When I got into cycling 15 years ago, racks were for randonneurs and cross-country riders and people who “had” to commute by janky, clapped-out bikes (the cool kids rode fixies and carried hulking messenger bags). Front baskets were only for brightly-colored women’s-specific cruisers. In short, anything that was simply functional was dorky to me: a teenaged roadie wearing white Spandex and maniacally hammering farm roads under a brutal Texas sun. (Any irony was clearly lost on me, at the time.)
When I moved to a certified bicycle friendly city in Colorado and began running errands by bike, I carried an enormous backpack and learned to suffer under heavy loads. Fortunately, in recent years, the cycling culture has shifted—a shift that put a renewed focus on adventure travel, everyday cycling and bike-as-useful-tool. The idea of leaving your car at home to run short errands has finally trickled down from big city centers. I think one of the best things to come out of it is the general acceptance of the rack and basket.
So, of course, I had to try it. I’m not so much a trend follower as I am a good-idea follower, and a set of racks seemed like a good idea. I settled on a large, sturdy, traditional rear rack for panniers and a long, flat surface for lashing things to, paired with a small front rack platform that would leave room for a handlebar bag. Because Velo Orange already has a lot of my money—its lovely offerings constituting a candy shop for bicycle beautifying addicts like myself—I chose a few items from its stock and ordered them up.
It wasn’t without consternation that I choked down the $80 price tag on a VO Pass Hunter Front Rack with a mere 4-inch by 8-inch platform. My esophagus tightened further after I found the rack didn’t fit on either of the bikes I could have installed it on, and even further when I discovered that the cantilever brake post mounts aren’t functionally adjustable.
Meanwhile, on my cycling-heavy Instagram feed, I started seeing a wire basket with lanky mounting legs showing up on everything from vintage bar bikes to full-on road/gravel touring rigs. I liked the idea: just shove crap in there as needed. Some were big enough for a box of pizza. All of them were big enough for a bag of donuts, a six pack, a copy of War and Peace and a spare jacket. Or, camping gear.
The baskets I saw most are those made by Wald Cycle Company, which has been in existence since 1905. Needless to say, I’m way late to the party in “discovering” this company. Wald’s components and accessories have been Kentucky-made since the 1920s, and yet its prices are startlingly reasonable.
Front baskets range in price from a mere $20 to a slightly more luxurious $55 for a model with a wooden platform included. There’s even a version with a quick-release bar mount that allows you to pop off the basket without tools and take it with you to do your shopping. The price, spaciousness and universal fit of the Walds swayed me. I paid a whopping $25 for my made-in-the-USA “Multi-Fit” model and needed all of five minutes and one Phillip’s screwdriver to install it. I didn’t even need to look at the directions; common sense sufficed.
The generously sized bar clamps work on all diameters and set the basket far enough away from the bars to allow room for even the messiest of cable clusters. The legs are just about infinitely adjustable and can mount on all kinds of forks or the hub skewer. The result is a basket that’s damn sturdy. Even when I decide to take the dirt detours into town, I don’t hear any rattling or notice any unnerving movement. With a few, cheap elastic straps across the top, there’s not much I can’t carry that I need on a regular basis. The basket’s dimensions are roughly 14.5 inches by 9.5 inches by 9 inches, with a two-inch taper at the bottom.
Indeed, a Wald basket may look a bit gauche. It’s not sleek and understated like the lovely VO rack I started with—and really wish would have fit. Big baskets also make your bike’s front end heavy and floppy. The Multi-Fit’s heft is three pounds, but the bike I put it on is early-90s lugged steel with a set of ancient bullmoose handlebars that, alone, probably weigh as much as the rest of the bike put together. I’m not worried about the weight of the Wald.
The Wald’s overall quality seems excellent, though I haven’t had it long enough to comment on longevity or how it holds up over time under repeated heavy loads. Still, I feel plenty confident recommending it and, thanks to the four-pints price, I will probably purchase a smaller one for my 1984 Bridgestone T700 touring bike.