Bikes are the coolest invention in the universe

First off, how short are you?
Second- it depends. Cheap disposable can be frustrating (as they’re seldom assembled properly and they break pretty easily…), Craigslist can be frustrating to be able to identify the “good stuff” and they deal with sorting out whatever needs fixing. Either way, it can be tough.
Terrain- paved? Gravel? Hilly? How many groceries are you talking about (small run, or full-blown family-of-five-for-the-week-style)?


I’m 5’3" so not too far out of the norm, but I can’t even mount many bikes.

I would need to start out on our gravel driveway for 1/5 of a mile, then highway for 1/3 of a mile, then residential or small rural roads, not very hilly, and paved. Just small grocery runs, buying about what I could fit into a backpack.

In what is becoming my standard response here, I’m going to recommend a small mountain bike from the late 90’s or so. Ideally with no front suspension fork. That’d be craigslist (if you’re luckily someplace with a decent bike culture) or ebay (if you’re not).
5’3" shouldn’t be a problem, though you’ll want a pretty small bike- 14" frame (or so…). Mountain bikes of that era had 26" wheels, which are smaller than a lot of contemporary bikes, and that’ll help with stand-over height. Skipping the suspension for will help too- it’ll be lighter, have fewer parts to break, and it’ll reduce the height of the bike as well.
Maybe something like this:


Thanks! I’m not sure it’s going to happen at a price like $300, but maybe I’ll find a deal.

Depends on how short. My wife is 5’2" and a 24" wheel bike is perfect for her. Stick with a women’s frame to start- it’s way easier to mount or get off in a hurry. I think we only got stuck with the traditional men’s diamond frame because of inferior material science 120 years ago and then tradition made it stick.

Not sure how Craigslist is where you are, around here (FL) if you wait you can pick up a decent cruiser for $30, a ratted out MTB for less. Be careful, tubes, tires, and a chain can add up to more than the bike, and waaaay more if the LBS does it.

ETA: I think @nothingfuture is right about the frustration of a poorly assembled box store bike; they’re often lacking in grease, have bad chain alignment, poorly adjusted brakes, and crooked forks. All of these will create inefficiency which drags (get it?) down the swoopy, I’m flying! experience that a good ride can deliver. A two mile slog with a grinding crank and rubbing rim is not the joy that is cycling.

That said you can find some that are either older before everything went to hell (a lie, even 1960s department store bikes can be pretty rough), or have been breathed upon by someone who had some idea of what they were doing. If you’re handy basic maintenance on a single speed coaster brake isn’t that hard.

Now that we’ve scared you, go get something you can comfortably afford and be a kid again.

ETAA: A hard wire basket on the handlebars can be an awful way to carry home groceries.


yeah, you’re right. I see that now. I was just excited because you can’t really find that style for bicycles as an aftermarket thing anywhere. the ones I’ve found are like 1000 quantity from Alibaba or something. I keep kicking around the idea of rigging tent shock-cords to the rack or something like that, but it’s not terribly pressing.

Having done years of rear rack only, I prefer my current set up because

  • start/stop city traffic. when you have >50 lbs on the rear and you’re stopped or going slow to get back up to speed, it leverages across the whole bike to the pivot–the headset–in front; it wants to jack-knife. at speed, momentum keeps it up. at a stop, you wrestle it until the light changes. emergency stop/starts take on an extra layer of difficulty.
    With the load directly under the pivot that your hands are above, your legs make a tripod and it just balances there no sweat.

  • the combination of low mounted baskets (the black basket above is just EDC tools/raingear, it’s light,) the handlebar set-up, and wheel stabilizer all help optimize having the load in front. It handles more sluggishly under load, but smoothly and mostly normal, to me.

  • not pictured in that run, but I usually reserve the rear rack for 20lbs of dog food, so the load is actually fairly balanced fore-and-aft. before I got the front rack, dog food and two rear traditional nylon cloth panniers-full (overflowing, actually) of groceries would be on the back rack. I could do it, but it was pretty miserable.

[Also, although the panniers were large, loading them was a puzzle; with the non-flat bit cut out to prevent heelstrike and all the different sized pockets, clasps, zippers… I knew how to do it quickly, but with the baskets I just throw everything in there and go. so nice]

BONUS: the top compartment of the new-style compact shopping carts is roughly analogous to what I can hold on the bike, so it’s easy to “read” what my max load is before I over-purchase.

I think Velo Orange still has one. but of course, all chaincases are only for single-speed drivetrains (excepting an IGH will work, of course) How I wish a chaincase could be engineered for a derailleur set-up. we put a man on the moon in '69. what’s the hold-up already?

@cleveremi second @nothingfuture’s input. getting a good used 90s MTB (or something else suitable) for under $200 is usually very reasonable in the US, just how quickly one will come up in your market is the bigger question. if you want to post links to the Craigslist(s) in your area, we should be able to crowdsource something good, I think.


Dude, Harsh. I walked into a bike shop not TOO long ago and the guys there were super chill, helpful. Didn’t try upselling me on anything and let me brose at my own pace and ‘try on’ the different bikes without insisting ‘no brah THIS is what you want.’

Sadly I do not live near this shop else I would give them my business now that I live somewhere I can bike.


I have been getting out on mine a lot more lately. I don’t remember if I talked about it earlier, it’s based upon a mid-weight Eddy Merckx steel racing frame which I built up when I was a mechanic. My main obstacle is that I hate biking in my town, as the roads are cluttered and the people are jerks. So I have just needed places to go. But I am not from this area so even after a few years was unsure how to find my way around for distance riding. About two weeks ago I went for a nice one-way ride to a nearby city, which was about 20 miles. The route was really rough, as it took me through about 5+ miles of shopping mall hell. Lots of multi-lane traffic with most of it going in and out of parking lots. I took a train back because it was late and I didn’t really know the route. This weekend I picked a different route which goes along the shore and makes an amazing difference. The roads have nice pavement, huge shoulders, and a lot less traffic. That time I biked back also in the dark, for about a 40 mile ride - my longest in probably 15 years or so.

I still often have dreams about my days as a bike messenger in Boston. Last night I had this crazy dream that I came out of a building and was talking with some other messengers when a friend buzzed us with a new pedalled mini helicopter. It was very realistic and I was ridiculously excited to see it. Anybody know of any decent bicycle/helicopter hybrids out there?




Velo Orange have a full chainguard (at least, they did when last I checked, and it’s kind of on perma-sale) but it isn’t fully enclosed like true chaincase. No oilbath!

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I’m aware of this one, which it seems they’ve offered for at least the last seven years or so. Works for protecting paints and shoes, but does little to protect the chain. Still, a lot better than those hockey-stick jokes they call chain guards.


Thanks for the breakdown. I’ve never played with any weight upfront more than a randonneur bag, well, not since disastrous results from mega huge wahl baskets back in the day, and was curious. Never find front racks in the alley though… maybe time to make a set.

I started a spreadsheet for a new bike tonight. Ugh.
Sure, I have snobby taste and all that. But lord almighty things get pricey quick.
Even with a cheap frame, the money gets brutal in a hurry.
And then it starts coming down to compromises- do I have to have the Chris King headset? (Yes) Is 11sp really a good thing and would less be ok? Are dropper posts really that important? Are carbon fiber rims a wise choice? Etc etc.
it leaves me wondering how many parts I could pull off other bikes. Maybe it’s time to trip the fleet and sell off some stuff?
It feels wrong just saying that- but that’s likely the right move here. Maybe.


Another thing I was going to mention - although my main ride is doing great and has hardly needed any work over the past 15 years, my shoes are another story. My SIDIs are almost 20 years old, and they are seriously starting to fall apart. My cleats barely work anymore either. With pretty much no income I am going to need to have my feelers out there for deals when I get some odd job going on. It’s going to be a downgrade too, my Tecno-fire 2 are an ancestor to their Dragon line, and it’s doubtful I will be affording those.

I have always used mountain shoes and cleats despite being on the road. Having tread on the sole makes them much easier for alternating cycling and running around (messengering!) and is less wear on the cleat. I started with Shimano but their mountain cleats (at least of the late 90s early 00s) wear out very easily. I was replacing them 3-4 times per year compared to Time ATAC MTB were the cleats last me for years.

Now that I am thinking about it, if I need to go the ghetto route, I might try to buy one of the dragon tread packs and epoxy them onto my Tecnos. The buckle and strap sets are scarce now but they might be cheap if there’s no demand. If I try to refurbish these I might be able to do it for about $100, and they would be better than I’d expect to find new for the same price.



Come on, man… get your hand off it. Nobody needs to spend more than $40 on a headset.

I have a Record one, and nice as it is, it’s wank and I know it.

…Remember the special GT track bikes they made for the '96 Olympics? They had plastic washers for a headset.


I like the spreadsheet method for this very reason. On a component-by-component basis, we can talk ourselves into splurging. Having that grand total visible at all times shatters this delusion.


Yeah, but: I bleeding hate headsets, and King just work, period. Forever. No matter what.
I’ve got them on some of my other bikes, and ludacris as they are… yeah.
Of course, is simultaneously be totally ok with running a 9sp drivetrain (as opposed to 10sp or 11sp or the hilarity that is 12sp…). And while a Thomson stem and dropper are on the sheet at this moment, there’s a pretty low chance of those being on the final build.
So in an compromise. Really, I can.


the cat-litter bucket mod is a pretty neat waterproof pannier set-up, but making a rack itself seems a dicey proposition, unless you are a welder.


Wow thats pretty awesome and the rigid boxes will be great protecting the contents from minor dings too. Not sure about the front loading but it works I guess.


Sidi’s have different styles, some have the replaceable tread spikes in more places than others. Those things are usually plasticy and hard though, so still not great for walking on slick surfaces, but ever since Sidi started offering wide sizes I’ve been even more in love with them.

Shimano just has way to skinny a shoe, like Nike I always feel like I am wearing a way too long elf canoe shoe for my fat EE feet.

Agree that the CK headset can do no wrong!

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