This morning I was reminded of how useless a bike without carrying capacity is for daily living. I wanted to ride Smurfette to the store, but the Wald basket and Planet Bike rack I ordered have not yet arrived. My backpack and raincoat pockets are not big enough to hold everything I planned to buy. I gave up on the idea and rode Oma instead. When I returned home, there was a message waiting in my inbox on this very topic. Reader and 18-year bike commuter Carolyn seeks advice on the best (and cutest, I assume) carrying system for her new bike.
I asked Carolyn whether I could use her email as a post and she graciously agreed. So let’s put our collective knowledge together and give her some advice!
Her letter –>
I’ve been bike commuting for 18 years (bought my first commuting bike in 1991 and just retired it this year). I think I had been wanting a new one for a while as it didn’t take me long to decide to get a new one and I’ve been so excited since I bought it over 2 weeks ago. It’s a Rocky Mountain Hybrid, which is built in Canada, if you can believe!
Anyways, I got a back rack and fenders put on it, but I want to get either panniers or a basket to use on it for shopping. What do you recommend?
I found these quality baskets, made in Holland, but not cheap.
And by the same company, panniers.
I swear I’ve seen one bike blog where they are using something like this one for panniers. [Dottie's note: EcoVelo uses the similar brown canvas Basil bag for his Pashley; Righteous Velo-Metal Broad just bought the polka-dotted ones for her Flying Pigeon; Car Free Days has the shiny red ones for the Azor - all Basil, I believe]
But I don’t know, do either of them suit my bike? I want something that stands out from the mainstream, even though I admit, I am not a skirt wearer (but I do wear street clothes while biking, not sporty biking wear, except for the helmet which is still nice as it’s white with flowers on it–giro)
What do either of you recommend for baskets/panniers? And for locking? I have a cable lock, but want to also get a u-lock..as I don’t feel good leaving it locked up with just the cable. So paranoid right now!!!
Trisha’s Advice: Carolyn, I am not a lot of help here as I’m working on some of the same issues (though I love the Basil panniers and think they would match your helmet while being a great counterpoint to your bike’s sportiness) and never completely resolved them with Pinkie. Le Peug came with a vintage rear rack, but I didn’t think to specify that I’d prefer one with cables so I could actually secure stuff to it. This rack has a little snap-down bar, like a mousetrap, which can hold one small/flat item like my wallet and that’s it. I have to carry anything else in a backpack, which I hate and will not tolerate once summer steams around the corner. I adore Stylocycle‘s Basil Blossom Basket but am not sure it goes with Le Peug. Have also toyed with the idea of getting Wald folding baskets to attach on either side of the rack (I’d get the silver), making something myself, or thrifting something, but so far have come to no conclusions about what would be best.
And even though I didn’t think I wanted another front basket, I am tempted to get a front rack to carry extra items on now and again.
Dottie’s Advice: Like Trisha, I love the red flowered Basil panniers for the style factor – they would compliment your red bike nicely. My personal preference is a front basket that I can throw any old bag in (preferably mounted from the stem or front wheel base) and a rear rack with strong bungee cords that I can secure pretty much anything with. Your bike may not be the best for a front basket, though. I’m not a huge fan of panniers if you have to take them off at every destination; I first started with black canvas panniers that hung down on each side of my rack like saddlebags, but the putting on and taking off was too much of a hassle and it was unwieldy to carry around. Also, not cute. For some people baskets simply are not an option, like Mr. Dottie who uses an Arkel Commuter one-side pannier with a shoulder strap to carry his laptop. For locks I think a u-lock with a cable lock wrapped through the tires is a good system.