How to Make Your Rounds at the Farmers' Markets Without a Car
Perhaps you're summer plan is to stock your pantry with a Portlandia amount of pickles from every farmers' market in town. But you're not planning to cart your cache home by car, which means you're going to need some bike-friendly ways to pedal your produce home.
Here's a few:
Bags From Freight, Zugster, Rickshaw Bagworks, and more...
If you don't need to haul a bushel of corn, you can probably make due with a sturdy bag. The Bay Area is home to some of the finest bagmakers in the world, and while you might end up with a sweaty back, a backpack or a messenger pack is probably the least intrusive and least expensive way to increase your carrying capacity. A large bag from Freight, Zugster, Rickshaw, Mission Workshop, Chrome, or anywhere else, will probably fit more carrots than you can possibly carry.
Racks are kind of the old standby, making a big comeback, even on many entry-level rides. It won't be easy to find anyone making any production racks in the Bay Area, but there are plenty of shops that specialize in the non-competitive side of cycling, including reasonable accessories like racks, bags, lights, and bike camping supplies. Rivendell Bicycle Works is just a few BART Stops away in Walnut Creek, and offers some of the classiest racks from Nitto for both front and rear, along with sensible bags, mostly in tweed. BoxDog Bikes is in San Francisco is another spot for racks from a number of manufacturers including SOMA, a hometown favorite. Pair a good pannier with a good rack and you've got a good combination for a pile of produce.
These corrugated plastic panniers are expressly made for tackling farmers' markets. Mark Kohr, founder of Donkey Boxx says, "The Donkey Boxx came about because my wife and I would ride to the farmers' markets here in Berkeley and get beautiful food. I was using panniers at that time, but with the weight in the bags would draw the bags inward and crush and crack the beautiful heirloom tomatoes that cost good money. I thought a box pannier might work well because there would be no inward pressure on the food and I could place the tomatoes on top."
Kohr calls the Donkey Boxx, "appropriately unprecious" because it is easy to use, inexpensive, and attaches with zip ties. It's also waterproof and easily washable; both important features in any item you plan to use to move food.
If regular racks aren't enough then Oakland based Xtracycle is the answer. These long tail bolt-on racks, and long tail complete bikes can dramatically expand your cargo capacity. They make custom bags that are rated at 100 pounds per side, and you can even carry kids (yes, more than one) or adults. For maximum capacity add the SideCar which can carry 250 pounds. That's a lot of potatoes! One of their bikes is actually called the Radish, which probably makes it the ideal farmer's market bike by default.
Other Cargo Options
Front loading cargo bikes offer an alternative for those who need to haul a whole lot on a regular basis. Brands like Christiania, Cetma, Bakfiets, Metrofiets, and other make bikes that can carry hundreds of pounds. Blue Heron Bikes in Berkeley is a spot that specializes in cargo bikes, and they carry Bullitt and Larry vs. Harry front loaders. If you're plan on bringing the whole cow home from the farmer's market, this is probably the way to go.
See? There's no reason to skip the farmers' market -- or worse -- drive there.
Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He's can be spotted dragging himself up a hill -- literally and metaphorically.