Bulk Grocery Trip

My bulk grocery trips are not as pretty to look at as my farmer’s market bike trips, but I imagine the former are much rarer than the latter in the bicycling world. Of course, Mr. Dottie and I prefer to buy our food at the farmer’s market, but the bulk store keeps us in fancy olives and upscale beer within my non-profit salary.

We’re lucky that the route to Costco is super simple and relaxing – only a couple of miles down a quiet neighborhood street leads us directly to the parking lot.

And the result of our farmer’s market and bulk food trip – dinner!

There’s quite a lot packed into our panniers and my basket, but the ride was no problem. I load my rear rack with a lot of weight without worrying about it, but I keep my front load lighter, otherwise my steering gets squirrely. I also carried a light shoulder bag with my camera and some spinach.

If we owned a car, we would probably say, “eff it, let’s take the car,” so we’re thankful that we don’t have that option. Makes life more interesting :)

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37 thoughts on “Bulk Grocery Trip

  1. Dave says:

    I can relate to this; I bought the largest Chrome messenger bag available to lug my groceries (and basically everything). I’m down in Carbondale, though so I’m adjusting to the hilly terrain. It’s not really that severe, however, compared to Chicago its like the Himalayas.

    • Dottie says:

      Yes, compared to Chicago, the rest of Illinois is like the Himalayas! Those hills were no joke when I went bike camping in DuPage County.

  2. Carolyn I. says:

    Heh, I shop just like that!

    Glad I don’t have a car either, it would be too easy (and less fun) to shop by car. Can you spare me a beer? ;) That’s the good stuff!

  3. Fiona says:


    What kind of panniers do you use on your Oma? I do see that Mr. Dottie has the Arkel ones


    P.S. I wish Costco was that close to us as we’re also carfree. I usually have to time those trips when my husband has a work van

    • Janice says:

      Dottie, I’d be interesting to know about the panniers you use, too. I’m told the Azor Oma rails on the back rack are larger and many panniers won’t work. I love the way my Lone Peak panniers clip onto my Blackburn rack, but I’m sure they won’t work when my Oma arrives. And I’m not sure if my Specialized panniers will work either. But maybe I can replace some of the hardware on them so they’ll work on the Oma.

      • Dottie says:

        I usually use a Basil side pannier (it’s red and in a lot of previous pictures). For this trip I pulled out the old panniers I used on my Jamis when I first started commuting, Axiom Appalachian Trail Series. The fit enough to work on my Oma, but not perfectly. The rack is a bit too wide and there’s nothing to clip the bungie cords to on the side.

        I would not really recommend these panniers for any bike. They are just okay, and there are plenty of bigger, better and more attractive panniers on the market.

        The bag on top of the black panniers is my husband’s Arkel trunk bag. It’s small but fits a lot – highly recommended, unless you have an Oma with a low saddle. My Oma cannot take the bag vertically because a lot of my rack is under my saddle and therefore unusable.

        • Holly says:

          Hi Dottie!

          I’m in the market for panniers that are good for either weekend camping or a longer tour. What might you recommend? I, too, noticed the Arkels and they look like they’d easily move to the front if need be on a longer tour. Is the set your husband has front/rear or only rear? Might you two suggest a certain model for my road bike? I am on a budget, but I have ruled out the cheaper models because I want them to last for a least a few years.

          You should get a trailer. And a tandem :)

  4. Aaron says:

    I guess you’re probably satisfied with your arrangements, but you could consider the Burley flatbed trailer with a BOB bag, or something similar. My wife and I have been shopping with it for 2.5 years, rain, shine, or snow, and it’s been great. That plus a couple of panniers will hold a huge amount of groceries. Flatbeds also have a way of becoming useful for other purposes as well.

    • Dottie says:

      Thanks for the info, Aaron! We’ve actually talked about getting a trailer, but don’t want to spend a lot and were not sure what product would be the best. I’ll look into the Burley/BOB set-up.

      • E A says:

        have you seen the new Burly Travoy system? http://www.burley.com/products/cargo-utilities/travoy.cfm

        It’s like a rolling luggage cart for your bike!

      • Aaron says:

        In terms of durability, I can definitely vouch for the Burley flatbed and BOB bag combo. Not only have we used it for grocery shopping for 2.5 years, we’ve also pulled it behind our tandem on a 650-mile tour, and I’ve used it many times to tow oversized sports equipment (a mountain unicycle + associated gear, a paraglider and harness). We (I guess “I”, since I’m the captain of the tandem) managed to tip it once with a load when we hit a curb — no damage to bike, connector, or trailer. The only signs of wear are scrapes in the rubber fabric from the pinned pedals of the mountain unicycle; I’ve since changed how I carry the unicycle to avoid further damage.

        I see now that the price has risen considerably since we bought it, though. Also, ours has 20″ wheels, whereas the current one has 16″, which might affect handling. On the plus side, the wheels are now lower than the sides. Craigslist in my area often has trailers; perhaps it will in yours, too. I’ve seen people convert child trailers into flatbeds.

  5. scott t says:

    i have carried various 20 lb. or so mixed loads of groceries/household goods in a 1 dollar black plastic milk crate bunjeed to my rear rack. i usually try to carry a packable-keychain-backpack along too in case of additional load space needs.

  6. Curly Suze says:

    Go for it .. it’s quite the statement to haul stuff by bicycle.

    I use a Basil II front basket and double Wald fold-out panniers on the rear. When that’s not enough, a long milk crate gets lashed onto the rear rack for bulkier items. So far the max haul has been around 40 lbs.

    Sigh .. if only the automobile-dependent people of America could see how people use their bicycles throughout the rest of the world ~ !

    • Dottie says:

      I’ve seen those Wald fold-out panniers a lot around Chicago. They look like a really useful set-up.

    • Curly Suze says:

      The Wald baskets actually don’t detract from the looks of the Batavus, which is nice. But since the fasteners were designed for smaller rack tubing, I used those little stainless steel hose clamps instead, which are far stronger anyway. That kind of folding basket comes in both silver and black, and yes, the black ones complement a Pashley nicely. The folks at Lovely (Velouria?) reviewed them:


      Love this blog .. this was part of what got me back into cycling after a 20-year break :)

  7. Tinker says:

    I like the fork-mounted light, we usually don’t get to see that angle, or maybe I’m just not all that perceptive, normally. What sort of light/mount is it?

    • Dottie says:

      That’s the lighting system that came with my WorkCycles, a Shimano Nexus system. I guess the light itself is Shimano; I’m not sure. The placement is great because my front load never gets in the way.

  8. Tinker says:

    Was the spinach you carried in your shoulder bag for a Popeye-style muscle top-up? Super Dottie, patrolling the mean streets of Chicago, YES! Making Chicago safe for Dutch bikes everywhere.

    Oh, just food, huh? No, never mind…

  9. philippe says:

    I love your site, I really do. The writing is inspiring, the pics are beautiful. you and Trisha totaly rock. So much.

    But, really, please. Stella Artois is NOT an upscale beer. It’s just a cheap belgian drink smartly marketed in the US.
    What’s wrong with you, americans ?
    I’ve seen some Kronenbourg 1664 at ridiculous prices too. Come on, it’s just another euro Bud. Did you taste it ?!

    • Dottie says:

      Anything European is upscale in America. Well, either upscale or pretentious/effeminate/Communist/a threat to our way of life.

      You may be interested in this Stella ad, which I’ve seen around Chicago, declaring “Perfection has its price.”

      I have tasted Stella and think it’s a fine light beer, although the reason we bought it is that our other choices were Budweiser, Miller and Heineken. Usually the bulk store has local brewery Two Brothers and Guinness, but our choices were limited this time.

    • Curly Suze says:

      Euro things (gosh, like our Dutch bikes!) can not only be automatically upscale but also subversive in a cool kind of way, like that secret UN plot to take over the world through bike-share programs.

      Where did I put that beret??

  10. Janice says:

    The food looks so beautiful and yummy — I’ve got to try the strawberry, feta, lettuce mix.

    And is that guacamole stuffed in the hard-boiled egg whites?

  11. jamison says:

    i purchase all of my groceries on foot, or by bicycle, but i am almost positive that any environmental benefit of riding a bike is negated when shopping at a large grocery store or a big box store like costco. takes alot of trucks to fill those stores. riding a bike is great and trying not to shop at large chains is even better.

    • Dottie says:

      Well, I’m not perfect.

    • Aaron says:

      Ok, I’d have to see some kind of argument to believe what you’re saying. Here’s a counterargument: suppose a truck drives 10,000 pounds of goods 1000 miles and then 10,000 customers drive 1 mile to retrieve 1 pound each of said goods. Which is worse?

      • Aaron says:

        By the way, I’m not saying that what you said is wrong, simply that I’d want to see an analysis. While my numbers are definitely not realistic (e.g., people frequently buy more than 1 pound at a time, but many goods also come from closer than 1000 miles or are transported more efficiently than by truck, and people often drive farther than 1 mile), they also suggest that arguing about the resource costs of transporting goods requires data. Are you aware of such a study?

  12. meligrosa says:

    bikes+beer = fantabulous!!

  13. Elaine says:

    Hahaha, thanks for being honest! I always wondered how bicyclists fared with bigger shopping purchases.

  14. Grace Kao says:

    I just got a Madsen and am trying to figure out front basket options and attachments (and I also got the front rack). Can you tell me: (1) where you bought your basket, (2) how it attaches to your front rack? It looks like you just have velcro strips or something. (3) Does that mean you take your basket on and off your bike when you lock-it up? Thanks!

  15. scott t says:

    i have a bike with a rear rack that is rated for about 60lbs.

    a 5 dollar milk crate (not a viable theft target) bunjeed to it (about 16 x 15) has carried 20 lb bags of bird seed plus additional groceries up to around 35 lbs.
    that can be a fair amount of groceries via bicycle. peanut butter and jelly, cheese, various canned foods, etc.

    i also have used a keychain backpack that stuffs inside itself to carry stuff when my basket is full (tortilla chip bags or paper towels for instance) to not fill up the bike basket.

    most grocery trips can be fulfilled via bike without much modification or difficulty.

  16. […] I have done basic grocery shopping and even bulk shopping (a few times) by bike, but the trailer makes the operation much […]

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