When I moved to Highland Park, Illinois, in October, I didn’t know I had relocated to what feels like the biking capital of America. Quiet streets and tree-lined paths that wind all the way to the state’s northern and southern borders are packed with spandex-clad riders, even when it’s raining. There are parents pulling along buggies containing their kids, couples moving in sync on tandem bikes, and teens pedaling to pick up colorful treats from the smoothie-bowl place in town. They move in swarms: fast, powerful, assertive — exclusive. As someone who didn’t learn how to ride as a kid, I was very nervous to get a bike and start. When I settled on a turquoise cruiser — the fatter wheels make this novice biker feel more sturdy — I felt like an impostor.
But I pedaled on. At some point, I decided to get a basket. My riding grew to include errand running that a basket would only make easier, and many of the more seasoned bikers I saw had them. Maybe a basket would help me fit in, I reasoned, or at least stand out less. Shopping for one, though, proved to be just as fraught as finding the right bike. The basket selection at my local bike shop, Erik’s, where I purchased my cruiser, was limited to cagelike wire styles. What happens when you buy a baguette?, I thought when face-to-face with their gaping holes. I considered one of those canvas bags that attach to the back of a bike, but they seemed too precarious. Weighed down by a bulky towel, the bag might rub up against the rear wheel. And most of the wicker baskets I found not only were way too twee — think Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz — but also appeared flimsy because they just had Velcro straps to fasten them to the bike frame.
My search eventually led me to the bike baskets by Baba Tree at Goodee that have a lot of things the others lack. These baskets are handmade in Ghana with vetiver grass that is woven nice and tight, so there’s no risk of a baguette, or even the stem of a freshly cut flower, slipping through. Each has handsome leather belts with big bronze buckles to attach to the bike. (The belts look so cool I wish they could fit around my waist.) While wicker-adjacent, Dorothy’s basket they are not: Designed in a number of colorful patterns, these baskets have an heirloomlike quality that’s impossible not to notice. To wit, after outfitting my bike with the basket I had sprung for — a striped turquoise-and-green number with bits of yellow and black — cries of “Nice basket!” came from the parents, couples, and teens I rode past.
This basket’s appeal isn’t all superficial. For something that seems intricate, it’s rather strong. I have put such heavy things as my 15-pound pup inside my medium-size basket and it has held firm. While sturdy, the basket is lightweight, so it doesn’t add to my load on longer routes or uphill rides. Mine has plenty of room for my biking essentials — my cross-body bag and water bottle — with space enough to fit a towel and a loaf of bread from the local French bakery when I’m riding to the park or beach. There are smaller and larger sizes, too. If I had any biker friends, I would gift them one of these baskets in a heartbeat. Now that I’m finally getting noticed on the trails, it may not be long before I get to.
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