> Our review guidelines
Once you’ve stuck a bike rack on your bike, you have the means to strap luggage to it. Maybe you’ll attach a backpack or a trunk bag.
So, what’s wrong with that?
Well, nothing, except you usually have to spend time tethering your bag to the rack and undoing it at your destination.
As well, the amount of stuff you can carry this way is restricted. For stability, the bag can’t be much broader or longer than the rack.
If any of this sounds familiar, you might want to install a milk crate on your bike.
The Benefits of Using Milk Crates on Bikes (And The Drawbacks!)
Why would you attach a milk crate to your bike? And why would you not?
These large plastic gridded crates are normally used for carrying bottles of milk or other dairy products and chilled foods.
Volume, Volume, Volume (Pro)
A chief reason to attach a milk crate to your bike is that you can carry more stuff. The cubic volume of a plastic crate will be greater than that of any suitable bag strapped to the top of the rack.
For a start, the rigidity of the crate means that it doesn’t have to strictly match the size of the rack. You can have more overhang than would be safe with a typical bag.
And because the milk crate is rigid, the volume won’t be reduced by you attaching it to the bike. The box shape of the crate provides more space for your cargo. A bag won’t have the same breadth x height.
Only by installing large panniers on your rack could you compete with the volume.
Read more: The best pannier bags for commuting
Inexpensive Solution (Pro)
Milk crates or similar plastic baskets are cheap, and the means of attachment are also cheap. Using panniers to carry similar volume is often expensive, even though they’d be more suitable for travel purposes.
Many milk crates in circulation are long-lost items from companies that no longer exist (e.g., dairies or grocery shops). In the UK, milkmen still deliver milk on milk floats laden with plastic milk crates, though these crates tend to include bottle dividers.
You can buy a milk crate new if an old one hasn’t legitimately found its way into your possession.
A big reason to attach a crate to your bike rack is the convenience factor. With a milk crate, you can throw cargo in loose without needing to tie things down. That doesn’t include items small enough to go through the gaps.
Read more: How to use rear bike racks (ideas)
Indeed, you could carry a backpack or other bag in a crate without having to tie it down. The tall sides of the crate ensure that most luggage isn’t going anywhere.
You can also leave a crate attached to your bike rack indefinitely if you want. Since it’s plastic, you sidestep any issues with rusting that you might get with a metal bike basket.
Of course, you do have to keep an eye on the condition of the crate, the rack, and the fixings to avoid your cargo falling off because of wear and tear. That can happen.
Read more: The best rear bicycle racks
Not Pretty (Con)
Many cyclists are quite particular about the look of their bike. A large plastic crate attached to the front or back is neither elegant nor subtle.
Equally, some people like the functional appearance of a crate on a bike, so opinion can go either way.
Harder To Mount & Dismount (Con)
Fixing a crate to the rear of your bike can make it harder to mount or dismount. You may have to lift your leg higher to avoid catching your foot or shin on the crate.
It’s best to test this before you go to the trouble of attaching the crate to the bike. You obviously wouldn’t have this problem with a step-through bike.
Read more: Women’s bikes for around the city
3 Ways To Attach A Milk Crate To A Bicycle
There are only so many ways to secure a milk crate to your bike. Here are three:
With Plastic Ties
Plastic ties are an effective way of attaching a milk crate to a bike rack. The method would go something like this:
- Get yourself a couple of dozen plastic ties before proceeding.
- Center the milk crate on the bike rack and have it as far forward as possible so that it’s close to the saddle.
- Before securing the milk crate to the rack, mount the bike, lean against a wall, and make sure the milk crate does not impede your pedaling.
- Use the plastic ties to attach the mesh of the milk crate to the corresponding lengthwise (front to back) metal bars on the bike rack.
- Secure the plastic ties beneath the bike rack so the little square plastic heads do not stick up into the milk crate.
- Add more plastic ties to metal bars across the width of the bike rack. Don’t tighten them too much at this stage, as it’ll be harder to remove them if you make a mistake.
- When you’re satisfied you’ve added enough ties, tighten them up firmly with pliers and cut them with flush cutters or similar. Leave short 1 cm tails in the ties so you can tighten them up further if necessary.
- Use string as a backup measure to secure the milk crate to the seat stays of the bike.
Video: Installing A Milk Crate On A Bike Rack Using Zip Ties
With Bungee Cords
The use of bungee cords gives you the benefit of being able to easily remove the milk crate when you don’t need it.
- Place the milk crate on the rack so it’s perfectly centered and close to the saddle.
- Feed two long bungee cords (16” to 20”) through the handles of the milk crate and attach the hooks to the bike rack so the cords are tight.
- Add shorter bungee cords to each side of the milk crate and attach those vertically to the bike rack for increased stability.
- Check stability by giving the crate a firm but measured push in all directions. Go to the next solution if you intend to carry heavy loads.
Bungee Cords + Stabilizers
If you need to carry heavy stuff in the crate, the use of bungee cords may not entirely prevent movement. In that case, you can add stabilizers of various kinds.
- One way to stop movement when using bungee cords is to add two feet to the milk crate, which you must cut to size so they slot inside gaps in the bike rack. You then drill holes in these plastic or wooden feet and attach them to the crate using zip ties.
- An alternative way is to create four “pins” on the underside of the crate using nuts, bolts, and washers. These pins are strategically positioned so they protrude just inside the rails of the rack, thus preventing movement during transit.
- You can also attach rods to the underside of the milk crate, which straddle the rack to prevent side-to-side movement. Attach these to the crate using zip ties and install rubber bungs or stoppers on the rods to prevent them from sliding through the ties.
Any of these methods enables you to use bungee cords with more confidence.
Budget Alternatives To Using Milk Crates
If you’re not up for attaching a plastic milk crate to your bike rack, what other low-budget options are there?
Desk organizers often come in the form of shallow wire trays, which have just enough depth to stop bags from sliding off a bike rack. You can attach these mesh trays in much the same way that you’d attach a milk crate (i.e., with zip ties).
Video: Using A Desk Tray As A Bike Basket
Though it won’t be as long-lasting as a plastic milk crate, a wooden fruit crate adds a more rustic feel to your bike. You’ll have to tie it down between the wooden slats at the bottom of the crate, probably using string rather than zip ties.
Whiskey Or Wine Crates
Vintage whiskey or wine crates are similar to fruit crates except the wooden boxes tend to be solid rather than having slats.
To install one of these, drill holes in the base of the box and attach it to the rack using two or three metal braces or plates.