Wednesday 29 March 2017 07.20 BST
The plastic bike basket I bought online was billed as “large”, but even so I was amazed when it arrived. This was a behemoth – a cavernous, black box into which you could as easily fit a decent-sized dog as a bag of shopping.
Fitted to my new commuter bike, the initial effect was comical. But such worries were soon forgotten given how astonishingly useful it proved.
My sizeable work bag – which used to be jammed in lengthways into the much smaller, now-defunct predecessor – vanished into the dark recesses, leaving space for shopping, coats, school bags, whatever was required. My life was transformed.
So yes, this is a minor but heartfelt paean to the ability of bikes to carry not just people, but things. It might seem an obvious point, but it’s one oddly lost on many people.
In part, I was previously among that group. While I had toured on a pannier-strewn machine, when commuting I would generally strap a bag to my back, preferring the lightness and manoeuvrability of an unladen bike for darting about city streets. But it all feels that much more civilised once you let the bike do the heavy lifting.
And this can be done in so many ways. Panniers are the most common. During one, very long, overseas trek many years ago, at its peak my bike was weighed down with probably about 20kg of luggage, and in one isolated leg included a big plastic jerry can of spare water as well as camping gear.
It was on this trip that I realised why people also use those slightly funny-looking, low-slung front panniers – one hill proved so steep that the mountain of luggage at the back kept dragging me into an unplanned wheelie.
In contrast, loading the weight on to the front of the bike, as with my current bathtub-capacity basket, seems to pose fewer problems if you’re happy to adapt to slightly more ponderous steering.
You can also keep an eye on everything, avoiding that anxious glance backwards at traffic lights to check your pannier is still in place, or hasn’t opened. Of course, potholes can bump things out of a basket, so I use a cargo net clipped over the top.