Friday, March 10, 2017

Basket Case: How Do You Secure Your Wicker?

It's a sure sign that spring is on its way and the new bike-buying season has begun, when people start to email me about baskets! Specifically, over the past weeks I've had a few questions about the best method to attach a basket to an upright transport bicycle: Does the basket require a front rack? Some other form of support? Or are the buckle straps that often come with baskets sufficient to hold them up?

And as is often the case, my answer is: 'It depends!' Because really, so much in cycling is context-specific. Speaking broadly, a bicycle will always handle better when a front load is tightly secured and well-supported. And the more performance-oriented a bicycle is, the more important this becomes. So, for instance, on a touring bike on which you ride many miles over mountain passes, do quick winding descents on, lean into corners at speed, etc., absolutely: a front rack is ideal. But is it necessary for the bicycle you will be riding <5 miles to work and back? Allow me to make the bold suggestion, that probably not!

At the same time, I find that the leather (or similar) straps which come with many baskets are suboptimal. First, because no matter how tightly I pull them, the basket will slide side to side, as well as bounce over bumps or potholes. But also because the metal buckles tend to clank against the handlebars and this irritates me to no end!

So in leu of either the front rack or the straps method, I opt for the high-tech and lightweight solution of using cable ties (aka 'zip ties'). Two around the handlebars, and - crucially - one around the headtube, pulled tightly, does the job splendidly. The basket does not bounce or slide, and remains stable even when heavily laden.

Importantly, you want to use thick, industrial strength cable ties for this job, not whispy household-use ones! The latter will easily snap under a weight load; the former are practically unbreakable. You should be able to find them in a hardware shop, commonly in a choice of black or white - and, if you're lucky, sometimes even green.

While of course not as attractive as leather straps, the cable ties, once in place, are actually quite subtle. And if you long for a quainter look, you can always twine them!

The best feature of the ties, is the level of adjustment they allow. Just thread them anywhere through the basket's wicker or wiring, and pull as tightly as you like for a secure, stable fit. And if your container is made of more solid stuff (i.e. wine crate), you can cut, or drill, 4 holes.

It's a pretty effective way to avoid a front rack or other hardware. And on a bicycle used for unaggressive transport cycling, I find that it does the job nicely.


  1. I understand that cable ties are made from nylon, btw, and can be dyed.

  2. Aren't zip ties great?! I used to fret about how to attach things to my bike and would browse hardware store drawers looking for the perfect arrangement of bracket, bolts, and nuts. Once attached they would usually rattle their way loose or rust or just disappear. Not so with zip ties. Baskets were another issue, however, with regard to securing the contents within the basket. It was constantly frustrating and mine only lasted a couple weeks before I cut the ties!

  3. Beware of putting the tie around brake cables...Avoid if possible.

  4. Back in the halcyon days of running a bike shop these were popular

  5. Hi,
    a basket like this is definitely not for someone who cherishes their bike's paint job :).
    What I'd advise is adding a front rack e.g. Basil or a 30cm Steco, and attaching the basket to it with zip ties.
    My delivery bike has a huge wicker basket (ca. 45x35x35cm) sitting on a Steco 45cm front rack. It's fastened with two transport straps and can be taken off easily when I need to carry something else on the rack, and I've carried a lot of different things: a Christmas tree, my toolbox, big buckets of paint, gardening soil, servers, electrical supplies, my friend's travel bag... not to mention the weekly groceries and a sack of potatos every now and then.

    By the way, I love the traditional Dutch carriers ("transportfietsen" - see a lot of them on ) and British "butcher's bikes" a.k.a. "short Johns". Those things were heavy but built to last, and a lot of those built in 50/60s are still going. Reissues are made by Pashley, Velorbis or Azor/Workcycles, but they cost a bomb, so I built my own :).

  6. Great idea - make sure that the ties are designed for outdoor use, i.e., UV-resistant. I once discovered that a collapsible basket on my rear rack was being retained by only 2 of 5 ties: I had used indoor ties, 3 of which had bee weakened by the sun and snapped!

  7. I purchased a frame lock while visiting Amsterdam which unfortunately didn't come with any hardware to attach it to my bicycle. Zip ties to the rescue! Because it matters not one bit how it is connected, only that it remains attached, and most importantly, doesn't rattle when I ride.

  8. Really, people email you about how to attach a wicker basket? Where do these people buy their bikes or their baskets? Any bike store worth its weight should be able to answer that question and if a basket does not come with a means of attachment, it better be awfully cheap!

    1. I do not like to scold bike shops; they have it tough too. But yes, people email me about things such as basket attachment problems and other customer service type issues. A bike shop has the power to get people excited about cycling, and it also has the power to put them off.

      The basket in the photos did not come with straps. 20 euro, as I recall, from my nearest bike shop. It is pretty big and sturdy, and comes in handy for demo bikes that arrive without a means to carry luggage.

  9. Your photo looks more fall than spring. I know of zero people who decide on bikes as a daily thing and end up using baskets, but if you do, you've probably already discovered Zip ties. Keep on cycling!!

  10. Hmm....I can't tell if I deleted my last comment or submitted it pre-maturely. Sorry if this is a duplicate. I wasn't sure how much weight zip ties could take, so I used rubber coated p-clamps. They work just fine and hold the basket very securely. There's something so right about having an old-fashioned wicker basket on an upright transportation bike.

  11. On two of my bikes I have used shoelaces to secure old watches and help secure a top bar bag, although there isn't much weight.

  12. Zip ties are great. I once zip tied a Raleigh Sprite frame to the rear rack of another bike and rode 5 miles over pot-holed michigan roads to bring it to the shop. Made it.

    And usually, the way you have attached the basket here would make me worry about scuffing the paint, but I imagine that's not much of a worry on many commuters and beaters. Speaking of which, I went whole hog on one of my beaters. a '69 Raleigh Sports with steel bar bolted straight through the frame and JB-welded to keep water out, in order to carry a large basket. I overhauled the bottom bracket after doing that, obviously to get the metal shavings out. It handles nicely even with a heavy load since the weight is not attached to the swiveling fork or handlebars. Kinda like an old postal bike. Photos in the link below, if curious.

  13. I'm addicted to front baskets for years and prefer the setup you can see here:

    Some more:

  14. I haven't had much luck with zip ties. What I've ended up using is the local hardware store sells velcro straps. They stand up better to road vibration.

  15. Can't beat the ziptie pricing, but for practicality the Azor pickup is no.1 in my book. The weight goes onto the frame, rather than the steering!