The “Science” Of Installing a Basket On a True Mountain Bike

The number of people who commute on mountain bikes rather than dedicated commuting bicycles is surprisingly large.

Some don’t know better while others simply prefer the look of a mountain bike and its ability to conquer all kinds of terrain.

I’m part of the second group. I have a hardtail mountain bike which has seen more asphalt than trails. The bike has served me well as a transportation machine to work for about two years.

During that period, I had to make various adjustments to improve my commuting experience.

This retrospection leads me to today’s question – what does it take to mount a basket on an MTB?

Yes, it’s possible to install both a front and rear basket on a mountain bike.

However, if the bicycle has suspension, the number of available options diminishes greatly because the support struts interfere with the work of the shocks.

Part 1: Installing Front Baskets on MTBs

Front baskets have two main advantages:

  • You can see the cargo while riding.
  • You have easy access to whatever you’re transporting.

For the reasons above, many people rely on front baskets to carry their main bag or rucksack.

Installing a Front Basket on a Rigid Mountain Bike

Rigid mountain bikes are rare nowadays, but this wasn’t the case a few decades ago.

The pioneer mountain bikes which are now considered retro were either fully rigid or had a suspension fork with questionable usefulness.

If you have a rigid retro MTB, then considered yourself lucky in regards to the installation of a front basket because those bikes can accommodate all major front basket models.

There are ways to install a front basket on a rigid mountain bike:

Option 1. Baskets with support struts

This is Wald 124 compact basket

Many front baskets attach to the fork and the handlebars.

This type of basket cannot be used with a front suspension fork but works just fine a rigid MTB.

A bonus of retro MTBs, in this case, is that their forks often have fender eyelets which can be used as attachment points for the supports struts of the basket.

This is a retro MTB fork with rack/fender eyelets

But even if the fork doesn’t have extra mounts, it’s still possible to connect the struts either directly to the axle of the front wheel or to the legs of the fork via P-clamps.

P-Clamps can be used to connect the support struts to the fork.

Тhose two methods have downsides, however:

  • If you attach the struts to the axle, you will have to deal with them every time you remove the front wheel to replace а punctured tire.
  • If you go with P-clamps, the set-up will not be as stable as possible.

Therefore, the best option is to use a fork with rack/fender mounts.

Option 2: Quick-release baskets attaching to the handlebars

Quick-release baskets mount to the handlebars or the stem via a unique mechanism.

The models that connect directly to the handlebars can be installed on both rigid and suspension MTBs.

However, the baskets using the stem as the sole connection point are unlikely to fit on a mountain bike with a treadless stem.

Some baskets attach to the stem via a support pillar like the one above. The clamp of the attachment cannot accommodate a modern threadless stem because it’s designed for longer thinner quill stems.

Option 3: Baskets Attached to a Front Rack

The final option is a basket attached to a separate front rack.

The first part of the set-up is to install a front rack.

There are two main types of front racks designed for a rigid fork.

The first one (image below) is a mini rack that attaches to the V-brake mounts and has a significantly lower weight capacity than a regular front rack.

Most racks of similar nature are built to hold up to 9kg/19.8lbs of cargo.

If you have a rigid MTB with V-brakes, this rack style could be used.

Note: Some suspension forks with V-brake mounts and an arc with an eyelet could also accommodate the rack above. However, this isn’t the case for most MTBs. The vast majority of MTB forks are designed for disc rather than V-brakes and do not have a mounting point on the arc.

Conversely, full front racks are mounted to the fork’s rack/fender eyelets and then to the handlebars or the fork’s crown.

A full rack will allow you to carry more weight than all other options. However, the bonus capacity comes at an expense – the extra weight of the rack.

Once you have a front rack on, you can attach a basket to it.

There are two main ways to accomplish this task:

a. Planks + Bolts. Some baskets come with planks, nuts, and bolts used to attach the basket to a rack.

The installation works as follows – the rack and the basket are “sandwiched” between the planks. Then, the composition is tightened via the bolts. In the end, the planks act as a vise holding the rack and the basket together.

b. Zip-ties. If you don’t have access to “sophisticated” hardware, you can use zip-ties to fasten the basket to the front rack. For maximum longevity of the set-up, it’s best to use thick, UV-resistant zip ties.

c. Built-in attachment system. Some racks (e.g., Thule’s Pack ‘n Pedal) come with a built-in attachment system designed for baskets from the same series.

Installing a Front Basket on a Mountain Bike With Suspension

Suspension forks greatly limit the number of front baskets that can be installed on a mountain bike.

All front baskets that use support struts aren’t compatible with suspension forks.

If you install such a basket on a suspension MTB, the fork will not be able to operate as intended. Moreover, if the struts are thin, they will bend when the fork sinks.

This leaves two possible ways to install a front basket on a mountain bike with a suspension fork:

a. Handlebar baskets

Handlebar baskets do not interfere with the work of the suspension fork and can, therefore, be installed even on modern MTBs.

However, there’s one obstacle that you will face – the attachment clamps of some baskets are too small for MTB bars.

Most MTB bars are either 31.8 mm or 25.4 mm at their thickest part.

Before buying your basket make sure that the connection points have a diameter large enough for your bars.

Back in the day, I accidentally bought a basket with small clamps and had to purchase another one.

What are the downsides of a quick-release handlebar basket?

1. Low weight capacity. The weight limit of most handlebar baskets is about 5kg/11lbs. Some models go up to 7kg/15.4 lbs.

2. Noise. Handlebar baskets tend to rattle a lot because the attachment mechanism often has some give to it.

3. High position. Handlebar baskets have a high center of gravity affecting the steering.

What are the positives of quick-release handlebar baskets?

1. Universal installation. Similar baskets can be put on almost any bike.

2. Convenience. The quick-release function of the basket is pretty nice when shopping.

3. Affordability. Quick-release baskets aren’t crazy expensive.

4. Lightweight. Those are the lightest possible baskets because they need neither support struts nor a rack.

5. Quick installation and removal. This type of basket requires minimal hardware and is the easiest to install and remove from the bike.

b. Baskets Attached to a Front Rack

The other option is to use a front rack and attach the basket to it.

However, the front rack options for suspension forks are slim and many of them do not have a platform since they’re designed with panniers in mind.

This peculiarity narrows down the choice even further because without a platform, there’s nothing to attach the basket to.

I know only two models that fit the necessary criteria – Thule’s Pack ‘n Pedal and the Old Man Mountain’s front racks.

Part 2: Installing a Rear Basket on a Mountain Bike

Baskets can be mounted to the back too. The main benefit of rear baskets is that they don’t influence the steering as directly as the models mounted to the handlebars.

However, a loaded rear basket will undoubtedly affect the handling of the bicycle.

Installing a Rear Basket On a Rigid MTB and Hardtails

The only way to mount a rear basket is to attach it to a rack.

Most retro MTBs have the necessary eyelets for the installation of frame-mounted racks.

Modern hardtails, on the other hand, often come without any eyelets.

In that case, you are left with the following options:

a. A rack that attaches directly to the seat stays.

Some rear rack models come with clamps that grab the seat stays. If you have one of those racks, you can install it even on hardtails that do not have dedicated rack mounts.

b. A rack that connects to the axle of the rear wheel.

There are also rear rack models that use the axle of the rear wheel as an attachment point.

Similar racks can be installed even on bicycles without eyelets for racks.

The downside of this option is that you will have to deal with the rack’s support legs every time you remove the rear wheel.

c. A seat post rack.

Seat post racks can be installed on suspension bicycles. Unfortunately, they have a low capacity and hold the weight very high over the rear wheel. Therefore, it’s recommended to stick with a frame-mounted rack.

(To learn more about the differences between seat post racks and frame-mounted racks, check out this post.)

Installing a Rear Basket On a Full Suspension MTB

Probably very few people would want to install a basket on a full suspension bicycle, but technically, it’s relatively easy to accomplish this task.

The available options are:

a. A rear rack designed for full suspension bicycles

You cannot install a regular rear rack on a full-suspension bicycle because the support arms would break when the suspension operates.

Therefore, you will need a special rack that allows the suspension to function.

Once again, the two main options are the Old Man Mountain racks as well as Thule’s Pack ‘n Pedal.

b. A seat post rack

A seat post rack can also be installed on a full-suspension bicycle. Unfortunately, however, the experience that those racks offer isn’t always that great.

Attaching The Basket

If the basket does not have a built-in attachment mechanism, the options for connecting it to the rack are once again plans + bolts and zip-ties.

Bags vs. Baskets

If you’re searching for a basket, you could also consider a bag that attaches to the saddle or the handlebars.

Bags’ main advantage is that they’re light, easy to install, and protect the cargo from the elements.

A rigid mountain bike would be able to work with practically any handlebar bag, including the models that require rack support.

Conversely, a suspension MTB is rarely compatible with bags that rely on supports, but the number of available options is still high nonetheless.

Carradice Super C SQR slim – a waterproofed, quick-release saddle bag that can hold around 9kg/19.8lbs. Mine is battle-tested.

I’ve been using Carradice Super C SQR slim for quite a while now and can say that it successfully fulfills the role of a rear basket as it’s big enough for the items that I transport.


The options for installing a basket on a mountain bike are summarized in the table below:

Basket ModelRigid MTBHardTailFull suspension
Handlebar basket (no support arms)YesYesYes
Handlebar basket
(with support struts)
Basket attaching
to the stem
Yes, if the bicycle uses a thin quill stem.NoNo
Basket attached to a front rackYes, most front racks will work.Special rack designed for suspension forks is needed.Special rack designed for suspension bikes is needed.
Basket attached to a rear rackYes, most rear racks will work.Yes, but а special rack may be needed if the frame has no rack mounts.Special rack designed for suspension bikes is needed.

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