When I moved to Highland Park, Ill. In October, I had no idea I had moved to what looks like America’s Cycling Capital. The quiet streets and tree-lined paths that wind their way to the state’s northern and southern borders are teeming with spandex-clad cyclists, even when it rains. There are parents dragging strollers containing their kids, couples moving in sync on tandem bikes, and teens pedaling to pick up colorful treats in the city’s smoothie bowl. They move in swarms: fast, powerful, assertive – exclusive. As someone who didn’t learn to ride as a kid, I was very nervous about getting on a bike and getting started. When I got on a turquoise cruiser – the bigger wheels make this novice rider more solid – I felt like an impostor.
But I continued to pedal. At one point, I decided to buy a basket. My riding grew to include races that a basket would only make easier, and many of the more experienced riders I saw had them. Maybe a basket would help me fit in, I reasoned, or at least stand out less. Buying one, however, has proven to be as difficult as finding the right bike. The selection of baskets at my local bike store, Erik’s, where I purchased my cruiser, was limited to cage-like wire styles. What happens when you buy a wand ?, I thought face to face with their gaping holes. I thought of one of those canvas bags that attach to the back of a bike, but they seemed too insecure. Weighted down by a bulky towel, the bag could rub against the rear wheel. And most of the wicker baskets I found weren’t just too twee – think Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz – but also looked fragile as they only had velcro straps to attach them to the bike frame.
My research ultimately led me to Baba Tree’s bike baskets in Goodee which have a lot of things that others miss. These baskets are handcrafted in Ghana with vetiver grass which is well woven and tight, so there is no risk that a wand, or even the stem of a freshly cut flower, will fail. slides into it. Each has beautiful leather belts with large bronze buckles to attach to the bike. (The belts look so cool I wish they would fit around my waist.) While they are adjacent to Dorothy’s basket, they are not: designed in a number of colorful patterns, these baskets have an heirloom quality that it’s impossible not to notice. Namely, after equipping my bike with the basket I had spouted for – a turquoise and green striped number with bits of yellow and black – shouts of “Nice basket!” Came from parents, couples, and the teenagers that I passed on horseback.
The author’s basket was attached to his bicycle.
Photo: Ariel Kanter
The appeal of this basket is not just superficial. For something that looks complicated, it’s pretty strong. I put things as heavy as my 15 pound puppy in my medium sized basket and he held on. Although sturdy, the basket is light, so it didn’t add to my load on longer routes or climbs. Mine has plenty of room for my bike essentials – my shoulder bag and water bottle – with enough room to hold a towel and a loaf of bread from the local French bakery when I head to the park or to the beach. There are also smaller and larger sizes. If I had any biker friends, I would give them one of these baskets in a heartbeat. Now that I’m finally getting noticed on the trails, it might not be long before I get there.
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