How to Get Your Stuff To Work By Bike

Stuff…we’ve got it, we need it, we want it. It’s all around us, and some of it needs to get from our homes to our offices. Today we look at how to get stuff to work on a bike.

Picture of two girls on a bike
It must be “take your daughter to work” day. Photo by flowizm via Flikr.

For biking to work to be a regular part of your life, you need to figure out what needs to be at work, why it needs to be there, and how it will get there.

Come up with a list of stuff that needs to move from your home to your office. The contents will be different for  everyone, but some common needs at work are: professional clothing, your laptop, lunch, various work papers, and snacks (after you lose that 50 pounds, you will want snacks).

This is not all the stuff you want at work of course, (you also need your potted plant, collection of Star Trek ships, talking plush Dilbert, etc.) but think hard about what actually needs to travel with you. For instance, I bring a shirt and trousers every day, but leave my dress shoes under my desk because one day I realized that carrying shoes back and forth was heavy, unnecessary (because I have other shoes) and was wearing them out. My shoes now travel home with me when they need to be shined–about once every other month.

Once you have your list, you need to decide how what you are going to transport and when. The biggest factor here is your commuting style.

If you are a commuter who drives occasionally, you may decide to bring all of your stuff for the week on Monday and then return it home on Friday. The advantage of doing this is that you will not need to carry much with you on your commute. If you go this route, however, realize that you will need a place to keep stuff all week: your office clothes will need to hang up  from Tuesday through Friday.

If you have entirely replaced your car with a bicycle, carrying a week’s worth of stuff is just not feasible, and you should plan to carry things every day. My daily load includes: shirt, trousers, tie?!, socks (I actually forget these about once every other month, so I keep a spare pair at work), lunch, a laptop, and occasionally a book or some papers.

Transporting Your Stuff

Over the years, I have gone from a backpack, to panniers, to a specialized bicycle garment bag.

I know a lot of people who use a backpack (I did for years), and with careful folding of your clothes and packing of your lunch (be especially careful when carrying any tomato-based food), a backpack is a fine choice…they are cheap and versatile. The thing I didn’t like about my backpack was the weight and the way it made my back sweat.

Panniers bags that attach to a rack on the front or rear of your bike. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes with varying numbers of pockets (good for separating tomato sauce from your socks). In order to use them you need to install some sort of cargo rack on your bike–you local bike shop can help you with this.

A garment bag is just like the one you take to the airport. It is long and folds over your cargo rack. I like this option because it keeps my center of gravity low and my clothes wrinkle and tomato sauce free.

With a little planning, you can get anything you need from your home to your office.

What questions or advice do you have for getting your stuff to work on a bike?