Hauling (or, how to use your bike to carry large loads)

One of the top things people ask me when they learn I don’t have a car is “how do you carry (insert anything large here)??” Oddly enough, people usually settle on “groceries” as the biggest, most bulky load they can think of–which is funny to me, since with very few exceptions, I can always fit all of our necessary weekly groceries into my backpack. Regardless, it’s a valid question: when you have a lot to carry but no car, what do you do?

Well. It’s actually not that hard, provided you have the proper equipment, or some bungee cords and lots of creativity. My personal style is the trailer. I got a Burley Nomad several years ago–perhaps the best Christmas present I’ve ever received. And so far, it’s been able to carry everything I ever need, from shopping to camping.

Today, for instance, I used it to grab a little fig tree we’d ordered, and some potting soil for some of my indoor plants:

It all fit nicely inside, and since the weight’s centered in the trailer behind my bike, it doesn’t affect the handling very much–it doesn’t pull to either side or make me feel too clunky, it just makes me go more slowly uphill.

Purportedly, this trailer carries up to 150 pounds. I’m pretty sure I schlepped more than that, though, when I tried to purchase an entire 7th grade classroom library at once and then had to get all those books from downtown Portland back to our house. And then to my classroom. And then back again when I left my job.

But other than carrying capacity, one of the best things about this trailer is how easy it is to attach and remove it from my bike. Of course there are different kinds of trailers that attach differently, but mine is a simple hook that I put on the skewer of my back hub. It sits on my bike all the time; whenever I want to use the trailer, I just attach it through that hook. It looks something like this:

It’s also nice since you can buy the hook piece individually, so James got one that he put on his bicycle too–that way, at a moment’s notice, either one of us can carry the trailer.

Of course, I’ve never carried a couch or any other unambiguously huge piece of furniture on my trailer, nor do I think I would be able to. However, the lovely people over at Shift have devised a way to effectively carry just about anything–including, yes, a full-size couch–by bicycle. Check out this awesome video for an example of moving an entire household by bike, no moving trucks required! Really, check it out–if you’ve never seen a bike move, it’ll blow your mind:)


  1. What size is your trailer? It looks pretty sweet.

    • It’s about 33in long, 18in wide, and 15in tall (measuring from the inside carrying space).

      You can use it as one big old space like that, or there’s a little mesh part you can put up in the middle to split in into two different internal spaces. I often do that if I use it for groceries: put the fragile things like produce in one half, and all the big, clunky, heavy things in the other.

      There are also lovely pockets along the inside walls, which are very nice for putting your small essentials that tend to get lost otherwise. Plus, it’s waterproof, which is basically essential in the Northwest:) If you need a trailer, this one is totally the way to go.

      • Oh, and I should have mentioned it’s about 53 inches long from the tip of its arm to the back, so it adds that much length to your bike. And it’s about 23 inches wide from the outside. I find that it’s just a little bit wider than my bike at the handlebars (which is good to know when you’re trying to fit through tight spaces:)

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