Carrying Stuff: A Roundup

LHT with Leaf

We receive a lot of questions regarding how to carry stuff on bikes. Here’s a roundup of some of our articles on the subject.

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! ;-)

Stainless Steel Bottles

Whether it’s for taste, aesthetic reasons, or environmental and health concerns, many people are switching from plastic to stainless steel water bottles. A trip to your local outdoor store will confirm this. As recently as one year ago, plastic bottles made up a large majority of the drinking bottles at REI, but now it’s flopped the other way and stainless and coated aluminum outnumber plastic by a wide margin.

I’m seeing more and more stainless bottles on bicycles as well. I’m also receiving quite a few e-mails asking what kind of bottle/cage combination I’m using. I’ve only tried out a tiny fraction of what’s available on the market, but I’m happy to pass along what has worked for me.

On our recumbent tandem we’re using Specialized brand injection-molded bottle cages with Klean Kanteen stainless bottles. The Specialized cages are nothing “special”; they’re nearly identical to all the other plastic/nylon cages on the market in the $10-$15 price range. These cages comfortably hold either the 18 oz. or 27 oz. Klean Kanteens. Klean Kanteen sells their own version of this cage.

If you have an aversion to plastic bottle cages (they’re pretty ugly), the fillet-brazed Nitto Hourglass Cage from Rivendell is a more aesthetically pleasing alternative. The Nitto cage is beautifully hand-made in Japan and it should last a lifetime; this is a good thing considering its price tag of $48. Like the injection-molded cages, the Hourglass holds either the 18 oz. or 27 oz. Klean Kanteens. The 27 oz. is a great fit and doesn’t rattle at all, but the 18 oz. will rattle unless you modify the cage or bottle (this is not an issue with plastic cages). I prefer the 27 oz. bottle since I’m not concerned about weight and I like having the larger bottle with me at work.

I’m sure there are many other cage/stainless bottle combinations that work well. If you have one you’d like to share, please post the information in the comment section below this post.

Nitto Hourgalss Cage @ Rivendell
Klean Kanteen @ REI

The Womb

After trying a few different camera bags and talking with a number of people who are in the know about such things, I now have a secure and convenient system for carrying my DSLR on my bike. Here’s the set-up:

The Canon XSi plus extra lens goes into a modified LowePro Nova 160 AW camera bag that’s overstuffed with foam to suspend the camera flight-case-style. Then the 160 AW slips into the main compartment of an Arkel Bug convertible pannier with foam inserted in the outer pocket to further protect the camera in case the bike falls on that side. The camera bag is left unzipped (but snapped closed) to enable easy access by unzipping the Arkel’s main “mushroon” zipper. Set-up in this manner, the kit is safe and sound inside multiple layers of foam and Cordura nylon, yet it takes all of 15-20 seconds to access the camera for quick snaps. As an added bonus, the Arkel converts into a backpack, enabling it to serve double-duty off the bike as a backpack-style camera bag with the 160 AW inside.

Only time will tell, but I’ve yet to come across anyone who can attribute damage done to a DSLR to road vibration. In the event of a crash, I feel reasonably confident that my set-up would provide adequate protection, though a box-style (aka “boxy”) handlebar bag suspended between drop bars would undoubtedly be more secure. I’ll report back at a later date and let you know how it goes…

Umbra Fisk on Bike Commuting

[via Grist]

Wet Weather Riding Tips from the PNW

Here are a few winter riding tips from the Portland Office of Transportation, a place where they know a thing or two about wet road conditions.

Stay Dry and Warm
You don’t need the latest and greatest cycling gear to get around town by bicycle. A decent rain jacket and pants are your best defense. They both cut down on wind and keep you dry. If you can afford it, GoreTex or other breathable fabric will keep the rain out and keep you from feeling clammy. Fenders are also a very good investment — they keep your clothes from getting gritty and dirty. Nice extras include waterproof gloves, a snug hood or cap, a synthetic layer next to your skin to wick away moisture, and rain booties to go over your shoes.

Use Front and Rear Bicycle Lights
Lights are required by law when riding after dark. A white light visible at least 500 feet to the front, and a red light or reflector visible at least 600 feet to the rear. These lights allow other people to see you from the back, front and side. For more visibility at night wear bright clothing, an orange vest, or use reflective tape. The more reflectors whether blinking, flashing or solid, the better.

Brake Early and Often
Allow plenty of stopping distance. Gently squeeze your brakes in the rain to clear the water from you brake pads before you need to stop.

Avoid Some Painted and Steel Road Surfaces and Leaves
Steel plates, sewer covers, grates and other metal can be very slick in the rain. For paint, Portland City crews use non-slick paint and plastics for bike lanes and bicycle markings (and those blue bike lanes); however, crosswalks and other painted surfaces can be slippery. Avoid using your brakes or turning on these painted surfaces and on leaves and oily spots.

Stay Out of the Puddles
While it is tempting to splash through puddles especially if you have really good rain gear, a puddle can disguise a very deep pothole.

Slow Down on Newly Wet Roads
That first rain brings all the oil on the road to the surface making for a slippery ride. This is especially true after a long dry spell. Give yourself longer stopping distances and keep a firmer grip on your handlebars.

[via BikePortland]

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