Are you one of the many people who took up bicycling this summer? By now you’ve graduated from short, recreational rides around your neighborhood and are using your bike for longer trips, whether a picnic in the park, investigating nearby bike paths, or even a visit to the grocery store. If so, that means you’ve been confronted with the age-old question of how best to carry things on your bike. If your first thought was, “I should get a bike basket!”, let’s think through if a bike basket is right for you, and why something other than a bike basket might be a better fit.
The Pros and Cons of Bike Baskets
There’s a reason why bike baskets come to mind so quickly - they’re very common and not too expensive! You probably had one on your bike as a kid and the basic design of today’s bike baskets are pretty much the same. They generally come in wicker or wire and can be attached to your handlebars or to your rear bike rack, with some models offering a quick release feature.
The main advantage of bike baskets is that they are so darn convenient! After you’ve installed the basket, you can just throw whatever you want into it - your shoulder bag, a six-pack of beer, a small bag of groceries, etc - and off you go.
What’s not to like? Well, there are three main reasons why bike baskets may fall short of your needs in a few areas:
- They limit your carrying options. Bike baskets aren’t really interchangeable. Once you commit to one style or size, that is what you’re stuck with even if some days you need to carry a lot with you (beach day anyone?) and other days you just need to store a water bottle.
- They can throw your balance off. Before you think to yourself, “I’ll just get the biggest bike basket there is then!”, there’s something you should know: carrying a lot of weight on the front of the bike dramatically changes how the bike handles and can make steering rather unwieldy. If you insist on going this route, make sure you get a bike basket that connects to either your fork eyelets or axle in addition to the handlebars for extra support, or try switching to a larger capacity crate on the back.
- They’re open on top. While being open on top is handy for just tossing stuff in, a major drawback is that lightweight items in the basket have a tendency to pop out if you go over a bump. Another issue with openness is that there is no protection from rain. For both of these scenarios, we recommend getting a bungee net and/or a rainproof cover to protect your belongings.
Better Than a Bike Basket
A popular alternative to bike baskets are bike bags, which come in a lot of different sizes and are designed to securely attach to your bike to carry what you need. There are a lot of options when it comes to bike bags; before we get into the specific choices, let’s talk about why they might (or might not) be better for you than a bike basket.
First, bike bags are very interchangeable. That means you can use smaller bags when you only need to carry a few things and not have to deal with the weight of a heavy basket that’s largely empty. Or, when you need to carry more, just grab a larger bike bag.
Bike bags also offer additional functionality over bike baskets. Because you can close them, your possessions are protected from rain. But, depending on the design, you also get pockets for storing your bike lights and locks, as well as reflective accents to keep you visible while on the road.
Lastly, bike bags have a lot to offer in the design department! Different shapes, colors, and fabrics mean that you’re guaranteed to find something that suits your style and maybe even matches your bike (if that’s a thing for you).
Selecting the Right Bike Bag for You
If you’re still reading, that must mean that you’re considering getting a bike bag instead of a bike basket. Remember, unlike a bike basket, you can own more than one so you really can’t go wrong!
The best place to start in choosing a bike bag is to think about what you’ll want to carry. Recall a ride or two where you weren’t satisfied with how you carried stuff, like shopping bags dangling unsafely from your handlebars or dropping your phone. Or worse, didn’t even take the trip because you didn’t have a good way to carry what you needed. Start with getting a bike bag for that load.
Bike bags can be broadly organized into small, medium, and large sizes, with tons of variation in between.
- Small bike bags hold the essentials, like your phone, keys, wallet, maybe sunglasses and a few other things. In this category, you will find handlebar and seat bags, the latter of which are also somewhat confusingly called saddle packs. These bags work with every bike because every bike has a seat and handlebars!
- In the Medium sized bike bags category you’ll find bike trunk bags, which sit atop your rear rack. Generally speaking, they hold about the same as a handlebar bike basket but don’t mess with your weight distribution.
- Large bike bags are panniers which hang off the side of your rear rack. Panniers come as single panniers, which are on one side of your bike, or double panniers, which have cargo areas on both sides of the rack. Double panniers hold a lot more but can be cumbersome to carry off the bike, which is why most city cyclists opt for single panniers. Perhaps counter-intuitively, single panniers do not throw your balance off while riding. Read more about how panniers can help you carry what you need with style and ease.
Now that you know the rough bike bag category that you’re interested in, you can start comparing options. Some questions to ask yourself are:
Will this bag live on the bike, or do you want to carry it around off the bike with ease?
If the latter, make sure it has a comfortable carry strap and that the bike attachment hardware won’t get in the way while walking around. All Po Campo bike bags are designed to seamlessly transition from on the bike to off the bikeway more naturally and comfortably than any bike basket handle. Check out our Irving Backpack Pannier 2 and Kinga Handlebar Bag 2 as two good examples!
What functional attributes do you need?
If it rains a lot where you live, look for water-resistance and built-in rain covers. If you plan to ride a lot in low lighting, or through winter, look for good reflective accents. At Po Campo, we’ve found that being equipped for anything puts your mind at ease, which is why our bike bags are better than bike baskets because they’re waterproof and enhance your visibility.
What color/style options do you want?
Whether you want something purely utilitarian or a design that matches your bike or reflects your style, there’s a bike bag for that. Po Campo believes the joy of cycling is best expressed through color and pattern and delightful design details, which is why you’ll find that our bags are among the most stylish out there.
How are you currently carrying things on your bike? Basket or bike bag or something else?
Share your story in the comments.