Thursday, August 19, 2010

Best Front Handlebar Bike Baskets

Front Handlebar Bike Baskets: do you regularly need to carry rather heavy gear on your bike, on a bike route or where quick handling of the contents is important? Then you need handlebar bike baskets. If you only need to use them from time to time, and if what you carry is reasonably light, say, 10 lbs or less, then get a quick release basket: we already reviewed them here. If, on the other hand, you really need to use them often and you are carrying significant weight, then you need permanently mounted baskets.

What makes for the right front handlebar bike baskets

Fit. The mount must fit your bike - that is the first thing to establish:-) There are broad categories of bikes which will not work with front baskets: baskets do not work with road racing handlebars, which leave too narrow a space in the middle for the baskets to fit. They may not work either if your handlebar is too low on the fork, because they need a minimum of depth. Finally, they will not fit kids' bicycles. If your bike appears to be of a type that will fit baskets, there still are two primary possible problems. Your handlebar must fit the handlebar mount, and the geometry of your bike must be appropriate for the length of the struts that support the front basket. Make sure to check the basket and mount dimensions prior to purchase. It might be a god idea to buy this item at a bike shop where you can make sure that it will fit your bike.

Sturdiness. The basket must be bale to take heavy contents without bending or breaking.

Reliability. The basket and its mounting hardware need to last multiple years without breaking or corroding.

Weight. The basket and mounting hardware should be reasonably light, since they remains on your bike at all times.

Installation Issues

All equipment that needs to be mounted on a bike may create installation problems, because bike frames have different geometries and sizes, and because mounted components are all different. Permanently mounted front baskets can actually be tricky to mount for some bike models. If you have any doubt, your best bet is to buy the basket you want from a local bike store, and/or ask for the equipment to be mounted for you. It will only cost you a few dollars and make the process very easy. Use your local bike store!

Danger: Bike Balance

Because of increased weight high and in front (when carrying gear in your basket), your bike will balance differently. Ride slowly until you have been able to experiential with the new balance - the bike will behave differently, and it is easy to crash. Your bike will also tumble more easily when self standing.

The models did not make the grade

The Sunlite Standard Deep Bicycle Basket has few reviews. The Avenir Adjustable Front Basket has none. The Cycle Force front Bicycle Basket has few reviews, an unusually complex mounting system, and no installation instructions. The Avenir Wicker Bicyle Basket is cute, but its velcro attachment system lacks versatility and limits the number of models that it can attach to - too bad! The Nirve Wire Basket has few reviews and a doubtful mounting system.

The best front bike baskets

It turns out that the models that qualified are all Wald baskets. Wald is a US company which does most of its manufacturing in the US, and has a long track record manufacturing quality components for the biking industry. Wald baskets are made of powder-coated wire with squares of approximately 1.5" x 1.5". All models are very similar, with same basket construction and mounting brackets, with the exception of the largest model, the 157, which has different mounting brackets.

All baskets are reviewed as sturdy and well built: "Wald baskets are the best I've seen, and I've seen lots of good baskets", "welds are solid and [...] smooth", "great quality all around", "product is very well made", "quality materials mean it will last forever", "good quality, strong and durable", "very sturdy." The weight is moderate: "surprised how light the box was when I picked it up", "light enough to not make too big a difference when unloaded."

As for all bike gear, some users have easier installation  than others, but installation is in general easy: "easy to mount", "installation was straightforward", "bike had a different type front wheel that made it tricky to get on",  "easy to install but not all the hardware is included", "did not fit my bicycle", "took me like 15 minutes to install it", "Installation was a snap [...] The only thing remotely difficult was trying to find the best routing for the shifter and brake cables." However, there are some possible incompatibilities. Struts can sometimes be too short: "it won't fit most bikes unless you make extensions of around 6 to 8 inches." Handlebar fit also can be a problem: "Most handlebars these days have a larger diameter where mounted to the stem and then tapper off towards the ends. This does not work with this basket [bracket]." Finally, the brackets do not work with quick release wheels: "legs that came with it can't be used with quick release front tires, which wasn't mentioned in the product description, and if it was, it's pretty hidden! you can buy special attachments at your local bike shop." All these issues can be resolved by your bike shop - but it will be easier if you talk to them prior to buying the basket.

The Wald permanent front basket product line, as a whole, carries excellent reviews, with 92% positive ratings, and a likely error under 6% (73/79 on Amazon).  However, several reviews specifically identify customer support issues with one of the suppliers on Amazon, Niagara Cycles. On that basis, it would be best to deal with other suppliers.

Rather than rank all Wald models separately, we will describe their differences, as their construction is so similar.

The $20 Wald 137 is the smallest of the lot, with a capacity of 675 in3, and 15" x 10" x 4.75" dimensions. Be sure to check the dimensions carefully, as this basket is shallow and small. The handlebar mounting brackets may not work with large diameter, tapered handlebars. There is a small risk that the struts may be too small to fit your bike.

The $15 Wald 135 is the next largest, and carries the exact same size as the popular quick release 3133 model, i.e. 1,240 in3 capacity and 14.5" x 9.5" x 9" dimensions. The handlebar mounting brackets may not work with large diameter, tapered handlebars. There is a small risk that the struts may be too small to fit your bike.

The $27 Wald 139  is the next size up, with a capacity of 1,404 in3, and 18" x 13" x 6" dimensions. The handlebar mounting brackets may not work with large diameter, tapered handlebars. There is a small risk that the struts may be too small to fit your bike.

Finally, the $40 Wald 157 is the giant model, with a capacity of 2,205 in3, and 21" x 15" x 7" dimensions. The Wald 157 is the traditional newspaper road basket:-) It has a very large capacity and sturdiness to boot. The 157 has special handlebar mounting brackets which may be more adaptable than the other brackets.

The Wald permanently mounted front handlebar bike baskets are solid and sturdy gear with a long track record. There are some possible incompatibilities due to bike geometry and options. On that basis, they are recommended with reservations. If in doubt, get your local bike store to order and mount the equipment - it will save you both time and aggravation, and will only cost you a few dollars.

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