#Quaxing at Currumbin

Last week I learnt a new word. It wasn’t just a word from the dictionary that I hadn’t seen before. It was a new, new word.

Back in January, an exchange on Twitter between a citizen and a politician in New Zealand saw the politician tweet: “the very idea that people lug home their weekly supermarket shopping on the train is fanciful”.

To which the citizen replied “I get groceries on my bike”.

The politician, Dick Quax, thought the citizen was joking (he wasn’t) and tweeted a flippant reply.*

In the Twitter-sphere, people started posting photos of themselves shopping by bikes, trains and buses identifying their posts with the hashtag “Quax”. The hashtag started trending in New Zealand and globally, to the point that a definition was assigned**. This is the new, new word that I learnt last week:

“Quax, [verb; past: quaxed, present: quaxing] — to shop, in the western world, by means of walking, cycling or public transit.”

Over the past five months, I’ve been regularly quaxing. I’ve been collecting photos of my shopping journeys with a plan to write about it but to just call it shopping seemed so uninteresting… Enter this new, new word… and shopping just became a whole lot more exciting to talk about!

As a result of my bicycle experiment, the groceries for our household are predominantly transported by bicycle.

Someone said to me a few months ago, “how do you get your shopping… you must do a lot of small trips.” Well not really although we do buy from a few different locations. We gather supplies from our local Saturday markets, from two speciality organic shops and also some items from the local shopping centre. My return journey to these destinations ranges from less than one kilometre to just over nine kilometres.

Importantly, our bikes have panniers – they’re the yellow and black saddle bags that you see attached to the side of my bike – which carry quite a good volume of groceries. It is an acquired art though to successfully arrange groceries in the hollow of a pannier and this adds a little time to my shopping excursions. Also to cater for fridge items, I carry one or two small soft coolers each with an ice brick.

Two weeks ago, I managed to carry this bundle of shopping in my two panniers: 2 litres of milk, 1kg of potatoes, 3kg of oranges, a bunch of kale, a tin of coconut cream, 1 dozen eggs, 400gms of beef, 500gms butter, a bunch of celery, half a kilo of grapes and a litre of yoghurt. Yep! that was a slow 4.5km ride home and perhaps my biggest load ever but no real worries.

There are a few tricky items that have needed some imagination to carry home. There is no way a twelve pack of toilet paper will fit in a pannier (in a Dutch cargo bike it would and I can’t wait to see more of them getting around the streets in Australia). Neither does a 15 litre carton of spring water fit. And when it comes to mango season in the summertime, carrying a tray of mangos home is definitely an adventure. Yet all of these groceries, while awkward or delicate to transport, have been transported home by bicycle, safely.

So I can happily report that quaxing at Currumbin is alive and well!

12 pack of toilet paper secured for the ride home.

12 pack of toilet paper secured for the ride home.

Groceries waiting to be packed into panniers

Groceries waiting to be packed into panniers.

Panniers packed with kale peeking out.

Panniers packed to the max with kale peeking out.

A tray of mangos becomes...

A tray of mangos becomes…

... is emptied and fruit placed delicately in the panniers with bags for cushioning.

this… the mango tray is emptied and fruit placed delicately in the panniers with bags for cushioning.

Heading home from quaxing :-)

Heading home from quaxing 🙂

*The full twitter exchange can be read here.

** NZ tweeter @ByTheMotorway

18 Comments on “#Quaxing at Currumbin

  1. You are an inspiration Gail, so much so that I have pulled down my old bike from the rafters in the garage, dusted it off, bought new tyres, a bell and a mirror, not to mention a cute little wire basket that I can transport a few groceries home from the local shops!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve seen some incredible things carried on bikes. We only have to look at other countries with a great cycling culture (such as Amsterdam) or places where many people could never afford a car (such as many African and Asian countries) to see how it’s done. Somehow humans managed to live for 1000s of years without cars to transport their food! I get quite sick of the scoffing comments. “It’s impossible. It can’t work, ” is said far too much. Great post, Gail. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It takes a little more effort and some imagination but that’s part of the enjoyment too. I feel great when I’m riding my groceries home having solved any tricky packing and because it makes me think carefully about what I really need to buy… and what I don’t need ;-). Panniers carry a lot of groceries. Baskets are another solution as are trailers and the Dutch cargo bikes which are so prevalent in countries with strong bike cultures that I’m sure we’ll see their wheels turning here in Australia before too long!
      Thanks for reading Jane, glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved this post!
    Jane is quite right about this practice being an old one rather than new. I remember as a child seeing people use their bikes (and there were many of them) to transport all manner of things including groceries. Once, as a child, I saw a man with a box of ferrets on his pannier! A little friend I had from school used to balance on her father’s handlebars (no helmets) to come from another suburb to play. We didn’t call them ‘play dates’ then. All it takes, as you have shown Gail, is a little bit of ingenuity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A box of ferrets on a pannier… what a sight! 🙂
      It’s refreshing to remember how people used to move around on bicycles and by foot because there wasn’t the luxury of car travel which we’ve become so conditioned to accept as normal. I bet your once little friend has lovely memories of riding on her Dad’s handlebars. Lovely stories Robyn, thanks!


  4. I thought the whole topic was fairly representative of the naieve views many non-cyclists hold.
    I do confess though that my partner and I don’t do ALL of our weekly shopping by bicycle; possibly about one third, maybe half on a good week. At present we only have mounts on the front of our Bromptons to hold bags and the maximum recommended load for those is 10kg. Sounds a lot, but when you’re buying fruit and veg (and perhaps a bottle of wine) at a farmers market, it soon adds up. Rear racks probably won’t be too long in coming so we can carry more!
    As fun as the #quaxing hastag has been, I’m not sure how deeply it has resonated amongst non-cyclists. Have people brushed it off as cyclists just poking fun (or kicking up a fuss) again? I hope not.
    Great post Gail 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d like to hope that #quaxing has raised some awareness about the possibility and practicality of shopping by bicycle Dayna. The response to this post and the supporting comments, here and on my Facebook page, are encouraging. Humour is such a leveller and a very pleasant way to open minds and hearts.

      Doing any shopping with a folding bike is impressive I reckon! You’re right, ten kilograms does add up very quickly. Before we bought our Vivente tourers with panniers, we owned Giant hybrid bikes and each had a small basket (probably with similar weight boundaries to yours). So we’d each take a backpack and that added some extra volume for carrying things. As for any trips to hardware stores or garden shops for bigger items… well that’s when the car has to get a run 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • While I feel like those who quax will keep quaxing, and those who don’t will still shake their heads over it, hopefully all the small interactions lead to bigger, positive changes. It’s something to work towards.
        You’re certainly making a fine contribution with your blog. There’s nothing like leading by example 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Well done Gail with your substantial quaxing effort! And what a great new word. But it’s good to remind everyone that some quaxing is still better than no quaxing – we do the bulk of the weekly shop by car, but I find quaxing by walking or bike very handy and therapeutic if something else is needed between weekly shops. Also good for returning books to the library, posting letters ( yep, that’s how retro I am!) and going down to the foreshore for fish n chips.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree Paula – better to quax some than none.

      Everyone’s circumstances are different and it’s about discovering what works best for the household and the people who live in it.

      I enjoyed reading how you weave quaxing into your life – library, small trips, fish n chips, letters… yes, I still post some too 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I lived in Fresno, California with no car. Deliberately chose a place close to several shopping centers. Library, food, 12-pack of beer… no problem. Done with a 70-litre backback, no panniers. Often carried 40 lbs (20Kg). Now that I live in Cairns, 2 klicks from the CDB, still no problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s great Dave!
      It’s interesting to see and read what’s possible. So many different ways – trailers, panniers, backpacks. Sometimes I find it needs some creative packing… But I’m always glad to be freewheeling home with my groceries 😀 …and sounds like you are too 👌🏼🚲 Thanks for writing!


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