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Plastic Crates for Urban Utility Cycling

Grace Newhaven

My wife and I are "seven day" cyclists . We are lucky enough to work in the CBD of Adelaide, with a short ( 5 Km) 5 day commute, and card access bike parking in the basement of our building.

 We commute to work every day, rain or shine, and have done for about eight years.

 We also have our famous Central Market, an old style "covered market" provided by the municipality, within a quick walk, where fresh food is both cheaper and more various than anywhere else.

 So I often have quite a weight of food to carry home several days a week. For a long time, I relied on my standard panniers; but these are at their best only when they're on the bike, off the bike they're unstable and difficult to carry, especially with a heavy weight, and they're not much use with bottles. So , I'd also use a small cardboard carton that would last a few trips (only) before carrying a load of paper to the front gate for recycling. Still not ideal : lugging this around the market was still clumsy, and the box looked shabby after a while.

What I really wanted was something fixed to my bike that would be tamper proof, reasonably weather proof, with a good capacity...

 A couple of years ago now, I chanced upon a small ( 230 x 200 mm = 9 x 8 inch) cube plastic crate in a hardware store - only $2.00. & the same colour as my bike! I'd seen larger ones sometimes on other bikes around town, but they seemed too big, didn't fit under the seat etc, so they didn't sit on the rack securely. Or they would interfere with step over etc.

But this little one was a perfect fit, with a total capacity of 10.58 L (about, say a six-pack and a half, or a cauliflower ), and the possibility to have tall items (say, a celery) poke out the top , or a bag of apples will sit nicely on top. It also matches the bike's colour perfectly .

I bolted it onto the carrier with four 25 MM bolts - no drilling or altering the carrier, of course ! The whole thing is very steady compared to the same weight in panniers, and so much easier & quicker to load. As well, I could keep my dynamo rear light right where it was mounted on the carrier rack, but better protected.

Interestingly, while commercial carriers like this seem to insist on having a hinged lid to keep out rain, I've found in practice that the lack of a lid is not important - a little rain never hurt a vegetable or a beer bottle, after all. In fact, many items can ride as overflow (eg bags of onions or apples) and with no lid I can use the increased width and rigidity of the crate itself to attach even larger objects that would not fit on the original carrier.

Later , I was to add the smaller , matching crate to the front carrier, as you will see in the picture below. That too has a surprisingly useful capacity.

I have to add in fairness that I still need a pannier on occasion, and the bike has a home made one screwed onto the carrier semi-permanently. This might be less than satisfactory for a bike that spends its parking time in the weather, which mine does not.

Well, all this was quite an advance on a cardboard box ! But more was to come

 A few weeks later, rummaging around in bargain section of the city's BBS [Big Bike Shop] I noticed a very large reflector of a type I'd never seen before ( 100 x 420 mm = 4 x 16 inch), a rectangle of bright yellow & red "arrow heads", with "See Me" written in the middle, a bit like this : <<<< SEE ME >>>>> ..As it was marked down from $15.00 to $5.00, I just had to buy it - I love collecting bits of bike history!

 It turned out to be a very old (1986) product from a small factory somewhere on the Australian East Coast. The design was intended to fit under the saddle, on old style saddle clamp nuts, then extend on 100 mm / 4 inch "arms" backwards over the rear wheel, where it would vibrate/wobble when the bike was in motion. It's made of a flexible plastic, so it's capable of taking a fall. Not much use for a bike with anything on the rear carrier of course, and quite useless these days with modern, keyed saddle clamps. Great idea, but not very practical as it stands; and zero on the "street cred" scale...

 However, it suited me perfectly. With a little drilling, I managed to fit this giant vibrating reflector to the box (which was weird enough to start with!).

I was so pleased with the whole set up, I went back for more, and managed to get the last one in the BBS (smirks from the macho staff!) for my wife. She believes in "blink " lights - which I do not - but has always had a problem finding a secure mount for the blink light which isn't obscured by a rear load - the mounts seem to be designed for & best on seat posts for luggage free MTBers. The best solution so far has been just below the top of the rack on one of the stays of her Blackburn rack, but it's still not good. Among other things, it's vulnerable to a crash impact; or even leaning against a wall.

Well, the crate has fixed that - it's a good flat surface to bolt on a reflector bracket which seems (I only did it yesterday!) to hold the blink light protected in the centre of the box quite well. So she's got blink light + dynamo rear + <<<< SEE ME >>>>> reflector + heaps of luggage capacity. The bikes also appear wider, so cars will give us a little more room, we hope.

If necessary, the crate de-mounts in a couple of minutes, and the bike's back to "normal" for touring etc.

The whole set up looks integrated too, despite its disparate sources - even a factory fit would be hard put to improve on this, if I do say so myself!

Purely as an intuition, we seem to get a little less honking on our joint commute to the CBD, with our two bobbing reflectors waving away at the traffic! I wonder if it's a case of, as they say in Ireland, ".. Look as if you mean it !.."

Now, as to the patent........

Some other "hard" pannier sites :

The "Flinger" trunk

Oyster Bucket panniers

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