“You got a bike? Is it vintage?” asked my 9-year-old son who had apparently been paying more attention to my year-long obsession than I had thought.
“Not vintage, but vintage-style. -Ish. They call it a Dutch style. But it has that step-through old-fashioned shape.”
“Cool. Does it have a basket?” Obviously he had taken in the most pressingly essential details while he stood all those months, sharp chin pressed into my shoulder, admiring with me the Raleighs and Schwinns on Craigslist, the Pashleys and Batavuses (Batavi?).
“I want to see!”
He ran ahead of me out the door, ready to admire.
“But it isn’t wicker.”
“No, it’s not wicker.”
I’ve looked at wicker baskets for years, but could never find one as simple and as strong and as well-made as the one I’d used on the rented bike I’d ridden in Belgium that fateful fortnight when this 9-year-old was barely one.
My new favorite bike shop, Clever Cycles in Portland, has a fine selection of baskets. Lovely, sturdy, simply made woven baskets. Just what I’d been thinking I wanted. I tried them on the Oma. And they looked fine.
But this is the moment where I first became aware that I am following a script not wholly conscious. When, on a whim, I tried the mesh Basil basket, something in me said, “Ahh . . . yes.”
Either that or this particular Old Granny had telepathic preferences of her own.
I don’t entirely understand it and couldn’t give you pros and cons. But I can tell you why I love my Basil ‘Bern’ wire-mesh basket.
I like ~
- The all-black-and-white ensemble. Something about the low-profile coloring simply appeals to me. Maybe because I love the quiet lines of the bike itself, I’m glad the matching black wire mesh doesn’t seem to demand any extra attention from my eye.
- The no-nonsense plainness of the design. Not that I’m opposed to nonsense: I love the romantic, picnics-in-the-meadow, baguette-bouquet-and-darling-Yorkie idea of woven willow baskets. And I know – with my mind at least – that wicker is probably every bit as practical. But here in my punctual-and-thrifty blue-collar town, something deeper in me wants my bike to say, unequivocally, Look, this biking gig is very sensible. Not whimsical, not fancy. You could try this.
- The pattern of the mesh itself and how it reveals whatever’s in the basket. It’s a rolling enticement to try living with a bike – why, yes, I am carrying my groceries home after a quick spin in the fresh air. Handy, don’t you think? At the check-out the checker wanted to know where I’d gotten a shopping basket of my own – “Oh! it goes on your bike? It’s like a Wizard of Oz basket! You know, I’ve been wanting to ride a bike into work . . . ” Another time, another checker and the whole line behind me craned their necks to see how the basket hooked over the end of the counter where the bagger stands- all ready to be filled with bread and yogurt – as if the basket were made to fit.
- Ease of use. This basket slips on, slips off, simply hooking over the handlebars – no fancy clips, no special attachments. As you can see from the title photo, the basket transfers relatively easily from one bike to the other. I carry it with me into the county offices and schools where I volunteer and into meetings, where it neatly contains the unavoidable helmet as well as scarves and gloves and necessary papers. I carry it into the grocery store where it takes the place of both the in-store basket and the paper/plastic conundrum.
- Size. Small enough to slide underneath benches and most chairs. Not too bulky to carry over my arm or down narrow aisles. Big enough for a quick grocery stop. A bag of library books. A stack of manila file folders. Flowers or tulip bulbs and a trowel. When it rains, a large plastic lidded tub fits into the bottom of the basket to keep my papers dry.
- Accessibility, especially en route. I’m used to using Ortlieb side panniers and a zip-up handlebar bag which have their advantages for long-distance touring. But for the kind of daily biking I do most days, it’s much easier to toss in bike lock, camera, notebook, purse, gloves and scarf (in case I want them later), papers. No stopping, getting off the bike, unclasping, unrolling, rooting around in the bag, restuffing, rebuckling, every time I need something along the way. I love that I can pack my groceries directly into the basket as I shop. And I don’t believe I ever truly tasted January oranges until last week peeling one at a stop sign and then eating it section by section in the fresh, rain-washed, piney air, coasting home from the grocery.
As for what I don’t so much like ~
Very quickly the curved guide that keeps the bottom of the basket against the headstem wore away the front sticker. To protect the paint we squeezed the top hooks a little more snugly to the handlebars (which Martina at Clever Cycles had suggested, though I’d forgotten) and applied some black friction tape.
An enterprising bike shop (or even the designers themselves) might look to providing some kind of tubing to keep metal basket from scraping on metal bike.
As my legs are becoming accustomed to the change in weight and geometry, I’m beginning to think it would be nice to have more carrying capacity.
Attaching a front rack with a hefty front basket is always an option.