(This post is aimed at casual and aspiring utilitarian cyclists, who probably don't read this blog.)
This time of year, we have a lot of fair-weather cyclists who come in to ask about "baskets" for carrying groceries and other items aboard their bicycles. Most commonly they are referring to one of the many versions of the old-fashioned chrome steel baskets (usually made by Wald) like this.
This was state-of-the-art utilitarian cycling equipment in 1971. Back then, even touring bikes didn't always have rack eyelets, and various racks and basket attachments were affixed onto the seatstays with chrome steel clamps digging into the paint. The chrome flaked off the steel quickly, and pretty soon, the shiny basket was rusty and creaky and increasingly rattly. Plus these things were really heavy, couldn't be removed from the bike easily, would lose small items (like keys) through the gaps between the wires, and if you brushed up against it, you may need a tetanus shot. With all these positive attributes, these crude baskets serve as the archetype of bicycle hauling equipment for many cyclists even now in 2011.
Here at HC, we like to cut against the grain of both bicycle culture and bicycle technology, and we have a different approach to grocery-gettin'. This here is my bike set up with an economical Topeak Explorer rack and a Banjo Brothers grocery pannier.
The rack is more or less universally compatible with many different panniers, trunk bags, and anything else you can strap to it. I think it's the best rack value on the market. The Banjo Brothers grocery pannier is also a tremendous value. It's well-made, smartly designed, and the company is two nice guys who live here in Minneapolis. Grocery panniers are designed to fit a standard paper or cloth grocery bag, but since the pannier comes off in 2 seconds and has a shoulder strap, I just carry mine into the store with me. You can use just one for small to moderate loads (balance is not an issue) or two panniers for bigger hauls. These aren't just for groceries either. Books, mail, cameras, phones, purses, food, keys, wallets, and lot of other common items fit just fine, and since the bottom is not a wire basket, small items don't fall out.
In my opinion, this is a quality utilitarian cycling kit that can turn a casual cyclist into someone who really appreciates the usefulness of bicycles and bicycling. For a limited time, I'm going to encourage people to get this set-up by offering a discounted price. Get the rack and one pannier for $64.99 or the rack and two panniers for $94.99. Taxes and installation are extra, but it's still a good deal.