Bicycle Cargo, Chapter 1: Racks and Bags

A blue cargo bike with a rack and storage outside of a bike shop.

Splendid Cycles / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This is the first of a four-part series on how you can carry all kinds of cargo cargo -- from groceries to kids to camping gear -- on your bike.

Bicycles are, as we keep telling our readers ad nausem, the most efficient means of transport humankind has ever devised. Mostly people take that to mean in the transportation of people. But what might have gone unnoticed by many was that bikes are not only brilliant for commuting, recreation or racing, they are also excellent at hauling cargo. From surfboards to sunflowers, from wedding cakes to wardrobes. kids to compost. We've covered many of the myriad forms of bicycle cargo loaders over the years, but thought why not group them all in the one place?

And add in a few more we hadn't yet got around to mentioning. There are so many options out there for Bicycle Cargonistas that we've broken the collection up into four chapters. With this post we'll deal with Bicycle Cargo Racks & Bags. But keep an eye out in coming weeks for over 20 Bicycle Cargo Trailers, and about the same number of Bicycle Cargo Extended Frames. Then there'll a whole swag of Improvised Bicycle Cargo. As with any list, we'll no doubt have made glaring omissions, at least by some considerations. Please help us cover those bases by including your favourites in the comments section.

Bicycle Cargo - Racks

Racks or carriers can be added to existing bicycle geometry to increase the load bearing area of a bike. Or the bike can be specifically engineered to incorporate the rack into its overall design. As Joseph Aherne of Aherne Cycles sees it, if "anything I can design into a rack that will make you more likely to ride your bicycle everyday, then I'm certainly going to try and to make it work. That's what's so great about racks, they let people do more on their bicycles." Below are some examples of racks and bags that will hopefully get you on your bike more often.

Ahearne Cycles

Ahearn Cycles Rear Grocery Rack photo

Hailing from Portland, Oregon, as it seems does ever self-respecting human powered business is Ahearne Cycles. They handcraft a wide variety of custom racks to suit customers individual needs. The one we selected here (with difficulty from a broad selection of styles) is a rear mounted grocery rack. You'll note the purpose-built slot for carrying a U-Lock. But you could also request an integrated bottle opener, front light mount for generator lights, fishing pole carrier, yoga mat holder, or whatever your heart desires, and purse can afford (Aherne Racks start at $325 USD)

Bee3 POD

Bee3 Pod bike bag photo

Bee3 POD is the first product from the UK's Spring3design. Unfortunately it has yet made it big in the land of retail, even though it was featured on The Apprentice TV show. The POD part of the name stands for "Pop on delivery", as the pannier opens up to reveal it was just transporting other bags (clipped to internal straps) like a laptop briefcase, suit bag or shopping bags.

Bike Commuters

Bike Commuters DIY Rack photo

This blog posted a nifty Do It Yourself (DIY) porteur style rack. It may be a tad more agricultural in appearance to some of the highly crafted racks shown here, but you can build one with simple tools and a few basic parts. If functionality is more your thing than finesse, then the step-by-step instructions, as explained by the rack's creator, Ann Rappaport, are certainly well worth a gander.


cetma racks various trio photo

Also in Oregon, but this time in Eugene, is where CETMA Cargo's Lane Kagay can be found handmaking his front-of-bicycle steel racks, tough enough to withstand the daily abuse of real-life cycle courier-work and loads of up to 40 lb (18 kg), or whichever comes first. Lane reckons that rear wheels and rear bike frames are weaker that the front, that's why he puts the load where you can see it - up front. His signature seven rail rack is $140 powered-coated and delivered in the US. Three and five rail racks are cheaper.

David Hembrow

David Hembrow willow bicycle baskets photo

Harking back to the glory days of utility bikes, David Hembrow is a Brit who moved to the Netherlands, because the cycling is more ingrained in the culture there. He continues to make, by his own hand, gorgeous willow baskets for all parts of a bike. For €81 you can pick a tradition curvy front bicycle basket inclusive of postage. David also make baskets for deep front carriers, Brompton folding bikes, BOB Trailers (see our next chapter) and the classic Butcher or Delivery bike. Don't have a quality rack worthy of such a basket? Fret not, David has those too.

Fast Rider

Fast Rider Metal Mesh Basket photo

Back in 1966, Hesling Products BV of the Netherlands first tried their hand making bicycle bags. These days they have a vast collection of all manner of bags, baskets and panniers under the branding of Fast Rider. Here we are showcasing their metal mesh front handlebar basket, which detaches so you can easily carry goods on or off the bike.