Note: This is the first of a two-part review of the Bread Basket, a front frame mounted basket for the Yuba Mundo cargo bicycle. The first part will look at the basket itself, and a simple off-the-shelf (!) modification that greatly increases its usability. The next part will deal with a custom-made “rack bag” by Inside Line Equipment.
When I was searching for the right cargo bike for Bicycle Astronomy, I did a lot of research. One of the many intriguing types of cargo bikes I looked at are cycle trucks. Far as I can tell an early cargo bike genus with American roots, cycle trucks were common from the 1930s on, built by companies like Schwinn and Worksman Cycles to serve as urban delivery bikes (Worksman miraculously still makes the same bicycle…in Queens!). It’s their front-end that make them easy to place in the cargo bicycle taxonomy…they have a smaller front wheel, usually 20″, and the extra space is taken up by an enormous platform or basket. This is not your ordinary bicycle basket, however, for lunch bags and little dogs and the occasional sphincter-faced Extra Terrestrial. You see, the basket on a cycle truck is where the “truck” part of the genus gets its name. It’s not only larger, it’s attached in an entirely different way. And therein lies the powerful mojo that allowed the various species of cycle trucks to continue to pass on their ungainly but effective DNA to the present day.
Most bicycle baskets attach to the handlebars, or to the fork. Those baskets turn with the front wheel. Which makes it a bit perilous to carry a heavy load. All of a sudden, for example, you’ve got 30 pounds of Sabrett hot dogs well off your bicycle’s center of gravity…and worse, on the inside of your turn radius. It’s an easy way to crash and end up with smeared in tubular meat product. So most common-sensed people use these baskets for very light loads; some biscuits from Drury Lane, a baguette, a copy of Marching to the Drums you found while skiff-diving in Kentish Town. Nothing more than that, for safety’s sake.
The cycle truck’s front basket, on the other hand, is bolted on (or sometimes completely integral) to the bicycle frame itself. Turn left, turn right, the frame-mounted basket stays put. It holds more hot dogs. With less danger of falling over. Here’s the Huckleberry, a modern cycle truck that’s designed to carry a standard recycling bin. Clever. Useful. Very cycle truck.
Well, anyway, I like the cycle truck thing. I like its Americanness. I fancy the idea of looking like a postman, or a delivery boy from the Brooklyn butcher shop my Dad worked at as a kid. But for Bicycle Astronomy, the cycle truck was a little too limited. I could probably get the telescope and other gear on it, but not the big sandwich board signs I need to advertise my one-man show. And I couldn’t see an easy way to carry Zora, my nine-year-old co-pilot. But boy did I like that front basket.
Yuba Bicycles must have read my mind, just like that pleasure planet Kirk and crew found that read their minds and concocted and their inmost fantasies (like a samurai to fight Sulu!). So anyway, right around the time I stumbled onto their web page while investigating yet another genus of cargo bikes, the long-tails, they announced a brand new basket for their Mundo cargo bike, the Bread Basket. The Bread Basket bolts directly to the Mundo’s frame, and it’s rated to hold 50 pounds, and sized to hold two 12 packs of beer. (Beer, by the way, seems to be a common standard reference for both volume and weight for cyclists…I see it used for messenger bags, backpacks and cargo bikes all the time.) It was one of the things that helped me decide on the Yuba as the official chariot of Bicycle Astronomy.
Here’s my Yuba, only a day or so after I got it:
The Bread Basket is extremely well built. I’d put ET in there and not worry about taking a curve too tightly and suddenly flying over the treetops in front of a giant full moon. But out of the box, I have to say it wasn’t the most useful thing to me. Perhaps because I don’t carry 12 packs on a daily basis. Or that my usual day bag, a Rickshaw Zero Messenger, in size medium, seemed dangerously close to falling through the widely-spaced bottom bars.
The Bread Basket was screaming for a more solid bottom. The same day this scrolled across my mental ticker-tape, I was helping my daughter put some clothes away into her closet, when I smelled cedar, a sensation that started a whole string of associations. Summers in a rented house on Schroon Lake in the Adirondacks, with all the bedrooms lined in cedar: the most ridiculous and mis-matched job I ever had, as a retail clerk at a high-end organization store in Friendship Heights: all those old cedar chests at the Second Hand Store…and then I snapped out of my reverie and looked at the source of the scent; six cedar inserts we bought to line the wire shelves we put up in our daughter’s closet. I took one out and examined it. The size looked about right. I dropped my daughter’s socks with an odd look on my face and hurried out of her room. “Tato, are you going to use that for your bicycle?” my daughter questioned. She knows me.
In the garage, I plopped the platform into the Bread Basket. Bloody hell, the thing fit perfect! Though you can get away without it, I added two 1/2″ square wood braces to the bottom, sized to fit under the lower rear bar of the Bread Basket and against the lower front bar to keep the platform from rising up. I glued those on to the insert, and then added a few screws. Then I zip-tied the whole thing down. Here’s the Bread Basket and cedar liner:
And one from underneath, so you can see the nifty carpentry I added, and the zip ties:
You’ll note that the platform doesn’t sit flush against all of the Bread Basket walls. It’s a bit too small. But the Bread Basket corners are curved, so the platform actually fits perfectly there. A larger platform would have to have its corners trimmed, and that’s another step. The strength of this is, to use the bad joke again, the off-the-shelf nature of the mod.
At the time I thought it was temporary solution. But by the next day, I had determined that a) it looked really nice and b) it worked a treat. I can just drop my messenger bag in there and ride away. For those of you that want to add a nice (and nifty smelling) cedar platform to your Bread Basket, just google “Cedar Liners for Wire Shelves”. They might be available anywhere you can buy those standard rubber-covered wired shelving systems, too. Of course, Amazon sells them, too. (I get nothing from that link…I simply include it so you know what I’m talking about). The come in packs of six…so one for your Bread Basket and five for your closet or as back-ups.
I’ve been using this platform for a few months. It’s raw cedar…I never finished it with shellac or urethane. It’s taken a fair bit of rain and sun but still looks really good. Unless you live in the northwest, I don’t think it’s necessary to finish it at all. Cedar is naturally water resistant, and the platform doesn’t collect water at all.
While a good (and super easy mod) I still wanted something to take better advantage of the Bread Basket’s capacity, and be more friendly to numerous things that I’d like to have with me that won’t fit in my already-stuff day bag but are two small or unruly to just sit in the basket. I got online and started doing research…