Tips to Grocery Shop By Bike

A video I did for Tern Bicycles (go follow our YouTube Channel!) You can follow the text version below!

The following grocery shopping tips are mostly geared towards using panniers or a backpack. Read through and add yours in the comments!

Start Small

Start with quick trips for fresh produce restock or other small things. Try this a couple of times to know what fits well and how long of a grocery list your backpack or panniers can handle.

Parking Your Bike

Park somewhere your bike isn’t hidden and can be secured well. If you are using the rear rack, park so you can easily access the rack when you have heavy bags to load.

Using Panniers in the Grocery Store

When using panniers, I bring them in and hang them inside of the grocery cart. Pre-COVID I would put items inside of them as I shopped to ensure I was using my space properly and then unload to the checkout belt but that is frowned upon at some places right now.

I recommend shopping from the inside aisles to the out. This is so your fresh food, or things that need to be cold are last to be pulled. I used to load one pannier with heavier goods, and then the other with the produce, eggs, bread, and other soft things. 

When checking out, unload the heavier, sturdy, items first. Load these items first into the bottom of your bags, slowly adding lighter items like produce, eggs, and finally bread and bananas at the top.

Loading Back-Up

When I get back to my bike, I set my panniers down on the ground and unlock the bike. I do this first so I’m not trying to unlock while balancing a loaded-down bike.

When having heavy panniers, I’m loading from the opposite side of my kickstand to keep my bike from tipping. 

I load the pannier on the kickstand side first, then the opposite side where I’m standing. Depending on how heavy your panniers may be, you will want to keep a hand on your bike once the panniers are on so the bike doesn’t tip over. The exception is if you have a double kickstand.  I use the top of the rear rack if I have larger items, like flowers, beer, or toilet paper. This bike has a built-in bungee, think about adding one if your bike doesn’t have one.

Helmet on and back home we go. 

Reader’s Tips

Please post in the comments below your tips!

  • Utilize rear rack for large/heavy items. If I buy cases of sparkling water, or sometimes even mid-sized boxes (think cheez-its), I will load on top of the rear rack and use bungee straps to secure.
  • Fragile items on the front rack! I always place cartons of eggs on the front rack where I can keep an eye on them, as well as soft items like loaves of bread or crunchy items like bags of chips. Again, secure with the included bungee cord. I find that my bread always gets smushed in the panniers. I seem to be more mindful with them in front of me where I can see them.
  • Use Curb Side Pickup service whenever, wherever possible.
  • Lock bike to shopping cart racks near a storefront, so you can dump your shopping cart right there, and its bike stays in a highly trafficked area.
  • When on a multi-store run, plan your route based on what you can leave outside safely at the second/third store or incorporate a curbside pickup on the last stop so you don’t have to leave bike and items unattended. Also plan on cooling/perishable items/refrigeration needed.
  • Plan enough time to do a cargo bike elevator pitch that happens almost every time in front of the store.
  • Bring bungies, batten straps, or a cargo net just in case packing/bags/panniers accouterment don’t fill your needs. 
  • When cargo doesn’t fit, consider taking items out of grocery bags and packing them in panniers piece by piece, along with the empty bags for when you reach your destination. Think Tetris. You’ll be amazed at how much stuff can fit when properly packed.
  • Always bring a couple of extra shopping bags along with you just in case you need a spontaneous stop on your day.

Leave a Reply

2 thoughts on “Tips to Grocery Shop By Bike”

  1. I have used the bikepacking bag, but it has some problems. When I put a lot of goods in it, it gets heavier, which slows the bike down and adds to the bike’s weight.

  2. Thank you for these great tips! My panniers don’t click on and off (they have sturdy velcro attachments), so I’ve put a bunch of soft packable/reusable bags in my panniers, and use the hand-held self-scanning checkout option so I can pack these bags as I go. I never would have thought of loading the kickstand side first, but that’s very practical and sensible!

Scroll to Top