Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Who Needs A Car? Carrying Bulky Items on a Cargo Bike

The past few weeks have been crazy busy with organizing the Mount Pleasant Family Biking Festival, plus building stilts & teaching a class. These two things have offered me some new challenges in carrying awkward things by bike. I'll admit it, this is basically a hobby of mine: figuring out how to carry weird or heavy or bulky things home on my Yuba Mundo under my own steam, rather than booking a Modo carshare vehicle.

First I needed to pick up some lumber & hardware to build the stilts. I've carried long loads before on the Yuba, so I knew how I was going to attach it: strapped & bungied to the basket at the front & the running boards at the back. This is only possible because the Yuba Mundo basket is frame mounted, so it doesn't turn when I move the handlebars.

When I was loading up the Yuba outside Home Depot, I realized that the lumber was angled in a bit at the back, as the rear rack is narrower than the basket, so I didn't have as much room for my legs as I would have liked. It wasn't ideal for stability at stop lights on the way home, as I had to keep my legs inside the space afforded by the lumber, with a narrower stance than I'd prefer. But I didn't tip over--I didn't actually have to stop many times along the quiet side streets that I took to get home.

To build the stilts, I decided to join the Vancouver Tool Library so that I could borrow some sawhorses, clamps, & a compound mitre saw. I had the kids with me too, so it was a bit awkward to load up the bike. Because the saw was probably 50 pounds or so, the bike tipped over on the sidewalk. Though tipped over is probably not quite the right word. With the saw & the running boards on the side, the bike tipped about 45 degrees before we caught it. Bronte & Linnaeus were a little surprised but never touched the ground.

When I returned the tools to the VTL, I thought I'd try using our MEC single child trailer with my old commuter. While the load was more balanced, I still had the problem of the bike tipping over, since the kick stand isn't that strong & the load pulled on the side trailer hitch. The ride also reminded me of why I love my cargo bike: no yoyoing. Riding a few kilometres with the trailer loaded up to 70-80 pounds was annoying. Over every tiny bump or hill the trailer pulled back at my bike. Downward it pushed. I wasn't concerned about my brakes or steering, but it's quite frustrating to really feel the load pulling you back like that. On the Yuba Mundo, even with a hundred pound load, it rides like a regular bike & feels smooth.

On the way to my stilt class, I took the obligatory before photo: seven pairs of stilts, plus a large (though light) bag of props. This load was probably the tallest I've ridden with & there was some movement of the stilts when I went over bumps, but I just rode slowly & it was fine.

On the way home from the stilt class, I only had the props & my own stilts to bring with me, which felt so light!

I've done many Costco runs with our Yuba, so this one wasn't terribly different, except for the quantity of drinks I bought. I carried over 18L of juice boxes & cans of pop, on top of granola bars, magazines, chips & other groceries. Plus two children, as usual.

Probably the funniest thing I carried in the past few weeks was two sheets of corrugated plastic. I decided to make two 'walls' where people could post tips & why they love family biking at the festival. Corrugated plastic seemed like the best way to do this, but how to get it home? I strapped a box onto the side of my Bread Basket to give more space for my handlebars, then attached the 4' by 8' pieces of plastic there & to the rear child seat. We looked a bit like a parade float riding down the street--the plastic covered everything but my head. There was a little wind, so I held one side while riding at walking speed from the hardware store.

Hauling all this stuff on a bike might seem crazy to some people & I'm sure that a lot of people I pass ask themselves, "Why doesn't she just use a car?". But being able to carry loads that are really heavy or long or awkward, sometimes even things that wouldn't fit in a regular vehicle easily, makes me feel strong. I feel a sense of accomplishment on my driveway as I'm unloading a carload of stuff... from my bike.

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  1. No doubt past few weeks were super busy for you guys!! Shifting bulky items one place to another using car is an amazing but using a bicycle is a very interesting idea. I've never thought of it. However, thanks for giving such idea. I'm looking forward to utilize such idea to carry bulky items for moving purpose.

  2. Great post. Thanks for spending time to share.


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