just carry them into the store or into the kitchen.

    I do have a couple of trailers for larger loads, but I only use them a couple of times a year.

    Disclaimer: my wife does most of the grocery shopping on foot, using a back pack. I generally only pick up the heavy stuff: juice bottles and soy milk boxes (about 30 pounds at a time).


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