Bulk Groceries on a Bakfiets

Some readers asked for more information about the shopping trip I made with the De Fietsfabriek Bakfiets.  I’m happy to oblige.

As I mentioned before, last week I ran into my friend Elizabeth talking to the shop owner, Jon.  When I commented on how cool the Bakfiets looked, he said I could borrow it, if I ever needed to. My ears perked and I soon took him up on the offer for a trip to Costco. Such is the life of a car-free bargain hunter.

For those who are not familiar with Costco, it’s a store where you can buy products in bulk for incredibly low prices, after paying a modest annual membership fee.  Everything is really big there.  I recently joined to reduce our household grocery budget, after I realized they carry many of the organic products we like.

These pictures don’t portray the full magnitude of the shopping trip.  I filled the super-sized cart with stuff like 12-pound bags of rice, 5-pound bags of frozen broccoli, gallon jars of artichokes, and 24-count cases of bottled  micro brew.  Mr. Dottie kept saying that there was no way everything would fit in the bike.  Once we wheeled everything outside and prepared to load the box, I, too, began to worry.  A few minutes later, however, the cart was empty and the box still had room.  I don’t think we could have fit it all in the trunk of mid-sized car!  With the Bakfiets set in 2nd gear, the ride home was slow, but did not require much more effort.

(My cats have no opinion on the box bike, but were happy with the boxes it brought home to them.)

Discovering how much a bike could carry was an eye-opener!

We’ve discussed grocery shopping on a bike before, but this takes it to a whole ‘nother level. Anyone else make trips like this by bike? Or carried other kinds of large loads?

  • Tinker

    Yes, I have an emergency plan to shop by bicycle, should my wife be taken out by a car that destroyed our Isuzu Rodeo (not likely, it’s pretty tough, so is she). I need to get a couple of Grocery bag style panniers, and I’m still looking for a front rack style, cube sort of thing. We don’t have pets, so we don’t need 25 pounds of dog food, or anything like that, More likely to need a trip to the pharmacy, or an emergency ice cream sundae.

    We’d more likely rope our daughter into driving us around. (We gave them our F150 a couple of years ago, with that sort of thing in mind.) But we are just about 2 miles from a local supermarket, its not one we currently shop at, but it is there.

  • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

    Hmmm… next time try to bring the bike into the store on the condition that you will push it. It’s not much larger than those flatbed carts, is it? I’ve seen some people pushing one cart and pulling another.

  • http://www.fullhandsx3.blogspot.com sara

    Love this trike! The color is outstanding & your grocery load impressive. Our biggest bakfiets load usually consists of seven-year-old twins and our four-year-old, but we loved bringing our huge Christmas tree home on/in the bakfiets this winter. This morning we had two boys, one cello, and a little kid chair in the cargo box= not bad! (The violin, the other boy, & the library books were in/on the Xtra.)

  • http://lovelybike.blogspot.com Lovely Bicycle!

    Oh the cat in the box picture is beyond adorable!

    Our eating habits are really eccentric and we often travel, so Costco is not in the cards any time soon. But I have always liked the idea of the big sizes – very Alice in Wonderland!

  • http://bikesocial.blogspot.com/ Gordon Inkeles

    Have to ask: are you considering purchasing one of these Dutch trikes?

  • http://suburbanbikemama.blogspot.com/ Vee

    I do love the cargo capacity. when I shop with the sorte I just shop. Buy whatever I want without wondering ( will this fit?) With my two wheeler I hve to juggle items in my hands guessing “will it fit” often times I have to use a bungee cord to kept the saddle bag shut b/c it’s too full.

    The most cargo wold be 3 kindergarteners and a three year old.

    although I did three mini pine trees one day and two mums and a full grocery shopping bag.

  • http://whatwouldanerdwear.blogspot.com What Would a Nerd Wear

    man i wish we had a costco around here! my boyfriend is selling his car soon and is trying to figure out ways to do groceries on his bicycle. obviously one of these isn’t the most practical for day to day but it’s pretty awesome to see and i am seriously amazed at how giant that thing is.
    p.s. your sneakers are adorable.

  • http://www.myhyggelig.blogspot.com/ Sigrid

    Until a new an better coop opened nearer to us, we rode over hill and dale on Sunday mornings. Nice exercise, nice time together, nice way to go. H took the Xtra and I rode lil’C and got a work out. Not being a big gal, having a bad back, and not being adverse to a handsome man helping me out now and again, H carried about 4-5 full bags of groceries home. http://myhyggelig.blogspot.com/2008/05/xtra-fun.html

  • http://sheridesabike.com Karen

    Bob and I have done a lot of shopping trip with panniers but recently joined Sam’s Club (a big step for me as I prefer small mom and pop grocers if at all possible just because I like the more personal service). Naturally, we would only be able to carry home for items if we relied on panniers at Sam’s Club so we toy with the idea of getting a bike trailer. We’d love a bakfiets but not sure Flagstaff is ready for them on Butler Avenue. (heavy sigh) Once again, LGRAB gives me Chicago envy.

  • http://bikinginheels-cycler.blogspot.com/ cycler

    I think the main problem for me would be getting to the Costco by bike- they’re in really suburban locations in Boston.
    I bring home a 25 lb bag of dogfood on a regular basis, and a couple of weeks ago I brought home a case of wine on the rear rack. The guy at Trader Joe’s was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to carry it to the front of the store- I thought that was funny because I was about to “carry” it all the way home. That’s about 40lbs, and I think it’s about the limit for what I’d carry up above the wheel. It’s a lot more stable when the load is low, near the wheels.
    Someday I aspire to a bakfiets… sigh.

    I think you could have definitely taken it into the store and used it as a shopping cart- that would have been a lot of fun!

  • http://mark.stosberg.com/bike Mark Stosberg

    Yesterday I carried a couch by bike that was almost eight feet long and weighed about 225 lbs.

    Here’s a photo:

    http://mark.stosberg.com/bike/2010/03/couch-hunting-riverside-break.html

  • http://letsgorideabike.com Dottie

    @Gordon – I plan to buy a bakfiets of some sort in the long-term future. Currently, I don’t need the cargo capacity enough to justify ownership.

    @Mark – Sweet! You do that for fun? :)

  • dukiebiddle

    Annoyingly, all the Costcos/Sam’s Clubs/BJ’s in Baltimore are only accessible by way of motor vehicle infrastructure. Infuriatingly, so is the Trader Joe’s (WTF?). I have 2 Whole Foods on the bicycle grid, but I refuse to shop there, partially because I hate the owner, and partially because I hate the customers even more. We do have a midtown Target, and for better or for worse will soon have a midtown Walmart.

    Actually, beyond my first sentence this entire comment is just a retail shopping by bicycle rant.

  • Jeff

    I try not to shop at big stores. They have big parking lots, which create the kind of car congestion that destroys neighborhoods; they become unsafe for biking and walking. Keep the box stores out of my neighborhood, please…

    End of rant…as for the trike, it’s quite cool. One problem would be parking; I don’t have a garage, and would have to park it on the sidewalk. I can’t imagine that the gang bangers would just leave it alone; they’d have it broken to bits, filled with garbage, or at least covered with gang symbols in no time.

  • http://www.bikebike.ca Sean

    That bike can carry an impressive amount of stuff!

    Here in Calgary our Costco’s are located way out in the suburbs, only safely ventured to by car – so we don’t shop there anymore now that we are car-free.

    One thing that bugged me about Costco when we did (very occasionally) shop there was the giant amount of packaging that comes along with their giant packages of everything.

    IMO – the whole idea of shopping-by-bike at Costco seems somewhat twisted. I mean, you are using technology that is inherently local (a bike) to purchase products from a company that usually doesn’t have anything available that is locally made.

    We do all our shopping by bike (either the Madsen, or the Joe-Bike bakfiet) and find it adds to the enjoyment of food shopping. Oddly, we are spending less money on food now that we are car-free – I think because less is wasted due to spoilage and we only buy what we need when we need it.

    Cheers!

  • dukiebiddle

    Sean, so true on the last paragraph. Even though the price points of big box and warehouse stores are super cheap, I think most customers go hog wild on non-essential purchases due to the perceived savings, thereby actually spending more than they would otherwise. Limited cargo capacity is a great way to limit your non-essential purchases, which is why I think so many grocery stores are less interested in our business. Sure, we eat just as much as motorized customers and often go to the store 7 days a week (I do, at least), but we spend significantly less due to the fact we don’t have space to carry a gallon jar of gourmet olives… and probably less inclined to purchase soda because it’s so damned heavy.

  • http://cyclinmissy.blogspot.com Cyclin’ Missy

    I don’t have any baskets or paniers on my bikes yet, but I have worn my hiking pack full of groceries both on my bicycle and my motorcycle. My husband was impressed with how much I could fit into the pack.

  • Ian

    Wow…. what an amazing looking grey cat you have Dottie. He (or she) is a right cutie. Any chance you could post some more pics of your cats please.

  • Justin

    The best biking is in the old grid. The best retail is in suburbia. Chicago is weird because you can actually bike to Walmart, Target, Home Depot, etc. Ikea is too far. Corporate retail keeps creeping farther back into the city. The best produce is still from Stanley’s. Love it!

  • Doug D

    My record is 120 bottles of beer and 100 pounds of kids. Here is a picture of a typical for me grocery run.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/coldbike/4194477402/
    I tried a bakfiets trike when I was contemplating cargo bikes, but I found that I hated the handling of it. I find that I can carry almost as much on my bike but I don’t dread hills, stops or quick turns.
    I never go to Costco because I find myself unable to resist the family-size (as in: the bag is big enough to fit your family into) bag of Cheetos. 50 pounds of Cheetos for $5 is still 50 pounds of cheetos (although in Canada we label it 23kg)

  • http://letsgorideabike.com Dottie

    @Doug – LOVE the photo! So joyful.

  • http://www.stevevance.net Steven Vance

    Some of the conversation has made me rethink what I want out of a cargo bike.

    Sometimes I think I want the cargo bike to be able to haul stuff from Costco. But then I think of the reality of getting there: 8 miles away and some hills. I don’t want to ride 8 miles if I don’t have to; and I don’t really want to pay for a membership if I only need to go there 3-4 times per year. I have 4 grocery stores (some chains, some local) between my house, work and school, each within 3 miles. So far, they have completely satisfied my needs.

    • Jonathan

      Why buy the 100lb bag of cat sand and have to make room for it at home, when I can buy the 10lb bag at the local supermarket (around the corner from me) and use it all up at once? My having a local supermarket solves all those pressing inventory issues for groceries like rice, beer, artichokes and frozen vegetables.

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  • Leesa

    I agree with What Would a Nerd Wear — your sneakers are adorable! What kind are they? I’m in the market for cute sneakers. :)

  • http://letsgorideabike.com Dottie

    @Leesa and WWANW – The sneakers are Easyspirit, nothing trendy. They’re great for when I want to throw my heels in the basket, because they slip on and have no laces to get caught in the crank.

  • http://shermantribehome.blogspot.com Anita Ann

    That is amazing. I use a Madsen for grocery getting.

  • http://bikescanwork.com Matt

    Since we got our bakfiets, I’ve done all our grocery shopping with it, including coming back home up a 5-6% hill. Hills mean more work and a little sweat, but even in a gigantically heavy bike, they’re not impossible!

  • angry customer

    I paid close to $2,000 for what I thought was a real dutch bakfiet bike from
    http://www.wheelhousebikes.com only to find out it is a $150 Chinese knockoff. Avoid wheelhouse bikes like the plague.

    What happened to integrity?

  • http://www.stevevance.net/ Steven Vance

    Can you be more specific? Which model did you buy?

  • http://www.stevevance.net/planning Steven Vance

    Can you be more specific? Which model did you buy?