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Front baskets help get the job done at BikePortland

Posted by Elly Blue (Columnist) on August 27th, 2009 at 9:30 am

front basket
Jonathan's camera quick-draw:
a common sight around Portland.
(Photo © Elly Blue)

The front basket used to be a necessary part of any city bike setup, but it seems to have been forgotten over time with the rise of mountain and road bikes.

But baskets are coming back -- and in a wider array than ever, from the fancy to the utilitarian. An environmental blog recently did a comprehensive review of a variety of front-mounting baskets currently available (including two locals, Ahearne Cycles and Cetma Cargo).

It also turns out that it's far easier to take photos from a bike when you're sitting upright on it, and a front basket helps this pursuit immensely. Below are some photos of the current iteration of front basket setups on bikes we use here at BikePortland.

front basket
Jonathan's on-bike camera set-up. His bike, made by Batavus (a Dutch company), has easily adjustable handlebars, so he can quickly transition to a more upright riding posture for taking photos on the go.
(Photo © Elly Blue)

Jonathan's set-up has been evolving since he started riding his Batavus. His basket is made by Wald and it's zip-tied to the rails of an Old Man Mountain front rack.

He keeps his camera case in there, secured by a bungie cord -- tightly enough so his camera doesn't fly out when riding over bumps, and loosely enough for a quick draw when needed to capture a homegrown bike lane marking, or a crowd of bicycle mounted police who happen to ride by.

While covering Pedalpalooza back in June, I began to get reacquainted with my old, yellow, 1950s three-speed Schwinn Breeze cruiser.

Around this time a lacy green basket arrived in the mail for review from a company called Stockholm Design House. The Ikea-esque packaging and the claim of being inspired by "Grannie's crocheted tablecloths and spontaneous picnics" was charming, but I was initially underwhelmed by the 5 kilogram (11 pound) weight limit and the $60 price tag.

I attached it to the Breeze, however, using the solid hardware provided, and after a few weeks of riding it around I have to say I love it. It's not what you want to use to carry all your things on your commute, but the Breeze isn't a commuting bike, either. It's for making short runs wearing skirts and nice shoes to a coffeeshop or lunch cart or a meeting, and that's what you need this basket for as well -- a place to keep your purse in easy reach along with a carton of leftover Thai food, four milkshakes, or your notebook and camera. If a purse isn't your thing, the whole basket detaches easily to be carried around on its shoulder strap.

A wire basket mounted more simply would serve the same purpose for a tenth of the price, but if you're looking for something more on the vélocouture end of things, this setup is pretty sweet.

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Comments
  • Paul Manson August 27, 2009 at 9:41 am

    My CETMA rack up front is awesome for big loads I need to keep an eye on - like pie!

    http://img382.yfrog.com/img382/9968/ckl.jpg

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  • Dave August 27, 2009 at 9:53 am

    My wife has a big wicker basket made by Basil (Netherlands), that just has two coated hooks coming out the back that hook onto the handlebars.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/poetas/3654003413/in/set-72157613093579192/

    We put some metal zip ties around it as well, since she didn't feel she'd need to really take it with her for shopping or anything. I'd guess we've put a good 15-20lbs in it and it's been fine.

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  • Josh Berezin August 27, 2009 at 9:59 am

    CETMA rack for me, too. So worth it.

    Good for just about anything.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/nacho/3571968880/

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  • Patrick August 27, 2009 at 10:02 am

    You'd better get a U-lock on those pies!

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  • Greg Raisman August 27, 2009 at 10:46 am

    The custom front rack I have frame mounted to my Mundo has made the bike way more practical and convenient.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/gregraisman/3158994090/in/set-72157605646522465/

    Thanks to Belladonna Bicycles for making the basket and Mike Cobb for fabricating and installing the brackets that are welded right onto the frame.

    Have the basket welded to my frame keeps the load still and stable during turns.

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  • buglas August 27, 2009 at 11:54 am

    There's nothing like some carrying capacity up front for that Burgerville drive-through!

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  • Tee August 27, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Without the baskets on my bike (front and back), my bike wouldn't be my car...but it is. :)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/teewacket/3199571999/sizes/l/

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  • beth h August 27, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    A Front mini-rack on my Xtracycle holds a basket and it makes a difference, especially when reaching for things on the fly. Plus, WALD baskets are made in the USA! They totally rock.

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  • Dan Liu August 27, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    I bungeed a cut-up milk crate to my Blackburn front-platform rack last fall when I was bike-canvassing in HD51. It was horrifically ugly, especially after I cut-up the milk crate even more to better accommodate my drop bars. At least it kept me from dropping my clipboard or leaving piles of campaign literature out in the countryside. I kept using it until I discovered I'd snapped several of the plastic struts and was in danger of doing something much worse to myself or to the bike....

    There are more and more front basket and front platform racks out there than before. The Cetmas are great, if a bit on the overbuilt side of things. There really aren't a lot of front racks with as many places to attach straps or bungees than the Cetma rack does, though it has so far been outside of my budget.

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  • Joe August 27, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    I love the BRIKO shades ;) ohh and the basket.

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  • Toby August 27, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    I'm surprised no one seems to mind the lousy handling of most frames when there's significant load on the fork (esp. high, like in a basket or on a porteur, as opposed to low-rider panniers). If all I has to tote around was a few pies, that'd be fine, I suppose, but for kitty litter, I'll stick with the rear rack...

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  • Anton August 28, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Dat is een zeer aardige mand u daar hebt. Waar ik koop?

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  • Allison August 28, 2009 at 11:40 am

    I've got a Basil basket, too - I love it because it fits as easily on my back rack as it does on the handle bars. It's the perfect grocery accessory.

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  • Dave August 28, 2009 at 11:43 am

    If you get enough weight on the front in a basket that the steering becomes a bit unwieldy, try a steering stabilizer - $30 (ish) at Clever Cycles.

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  • jv August 28, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    @ Tony -

    "I'm surprised no one seems to mind the lousy handling of most frames when there's significant load on the fork "

    Actually, I have found the exact opposite to be true...Try carrying a big load on a rear rack and you'll have a hard time keeping the bike upright at stops and the rear will flex all over the place when you stand up to pedal. I am a huge fan of the front rack, and have carried friends (who were in too rough shape to bike ) on my CETMA to get them home.

    I can still trackstand my 7 speed city bike at stoplights with two bags of groceries on the front rack...the steering is a little slower with a heavy load, but you get used to it.
    I am glad to see more front racks out there, and have totally stopped using my Chrome bag that I wore for 5 years. I can't believe people would ride with a heavy bag weighing down their left shoulder when you could instead have everything right in front of you... Front racks are great and Lane's CETMA racks are among the best!

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  • Toby August 28, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    @ jv -

    We can all agree on how much nicer it is to have your bike carry the heavy loads, and not your back. I rode with messenger bags for years, and I can't believe I put up with sore shoulders and sweaty backs until I finally got some panniers.

    @ Dave -

    There's only a tiny picture of the steering stabilizer (installed) on Clever's website, but it appears to be a spring connected to the fork crown and the the downtube. That seems like it would 'stabilize' you out of being able to do a lot of steering...

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  • Dave August 28, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    @Toby: They're not really stiff enough to restrict your steering much, just enough to give you some extra support. Besides, if you have a lot of weight on the front, I don't think you're going to be whipping around corners anyway.

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