Once a week I take my bike to the local supermarket to do my shopping. My panniers fill up really quickly and I always end up with bags on my handlebars (for UK people - the bags I'm talking about are the big blue Tescos reusable ones). Even with a backpack thrown into the mix, I still need to carry at least one bag, usually.

I know that there are plenty of easy solutions to the core problem (shop more often, take the bus, persuade a friend with a car to drive me there, etc) but let's look at the more fun side of things: what's the best way of getting a very large amount of shopping on my bike. I have a rear rack so suggestions for really big (backpack sized, large shopping bag sized or bigger) panniers and rack boxes would be useful, but let's not limit it to just that.

Also, if you do your shopping on your bike and have a similar problem, what do you do?

  • 1
    I always have this problem too! Regardless of how many panniers and backpacks I have I always buy just a little bit too much. It does not matter how much space I have! Nov 3, 2010 at 11:35
  • Also see this question: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/380/transporting-groceries
    – darkcanuck
    Nov 3, 2010 at 15:10
  • 2
    When you go into the shop, don't get a trolley, get a hand basket, that way you'll know when you've got too much to fit in your bags as you won't be able to lift it.
    – Amos
    Nov 4, 2010 at 14:40
  • @Amos: good suggestion. I find using the small upper part of the trolley works better, though. It's about the right size, but doesn't tire out my arm if I get a few heavier items.
    – freiheit
    Nov 4, 2010 at 20:00
  • 1
    Hanging bags off your handlebars is not good - if you need to fast-turn they can whip around and take your steering line in directions you don't want to go.
    – Criggie
    Mar 27, 2020 at 22:02

8 Answers 8


I do the supermarket run every week by bicycle - have done for about 7 years

Family of four so I more or less fill a full size shopping trolley every time.

This is made possible by a Christiana Trailer which is pretty much equivalent in load capacity to a shopping trolley:

Christiana Trailer

I have a bike that is now dedicated to the role of towing this beastie (for the supermarket run and for the Saturday morning run to the Greengrocer and the Butcher). Would only give it up for an actual cargo bike/trike

  • Looks very useful! I shall have to get one some day :) Nov 4, 2010 at 23:31
  • Trailers are wonderful - you trade added width and of course drag for massively increased (and simplified) capacity. I've used (various) trailers for Children, touring, shopping and general haulage. There are some rather nice cargo bikes and trikes too though!
    – Murph
    Nov 5, 2010 at 11:38

I use plastic waste baskets, mounted to rear rack by springs. The weight is low over rear tires, for extra stability.Just drill some drain holes and mounting holes through plastic containers, add cord loops, and attach springs to them. Adjust tilt so that pedal clearance is adequate in turns. P.s.Cable ties turn brittle in cold weather, so don't use them in winter.

Postscript. For the past year I have used new and better mounting hardware: stainless steel hose clamps attach the baskets to the bike rack. Some supplemental side holes in baskets are drilled to attach the lower parts of baskets to bike triangle using elastic cord. Also, side view of baskets with lids in the past month I have switched to baskets with flip-top lids that seal out rain and road grime.

  • That's awesome... got any photos? Dec 13, 2012 at 19:59

I have a very large basket made by Wald on the front of my bike in addition to the rack and panniers that you mention. The Giant Delivery Basket made by Wald (model 157b) is large enough to accomodate four to six shopping bags in addition to what I can fit into my panniers. I can haul a lot of groceries this way.

When I saw your post, I thought of this idea and also of possibly mounting a rack which will accept additional panniers to the FRONT of your bike. I once had a setup like this, mounting a second rack to the front so I could carry four panniers. It's another idea.

A caveat, though, is that anything you attach to the front of the bike will affect steering. When that Giant basket I mentioned is full of fruit... the momentum of the groceries force you to THINK about steering quite deliberately! The Giant basket is heavy enough to affect steering even when empty--this is not a setup you would want to carry up and down a full flight of stairs.

Trailers are the best option--because they keep the weight low and offer the most storage space.

And I must agree with an earlier comment... no matter how many bags or baskets I take, I tend to fill them with a loaf of bread to spare!


I have attached many things to my bike. Alas I only have a few sample pictures, to help illustrate everything I have learned so far:

fig1. This is a trailer I made:

Trailer I built

fig2. These are some alternate Tesco boxes:

Cardboard Tesco Vegetable Boxes

fig3. This is how I improvised with tape to attach wood and metal onto the rack:

Tape fixes everything

fig4. This is an improvised basket after the standard "Decathlon Modular System" basket broke:

Replaced DMS basket

The first thing I used was the panniers as seen in fig1, for a DOE (Duke of Edinburgh Award) cycling expedition; they were insufficient, so a tent, a carrimat (rolled up foam for under a sleeping bag) and a backpack was place on top of the bulging panniers and held down with bungees. As the panniers were equally bulging, almost anything could be securely held on with bungees.

When I started doing Tesco (a supermarket) shopping on the back, I put all heavy items into the panniers, and bulky lighter items such as bread, vegetables, tissues etc, I would stack into cardboard boxes as seen in fig2 - as I went round shopping. These boxes can sometimes be procured if you go to Tesco at 2am to shop; they throw them away otherwise (found in vegetables isles), and they are very good for stacking, sturdy, very light and FREE. When these are stacked, they can be balances across two bulging panniers, and provided you use enough bungee cords (i recommend the carabiner ended ones rather than hook-ended ones, you can get the carabiner ended ones from Poundland (a discount-store) sometimes, they vary in length and size and quality) you can securely attach your shopping, but don't go over bumps too fast, and don't tilt too much as your centre of gravity is somewhat raised despite keeping heavy things in the panniers.

Prior to using those boxes, I must admit I used a lot of plastic electrical insulation tape, which is cheap - provided you multi-layer it, it is very strong and good for short journeys. It can be used to improvise almost anything onto a bike, though it is time consuming - fig3. (Those are rolled hollow section metal bars, and some boards of wood). I had some bad experiences with tape before discovering the cardboard boxes, mostly I ran out when trying to secure two discounted boxes of 36 packs of hobnobs (biscuits/cookies) onto the top of an already sizeable shop. They kept falling as I had not enough tape; ultimately I put my coat around them and tied the arms around the seat to hold them on. The shops I did were for 4 students, once a week - a lot of food.

Entering the world of work, I figured I needed something more professional. Naturally I reminisced back to my previous experiences, and decided I would bungee tie my laptop bag onto the top of a rear basket, a basket which contained tools. I figured the sides of the basket would have sufficient 'bite' to grip my padded bag with the bungees. They did, but Decathlon's modular system basket was crushed over time; so I had to improvise a new basket on. A shopping basket seemed ideal, but they are expensive; so i used a dish-drying rack. That broke, so I got a chunkier one. Broke. Got an aluminium one, tried to solder the joints with electrical solder and it just ran off; progressed to glue gun which worked until the shaking caused the glue to fall off and the welds popped.

Once the recycling men did not come, so I used straps to attach the wheelie bin by the handles to the back of my bike, and thus towed it like a very noisy trailer and got some funny looks.

My most ambitious project was making the trailer seen in fig1, the metal I used was too thick so it was very heavy, and although the articulated joint I devised worked very well - the way it attached to the bike was a bit fiddly. You need to be very mindful of your increased width and lessened reversing ability! Snaking can occur when going downhill. The actual construction was quite a lot of work, I would advise against it unless you enjoy making things; as you might be left with only those memories and a not very useful trailer.

Currently I attached the top part of a rack to another rack to allow me to put XL double panniers far back from where my feet can hit them. If I were to shop with those, I would acquire some of those cardboard boxes and carefully strap 3-4 to the top.

I regret, very much, that I did not take more pictures. But I really doing it!

In summary, if you want to move a lot of shopping, and don't want a trailer, I would recommend large panniers with a couple of those stackable cardboard boxes on top, and a roll of tape in case you need to improvise attaching a bargain.

  • Tape is a terrible idea, only marginally better than nothing and not by much. If you want an emergency option, a roll of paracord works well for lashing things down, and my favourite are lengths of velcro which can fold-back on themselves, and work like reusable cable-ties.
    – Criggie
    Mar 27, 2020 at 22:06

Have you thought about attaching a trailer, such as this?


  • That's what I do - when I have a really large load, I just hook up the Burley trailer.
    – zigdon
    Nov 3, 2010 at 16:36

Longaberger (the American basket company) makes enormous backpack style baskets (The Tour With Me). I don't sell them and think they're a bit hideous looking; but for sheer volume carrying it would make for a decent alternative to standard backpacks and panniers. I have seen one that was approximately the size of a 5'8" woman's torso and neck (it went from her belt to about the bottom of her ears, and she rides a bike downtown comfortably enough).

alt text


I use Ortlieb's bike packer plus. A bit pricey, but I can fit a fair load of groceries in them, they are waterproof, and good for touring as well. I haven't done research to verify, but they are the largest Ortlieb panniers I've seen.

In addition to the Wald 157 that DC_CARR mentions, there is also the Wald 135, which is less gigantic but still holds a USA-standard paper bag of groceries, and the Wald 582 rear folding baskets that each will also hold a US-standard paper grocery bag. For a while I had a pair of 582's and a 135 on one bike, and three bags of groceries is a decent haul. Added bonus for Wald is that are crazy cheap (at least in the USA).


I'd definitely go with a trailer, and this past summer I found out why.

We have a Chariot Cougar 2 for among other things, hauling our kids around. Last year we decided to go bike-camping, my wife pulling our gear and me pulling the kids. It didn't work out quite so well, and I couldn't bike, so we decided instead to go to my father in law's place and take his car. My wife still hauled the gear out to his place.

All our gear fit in the trailer, just. Putting it into the car demonstrated that the capacity of the trailer and his trunk was pretty much equal. He drives an old Buick sedan.

When we go grocery shopping, the trailer likewise gets packed.

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