Sunday, June 26, 2011

Basket 2.0

What luck I have. Beset by medical and dental problems simultaneously, the past few days have left me drained. We went for a super slow ride on Saturday, but even that was difficult to manage in my drugged up, diminished lung capacity state. But when we passed Cambridge Bicycle I knew there was one thing that could make me feel better. A basket. Of course. What better cure for life's woes?

I have been eying this particular basket for months, and finally she is mine! It is made by the Peterboro Basket Company in New Hampshire, out of locally harvested White Ash. I think the model is this one. This basket is small, boxy, with a rectangular footprint, and it does not taper from top to bottom - which was exactly the style I wanted for this bicycle.

I refer to this as Basket 2.0, because I did not get along that well with the large wicker basket on my formerly-owned Pashley, and eventually removed it. This time around I looked for attributes that I hope will work for me.

For one thing, the Peterboro basket is fairly small, with a low profile and sides that don't stick out too far. It is also feather-light, made of such thin slivers of Ash that it almost feels like Balsa wood. Finally, we attached it directly to a front rack and not to handlebars, which minimises its impact on steering. Though the basket came with leather straps and metal buckles, we removed these and fastened it to the rack with zip ties. The straps and buckles were heavier than the basket itself, so doing this really made it weightless, as well as eliminated any potential jiggling. Cambridge Bicycle were nice enough to give us a handful of zip ties and some wire cutters, and we installed the basket right outside the shop in a matter of minutes.

When the basket is empty, I cannot feel it on the bike at all. It does not cause the wheel to flop to the side when the bike is parked.

It also leaves the frontmost tip of the tire unobscured, so that I can still see it while cycling. When a huge basket obscures the entire front wheel, I have a harder time feeling connected to the steering, but this is not an issue here.

When the basket is full, the weight feels well distributed and does not interfere with either steering or balance. With dimensions of 10.25" x 7" x 7" it is not meant to carry large objects; I have a rear rack and panniers for that. But the squat, boxy shape allows it to accommodate more stuff than you might think. As pictured above, the basket contains a huge portion of smoked salmon, a bucket of cream cheese, an economy pack of cheese sticks, a blueberry encrusted "goat cheese log," and a flower bouquet. There is room for more.

Since I am now using the mixte predominantly as a transportation bike, I wanted to maximise its utility as such. This basket provides a useful space for a jacket, camera, small handbag, or even a quick grocery store purchase, without impacting handling or (to my eye at least) marring the looks of the bike. The Co-Habitant wasn't too crazy about the look at first, but it grew on him. What do you think? What front-mounted basket systems have you used on your bikes, and have they ultimately worked for you? The difference between this set-up and the large, handlebar-mounted basket I used to have on the Pashley Princess is like night and day.

54 comments:

  1. With "cream cheese, an economy pack of cheese sticks, a blueberry encrusted "goat cheese log" I'm hoping your issue isn't being lactose intolerant. :)

    Cute basket. I'm afraid being rigidly mounted you might need a top netting. "Hanging" the basket provides some shock absorption. This setup has none. Do thing want to bounce out of there?

    P.S. I hope you feel better soon. If it is any consolation, for feeling as poorly as you do, you still look marvelous.

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  2. I like the looks of the Peterboro Baskets. I've been eyeing them off and on for the last couple of years, but have never been able to bring myself to commit to one. Mostly since they look like they really need a rack (like you already have) to support it. I had a woven wood basket once, that I bought off a local basket weaver, and just attached to the handlebars. Since it had no support underneath it started to sag, and eventually was sitting on the fender, which made the fender want to rub the tire if there was sufficient weight in the basket. But your's looks great with the mixte, and with the rack it should hold up nicely!

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  3. Looks good on that bike. Are you gonna leave it natural or stain the basket?

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  4. I love the looks of the new basket. Just wondering how it will hold up in the weather.

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  5. It's precious! I've been wanting the Wald special edition coming out soon: http://www.ecovelo.info/2011/06/15/sneak-peek-wald-33wr-woven-reed-basket/ If I can't get a hold of the Wald, that Peterboro is pretty cute!!

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  6. I was suggesting to shellac it which would be super easy with a large foam brush and would be dry in 24hrs. It's also a non-stink process which can be done indoors.

    Deeply ambered it should match the saddle and bar wrap.

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  7. I like it. The light color of the wood coordinates well with the color of your bike and your tires. The size looks perfect. I like small front basket.

    I have an inexpensive Bell quick-release wire handlebar basket that I bought when I first started cycling. I keep meaning to upgrade, but it has turned out to be very useful. I like the quick-release feature because I can just throw all my stuff in the basket without worrying about un-packing everything when I arrive somewhere.

    I've been eyeing the take-out basket from Portland Design Works. I love the size and shape, but it's kind of spendy for me right now. Public Bikes has a quick-release basket that fits on a rear rack which I also like the looks of, but haven't tried yet. Overall, though, from a purely budgetary and practical standpoint, the Bell basket has been a good investment.

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  8. " I'm hoping your issue isn't being lactose intolerant"

    Ha : ) Well I don't buy food only for myself, and we were out of all things cheese related. But no, thankfully lactose intolerance is not among my problems. Good thing, since I am addicted to butter.

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  9. One reason I chose the Peterboro basket instead of other options mentioned, is that I cannot stress enough how lightweight it is. When you remove the straps (which are unnecessary if you mount it on the rack) you can hardly feel it in your hands. This may not be important if you're riding a heavy Dutch bike, but my mixte is in itself amazingly light and I did not want to ruin that with a heavy basket. Every single wicker basket I've tried, including the ones mentioned here, have been considerably heavier than this one. Also, baskets with any kind of quick release mechanism incorporated into them tend to have hardware attached, which make them heavier (and bulkier) still.

    Another thing, is that if a basket has a quick release or support mechanism incorporated into the design, it is usually expensive (the Wald featured on ecovelo is $100!), and you would have to remove all of that anyway in order to mount it on the rack. So I was specifically looking for a simple and reasonably priced basket without such mechanisms. The fact that the Peterboro is made in New England, out of locally grown wood, and costs $30, is just wonderful.

    Finally, I have it in my head that a mixte needs a boxy basket and not a round one. Not sure why, but maybe I've seen old pictures or movies with that set up and now it looks right, while round baskets look off. Initially I was considering something like a boxy picnic basket, but ultimately decided it would be too bulky.

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  10. I really like it!
    I've been struggling with a 'basket' solution on my Lexa and have been testing something for a couple of months. I love having a basket on my Pashley and am searching for a similarly well-matched 'basket-like' solution for my sportier city bicycle which has a few things more to contend with up front.
    I think your basket looks smashing.

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  11. Have you been spying on us??!! We just bought that very basket! (Direct from Peterboro Basket Co). We got the one in honey and will be installing it on Mrs.S's Soma mixte soon! It's been sitting in our basement waiting for the proper hardware to arrive to install it (like you, we are not going to use the straps, but rather a bottom support).

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  12. Oh, and I think this basket with its boxy shape goes particularly nicely with porteur bars!

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  13. Sigrid - Congratulations on the new bike; just noticed it on your blog! And I recommend giving the Tubus Fly a try if you are still looking for a lightweight, unobtrusive rear rack.

    somervillain - Funny : ) It seems we are doomed to build up similar bikes. The natural and the darker finishes look pretty different, if that's any comfort. What will you be using for a bottom support?

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  14. "its boxy shape goes particularly nicely with porteur bars"

    Oh, about that... I may be redoing the handlebar setup soon. After a lot of real-life use, I think I am falling out of love with the inverse brake levers and with having the shifters all the way up front. I may replace the bars with a spare set of Bella Ciao bars I have that are slightly more curvy, then install VO City levers. The shifters will go either on the bar ends or as they are, but closer to the gripping area.

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  15. I think the natural color of the basket goes well with the cream tires. You probably should put some sort of a clear poly on so it holds up better in the weather and retains its natural color.

    What aren't you liking about the inverse brakes and the porteur handle bars?

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  16. Looks good, proportions work well, though I wish it had a matching cover or some sort. Shifty items in a front basket make me paranoid that they'll fly up into my face on every bump.

    I would take it off and spray or paint it with some sort of protectant. It will get dirty rather quickly, if it's anything like the light colored handheld baskets I've used. Too expensive to just to use it unprotected.

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  17. I will use a clear coating of some sort - either clear shellac or poly. I don't want to use amber shellac, as I think the lighter colour works better here.

    AC - It took a while for me to start feeling critical of the levers. There are two issues. First, there is play in these levers compared to regular ones. The Tektro are much better in that respect than the Dia Compe, but still. transitioning from normal levers to these it always feels disconcerting. Second, when I am holding the handlebars but not using the levers, my hands sometimes get "trapped" when I then try to squeeze the brakes, and there is a lag between the point I decide to brake and the point where I actually have my hands on the levers. This can get in the way of emergency braking.

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  18. The basket is nice and suits you and your bike well,

    Hope you get to feeling better very soon!! :^))

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  19. What will you be using for a bottom support?

    We're adding a second threadless stem which will be below and stick out 50mm beyond the main stem, as an upper mount for the basket. Then will be using a bent fender stay mounted to the low-rider fork mounts as the lower support. The idea is that it should be rock-solid on top, with just enough support from below to prevent sagging when loaded. The two parts weigh less and cost less than a front rando rack, which we were also considering.

    I'm surprised you are finding the Tektro inverse levers "loose". Did you try tightening the pivot bolts? You can dial in the ideal tightness. I don't honestly think you will find the VO city levers to have any less play, and in fact they will probably feel downright wobbly in comparison.

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  20. I have the VO city levers on another bike and they are wonderful; no play. We've tightened everything on the Tektro inverse levers inasmuch as possible.

    Curious to see your system now; cannot readily imagine what you're describing!

    I wanted the front load carrying set-up on my mixte to be versatile - able to accommodate either a rack-mounted handlebar bag, or basket, or crate, hence the rack. I also like to use front racks as mounting points for dynamo lighting.

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  21. I like this.It's affordable but think it does need a little contrasting color like a matching brown.
    We been using a $.99 thrift store twine and wicker basket coated with amber shellack mounted to a rack on my daughters Sport.

    http://i219.photobucket.com/albums/cc219/walkingfloor198/basket006.jpg

    MK

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  22. I like the natural color, too. When too many accessories match precisely I get sad.

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  23. MK - That's a nice bike!

    I don't mind giving my money to a company that makes baskets locally, but I agree that splendid bargains can be had in bargain shops.

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  24. I remember well the Debasketification post for the Pashley; I took my Nantucket basket off my tandem after that, worried about the aerodynamics. Does the new basket seem to have much wind resistance?
    Hope you are feeling better!

    Affordable Luxury Blog

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  25. Beautiful and delicate! Perfect! This is the best blog. Congratulations! Roberto Furtado

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  26. The basket is nice, but I really love that sweater!

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  27. I think the basket looks fantastic, and compliments the frame nicely. I'll second the motion to weather-proof it with something clear; making it match the bars/saddle would be OK, but the natural ash really pops. The only thing that worries me about the basket is, if it's really that lightweight, will it hold up? I'd imagine that loads like your salmon party won't stress it (Why didn't you get any bagels?), but is it up to the rigors of six-pack portage? (Or items of similar weight...)

    I'm not big on baskets (yet) but I've got some schemes incubating. The cheap wald 135 on my wife's mixte is a good'n; it's the deep one (14.5x9.5x9") with the legs/braces. Perfect for six-packs, even if it isn't pretty.
    -rob

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  28. I like the basket a lot with this particular bike. Shellacking it will match the grips and seat nicely.

    And I would be remorse if I didn't say you are adorable in that outfit ;-)

    I hope you are back to 100% soon :-)

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  29. They also have this basket on sale for $25 w/ free shipping. Pretty close to yours, but w/out the hardware. I'm deciding between the two!!!

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  30. You are just adorable in that outfit. And your bike is adorable with that basket.

    The key to using a basket is to have it mounted as low as possible, as you have it. I also don't like to put much more than my purse and one or two small items in my front basket.

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  31. I like the basket! I do not like baskets but this one I could use. I've got a problem where I ride my raleigh and then end up hanging bags of stuff on the handlebars. I haven't got the money for saddlebags or handlebar bags so am going to make some....somehow. I do not know what it is about baskets that turns me off. Used to think they were the bees knees, but now? I also did not like handlebar and saddlebags for years, but now lust for them big time.

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  32. sorry to go off topic but I LOVE your outfit. The jacket especially

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  33. Thanks : )

    If you live near an Anthropologie, they carry a lot of unusual wool blazers and sometimes have massive sales.

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  34. I can't stand not having a basket on my everyday bikes- they're so useful for things you need while you're in transit- sunglasses, a sweater or jacket in the winter, a handkerchief in the summer.
    Plus it's additional storage space if you max out your pannier, and it's great for delicate things like flowers.

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  35. Justine:

    The key to using a basket is to have it mounted as low as possible, as you have it. I also don't like to put much more than my purse and one or two small items in my front basket.

    This is so true for any front-mounted storage. The lower the center of gravity, the better, specially when it's over the front wheel. This is where Wald gets it all wrong with their standard mounting brackets and struts.

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  36. Oh, and hope you're feeling better soon- go sit out in that wonderful sunlight!

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  37. I think I am falling out of love with the inverse brake levers and with having the shifters all the way up front. I may replace the bars with a spare set of Bella Ciao bars I have that are slightly more curvy, then install VO City levers. The shifters will go either on the bar ends or as they are, but closer to the gripping area.

    So it's the brakes and shifter positioning that you don't like with these bars, or the hand position? I find the hand position to be near perfect with my porteur bars. Then again, I also don't have shifters on them. I'll be happy to take the porteur bars off your hands when you swap them out! The Albatross bars on Mrs.S's mixte are wide enough to require a "Wide Load" sign to be hung from the back of the bike, and her arms flare out unnaturally as she rides-- way past her shoulders.

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  38. How do you find this basket, or others, on the bumpy pothole streets of boston? I have a wooden wine box on the front of my Velorbis scrap Deluxe, and find that while it looks really cool, it's almost useless in this city due to all of the bumps. Here's what it looks like:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/67682187@N00/4870250232/in/photostream
    Anything I put in there wants to jump out at the first patched pothole, except for really heavy items. I use a bunge net with it, but that's sometimes a pain in the butt to get just right. I would worry that your little basket would suffer the same problems on really bumpy roads. It does look sweet on your bike, though!

    I know of 2 excellent proving grounds for baskets and testing their loads. First one is Sullivan Square's roundabout turnoff from the Rotary onto Bunker Hill St. in Charlestown. A bunch of bumps, followed by a railroad track crossing, at high speed necessicated by the flow of traffic. The other is on Medford St. in Cambridge/Somerville just before reaching Twin City Plaza (Warren St is the cross street). This bag of hurt is a road bed made of cobblestones, another railroad crossing and years of bad pothole patches!

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  39. LOVE the shape and proportions of the basket. I confess I'm not in love with how "bleached" it looks, but the clear shellac you're thinking of should balance it out just right without being matchy-matchy like the amber would be.

    Can't wait to hear more about the handlebar setup. I recall that being a real labor of love to achieve in the first place!

    Feel better soon.

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  40. "This is where Wald gets it all wrong with their standard mounting brackets and struts."

    Wait, doesn't Wald's mounting hardware attach the basket to the front axel, thereby mounting it low? I don't like their system, because I find it ugly, but I didn't think it was structurally sub-optimal.

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  41. It's important where the weight/basket itself is, and it's also important where this weight is applied, i.e. where it is attached.

    I don't like axle mount stuff on the front wheel because I think it triangulates the fork and the long support arms are either heavy or noodly. IMHO, the best is fork crown + 2 mid-fork eyelets (like we have here) for loads <10-15lbs, but axle-mount baskets can probably support more weight.

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  42. Wait, doesn't Wald's mounting hardware attach the basket to the front axel, thereby mounting it low? I don't like their system, because I find it ugly, but I didn't think it was structurally sub-optimal.

    They do mount to the axle, but the struts are so gosh-darn long that they extend like 6-8" above the front fender! They provide I think 3-4 holes at the bottom of the struts, so you can choose which height will work best, but all of them perch the basket too high. Plus, Wald requires you to also clamp the basket to the handlebars using the short steel brackets that are pre-attached to the top edge of the basket. So the top of the basket always has to be at handlebar height.

    This photo illustrates is best:

    https://picasaweb.google.com/atutter/1974RaleighSports#5357378113311728114

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  43. MDI: I agree with you, for loads of <10 lbs. But for more than that, such as loaded touring, you do want axle-mount struts. These serve to triangulate the fork to better support high front loads (while compromising the shock absorbing quality) but also to provide pannier support. The classic French randonneurs used front racks with the brake pivot mounts for light loads (such as a rando bag), with removable axle struts that would support front panniers when needed.

    The system we're using for the wood basket is going to consist of a decaleur stem at top, and a simple u-shaped fender stay at bottom. The strongest and most structural part of the basket is that top rim, and the wide decaleur mount will support that nicely. The "U" portion of the fender stay will attach to the bottom of the basket right at the basket's center, using a knurled brass nut and draw bolt, while the legs of the stay will mount to the mid-fork low-rider bosses. In theory, there should be ZERO movement in any direction.

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  44. Ooooh, I just LOVE that new basket! I much prefer the style to that of the Pashley.

    Unfortunately I can't put a basket on my bike because of the headlight (it's a Raleigh Superbe).


    www.rookblog.com

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  45. I have a Nitto rack on the front of my Surly LHT with a medium wald basket zip-tied to it. I have the bike set up with albatross bars. I love this set-up. I keep a bungee cargo net on it and enjoy the option of being able to carry things up front.

    I had tried a handlebar mounted wald woody and didn't like it all. Too big and heavy and high up.

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  46. Michael, it sounds like you have almost the same setup that I had once:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/4947346062/

    Albatross bars, Nitto M12, and a large Wald w/bungee net! I loved that setup, but I found the larger Wald to be a little bendy on the narrow rack. The medium Wald like you have is probably better.

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  47. All I can say is you definitely do not want to make a mistake in transporting a blueberry encrusted goat cheese log. Too many reasons to even count.

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  48. The basket is fine, the bike lovely, but I do not think this is a marriage made in heaven. Visual clash for me: the bike is all sea shades and the movement created by the twin stays and the basket is small but decided stolid and square. To me, the basket looks as though it was designed for Red Riding Hood to carry homeopathic remedies to grandma. But I can appreciate function overruling form.

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  49. "I much prefer the style to that of the Pashley."

    Visually, I love the Pashley basket. And I think those types of baskets work best on loop frame 3-speeds. But it would positively overwhelm the dainty bone structure of a mixte like this one.

    Anon 10:36 - The problem with this mixte, is that any permanent fixture I can think of has some diminishing effect on the aesthetics. I've tried a handlebar bag, as well as a shallower but wider porteur-ish set-up. This is the best I got so far. Can you picture anything that you think might work better?

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  50. Anon again.

    I was giving this some thought because criticism, however well intentioned, without some useful suggestion is, well, useless. Rereading my comment it sounds as though I have something against the basket per se, which I do not. But on this ever so slender sylph-like mixte it looks too solid.

    Aiming for exactly the same functionality I was wondering if something more open would be a better match, e.g., the elegant and overpriced Brooks Hoxton basket? see link: http://www.brooksengland.com/en/Shop_ProductPage.aspx?cat=bags+-+cycle+bags+%26+accoutrements&prod=HOXTON+Wire+Basket

    I did actually contemplate this basket myself as it has a very nice clip in/clip out mechanism and thus turns into a useful shopping basket. It looked very well made. Someone in Boston had posted it on craigslist, but I was passing through a rare minimalist phase and could not justify it at the time.

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  51. "he elegant and overpriced Brooks Hoxton basket?"

    Having seen this basket in person, I would say that its apparent elegance is the merit of the product photographer : )

    I've tried resting a number of wire baskets on the front rack, and they ruin the look of this bike IMO. Also, stuff falls out of wire baskets, so I am not especially a fan. Also, I did not want anything with a bulky click-in mechanism.

    But I'll keep thinking. God knows I am incapable of leaving my bicycles alone!

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  52. Very lovely!

    I hate the tapered baskets. If you're already going to strap something to the front of your bike wouldn't you want it to hold as much as possible with the threat of everything jumping out as soon as you hit a pot hole?

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  53. Basket came in today's mail. They were slooooow to ship. No email saying out of stock, delayed availability or such. Very nice on first inspection, although the product badge is off-center on it. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  54. I was looking for a cute, classic basket and came across your blog! I must say it was love at first site. I just ordered the same one you have in honey on their website. I hope it looks as pretty and flows as well as yours does. I just didn't want anything wired or bulky.

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