When Kate Mura had to move from one Portland, OR, neighborhood to another two miles away, she wanted to be eco-friendly with a car-free move. So, she moved the contents of her entire household, a 1BR apartment, by bike.

With the help of the “loose-knit and informal group of bike-loving folks” at SHIFT, a Portland cyclist group, Mura and 20 others hooked trailers, baby and pet carriers and baskets to their bikes, biking the streets with clothes, bookshelves and even a bed on their way to her new home.

Think you’d like moving by bike instead of using a moving company? Here are 6 moving tips on how to move by bike without getting stuck in first gear.

1. Put the Word Out

Shift will post your move on its calendar and announce it on the group’s mailing list so volunteers can sign up to help. You can even have a theme for the move such as costumes or fancy dress. Mura, an actress, set out fantasy masks and costume jewelry for the movers to wear. “We made a bit of a parade out of it,” says Mura.

2. Be Prepared

“Be really prepared the day of your move so that people can just load-up their bikes and ride,” says the SHIFT website.

You’ll want to make sure you have at least one cargo trailer that can be pulled by bicycle, this will make things a lot easier.

Pack stuff and organize it all ahead of time. SHIFT recommends shooting for a 45-minute loading time to accommodate coffee drinkers and latecomers.

3. Pack with a Purpose

Moving by bike isn’t the same as loading up a bunch of boxes into a truck. Your movers may have to balance items on handlebars, and if something shakes loose, there’s no truck bed to catch it. Mura made sure everything was boxed up and taped securely and varied the sizes and contents.

“I had lots of different sizes, shapes and weights because some people had bike trailers, but others only had dog and baby carriers to load,” says Mura.

4. Think Outside the Box

When Seattle Bike Blog founder and editor Tom Fucoloro moved from the Central District of Seattle, WA, to the Wallingford/District area, his bicycle moving crew filled backpacks, baskets, tote bags and other random containers with items that needed to move.

5. Plan the Route Carefully

When Mura showed a SHIFT member her route for the move ahead of time, she had to go back and find a new route. “There’s a hill involved,” the veteran bike mover told her. “SHIFT is fantastic about helping movers plot routes, so we don’t have to deal with high hills,” says Mura. “We plotted out a route with no hill involved and went around the back way.”

6. Be Ready for Inclement Weather

Even though Portland is a temperate climate, snow flurried on the day Mura moved. SHIFT recommends having tarps on hand to cover cargo in case it rains.

7. Stock Up on Tie-Downs

Make sure you have more than enough bungee cords, compression straps, zip ties, rope and other tie-downs to secure boxes and other items to trailers, bike racks or baskets.

8. Appoint a Manager

Fucoloro recommends designating a “sweep,” a person with bike tools and extra straps who can fix bike issues during the move, adjust unbalanced loads and keep the moving group together as they ride. Make sure everyone knows who is the sweep.

9. Provide Refreshments

You don’t want to be “that ungrateful mover” who lives on in the memories of bike mover volunteers who went hungry because you were too cheap to buy donuts in the morning or finish off with pizza.

“Six to ten people hung around after we moved, and I took them out to a local pizza place for lunch,” says Mura.

10. Have a Back-Up Plan

“You might need to rent or borrow a truck to finish the job,” says SHIFT. A lot of items and boxes can fit on trailers but some furniture may be too bulky or the number of volunteers may be smaller than expected.

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