Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Ikea, Part II (aka Fun with the cargo trailer)

Last time I biked to IKEA, I saw a cool shoe cabinet. Fortunately at that time they were out of stock (I swear IKEA is actually Swedish for out of stock) because I would have probably bought it - and at 40 pounds and the large package dimensions it would have never gone on my bike rack.

I had been looking for an excuse for a little while to rent the trailer I had been eyeing (ooh this looks fun) outside of Cycle Therapy. Yesterday I used the handy-dandy stock checking tool on IKEA's website and found out that they had it in stock at last! With the great weather still continuing, I figured it would be a fun ride to go get the cabinet. Now there's probably a lot of much easier ways to go get something from IKEA without a car - "Hey <friend with car>, wanna go on an IKEA trip?", transit there and cab home, or order online (shipping by post is the same price as the trailer rental). But none of these options are as much FUN FUN FUN... And I wanted to prove (to myself? to the onlookers?) that its possible to transport stuff using person-power.

Did I mention its 20 km each way from my house to IKEA? Ah well I had nothing pressing to do today. (this is the problem with not working, inevitably I have too much time on my hands to go shop and spend money, and I calculated how much time I can take off based on spending at my rate of burn while working) Anyway I went by the store, and they bolted the piece on my bike to attach the trailer hitch to. Its well designed - the bike can lie flat while the trailer stays up and the bike turns very easily. The only thing that bothered me was how long I was with the trailer. (Its the 64" trailer made by Cargo Sport Utility Trailers. On the website there's an example where someone used one of these with a solar panel to run a solar powered juicing business. Tres cool!) I hate driving big vehicles of any sort. My spatial perception is not so great, and when I had a car I seemed to forever be bumping into things (fortunately only stationary objects that scratched the car, and not humans where I leave a MUCH MUCH wider margin of error). The trailer has a lot of neato features - it has a piece that easily moves down to use it as a stand, and this model had slots at the side for garden tools. I believe the builder of the trailers will customize the trailer for what you would like to use it for if you order one.

I biked home, where the trailer got a few interesting comments from the neighbours and then loaded up my broken wood mini blind to take back to IKEA. One of the internal pieces snapped, and I figured there was an off chance that maybe IKEA could order me the part for it. It seems too often in our society something breaks we just throw it away and buy something else. I'd had the blind for a couple of years, so of course the receipt was long gone, but it still has an IKEA product sticker on it. Talk about great customer service - they gave me a store credit for the full price of the blind, I just had to produce my drivers license. (Scarily enough I still have one of those, but based on how I drive its probably best I rarely make use of it) Unfortunately they were out of stock to get a replacement to match the other one I have in my bedroom.

Got a compliment from a crossing guard while I stopped before making a right turn as she was in the intersection (hey cyclists know the rules of the road better than the drivers do. yup!) Anyway no problems with navigating it unloaded to IKEA (well a driver of a duct cleaning truck that could EASILY pass on the wide four lane road in Etobicoke YELLED out his window at me, but I couldn't understand what he was saying), although even unloaded it was slower going and I was already pretty tired by the time I got there. Found a handy railing for locking the bike and the trailer up to.

I picked up the shoe cabinet, and a handy dandy plastic bag dispenser to deal with the chaos under my kitchen sink. I restrained myself from buying more stuff that I didn't need just because I had the cargo trailer and I could. It would have been really fun though (from a spectator point of view) to haul a couch or something like that on the trailer.

The trailer has compartments for rubbermaid-type bins, and the store gave me one to bring along. It was handy for stowing little things. The hard part of loading up was actually lifting the shoe cabinet from the store trolley onto the trailer. Its HEAVY! (and no offers of help)It fit really well onto the trailer so string tying and bungee cording was minimal. I biked mainly on the waterfront bike path where possible (really low use midday on a weekday in late September) to have less things to navigate around. The ride was sooo much nicer than the last ride with the weight on the rack - mostly because everything felt balanced this way. It was definitely slower going pulling the load home than going there unloaded, and it was into a headwind to boot, but not painfully slow. On one tight turn on the path on the way home I knocked against something at the side and skewed the load a bit. I stopped to try to rejig it and my bike fell over and I could not seem to get it upright again. The hitch pin was easy to take off though, so not much problem detaching and reattaching it, and I was on my way again.

Much to my dismay they had closed and locked the yellow gates on the path by some railway tracks that were open going the other direction. There was *just* enough room to navigate around with the trailer, but I needed to rely on some cyclists behind me to help push the trailer to the side after getting stuck.

After unloading from IKEA, I called my dad to ask him some advice about some lumber I needed to buy. (8 and 10 foot long pieces) But its not possible to buy that on your bike he insisted. I mentioned having a long cargo trailer, but he still seemed pretty skeptical of how I was going to do it. I rode to the lumber store - its pretty close, in walking distance of my house. In fact last time I was there I carried home a 16 foot piece of brick mold trim on foot, which was tricky holding to not whack pedestrians or parallel-parked cars. But 6 pieces of 1x8 are pretty heavy to carry all at once, so I thought the trailer would make an efficient way to do this. It was pretty easy - just tie the stack to each cross piece. I asked for a long load flag from the store to make sure nobody was going to run into me from behind. The guys in the lumber yard seemed impressed I was carrying this by bike, and one guy in a truck is like wow, I've never seen that before.

Here's a picture of the bike with the lumber after I got it home. Yup I always think its so terrible and also white trashy to park on your front lawn but hey its not a car, and it was the easiest way to unload quickly.

I'm very tempted to want to actually buy one of these to have around. The 24" ones they have for sale at Cycle Therapy might be easier to store and definitely easier to ride with. Good for a big bin with some groceries, or putting a cat cage on top of to take my cats to the vet. (George is so terribly heavy that although I can carry him, I cannot carry two cats plus a cat cage at one time)
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