How to Transport Fragile Items by Bicycle

Bicycle Basket - Holiday Gifts

Given my recent mishap with transporting a strawberry cake in my bike basket and with holiday baking and parties high on my agenda, I was happy to discover in Elly Blue’s excellent new book, Everyday Cycling: How to Ride a Bike for Transportation (Whatever Your Lifestyle), a section on how to transport fragile items by bicycle.

Especially during congested holiday periods (think gridlock alert in Midtown), traveling by bicycle can be the most practical and pleasurable way to get around the city, whether for work, running errands or visiting with friends and family. With a little extra care and planning you can help increase the odds that delicate goods carried in bike baskets or bags will arrive intact. The key, says Blue, is protecting against two main enemies: jostling and road vibration.

Secure your load – Hitting a pot hole, leaning into a turn, or taking evasive action to avoid an obstacle can cause shifting. Fragile items might bounce in their containers, or get slammed by neighboring objects. Pre-packaged bakery goods, such as cupcakes, should be okay as long as they are placed flat in the carrier and separated from hard objects. On a grocery run, items that bruise or squish, such as berries or grapes, can be stabilized with more pliable items like bags of lettuce. Set a cake firmly on a plate or cardboard disk inside a rigid box that’s as close as possible to its size.

Pad to absorb shock – Steady vibration, or road buzz, can gradually break down fragile items over the course of a ride. Combat this hazard by padding delicate goods and limiting ride time. For example, I might have helped prevent my cake from falling by placing a towel or blanket beneath the box.

“In the case of berries or flowers, your body is often going to be the best shock absorber,” writes Blue. “Carry these in a backpack rather than a pannier.”

For protecting cookies from breakage, follow the same techniques as for postal shipping. Martha Stewart’s website offers these tips:

  • Add a layer of bubble wrap to the top and bottom of the cookie tin or box.
  • Place this in a slightly larger box and fill the surrounding space with more bubble wrap, air-popped (no oil) popcorn or eco-foam. (You can re-use these materials.)
  • Line the bike basket or bag with padding.
  • Secure the box in a flat and upright position, using a cargo net, for example.

Finally, writes Blue, “Ride extremely slowly and carefully over the shortest distance possible. You can eke out a little extra shock absorption by letting some air out of your tires.”

Still, if a few cookies crumble in the end or a cupcake gets dented, they’ll taste just as good and be equally well appreciated.

Readers, what are your personal strategies for transporting fragile items by bicycle?

Photo: velojoy

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  • When I know I’m going to be carrying something fragile, I bring one of those cheap polar fleece blankets with me and wad it up all around the object. It also works great as a flexible cooler–I’ve kept a frozen food completely frozen for hours by wrapping it with one of these blankets and putting it in my pannier.

    • Alison, thanks for your comment. Using a fleece blanket not only for padding, but also for insulation in a pannier is a great tip!

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