Monday, October 7, 2013

Sunlite Handlebar Basket

For years I've used a backpack to carry my stuff while commuting by bicycle.  A backpack does work well but it has many disadvantages. Wearing a bag on my back in warm weather quickly overheats my back and in the winter time it can be more than a minor irritation getting the straps comfortable over a thicker jacket.

For quite a long while I have been searching for an alternative way to portage my lunchbox and other personal items on the bike.  Recently I found this Sunlite Lift-off Handlebar Basket and for $20 I decided to take a chance.  

$20 really? I am a natural skeptic but judging by the 240 reviews on Amazon; most of them very favorable, I ordered the basket.  In the meantime I continued with the backpacking thing and did a little research on the Sunlite Company which seems to have a large selection of what appears to be quality bike stuff. 

A few days later I returned home to find a big box waiting for me.  Right away when I pulled the powder coated steel basket from the cardboard I was impressed with its sturdy feeling and quality construction.  Obviously this carrier isn't made for hauling 40 pounds of bricks but for my lunchbox, coffee cup and jacket once it warms up the Sunlite works perfect.

This basket is a lift-off system.  Very much like a shopping basket two handles lift up and release the basket from the bracket which attaches to the bike.  One thing I learned from reading the reviews is that a bump in the road can cause the handles to fly up and then the basket can dislodge from the bike.  The upper interface between the basket handles and the bracket has just a small amount of slop allowing the whole thing to shake and vibrate while underway.  I despise any kind of rattle or squeaks on my bike so I fixed all these minor issues by cinching the handles down tight to the bracket with a couple solid cable ties.  I don't plan on taking the basket off so I am happy to leave it in this semi-permanent condition.

The lower part of the bracket attaches with a hook and loop strap which insulates the curved part of steel rod that rests against the bike's head tube.  This set up could present a wear issue to a painted frame but my tubes are bare titanium and I have no head tube badge to interfere with the bracket as it rotates with the handlebars.  

Installation could be as quick as five minutes but it took me a little longer.  Things like head tube angle and stem length can have an effect on how the bracket hangs on the bike.  With my first attempt to attach the bracket on my bike I found the top of the basket was nowhere near level and hung down nearly touching the front fender.  Another problem I found was that the lower end of the bracket could not reach the head tube without seriously smashing the brake and shifter cables.

Although I was hoping to just pop the basket on and go I anticipated some minor adjustments might need to be made.  Luckily the bottom end of the bracket is connected with a couple big rivets that with some time on the bench grinder I was able to remove.  I swapped out the rivets with some nylon spacers and stainless steel screws and lock nuts from the local hardware store.  This modification solved both problems by leveling out the basket and positioning the whole assembly forward making room for the control cable routing.

I wanted to use the set up a couple weeks before writing about it to get a good idea of the basket's function.  I do like some of the integrated handle bar baskets that are manufactured as one piece but these are pricey and also would have probably required reworking of the cable and jackets for the brakes and shifter.  So as a simple experiment to see if I would even like a handlebar basket and a modest $20 investment I am a happy commuter.  Riding without the backpack is very liberating.  I am so glad to be leaving that thing at home in the closet.  I like being able to keep an eye on my cargo and  find that with a little weight in the basket the whole thing imparts a bit of damping to the steering.  I actually like the way my bike rides now.  The bike seems to track straighter and less twitchy than without the basket.


  1. So today you're the upright theorist.... Sure glad I didn't have to install that baby. You make it sound simple, but there's no way I'd have succeeded with all those modifications. Good on you!
    Oh, and mmm, titanium.. :)

  2. I hope you'll give us an update when you have more experience with the basket.

  3. I've never had a basket, but freed myself of the backpack long ago. One thing it offers over panniers is easy intant access to your stuff... I'm kind of jealous now UCT!

  4. Practical handlebar baskets are sexy, but still not as sexy as recumbents. ;-)

  5. I've read that the basket has done damage to head tubes (chipped paint, dented metal, and the such). Please update on your experience! In very bad need of a basket for my thick handlebars :(