Tag Archives: cargo

Colorful Bungie Straps for Betty

Betty Foy has brand new, beautiful, red bungie straps!  For years, Betty has had navy blue striped ones that did not match her aesthetic well.  I’ve always wanted pretty straps for her, but found only boring colors in the past.  The old straps were slowly becoming more slack, so when I saw these new bungie straps in a rainbow selection of colors, I knew it was time for a change.

This red color matches her heart lugs – a subtle detail that is important to me!

These straps snapped on in a matter of seconds, since I already had a base for them on my rear wheel.

For now, I’m using the bungie strap to hold only my lock, but these bad boys are stretchy and strong enough to hold big boxes on the rear rack.  I’ve used simple straps to carry cases of 24 bottles of beer!

Sorry, I do not know the brand (no markings on the product), all I know is they are from Holland and locals can pick them up at J.C. Lind Bikes, where I got mine.  I’ll update this with the brand name when I figure it out.

With a front basket, plus a rear rack with bungie cords and panniers, a regular bike can hold a lot of cargo.

Who else loves bungie straps as much as me?

:)

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Review: Ortlieb Bike Shopper Pannier

While test riding the Civia Twin City, I also tested the Ortlieb Bike Shopper rear pannier.  My Basil pannier, designed to fit my large Dutch rack, did not fit the Civia’s smaller rack, so Jon gave me the Ortlieb to go with the bike.  The hooks on this pannier can be adjusted to fit any size rack.

The pannier is waterproof.  This is the main attribute, as most of the panniers on the market are only water-resistent.  Personally, water-resistence has been adequate for my needs, as my cargo has never gotten wet, even in thunderstorms, and I always keep a plastic bag handy for extra emergency protection.

The second stand-out attribute of the pannier is the mounting system, which Ortlieb calls the “QL2″ system.  This allows you to attach and remove the pannier with barely any effort and with only one hand by pulling on a small strap handle, while the pannier remains securely attached otherwise.

The system is hard to describe, but it totally works wonders, so I made a quick video to demonstrate.  Note that I was able to detach and reattach the pannier all while holding a camera with my other hand.

Unfortunately, this ease of use does not extend to the plastic zipper, which is ridiculously hard to open and close.  I had to use both hands and pull hard just to get the zipper to slowly move.  Perhaps this gets easier over time, but over the course of three days and at least 10 tries, it did not.  Another awkward thing about the pannier is the way the shoulder straps simply dangle when the bag is mounted.  They are not long enough to get caught in the wheel, but the design should have been improved to provide the straps with a home.

The inside is large and holds about as much stuff as my Basil Design Shopper.  There are a few interior pockets to hold your keys, cellphone, and other objects you need to access easily.  I do not like how the bag narrows at the bottom, but I guess that is to prevent heel strike, although I’ve never had a heel strike problem with other panniers.

The pannier comes in several different colors.  I had the ice blue-gray color, which is the prettiest by far.  (Other options include neon green and black.)  I would like to see Ortlieb apply their awesome mounting system to panniers that are more attractive.  I am not interested in carrying into the office or the store a bag that looks like athletic equipment.  I consider a commuting pannier successful when the design allows for an easy transition from the bike to the rest of my life.

I must point out that all the photos on Ortlieb’s website are of men, making the company look out of touch with the current sea change in bicycle commuting.  As in – women do it, too!  Of course, Ortlieb is entitled to focus their market narrowly, but that does not mean I have to like it.

Overall, the Ortlieb Bike Shopper pannier is a high-quality and functional bag with an excellent mounting system that makes attaching and detaching the bag a breeze, even one-handed.  Unfortunately, this ease disappears when dealing with the zipper and arranging the awkwardly dangling straps.  For someone who absolutely needs a waterproof bag and is willing to invest $100 (a fair investment for years of bike commuting), the Bike Shopper is a good choice.  But if a water-resistant bag is good enough for your purposes, there are many other options that I would recommend, especially if you desire a bag that transitions from the bike to the office with more aplomb.

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Urban Gardening by Bike

I am a city girl, but sometimes I complain about not having a yard and google Asheville farmhouses.  A classic “grass is greener” situation.  In reality, I have never displayed a green thumb and barely use my only outdoor space, a small wooden balcony.  Admitting this to myself, I decided to embrace what I have fully, instead of uselessly dreaming of what I do not have.  The result is my new urban garden!  My south-facing balcony gets strong direct sunlight for most of the day and finding plants that thrive in such an environment was easy.

On Saturday, I biked to my neighborhood garden center (Fertile, for locals) and loaded up on flowers: roses, begonias, daisies, and a window box for mounting.

To transport the plants, I simply zip-tied to my front rack a wine crate that Mr. Dottie found in our alley (free!).  This served the purpose splendidly.  The plants were packed in enough that they did not jostle or fall over.

Back at my condo, I transferred the flowers to bigger pots with more soil.  Lucky for me, I snapped up several terra-cotta pots that my neighbor left in the basement when she moved (free!).  These were a big score, as transporting heavy pots would have been difficult.

I learned via gardening blogs that I need some larger material at the bottom of my pots, below the soil, to help with drainage and avoid root rot.  I had enough wine corks for the first pot, but then I was at a loss and not up for another trip to the store.  Mr. Dottie came up with a plan to collect rocks from under nearby L tracks, which sounded kinda gross, but after only a few handfuls each – and after picking out the broken glass – we were set (free!).  :)

On Sunday, I returned to the garden center for herbs and vegetables.  Same bike set up as before.  I got sage, rosemary, basil, thyme, tomatoes, and banana peppers!

 Mr. D stuffed another flower box in his pannier.

Then we got back to work potting.  Getting my hands in the dirt – like a kid again – was fun, even though the dirt came from a bag.  (I was able to buy organic potting soil from the nearby grocery store, allowing me to walk home carrying the bags and avoid loading the bike up.)

Now I have a real live urban garden – complete with herbs, veggies, and flowers.  Once I prove to myself that I can keep these guys alive, I plan to go back for more.  And I’m working on some seedlings (green beans, catnip, flowers) that hopefully will join the rest of the gang outside soon.

As a final touch, I scored two barely-used patio arm chairs from Craigslist, which the seller delivered for a small extra fee.

I could not be more excited about my tiny urban garden!  Now I can sit outside and enjoy my personal oasis.  :)

Plus, I’ve already roasted a chicken using my own herbs – delish!

Does anyone else have an urban garden?  Or do you have an actual yard with an actual garden??  I’d love to hear stories and tips.

{Two helpful blogs I used as resources: Urban Organic Gardener  and Life on the Balcony.}

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Package Delivery

Last week, I went to the post office and here is the obligatory cargo photo.  :)

Seriously, my bike was the perfect way to go because the place was only four blocks away, but the packages would have been a bit much to carry in my arms.  I continue to be impressed by the do-anything straps that came with my Oma, although after 3.5 years in the elements, they’re starting to look dry and corroded.  I should replace them soon before they snap at an inopportune moment!

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Cargo Bike Roll Call – Tonight

Tonight is the first Cargo Bike Roll Call in Chicago.

What is a cargo bike roll call? I like this description from Steve Vance: “Think of the Cargo Bike Roll Call as a lowrider or antique car show. Those with cargo bikes and cargo-carrying schemes will “pop the hood” and show it off. Everyone else can gawk and chat!”

All are welcome, with or without a cargo bike. Bring yourself, your bike, your friends and family, to West Town Bikes from 6-9 PM for cargo bike gawking, socializing, and drinks and snacks.

Read more about the event or cargo bikes in general here.

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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?

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Beautiful Bicycles: De Fietsfabriek Bakfiets

Look what I found! An amazing cargo bike from De Fietsfabriek, a Dutch bike shop that I ride by every day during my commute. I got to borrow the Bakfiets overnight for an ambitious Costco bulk food shopping trip, 9 miles total riding distance.

This beast means business. The De Fietsfabriek Bakfiets is the Dutch company’s biggest cargo bike (except the Stretch Limo?). I recommend the Bakfiets for those who regularly haul a lot of cargo or a troop of children, or who want to use the Bakfiets to promote their business in some way (that’s my way of saying that at times I felt like the Good Humor Ice Cream man).

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Carrying a Guitar on a Bike

I embarked on a new adventure this year by enrolling in a guitar class. I was worried about transporting the guitar for two miles, but turns out it’s easy peasy.

Cycling with a guitar on your back is the kind of simple trick that only looks difficult. The case fits on like a backpack and the guitar is pretty light. The bottom of the guitar stops at the top of my saddle, so there’s no interference. The top of the guitar is slim, so it does not obstruct my view looking back.

I already get looks simply for being a woman, on a Dutch bike, in a dress, in extremely cold temperatures.  Add a guitar on top of that and I feel like a regular circus freak.   Life on two wheels: always an adventure.

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Chic and Happy Cyclists Overtake Nashville

Well, it’s over — and our first LGRAB-organized group ride was officially a success. Despite camera malfunctions, a last-minute venue change and me running my usual five minutes late, we made it to all three restaurants right on schedule and enjoyed delicious drinks and food. Oh, and the cool and breezy weather couldn’t have been better. I’m not sure Nashville has ever seen this many bikes in one place.

Almost everyone...

Almost everyone...

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Life in the Slow Lane

My employment-free ride of the day was to the drug store to pick up a prescription and to the pet store to stock up on cat food. I know, I live such a glamorous life. But wait, it gets really exciting – I forgot my lock key in my garage. What a plot twist! So at the drug store I had to use the drive-through window and the pet store was nice enough to let me bring Oma inside. Whew, crisis averted! As you can see in the picture, I got a lot of cat food – both wet and dry. I am so rock ‘n roll with my bike and my cat food.

Catfood-mobile

Catfood-mobile

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