baskets

Some of our favorite baskets from around the Vélocouture flickrverse. Click through for credit information. 1. What I wore today…, 2. Sheryl, 3. 365/136 Me and Holly, 4. Folsom street basket shine., 5. ava, 6. bikes’ height reflect our height.

From a makeup case to a briefcase to a case of beer, getting around means carrying stuff. When you use a bike to get around you will often want to take some things with you: your purse or bag, your camera, your knitting supplies, the book you’re reading. And, of course, you may have things to carry with you on your way home; if you stop at the grocery store, for example. Fortunately, it’s easy to set up a bike as your own personal beast of burden.

One of the simplest ways to carry your stuff is to sling a backpack or messenger/shoulder bag on your back and head out. Plenty of people do this, and if you’re just starting out, it’s a convenient and low-cost option: you probably already own a small backpack or shoulder bag. But riding a bike with a bag on your back, for anything but the shortest trips, can become sweaty or uncomfortable. Good heavens, you may even rumple your jacket. That’s why I like to use a basket for my everyday transport.

BASKETS

For my everyday getting around on a bike, my favorite solution is a front basket. Baskets are one of those things that I wish I knew about 20 years ago; since I started using them several years ago, I wonder how I ever lived without one.

Baskets are cheap, durable, “aerodynamic” (the wire ones, anyway), lightweight, and unlikely to be stolen. (Need I mention that they match any decor?) They’re great for carrying small odds and ends. Say you started off with gloves on, but the day warmed up — peel off the gloves and toss them in the basket. Or you want to bring a sack lunch. Or your (small) dog. I like to use my basket to carry whatever bag or pack I’m carrying that day. I just put it in the basket, tie it down with my basket net, and off I go.

A lot of people prefer to carry things on the back of their bike rather than the front. It’s tough to beat the convenience of a front basket, though. Carrying a few things will work fine if you keep your basket load within comfortable limits. Use the basket to carry things you want close to hand (gloves, your camera, your travelin’ mug), or things you want to keep an eye on (a carton of eggs, a small dog) and put your heavier or bulkier items in your panniers.

My bike, a Kogswell Porteur/Randonneur, was designed to carry a load on the front, so much so that carrying a rear load throws off its handling. So I have a pair of small front panniers that carry my repair kit and rain jacket, and whatever extra groceries I may have; and then I have a big wide Wald basket that carries my bag, sunglasses, water bottle, tea thermos, or whatever daily goods I’m carrying along with me.

Kogswell with basket
The trusty Kogswell, doing what it does best — frontin’.

Wald baskets are one of the unsung heroes of North American bicycle accouterments. While nearly everything else related to bicycles is now made somewhere in Asia, Wald baskets are still made in the USA. And yet they are affordable, readily available, durable, versatile, and, by virtue of their long and constant presence, imbued with a classic aesthetic.

I carry a wide, low basket — the Wald 139 — attached to a small front rack. You don’t need a rack to carry a basket — most Wald baskets are self-supporting, with built-in struts that attach to your fork — but using a small front rack keeps the load a little lower, leaves some room on your handlebars (for bells, a bud vase, etc.), and in my case it also allows me to use a low-rider rack to carry front panniers. If you carry your panniers at the rear, an ordinary Wald basket, with its own support struts, will serve you very well.

The Bike That Was Always In Progress
My old Trek, sporting a small front basket and panniers at the rear.

THE BAGS IN MY BASKET

My favorite bags nowadays are simple shoulder bags that aren’t that great for walking around, but are fine for carrying the short distance from my bike to the library or cafe or meeting that I’m going to. That’s the great thing about carrying bags on your bike; your choices are more varied, because the bag doesn’t have to be super comfortable to wear. If I’m going to be walking around a lot at my destination, I’ll carry a small backpack instead of a bag. I’ve even carried my large camera backpack, tripod, and enough breakfast for me and my companion.

pacific outdoor "juneau" bag
The completely waterproof and eminently useful Juneau.

My favored bag for winter months is the Juneau, a small waterproof shoulder bag from Pacific Outdoor. They have a line of waterproof bags and packs that apply their dry-bag technology to urban-style bags. The material is completely waterproof and the zippers are welded; I’ve carried this bag in my basket for ten miles through a winter downpour and the inside stayed totally dry. The Juneau isn’t very comfortable to carry for long walks, but it works great on a bike, where all I have to do is carry it from my bike to the inside of wherever I’m going. Mine has withstood wintry abuse since 2007.

I recently received a new bag from Pendleton — a messenger-style bag, from their Eco-wise sustainable wool line. It’s quickly become my bag of choice for meetings, interviews, and any other business situation where I need to carry some papers, documents, or other flat items, and want to look stylish and professional while doing so. It’s got a padded laptop compartment, which is a good place to carry a camera or other fragile stuff, if you don’t carry a laptop. And it even makes a good diaper bag. From conference table to changing table! You heard it here first! This bag is so distinctive that it often gets second glances and compliments from people; how often do you see a bag in checked wool with leather trim? Or maybe the question is, how often do you see a man carrying one?

WIN a Pendleton Eco-wise Wool Messenger Bag!
The ruggedly lovely Pendleton Eco-wise bag.

WIN YOUR OWN PENDLETON MESSENGER BAG!!!

To spread the word about this awesome bag and the Pendleton Eco-wool line, Vélocouture is partnering with Pendleton, the Simply Bike blog, and the Basket_case flickr group to give away one of these bags. To enter to win one of these bags, click here and follow the instructions. Deadline for your entry is 5pm Pacific time, September 30, 2010!

I’m excited to help Pendleton spread the word about their new line of Eco-wise clothing and gear. They’ve been one of my favorite clothing companies for just about as long as I’ve had a favorite clothing company. While you’re getting busy entering the giveaway, be sure to check out the Basket_case flickr group, a new group that is chock full of bike baskets in action.

Thanks for reading. Load ’em up!

Kogswell with basket