A Basket How-To (and Why-For)

A basket is a useful addition to any bike. Some prefer wire baskets for their strength and general utilitarian nature, while others prefer wood baskets for their natural good looks. Both are great for throwing in loose items such as mail, keys, cell phones, and small bags of groceries.

Michael points out that regardless of which bike she’s riding, people always comment on her wood baskets. She feels that wood baskets give off an aura of friendliness and approachability that draws people into conversations about where she’s riding and what she’s doing on a bike. She says that, more than any other thing, her baskets have enabled her to strike-up conversations with non-bicyclists about the benefits of bike riding. How cool!

When we ordered her new bike she insisted upon a wood basket and chose an Appalachian White Ash basket from Peterboro Basket Co. Peterboro baskets are beautiful, but they’re not as robust as some of the wicker baskets she’s used in the past, so instead of hanging the basket from the handlebars in the usual manner, I mounted it on a Rivendell/Nitto Mark’s Rack. I reinforced the bottom of the basket with thin birch plywood from the hobby store and attached the base to the rack with heavy duty zip ties. The result looks fantastic and is more stable and stronger than if the basket was suspended. Here are a few photos to illustrate what I did.

The goods: a Peterboro basket, Gorilla Glue, and two small sheets of birch plywood. Cut the plywood to fit the bottom of the basket. Glue one sheet each on the inside and outside bottom of the basket.

Place heavy weights inside the basket while the glue dries.

Ready for drilling. Set the basket in place on top of the rack and trace the outlines of the rack onto the bottom of the basket. Drill holes for the zip ties in strategic locations.

Now’s a good time to apply a little finish; two coats of shellac oughta do.

Install the basket on the rack with multiple zip ties. Voilà! Solid as a rock.

Finally, cut a thin sheet of dense, closed-cell foam to fit the bottom of the basket to keep keys and cell phones from rattling around.

Now, go ride your bike and strike up a conversation with a random passerby to extol the virtues of bike riding and baskets! ;-)

23 Responses to “A Basket How-To (and Why-For)”

  • Ints says:

    I took a similar approach on my bike, with a Wald Woody and a Nashbar front rack on my bike. The Nashbar front rack is the “affordable” alternative to the Nitto front rack. Once the basket was located on the rack, I drilled three holes that aligned with existing holes on the Nashbar rack and used three small bolts to anchor the basket to the rack.
    I hope soon to get some decent pics of the bike to submit to the EcoVelo Gallery.

    Ints

  • brad says:

    Very nice, and I like the step-by-step instructions!

    One caveat that’s pretty obvious but worth stating is that if you live in the city and leave your bike parked outside, you should make sure your basket is easily removable and bring it in with you when you’re not riding. Here in Montréal, people throw trash in the baskets of bikes that are parked on the sidewalks; some of them are full of the most disgusting stuff and I feel sorry for the bicyclists who have to empty and clean them out the next morning.

  • Tammy says:

    Very cool. I love the look of wood baskets. :)

  • Helton says:

    I’ve recently added a cheap plastic-painted steel-canvas basket on my bike, and found (a bit surprised) that it increased my will to go by bike in short errands, to the college, and I am using it also to go to work with more ease. Before that basket, I used a bag strapped to the rear rack, but found it is much easier to take things in and out the basket than strap and unstrap the rear bag, which is good when you almost always arrive a bit late…
    Other advantages are:
    – things are always under sight;
    – you can just throw loose things in, without need to open zippers or straps;
    – it’s difficult to arrive sweaty, because you cannot go too fast (otherwise things will fly over your head at the smallest bump or pothole or the like);
    – the added weight on the front makes the bike more stable at cruise speed, and more comfortable to go over rougher terrain, specially for those without front suspension.

    I liked very much your “heavy weights”, too. Look like the Canon of the extra-technically-conscious-die-hard-would-be-bike-scientist! Wish I had some copies of that (and time to read, too!).

  • Jeff says:

    I think it might be “voila'” but great idea on the basket mounting!

  • Alan says:

    @Jeff

    Oops, typo! Thanks… :-)

  • Alan says:

    @Ints

    “I took a similar approach on my bike, with a Wald Woody and a Nashbar front rack on my bike.”

    That sounds like a great set-up. Send pics!! :-)

  • Functional Cycling says:

    Wonderful looking bike. I think the flowers on the front of the rack are nice touch.

    I love the fact that you can apply this technique to pretty much any basket/box. I am going to spend some time thinking how to make this DIY project my own.

    Thanks

  • Mike says:

    I see you got the Honjo fenders on there as well! It really looks great. Looking forward to many, many more photos of this beauty.

  • Doug says:

    Beautiful, you are a genius.

  • BikeBike says:

    Great post! And so true about people feeling they can come talk to you when you have a nice wicker/wood basket on your bike.

    Just wanted to pass along another basket company that has some very nice baskets that are really tough too – Nantucket Bike Baskets – http://nantucketbikebaskets.com/store/index.html

    It is a family run operation and Kristen and her family are really great!

    Cheers!

  • Alan says:

    @BikeBike

    Very nice, thanks for the tip. Unfortunately, it looks as if they sell wholesale to dealers only at this point.

    Alan

  • jason says:

    That untreated birch would would last for about one rain storm and then it would be time to remove everything and start over, no?

  • Alan says:

    @jason

    I may hit it with a coat of shellac, though it’s laminated for use in model airplanes and boats so I assume it’s fairly weatherproof? Also, it’s fairly well-protected by the foam and fenders.

    Alan

  • rpaonessa@sbcglobal.net says:

    I would definitely give it that coat of shellac, in fact I’d probably give it two or three. Unless it’s marine-grade plywood (and even then), I would assume it won’t last long unprotected if you use it in the rain a lot. Then again, you don’t have much of a monsoon season there in California, do you? :)

  • Andrew says:

    I’m a bit less aesthetically inclined, perhaps, but I definitely enjoy the virtues of having an open container to toss things in.

    My commuter currently has a big ol’ blue milk crate zip-tied in similar fashion to my rear rack. It’s great to be able to throw my backpack or shopping loose in there while I ride. And storage aside, one of its main benefits to me is the ghetto-fication factor that it adds to my bike, which might otherwise look more attractive to a thief.

  • Alan says:

    @rpaonessa@sbcglobal.net

    It’s pretty dry around here, but I went ahead and hit it with a couple of coats of shellac just to cover all the bases. I updated the original post to reflect this added step.

    Thanks!
    Alan

  • Gussy says:

    Alan,
    How did you like Jeff Mapes, Cycling Revolution? I liked it a bit more than im liking The Bicycle Diaries by (forgotten his name!) They are 2 very different books. thought. So im finding it hard not to compare them. Do you have a list of “must reads” or “good reads”

  • Patrick in Chicago says:

    I don’t have any pictures on this computer at the moment but I have a few baskets on my bikes. I bought them all from the thrift store for no more than $4 and have re-purposed for the bike. I have an old picnic basket on the front of our 72 Schwinn Tandem and another one that I can easily take on or off the rear rack. Their cheap & it’s easy. I use a nice varnish on them and added in some padding I had also…the only difference is I used a heavy wire to secure the front one. I just picked one up this week to use on a what I think is a late 70’s Fuji s12 mixte I bought from off a metal scrapper’s pick up truck for $10!

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  • Mary Westmacott says:

    THis is a great article for us Bicycle commuter enthusiasts , again some great photos and very useful basket tips. thanks again for your lovely topical reading material. Love this blog, its my best find todate. x

 
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