It's a sure sign that spring is on its way and the new bike-buying season has begun, when people start to email me about baskets! Specifically, over the past weeks I've had a few questions about the best method to attach a basket to an upright transport bicycle: Does the basket require a front rack? Some other form of support? Or are the buckle straps that often come with baskets sufficient to hold them up?
And as is often the case, my answer is: 'It depends!' Because really, so much in cycling is context-specific. Speaking broadly, a bicycle will always handle better when a front load is tightly secured and well-supported. And the more performance-oriented a bicycle is, the more important this becomes. So, for instance, on a touring bike on which you ride many miles over mountain passes, do quick winding descents on, lean into corners at speed, etc., absolutely: a front rack is ideal. But is it necessary for the bicycle you will be riding <5 miles to work and back? Allow me to make the bold suggestion, that probably not!
At the same time, I find that the leather (or similar) straps which come with many baskets are suboptimal. First, because no matter how tightly I pull them, the basket will slide side to side, as well as bounce over bumps or potholes. But also because the metal buckles tend to clank against the handlebars and this irritates me to no end!
So in leu of either the front rack or the straps method, I opt for the high-tech and lightweight solution of using cable ties (aka 'zip ties'). Two around the handlebars, and - crucially - one around the headtube, pulled tightly, does the job splendidly. The basket does not bounce or slide, and remains stable even when heavily laden.
Importantly, you want to use thick, industrial strength cable ties for this job, not whispy household-use ones! The latter will easily snap under a weight load; the former are practically unbreakable. You should be able to find them in a hardware shop, commonly in a choice of black or white - and, if you're lucky, sometimes even green.
While of course not as attractive as leather straps, the cable ties, once in place, are actually quite subtle. And if you long for a quainter look, you can always twine them!
The best feature of the ties, is the level of adjustment they allow. Just thread them anywhere through the basket's wicker or wiring, and pull as tightly as you like for a secure, stable fit. And if your container is made of more solid stuff (i.e. wine crate), you can cut, or drill, 4 holes.
It's a pretty effective way to avoid a front rack or other hardware. And on a bicycle used for unaggressive transport cycling, I find that it does the job nicely.