Whilst I type this, we are just a few days from Christmas and shopping has become more of an ordeal than it usually is.
We’ve seen cars queuing to get into most of the car parks around Cardiff city centre; a high volume of traffic entering the city from the M4 and high levels of air pollution hovering over the city.
If you want to avoid all of that (well, apart from the pollution –you have to breathe…) you could do your shopping by bike. However, this presents a number of challenges of its own. How do you carry your purchases? How do you find somewhere to park? How do you remain humble whilst sailing past miles of queuing traffic, only to park up at a free rack and get on with your day?
How you carry your luggage depends entirely on what bike you have. If you have rack mounts, a rack and a pair of panniers is one way to go. It keeps the weight off your back; it gives you plenty of room to store your acquisitions and it’ll usually double quite nicely as a mud guard.
However, it does make the bike feel a bit weird, especially if one pannier is heavier than the other. The other option is a ruck sack. This may give you a sweaty back if you have far to travel, but it’ll be less of a faff when you reach your destination and easier to carry around the shops with you.
Where to park?
If you are shopping in the centre of Cardiff, you are probably planning to head for St Davids 2 or the Arcades. There’s a few stands on the Hayes, some near City Hall and some by the library. These are arguably the ones to go for, as they are high-traffic areas and people will notice someone taking an angle grinder or long-handled bolt-cutters to your lock.
If you are heading out-of-town, perhaps to the retail park in Leckwith, there’s plenty of bike parking there, as well as places to buy toys, games, clothes and food.
You really should consider using a good lock though. Whether your bike is valuable or not, if you want to ride home, don’t take any chances. You can get a gold-rated U-lock for around £20 and a cable for your front wheel for about a tenner.
For more advice on security, we have a post for that.
Of course, shopping by bike will limit the size of the items you can buy. You’re unlikely to be able to carry something like a TV on the back of your bike –nor should you. However, these large and expensive purchases are often best made with a certain degree of patience, giving yourself time to read reviews & compare prices before having them delivered to your house. You can still ride into town, head up to John Lewis (for example) and validate your decision to order said item online.
However, the size of the items you can carry home are mostly limited by your choice of bag. A ruck sack with a single large section will take far more than a bag partitioned to numerous sections. Similarly, two large panniers will carry quite a lot, but no, nothing like a TV.
Another thing to keep in mind is tyre pressures. The weight of your shopping, plus your lock AND your body will put a lot of weight over your back wheel. If your back tyre is lacking air, you may end up with a pinch flat –or if you are taking a trail, a thorn in your tyre on the way home. As luck would have it, we have an article on avoiding punctures too.
Holding back the smugness
So, why would you do your shopping by bike? Well, put simply you get to avoid the inconvenience & cost of paying for parking. It also means that if you’ve put a few miles on the clock getting into town, you’ll have earned that coffee & cake before you head for home.
You’ll also hopefully arrive home feeling far less stressed than you would have if you had driven. It may seem like more of a hassle before you leave the house, but when you see some of the queues for parking, it’ll suddenly feel like it was worth the effort.