As I use my bike for errands and everyday transportation, I’ve found the wire bicycle basket to be a great way to tote a variety of small to medium items, increasing the practicality of my bike (pictured is my Surly Long Haul Trucker). As shown above, I’ve stashed my swim gear in the basket when going to swim some laps and I’ve secured it with a small elastic cargo net. The basket also works great when I’m at the grocery store or farmer’s market, and if I’m carrying stuff in my panniers, I know I’ve always got room for any overflow in my basket. I’ve had this setup on my LHT for years, and this review, as with all my reviews, is offered as an unsolicited testimonial about gear I actually use.
The basket pictured is a Wald 139 basket that is 18 inches wide by 13 inches deep by 6 inches high. Wald is a small family-owned company that makes a variety of bike accessories and bicycle baskets of all shapes and sizes. They’ve been making wire bike baskets like these with the same quality for over 100 years, and they’ve got a classic look. Well-designed functionality never goes out of style. My basket is the perfect size for a camera bag, a couple of small pizzas, baguettes, a couple of bottles of wine, or a laptop, or books . . . whatever, really.
The Wald basket comes with mounting struts that attach to your front wheel axle, but my basket is mounted with zip ties on a Pass and Stow front “Porteur” rack. This setup works well for me because it’s got a clean look and I can easily remove the basket without removing the whole rack. So, if I need to carry, say, three extra large pizzas, or take a large box to the post office (both of which I’ve done), I just remove the wire basket and my Pass and Stow porteur rack will handle the oversized load. Porteur racks get their name from the French delivery bikes of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s that had flat front racks on them, so that oversized items could be carried on the bike. It’s good to see these practical racks making a comeback (Cetma, Soma, Velo Orange, and Paul Component Engineering also make quality porteur racks, but overall I think the Pass and Stow is the most well-designed). The Pass and Stow rack is hand made by Matt Feeney in San Francisco. Matt has designed a sturdy, elegant front rack that will hold up to 60 lbs, and is easy to mount on the eyelets of my front fork. I’ve carried all manner of cargo on my Pass and Stow rack, and it really increases the utility of the bike. It’s also got a well-designed mount for a front light, which allows you to mount a light on the underside of the rack instead of cluttering up your handlebars.
In Europe and Asia, where bikes are often used for utilitarian purposes, you regularly see bikes with racks, bags, and baskets, because people carry stuff on their bikes. Unfortunately, in the United States, most bicycle companies market bikes as purely fitness or recreational toys, and, depending on the bike shop you visit, it can be hard to find bikes ready to buy with such accessories. However, as more Americans use bikes for transportation and commuting, this is beginning to change, and bicycle companies are offering “city bikes” or hybrids that will accommodate racks and baskets. Having racks and baskets to carry things with makes it much easier and more practical to incorporate your bike into your “real life.” And that, for me, is the whole idea.