Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wald Baskets

Lately, I've been trying to make my bikes useful.

Bikes are already useful, of course -- for exercise, sightseeing, family fun, sport, and with bags and trailers, they can even carry cargo and stuff. But I've had this sort of fantasy, I suppose you'd call it, of being able to commute by bike or do a lot more shopping and stuff by bike. It's a fantasy because I live in Southborough and work in Lowell, which is a long way away, and because the closest supermarkets are either a very dangerous 5 miles away by bike or a less dangerous 7 miles away. Not insurmountable, but not five blocks south and two west, either. Short of the fantasy, I'd like at least some of my fleet to be able to schlep stuff around readily for when the opportunity arises.

I've got bags of various sizes on all of my bikes, and racks of various types on a couple of them (and more to come). Bags and racks make it easy to carry a snack or jacket, or lash something down to bring it with you. Oh -- to the snack thing: I've found that bananas tend to liquefy in handlebar bags. In the skin, so it's not messy -- but not appetizing either. Anyway, I've even got shopping bag panniers, and those are pretty useful for lugging stuff around or doing actual shopping. But they're not very rigid and won't carry heavy stuff very well.

When I was on vacation with the kids on the Cape this past summer, I was impressed with how handy Juliana's little white plastic handlebar basket was for beach duty, so a month or two back, I bought a Wald basket from Rivendell. It's the smaller of the two they sell. And it has pretty much sat around, since, while I figured out what to do with it. I don't have a sufficiently substantial front rack on any of my bikes to hold it, and the drop bars on all of my road bikes are narrow enough that I wasn't fond of the idea of mounting it up front.

The little Specialites TA rack on my front Mafac brake is teeny and really limited to steadying my front bag hanging from my Velo-Orange decaleur, or perhaps carrying a small box of Munchkins back from Dunkin Donuts. The saddle bag support on the Motobecane is not suitable for a basket, really -- just for holding up a saddle bag. One larger than the one currently on the bike, at that.

So that really leaves the rear Velo-Orange rack on the Schwinn as a likely perch -- at least until I rack-up the Columbia or Paramount. But today I got home from a Saturday at the office and figured I'd cable-tie it to the Schwinn and see how it looked. Looks fine, as it turns out, and should be out of the way of the gooseneck on the trailer bike, too (the concern for which is what kept me from just lashing it on here in the first place).

I'm not the only one in the family who needs to carry stuff on their bike, either. On my two most recent rides with the girls, Juli had a skateboard lashed to the modified Pletscher rack on her Fuji, and my handlebar bag was full of her body armor. Riding in pads isn't convenient, and the skateboard hung way off the back of her rack like a set of wheelie bars on a dragster -- it looked pretty silly. So I told her a week or so ago that I'd find a set of baskets for her Fuji. Which I did, as you can see, and they're now mounted to her bike.

As you can see, they're these neat pannier baskets with a lightly arched inner side. They came with all this crazy hardware designed for mounting them to either steel balloon-tire cruiser fenders or the rear supports of a banana seat. After a quick look-over this stuff, I gently put it back in its bag so as not to disturb the past, and proceeded to mount the baskets with a single Nitto band clamp wrapped around the frame of the Pletscher. Then I cable-tied each basket to several other points on the rack or its struts, mostly for added stability -- the clamp is really where the strength is -- however much that is. The mousetrap on the top of the Pletscher is unaffected by the baskets and is still an option for holding stuff down. The arched sides stand a little proud of the rack top, though, so they might get in the way of something wide and flat going up there. I think these look great, and I might get another set for myself.

When the girls were dropped off at the house today, I sent Juli out to the barn to take a look. She gave me an A+ on the job (I'm so proud). Her skateboard will fit just fine on one side and her pads in the other, though a bungee net is probably called for to keep everything in place. I'll pick up a pair at some point -- one for each of us.

In both cases (mine and hers, that is), the baskets appear to be uncoated steel wire, though they may be galvanized. I'll give them a light coating of car wax every once in a while to protect them and they shouldn't rust. Of course I don't expect them to last forever, especially Juli's -- kids are hard on their gear in this stretch.

Incidentally, Wald is a company that has made stuff for bicycles for over 100 years. If you go up on eBay and search on Wald Baskets, you'll find an amazing variety of new and old styles of baskets for bicycles -- sexy (if there is such a thing) and modern quick-release ones, and simple old-fashioned ones like the one I bought from Rivendell. Their website is also a good source of info for the stuff in current production, of course, but eBay seems more fun, somehow. They're still making bicycle components in Kentucky today -- a true rarity these days.

This post, by the way, marks my one year anniversary of blogging and of Bronze Gears. I'm enjoying sharing and hopefully my visitors are getting some value from what I've posted here.

All for now,


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