Thursday, August 25, 2011

Experiment In A Basket

For a great while now, I have wanted a handwoven bicycle basket from David Hembrow. You may know him from his blog, A View From The Cycle Path.

I have had my Batavus for three years now, and it has taken quite awhile to get it exactly where I like it. Instead of jumping into buying things that look like they will be great, but end up not being used, I have purchased or made most of the things on my bicycle only after really thinking about it or experimenting with cheep alternates to see what is truly useful. For the last year and a half I had repurposed the removable Wald basket from my old bike by zip tying it to the front rack.

Baby Gets A Turn
This bike was nothing but old stuff thrown together!

The rack its self was the cheapest I could find, $18, because I was not sure I would I like having a front rack on the bike. Now that it has been on for so long, I can't imagine the Bat without it. So when the one that is there now becomes too disreputable for my taste I will find a much better one knowing that it will be something well purchased.

Back to the basket. Having someone make a basket, and then ship it across the world is not something to take lightly. What if it just isn't right? My Wald basket was great because it was impervious to weather, was really cheap ($18, just like the rack) and when empty didn't cause much wind drag or collect water in the rain. The problem for me was it wasn't meeting my aesthetic requirements. Every time I looked at it, it just wasn't hitting my eye the right way. Some may find this a silly reason to replace something that works, but my front basket is something that is always in my line of sight when I ride, so if it is ugly it will always rankle. With that in mind, I had started thinking about David's beautiful baskets again. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, they are works of art that I can buy directly from the artist (I am a total sucker for that kind if thing). But again, what if I didn't like having it on the front of the bicycle?

Big Basket
Zip ties will tie down just about anything!

A solution presented its self to me last week in the form of a giant picnic basket being sold at a sidewalk sale. With negotiating it came out to $7 and that meant I had the correct basket for my experiment. Will having a larger basket, with greater wind resistance on a crappy fork mounted rack work for me? So far, it has been a mixed bag. Even unloaded I notice a change in the front end handling, especially in the wind which blows hard constantly these days. It isn't horrible, but I am not sure how much I like it. This basket is also not going to work in the rain as it is lined and kinda cheap, so I will not get an idea of winter riding with it (David's baskets are good even in the snow). On the other hand, it has a great lid which keeps things in and the sun out and it looks great.

For now, the jury is out on what my final decision will be. I really love how terribly traditional the Bat looks with the basket on, I may just end up with a Peterboro one, but the call of David's baskets is still quite strong. One thing is sure, taking time to make these decisions pays off. My bicycle is exactly right for me and riding it is always a pleasure.


  1. That is a lovely basket! If it is interfering with your steering though, why don't you try mounting it on the back rack? It would also look good there, but may compromise your ability to put on / off rear panniers.

  2. Have you seen this basket and bracket system from Velorbis? It mounts to the head tube and so the basket remains in one place instead of turning as you steer the bike.

  3. Anon- thanks for the link! I hadn't seen that before. I wonder if it would fit on my head tube? I will have to check!

  4. I love the picnic basket! Stunning.

  5. PaddyAnne- I have had a basket on the back, but I found that my ass wanted to rub up against it to the point it caused holes in my pants. My Batavus has a shorter wheelbase and rack then most because it is a "trekking" bike, not a "city" one. so I sometimes have fit issues with gear. A rear basket also does not allow for panniers and I need those, too.

  6. I bought a basket from David Hembrow in 2009. He made it to spec. Besides wanting a great basket, I wanted to support David's craft and his blog.

    And yes, it is a high quality basket.