Saturday, October 22, 2011

Another Basket Case

Bella Ciao Neorealista, Basket, Fountain, Vienna
A few days ago I borrowed a 7-speed Bella Ciao from Citybiker, and since I had my laptop bag with me I had to find a way to transport it. We looked for a basket that did not require complex installation and found one into which my bag could be stuffed, albeit with some effort.

Nantucket Bike Basket via German Importer
I was amused to notice that this basket is from the American manufacturer, Nantucket Bike Baskets, but rebranded by the German distributor Liix. Ah, globalisation.

Vienna, Secession
As a transport solution this setup worked well enough for the short trip, to the extent that my bag did not fall out and the handling of the bike was only mildly affected. But the experience made me remember the problems I have with handlebar-mounted baskets: (1) they tend to slide sideways along the handlebars, even when the basket is empty, and (2) when going over a bump, they bounce against the headtube.

Basket Slippage
For me this presents a dilemma, whereby one must choose between installing complicated (and heavy, and ugly) hardware to prevent the movement, or leaving it as is and cycling with a basket that is constantly sliding and bouncing. The later is annoying, but the former is a hassle. For this reason I like having a basket mounted on a front rack best, but a front rack does not make sense for every bike. I also realise that some just prefer the simplicity of a handlebar-mounted basket that can easily be attached and removed. In Vienna I do not often see cyclists with baskets attached to the handlebars via straps, and I think that is because of the cobblestones: Riding through some parts of the city, the bouncing would be unbearable. But I do see this method of attachment in Boston sometimes (though mostly on bikes that look like they are used for very short trips) and in photos from other countries.

Bag Stuffed into Basket
It occurred to me that if there were another set of holes in the back of the basket, toward the bottom, then a third strap could be fitted around the headtube and perhaps this would solve the problem. The design would be like a saddlebag in that regard, which has two straps on top to go around the saddle railings and another on the bottom to go around the seatpost. Has anyone ever tried this with a handlebar-mounted basket? I like the elegance and lack of commitment in attaching a basket via straps instead of clunky quick-release systems, decalleurs and the like. But for me, it needs to be practical - no sliding or bouncing.

25 comments:

  1. Carrying a laptop is the exception I make to the 'let the bike carry it' rule. I prefer a small backpack for the laptop as it is far less likely to jarred when going over roadworks, cobbles or just dropping off the kerb.

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  2. Hello
    I enjoy reading your blog. Have you considered Velorbis' new FrameFix connector for front baskets?
    Sara

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  3. "It occurred to me that if there were another set of holes in the back of the basket, toward the bottom, then a third strap could be fitted around the headtube and perhaps this would solve the problem."

    There is one that sells on Amazon, with velcro attachments. I just too lazy to dig it up now.

    I have that very same basket, only oval shaped. After a while you don't perceive the bounce anymore.
    But they are not made to carry stuff really. It is only a convenience thing for your gloves, scarves, cameras (when you take pictures from your bike), water etc. Not to carry laptops or documents.

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  4. Googled this basket that has some kind of head tube stabilizer strap.

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  5. Mike - I worried about this when I first began cycling, but it has proven to be a non-issue. My current laptop has a solid state drive and has survived toppling down a staircase onto a tile floor, so it is especially immune. But my previous one had a normal hard drive and being bounced in a pannier had no ill effects on it either.

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  6. Perhaps that particular basket is too tightly woven, but my experience is that most bike baskets have enough play in the warp and weft that it's fairly simple to slide a ziptie through and around the head tube. Many baskets are sold with a third leather strap for this purpose. I still prefer a rack mount as any significant weight will rub the paint off the head tube

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  7. On her first bike, my wife had a basket that had the third strap. It sounds like the extra strap would prevent bouncing, in reality it doesn't do much to stabilize the basket, it just makes the bouncing a little more vertical as the strap slides up and down the head tube. The reality is that a rack or decaleur is about the only way to solidly mount a basket. On the pilen, we've gone with a front rack & crate.

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  8. Perhaps if you tied a boot-lace or frilly ribbon from strap to goose-neck anchored by a knot, and then to the other strap, you could eliminate the side to side issue. As for the bouncing I'm thinking foam door stopper, they come in a multitude of colors and shapes. Happy Biking.=)

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  9. Another option (though it probably doesn't make sense with your current situation): I've often mounted the "third strap" to a Raleigh-type headlight bracket, rather than to the headtube. You could do the same thing with a reflector.

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  10. Velouria - I knew I had seen the head tube attachment on Nantucket baskets somewhere...here is the video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtBNJhExk1A

    But the reality is that you probably need a front rack or metal bracket attachment. I do agree the later is ugly.

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  11. There's a good, secure way to mount things and this "elegant" way. The way this basket mounts may be convenient but as it is it messes with the cable routing on the right. A sliding basket can bend a cable enough to activate a brake or shift a gear.

    Even if an anchor strap is added cable routing is an issue.

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  12. In my old days of having a front basket, I would use either a zip tie or small bungee to stabilize the basket, and it made a huge difference to me.

    The biggest problem I have with handlebar mounted baskets is that they always seem to wear off the paint on the headtube. Handling is temporary but paint is forever!

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  13. This is why I enjoy my Wald 137 basket. Easy to install while still being fairly stable.
    Though that rattan basket is beautiful.

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  14. I think your third-stap idea is a really good one ... and maybe even a fourth strap, with one on the bottom of the basket and one on top.

    It's amazing to me that even with all our new synthetic materials, wicker baskets still do the job of carrying casual things better than most anything else. And of course they look great too. Very Nantucket!

    Thanks for the post!

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  15. "they tend to slide sideways along the handlebars, even when the basket is empty,"

    Law of inertia - it'll bounce more when empty because it has less mass. This is why I prefer heavier baskets.

    though you've now given me an idea and I'm going to get some zipties so that I can attach my basket to my front tube. It's not a big issue for me with mine, but I think it'll make the ride a little more pleasant :-)

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  16. That's what I was talking about:
    http://www.amazon.com/Avenir-Wicker-Bicycle-Basket-Velcro/dp/B001V6630S/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1319324709&sr=8-3

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  17. The third strap works OK on some baskets as long as the stem isn't too long, otherwise the bottom attachment makes the basket lean too far forward.

    I've never been all that fond of strap-attached baskets, although metal or plastic brackets are less attractive, they tend to be more stable.

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  18. Well, you might think the "baskaleur" is ugly, but it does the job of holding the basket rock solid, and the basket doesn't depend on zip-ties to hold it in place. And the whole basket removes by unscrewing one wingnut from the bottom of the basket:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/7516215@N03/5986082192

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  19. I recently started reading your blog when I was on the look out for a well written review on the berthoud saddle.

    Figured I'd chime in here because I know what you mean about handlebar bags/baskets. The old TA bags used to have pretty much what you're describing.

    photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/10703870@N06/>spoke sniffer</a>

    I'd like to see more of this implemented myself.

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  20. somervillain - Regardless of looks, a "regular person" (who doesn't have someone like you for a husband) is unlikely to have the "baskalleur" as an option.

    revenio ad modo - Thanks for the TA bag link; I'd never seen that model before.

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  21. Lucienrau - can you elaborate on which front rack you use on the Pilen? And how it attaches?

    Thanks,
    RJD

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  22. Actually, I have an older willow bike basket that I bought in the 1980s and it has reinforced openings at the top and bottom for the straps and you are correct. It is an excellent system. I now have a bike that also has a front rack and I have secured the basket on that using top/bottom strap system and it doesn't move an inch.

    It would be beneficial for all basket manufacturers to included opening in both places. I

    I really enjoy your blog!

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  23. RDJ,

    Right now we've got a Pletcher rack attached to the fork crown and to the fork with some clamps. We're just testing it out to see if she likes it with a front load. Tons of wheel flop though. We're probably going to replace it with the frame mounted rack from Clever. The current mounting is not secure enough that I think it's acceptable.

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  24. Lucienrau,

    Thanks. I just started using the diamond frame Pilen in September. I would be interested in sharing experiences. If you want, contact me at rueducanivet-pilen at yahoo.

    RJD

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  25. That is an elegant bike/basket combo! I have a Linus Mixte 8 in cream with that same basket. I added zip ties under the leather straps to secure it better, also I have the linus front bike rack the basket sits on. I threaded another zip tie through the bottom back of the basket to the front rack and it stays put. It does lean back a bit due to the front rack, but not oddly so. I use it to hold my purse, locks, bottle of water, misc stuff... but never tried a laptop. It really isn't a big cargo type of a basket for sure.

    Not sure if this is helpful, but it was sure nice to see this basket on that blue Bella Ciao! I tell ya, I could have a dozen bikes! They are so pretty! :)

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