Every now and again I am asked which everyday items I find the trickiest to carry by bike. The expectation is for it to be something fragile, like eggs or glassware. But those I've actually found pretty manageable. Eggs do just fine in their cartons. Glassware and picture frames can be wrapped in crumpled paper or bubblewrap. Honestly, I have yet to break an egg or a wine glass on a two wheeled commute, and I'm not even especially careful. But what I do find tricky to transport by bike is plants - in particular, small potted plants with delicate stems and flowers. So easy they are to bruise and snap, that merely placing them at the bottom of a pannier or basket can result in a sad mangled mess by the end of a bumpy ride home. But you can't exactly wrap them in bubblewrap either! So for these dainty, fragrant beauties, I've come up with a system:
Take, for instance, the lovely little cyclamen. They come in beautiful shapes and colours and are fairly low-maintenance to have around the house. But they don't do so well in transport. The petals bruise easily when they come in contact with pretty much anything, and the flowers have a tendency to snap off at the slightest provocation. The stems go limp and droop from being jostled.
To keep this from happening, I have taken to constructing a protective collar. It is extremely easy to make: simply take stiff paper or thin cardboard, wrap it around your plant and tape it together.
The idea is to fit it fairly tightly around the plant and to make it high enough to cover the whole thing. This way, the cardboard collar both contains the stems and protects the petals from contact with other objects - even if the plant should tip over in transit.
But the key to preventing the plant tipping over is creating a stable platform. With the exception of rack-mounted crates, few bicycle baskets and panniers have stable, solid floors. More often the bottom of a bike bag or basket is curved, saggy, or uneven. So if you can find a small crate or box that will fit inside your bag and in which your plants can snuggly sit, this will make their transport a lot less perilous.
No matter what size you need, finding a suitable crate should not be difficult. Garden centers, flower shops and fruit and vegetable stands all have loads of crates and boxes that they happily give away to customers.
The crate I am using here is a tangerine crate that fits inside my Brompton "bagsket" snugly, and is extremely lightweight to boot (gotta shave off those grams where you can!).
To prevent the plants from shifting inside the crate, I stuff crumpled paper (or whatever soft objects are handy) into the gaps.
And voila, we are ready to ride! To provide some perspective, the places where I get my plants are 7+ miles from my house along bumpy roads. I've also carried my own plants as gifts to friends a similar distance away. And with the help of a stable platform and cardboard collars, they arrive intact.
Of course, not all potted plants require this much fuss. Geraniums, for example, I have found to be surprisingly indestructible and can transport them without the cardboard contraptions. But it's good to be able to carry even the most delicate little blooms by bike if I feel like it, with the help of some simple DIY.