Bikes at Work

For the practical cyclists among our readers, check out the review Patrick wrote about our Bikes at Work trailer over on the Bicycle Fixation web site. The BAW is our favorite hauler of cargo, and this article tells you why. Here’s a teaser:

Sometimes it’s a lot of planning and preparation to carry stuff on a bike trailer like this. You want to make sure your load is centered, balanced, and as low as possible. And if it’s raining, you need to figure out a way to keep your stuff dry. (The Rubbermaid tubs are waterproof.) Also, of course, pulling a hundred pounds of cargo is more work than just riding. Sometimes it is very hard work, and that’s OK with me because hard work is something I have come to value and respect in myself and in others.

There are pix too!

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5 Responses to Bikes at Work

  1. Jamie says:


    Serious question: Do you have any suggestions for us waaaaay out in the country? Are we doing everything we can by combining trips, driving a fuel-efficient car, and working at home? We try not to go anywhere unnecessarily. We would bike, but it’s really dangerous, what with the lumber trucks, no shoulders on the road, etc.

    We think we might get one of those 70mpg SmartCars when they become available here. Someone near us has a mule cart, but if the eeee-aawwwwing noises from the road are any indication, it is less than satisfactory. 😉

  2. Patrick says:

    Hi Jamie

    Those are good questions and ones that Holly and I thought about when weighing whether to move to a rural area or to a city.

    If I were you I would seriously consider a draft-animal-driven cart or buggy. You would decide which animal was best for you based on your land, needs, etcetera, and you’d gain the bonus of extra manure for the homestead, not to mention the myriad benefits of learning to care for this type of animal. There are probably resources in your area (or at least within a day’s drive, har har) that can help you with this. Carla Emery wrote an excellent article on the subject and, as was her style, included many many resources at the end.

    As for bicycling, I would encourage you to learn to practice vehicular cycling. Bicycling is rarely dangerous, and certainly no more dangerous than driving a car. It can sure feel scary or intimidating on narrow roads with big trucks.

    I don’t know enough about where you live, or your personal bicycling history, to give you much more advice. But I know that bicycling is a great way to get around, and that what most people feel is “danger” is usually just a potent mix of fear, bad cycling techniques learned at a young age, and irrational media hysteria.

    If you have any interest in becoming a proper driver of a bicycle, there are, again, a variety of resources at your disposal. Check out the Bicycle Transportation Institute’s web site for more information, and also check out Robert Hurst’s book, The Art of Cycling, for an excellent overall philosophy about how to comport oneself as a cyclist in traffic.

    If eschewing driving, or cutting down your transportation-fuel usage, is really important to you, then in the long term I suggest moving closer to town, or finding a large lot in town. As Kipchoge Spencer once said, “The most efficient kind of transportation is already being where you want to go.” Figure out where it is you want to go, and plan your life around being near there, and you may find that you don’t need your car much at all.

    and finally, given the wisdom in that statement and what I already know about you from the Eat Local Challenge group, it sounds like y’all are doing pretty well. You live where you work, you eat locally when possible, and you produce some of your food in your home workplace, as well. I would be surprised if your transportation-fuel usage was that much higher than mine. If I want a quail or a dozen eggs or a gallon of goatsmilk, for example, I pedal to the store or the farmers market, where the object of my desire has arrived via truck. Whereas you can grow your own, and transport it on foot. Personal transportation is only a part of our total transportation-fuel usage. You’re doing a lot in your home food production to offset the hidden transportation costs of food production, packaging, and delivery.

    Check out some of the other bicycling and transportation posts on this blog (particularly this one) for more information, and let us know how things go.



  3. Jamie says:


    Wow, what a wonderful response…I have been having a great time following the links. There is a lot to think about. Maybe we really should consider a draft animal. A lot of people around here keep equines, so it wouldn’t be that hard to do. The main reservation in my mind is that horses tend to be very veterinary-care-intensive even when well kept–which, of course, costs money and causes the vet to drive out to your place in his/her pickup truck. 😉

    You are probably right about my attitude toward cycling. At the very least I would like to improve my skills so that visits to the post office, Dollar General, etc. (which are 5 miles down the road…everything else is at least 13 miles) are biking endeavors. I’ll get that book and see how I feel. Moving isn’t an option for us, since we are so in love with our land (12 acres, good soil, and mostly good neighbors!), but we can definitely try our best to do what we can with what we have.

    And thank you so much for what you said about the garden, fuel usage, etc. I am smiling because I had just come inside with a big armful of bok choy and a basket of eggs right before I read what you’d written. Now if we can only get a farmstand going in our front yard, maybe our neighbors will have the same happy circumstance!


  4. Patrick says:

    Hey Jamie, that’s great.

    It sounds like you certainly have some bicycle-accessible errands in your daily life. Our trip to the CSA is nearly 5 miles, and it’s a really nice ride after a day’s work. Sometimes I wish we were a little further out, so I could get more daily bicycling in!

    At the risk of repeating myself and/or what you’ve already read in the links I gave you, two further things to think about:

    — Probably the most important thing to consider in your case is your route. Those narrow, truck-trafficked roads that you drive into town may not be the only route available to you. One reason a lot of cyclists don’t like cycling in traffic is because they instinctively use the same routes as they do when driving a car. Perhaps there’s a less-traveled (and less-auto-efficient) route you can choose when you go by bicycle. It may even be a little bit longer, but you’ll find that it’s worth it.

    — On that note, given that some of those roads might not be paved, it occurs to me that a basic mountain bike might be a good vehicle for you. (And you probably already have one, or if not, they’re very easy to come by.) If you find that you like cycling, but need more capacity, check out the Xtracycle attachment (if you haven’t already). It’ll give you more cargo capacity and comfortable handling.

    I wish I knew as much about horse-and-carriage operations as I did about bicycles. You’ll have to teach us about that part.



  5. Jamie says:

    Yet more good advice! Around here, where there is a [Name of Town] Road, there is usually an Old [Name of Town] Road that is red clay and gravel. I should get out the county map and do some thinking.

    The bike we have is a hybrid, which I gather usually means “equally ineffectual in all terrains” ;-), but it may be able to handle the back roads pretty well.

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