Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Can We See Beyond the Basket?

I have been taking out my Pashley Princess every day since I picked her up a week ago. She gets lots of comments and compliments. The comments come from passers-by, from other cyclists, and even from people in cars (waiting to turn left at an intersection, I heard a man say to a woman in the car behind me, "Don't you want a cute bike like that with a basket?").

And this brings me to my point: Interestingly, 95% of the comments I get have something to do with the basket. "Beautiful basket," "look at that basket," "Oh, and she's got a basket!" Even when people stop and ask about the bike itself, their body language betrays an irresistible attraction to the basket -- they start stroking it lovingly, examining the wicker and the leather straps in great detail, with the actual bicycle clearly occupying only the periphery of their attention. Witnessing this, my husband joked that bicycle sales and usage would increase astronomically if shops made a point of attaching a basket to every commuter bike. It is as if the wicker bicycle basket -- much like kittens and babies -- is genetically pre-determined to evoke a cooing response from otherwise level-headed adults.

To what extent then are we able to see beyond the basket to the actual bicycle? The basket on the Pashley Princess is so enormous, that it does seem to both define and dominate the bicycle itself. And while I love baskets, I am not sure I want that. The beautiful lines of the Princess frame and its countless other charms deserve to be seen. I have now ordered a different basket, which I think will be less overbearing and more unique than the stock one. Will see how that goes. The allure of the basket is a force to be reckoned with!

PS: I know that I have not been very expressive about my impressions of the Princess since having gotten her. That is mostly because I am still not entirely done customising her and getting to know her. Soon she will be in her finished state and I will post a full photo shoot and review. She even has a name!

17 comments:

  1. I feel your pain, but don't you think bike aficionados must walk a fine-line between encouraging the masses to get bike more or at least accept biking, and rolling our eyes at their ignorance? I'm sure I've said a lot of ignorant things on a lot of subjects that made people roll their eyes at me. Just saying...

    P.S., love the blog

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  2. sorry, not to continue to focus on your basket, but i did want to ask - so this is the one that came w/ your bike? mine (ordered direct from British Bicycle) came with a much smaller one that i ended up swapping with a larger one from Basil. thanks & just wondering...

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  3. SSJ -- Oh, I am not at all rolling my eyes, or suggesting that anybody is ignorant. I say silly things all the time, and am not a bike aficionado by any means. We are all learning as we go along. I think the basket thing is funny and interesting, is all. After all, the basket probably had a lot to do with why I was attracted to the Pashley Princess to begin with!

    If encouraging people -- especially women -- to ride could be achieved by attaching $20 baskets to bikes, that is a great thing. At the same time, I am thinking of a way to make the basket on my own bike a bit less domineering so as not to wash out the personality of the bike itself, which I feel it somewhat does at the moment.

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  4. genevieve -- Yes, mine is stock. Is your bike a Princess Sovereign or a different model? The Princess Sovereign should come with this exact basket. It is enormous, starting just above the headlight (barely clearing it) and ending above the level of the handlebars. It starts out narrower on the bottom and flares out towards the top. I ordered a slightly smaller but more "squat" (similar bottom and top diameters) from Basil, with a lid. Do you have before and after photos?

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  5. yes, mine is also Princess Sovereign (17.5"). I don't have any pics, but i just measured it & the basket is about 14x11x9. The bike came shipped in the original Pashley factory box & a larger basket wouldn't have fit in there. Maybe retail stores get the larger baskets separately? Or they are based on frame size???

    Anyway, my replacement is a large Basil Darwin which is meant for pets although there is no way my 40lb dog is getting in there;) It is a bit big, but i love the size & shape.

    thanks for your response & sorry for the long comment...

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  6. Mine measures 17.5" across at the top, and it definitely came from the manufacturer. But now that you mention it, I think that the baskets are based on frame size. My bike is a 20" frame, but Miss Sara from Girls and Bicycles has a 17" frame and she also said that the original basket was much too small (she replaced hers with a larger Basil).

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  7. Baskets and racks are the essence of utility cycling I suppose, so for the committed baskets are a criterion of something worthwhile commuting on.

    Everyone can admire a basket and see it's purpose. On the contrary not everyone can appreciate a deore derailleur or an internal hub gear system ;)

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  8. Lol, like kittens or babies, that's true. Bike shops definitely should put baskets on all women's bikes (I have not yet successfully convinced my husband to use a basket).

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  9. I love wicker baskets, in part because they elicit friendly conversation and smiles.

    http://cycledallas.blogspot.com/2009/06/can-real-men-ride-bikes-with-baskets.html

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  10. PM Summer -- Great blog, and thanks so much for mentioning me!

    I am convinced that men can ride with baskets; it really depends on the basket's design. I imagine something squarish and crate-like could be very manly and utilitarian looking. And they could keep tools and things in it to drive the point home...

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  11. My fault, I misread your main idea, which is that people should appreciate your lovely bike TOO. Cheers to that.

    RE: men and baskets, I would say no wicker for me. But a metal basket is cool.

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  12. The Princess's color is to die for and she's got a lot going for her. Gotta say that I do so love the basket.

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  13. Sorry but I love the big basket! I love the bike too. Send me the basket!

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  14. I have decided to keep the basket as is : ) At over 17" across, it is roomier than any of the others I have tried, and the shape seems to suit Pashley's anatomy better than the Basil line.

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  15. I have the cheapest, most standard black wire basket, on a cheap standard black Townie, and I get comments on the basket. I think people have forgotten how useful they are, which is odd, since 'the It bag' is often no smaller.

    Yours makes me sing 'a tisket, a tasket...'

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  16. I have to say I feel exactly the opposite about baskets - but perhaps I'm just weird? I just got a Pashley Princess and the first thing I did was to take the basket off! I think it's just massive and dominates the look of the bike too much (just as you say - it's quite overpowering).

    But looks aside, even on the practical side of things I can't find much going for baskets. The usual mounting on the handlebars means that a basket (certainly a big one like on the Pashley) makes the wheel flop - and sometimes the whole bike - over to one side very easily when the bike is parked and that as soon as you put anything substantial in it (as its size suggests that's what it's made for) it has a very noticeable impact on the steering. Having a lot of weight at the front (or rather attached to the front wheel and/or the handlebars - a frame-mounted basket which does not turn with the bars would be a different story) and rather high up just doesn't seem to agree with me or the bike. Also, I find the constant rattling and creaking that the basket emits (whether loaded or empty) very annoying. To me, it just feels like a big, clunky foreign body on an otherwise quite lovely bike.

    I think it makes so much more sense to have the weight of your groceries, books, etc. at the back of the bike and lower down, i.e., ideally in panniers on both sides of the rack. So nothing affects the steering or handling of the bike, it's stable and won't topple over when you park it. Plus, it's silent - a feature which I find an absolute must in order for a bike to qualify as "lovely".

    Am I the only one who feels that way? Sometimes it feels like it and certainly here in Cambridge, England, where I live, baskets are very, very popular on women's town bikes. I seriously don't understand why, and it gives me some consolation that in the Netherlands, where cycling really is part of every day life for a large part of the population, you will hardly ever see a bike with a basket on the front while many of them have the typical Dutch double panniers on the back!

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