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Sunday, April 12, 2020

Crate Adapters for Bikes

Dead White Peugeot as found
Around our Clifton Hill neighborhood you see various abandoned bikes, but I don’t think any of them stayed in the weather longer than the Dead White Peugeot NS22 of Field Street. One day early this year I got motivated and put it out of its misery by dragging it home with me. The Field Street residents didn’t mind me removing it, and said that it had been there 2 years or more. Certainly I had passed it many, many times.  

Wheels for the white bike came from this sort of bike, a Byk 450
 When it was home I set about fixing it. Its wheels were 22 and 24 inch and steel, and didn’t look worth saving.  But I happened to have aluminium alloy rim 451 size 20 inch wheels salvaged from Byk kids bikes. I’ve used these for recumbents before, so tried them on the Peugeot bike. They looked ok, but the different rim size meant I would have to work on the brakes to make the rims and brake pads line up.  

Replacement front brake on white bike.
 With some centre pull brakes from the shed and some metalwork, I managed to fit new brakes to match the new wheels,  and voila the bike is already better than before. It’s lighter, has better brakes and a wider gear range but is lowered a bit.  Some more work and the bike is rideable again with a new crankset with shorter cranks and a cassette bottom bracket bearing.  It goes ok, and the shorter cranks mean the pedal clearance to the ground is still large enough despite it being lowered by the smaller wheels.

Replacement rear rack on white bike. Diamond shapes fit into the pattern in the bottom of the crate and help secure it.
Crate bolted to rack on white bike.

Then came the load carrying. The back rack was missing, and first I made a wooden and steel rack for the back. Milk crates are a local favourite load carrying device for bikes, and I happened to have two of them in the shed holding my ridiculously large collection of bike tubes.  I did a switcheroo of a big black tub for the milk crates. The black tub does a much better job of containing the tubes and liberates the crates in the process.  Since then I’ve kept eyes peeled for milk crates which turn up from time to time at our local recycling depot. Ask nicely and they are free, and so now I have a good supply.

White bike at my hairdressers, Victoria Street Richmond.
First front adapter for milk crates on Peugeot NS. It uses an outside frame to hold the crate in place.

After a few trials and attempts, I had crate carrying sorted on the resuscitated Peugeot and quite liked the front carrying setup.  It is an adapter between the bike and the crate. The adapter slots in to the rack and is hooked in. Then the crate hooks in to the adapter, and that leaves only the opposite end to be held down. That is done with an occy strap pulling the crate down, and the adapter – sandwiched between the bike and the crate -is automatically held down too.

Victoria bike using rear rack as stand.
Victoria back rack detail

Next I have a go making a back rack on a Victoria bike, and that works well too.  This time the rack doubles as a stand. With the back wheel it props the bike vertically, potentially saving space in flats or garages. Some finishing touches to this adapter included bogging holes, varnish and a plastic tube over the back protecting the timber.

A few days later, the state is going into extended Coronavirus lockdown, and as an isolation project I bought another Peugeot NS (Box Hill Purple Peugeot) folder for $50. This was the complete budget for the project up to that time as everything else was found or came from the shed.

The Dead White Peugeot was missing the back rack, but Box Hill Purple Peugeot wasn’t. However it is missing the derailleur and is set up with only one gear. I still like riding it though, and have done a 22k round trip on it to collect parts. The gear it has is the middle gear of the standard 5 speed setup which gives a development of 52.3 inches (42T front, 18T back, 570mm wheel). 

Top of 2nd front adapter for crate on Peugeot NS. The diamond shape fits inside the crate pattern.
Bottom of the same adapter. The square ply hooks or keys into the rack.

The gearing can be restored later, and this time I concentrated fixing work on load carrying and crate adapters. I started by making a front adapter for the purple bike. I have spare 7.8mm plywood and 28 x 15mm reclaimed Mirboo at home and used that for this build.  It all works ok.

Rear rack plan

Up till then, all the adapter builds had been by-the-seat-of-the-pants, just cutting timber to the right size by measuring the rack and not recording anything. But for the back rack adapter, I decide on a more engineered approach, hauling a loose rack inside and using 2d cad to draw a plan of the adapter before making it the next day. This time I didn’t use the Mirboo material and stick to just plywood which works fine. There are 3 minor plan mods which I record during the build and put back into the cad plan later.

Box Hill Purple using rack as rear stand and occy strap to hold front wheel in place.

Finally, today I shortened the rear mudguard on the purple Peugeot. This means removing the rear reflector and light from the mudguard, but it allows the bike to stand on the rear rack and back tyre without the mudguard interfering. This arrangement works fine but the front wheel flops. However, an extra occy strap can keep the front wheel in place. 

Back from a shopping / exercise expedition on Box Hill Purple. My video shows it taking about 80s to fit both racks, and 25s to take them off again.
 So what do my adapters do that other ways of attaching milk crates to bikes don’t?

Well most of the benefits come from the adapter being a separate thing with neither the bike or crate altered to achieve load carrying. This means the bike is easily switchable from stripped down (racks only) to one crate (front or back) to two crates (front and back), so the rider is not locked in to any particular setup as occurs when crates are cable-tied on. Each crate has a capacity of about 28 litres.

Crate bike near some crate seat mates.
 The rider gets to choose their crate colour and can also swap between a range of colours. The crate can be removed to carry whatever’s in it when stopped (ie for bringing groceries into an apartment). Lastly when released from the bike, the crate is free to become whatever the user wants it to be. The website subtitles itself “Portraits of milk crates in their many natural habitats” and shows them as individuals or stacked together, as tables, chairs, steps and artworks, and all of these become possibilities.

Bike with cable-tied crate at Northcote plaza.
Cable tie details.

What sort of a design is this anyway?

In one sense this is a concept design. It shows what’s possible with cycle load carrying if you look beyond the most expedient (attaching crates with cable ties) or most conventional (panniers for load carrying).  New possibilities can open up.

That covers a lot, but this design itself has only a very small niche! It is load carrying enablers for a clunky type of folding bike that has not been sold new for at least 30 years. It enables carrying one particular type of crate, and I don’t even know whether these crates are available in other cities. 

That said, this could be a design for the times we are living in (with covid 19 travel restrictions), enabling simultaneous DIY expression, load carrying transport and exercise on quiet streets. Will these conditions come around again? Well I hope so in a fewer-car and less polluted future but no one can tell.

Back to the present, I will probably design, draw up and make a front rack just from plywood and see how it goes. After that who knows. Selling bikes with adapters is a possibility as is getting adapter kits made by CNC routing.

There are more details in my series of blog posts starting here, written as repairs, builds and designs were taking place. If you are interested in contacting regarding me these designs please send me an email, cesnur (the at symbol) iimetro dot com dot au

Regards  Steve Nurse  April 11, 2020

Further Links

And is there something in the water in Melbourne? The only other images I found of NS22's with milk crates (using an internet search ) on them came from Melbourne's little bikes blog about 10 years ago, in one pic the crate in on the bike, in the other they are lying randomly in the background.The blog praises the NS bikes, "the French bikes are beautifully made and they last and last" and "I have always fancied older Peugeots, and that goes for Peugeot folders as well"
Update, May 24, 2022
Since writing this post, part of my bike restoring has been to add crate adapters and I have recently completed one that has a bolt-on, bolt off crate. As well, I have fitted a crate to the top of a leaning trike, as shown below.
And I quite like the idea of "casual load carrying" although I haven't done any of it yet! This is arriving somewhere with a crate -capable bike but no crate, and having a spontaneous need for load carrying. Simple solution is to borrow a crate from the place you are at. Might for me at my work at Back2bikes where I often find or am offered bike parts.

Finally to go with a wide range of 3d printed bikes in my bicycle tour game, I have added a milk crate accessory which is 3d printable. A few photos below. Yes, I try to have fun.


Here are a few more links:

My video as mentioned previously

Simon Ancher Chair design showing a designer's use of milk crate on the European Chair Blog. Simon published a thesis on the subject.

Milkcrate Digest Australia this is a US site that is no longer updated but this part of the site points to several Australian innovations.

Treadly and Me 
is another Melbourne site showing bikes and artful adaptations of crates.

 My NS22 reports in this post on carrying heavy loads in a crate on an NS22. Overall the blog is very refreshing and I can relate to "NS22" and his series of quirky bike mods. He reports on Peugeot NS22 and related bikes when they come up on ebay.

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