Basket Case

Firstly, my latest Outside column is no longer behind the pee wall paywall, so you have no excuse not to read it now other than that you find me tedious and irritating:

Yet here you are reading this blog so the joke’s on you.

Secondly, this morning my younger son was watching one of those YouTubers who comments on viral videos, and as I walked by the TV she happened to be riffing on this particular incident:

Note: this isn’t the video he was watching, it’s just one that depicts the same incident and relates it in a fairly straightforward fashion.

Anyway, I’d seen footage of the incident before and had mixed feeling about it. On one hand, yes, it certainly looks like the cyclist simply got spooked and fell over. (I should also note that this is example 1,000,000 of someone who’s using clipless pedals for absolutely no reason, and further supports my theory that 75% of people on road bikes should probably be on Rivendells instead.) Also, in many parts of the world–certainly the one in which I live–a pass like this wouldn’t even register on the Oh-Shit-O-Meter. On the other hand, it is a narrow road, there doesn’t appear to be any traffic on it, the driver is in an offroad-capable vehicle, and while he does move over enough not to hit anybody he doesn’t reduce his speed or exhibit much in the way of courtesy or really leave much of a margin for error. I don’t know what the law states in this particular municipality nor am I bothered enough to find out (could be the driver did not allow for the minimum required passing distance), but why not just move over and slow down or stop for a moment, what’s the big deal? All of this is to say that I didn’t see this as either a particularly egregious act nor as a travesty of justice; rather, I saw it as one of those things that could probably go either way, and in an unusual turn of events (at least in Anglophonic countries) it actually went in favor of the cyclist.

The YouTuber my son was watching had a much different opinion, which she expressed much more smugly and glibly. In fact, she was laying into the cyclist, calling her “stupid,” and so forth. My older son rides a bike by himself and has the experience and context to draw his own conclusions about these sorts of things, but my younger son does not, so while I try not to get too neurotic about what he’s watching I figured I should probably step in and at least attenuate this bit of car culture propaganda. So I noted something to the effect that, “You know, she’s wrong, they were right to fine the driver*, he should have passed more safely.”

*[I’m not sure the driver deserved as high a fine as he got, but when talking to children it’s important to lie and seem certain about things.]

Now, my son is fiercely protective of his YouTubers. He also gets embarrassed if he thinks I think he’s wrong about something. (This is an important component of human nature and one we tend to lose sight of when trying to sway others towards our own opinion.) Outraged, he pushed me away from the TV and replied, “You don’t even know the video! The driver didn’t even hit her!”

I began to explain that, yes, I did know the video, and indeed it’s my job to watch these videos. Further, even if you don’t hit someone you still have to be careful. However, it soon dawned on me that this discourse was futile and that I should dispense with the diplomacy and shake some sense into him. So, feigning outrage, I hoisted him into the air, turned him upside down, and agitated him.

If you have a child who is still small enough to hoist in this fashion, you know exactly what the results were: he was delighted, and as soon as I put him down he insisted I do it again.

“Not until you admit I was right!”

So he admitted it, I hoisted and agitated him again, and once again he squealed with glee. In the end, neither of us changed our fundamental positions in any way , but we both got what we wanted out of the transaction, peace was restored, and on a superficial level all was well.

This is a poignant metaphor for…something.

Speaking of baskets (well I mentioned them in the Outside column) I am way, way behind in sharing my impressions of the Chonus bike basket:

I adore the convenience of basket on my Platypus, so when the designer asked me if I wanted to try this one I said, “Sure!” (Or words to that effect.) Now, I use a Nitto rack and a wire basket on the Platypus, because: A) I have the necessary attachment points; and II) It’s a Rivendell, duh, you’re only allowed to use Nitto racks and wire baskets or else Grant Petersen will hunt you down and kill you with a hatchet. But some people have neither attachment points nor Rivendells (nor hatchets, for that matter–all these things tend to go together) so I was curious to see if this might be a convenient solution for those bereft of braze-ons.

For a test bike, I chose my wife’s Clem Smith, Jr. since it seemed most appropriate. Instructions were clear and easy to follow, and all necessary tools were included:

As you can see, the fork crown of the Clem makes it a perfect candidate for a front rack:

But the Chonus bypasses that and instead uses sort of a head tube clamp:

Which accept a frame:

Which in turn accepts a nylon basket (or really more of a bag):

The basket/bag seems nicely designed with plenty of components for keys and phones and stuff:

And you can even remove it and use it as a shopping bag:

Obviously a clamp-on basket isn’t as classically elegant as a rack and wire basket, but it looks just fine on the Clem:

My wife’s carrying solution is a bag from Po Campo which she affixes to the rear rack and of which she is quite fond (she even uses it without the bike), but the benefit of a basket is you don’t have to take it on and off and you can just sort of toss stuff in there without thinking about it:

As it happens, the bracket setup works well with the bike’s cables:

What does concern me however is that, besides the bracket itself, there’s nothing keeping it from contacting the front wheel in the event of overloading or failure:

I pointed this out to the designer who says the bracket should hold 10 pounds when riding, provided everything’s good and tight. He says he’s only experienced contact with the front wheel “2 or 3 times” in three years of extensive use, and that snugging up the bracket was always sufficient to address it:

By way of testing, I loaded it with this little mini-grill thing I found in the basement, and the basket seemed to support it just fine, at least while the bike was stationary:

Still, I’m not going to lie and say this doesn’t concern me, especially since if you have a basket you no doubt find yourself occasionally filling it with whatever you can cram in there regardless of weight limit. Rivendell includes a sort of insurance strap with at least some of their racks for this reason, and in fact I had one one on hand, so I put it on:

However, I failed to account for the fact that, due to the design of the basket, it doesn’t move along with the bars; rather, it remains stationary at all times. This makes it impossible to use such a strap, so ultimately it’s up to you and who vigilant you choose to be.

Anyway, with due vigilance and minimal loading, we took a little family spin:

I should add at a side note that the Islabikes is on its second rider and holding up nicely:

I will say that when kids are this size they regularly lay their bikes down on the drive side, both intentionally and unintentionally. The upshot of this is that over the last however-many years I’ve had to re-adjust the position of the right shifter lever roughly ten million times. Also the derailleur tab is bent and while I’ve bent it back I never know when it might decide to throw the chain in between the cassette and the spokes, making a mockery of my erstwhile disdain for pie plates.

As for the Chonus…:

It’s very convenient. It’s very easy to install and remove. The bag/basket thingy seems very useful. It’s not bad-looking! At the same time, if you’re looking to turn your bike into a pack mule, this is not the accessory–ultimately, like anything you clamp to the front end of your bike, it’s still hanging over the front wheel like a sword of Damocles. But if you want something for your runabout bike so you can bring towels and frisbees and stuff to the park or the beach or whatever it seems like it should be both useful and adequate in that capacity, and indeed that’s how it seems to be marketed. Also, while you can’t use a safety strap because it doesn’t turn with the wheel, this is also a feature because when you put the bike on its kickstand it doesn’t make the wheel flop over. So there you go.

As for us, as dinnertime approached we headed back home via the Empire State Trail:

I get the sentiment, but it’s really not that bad.

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