Before we finally decide to buy an ebike, or a motorbike, we make up a hundred reasons why we need one. “Because it’s fun” should probably be enough of an argument, but maybe you have to convince someone else in your household why buying a new bike is more than just pleasure.
And so, we imagine all the practical, convenient, time-saving and even money-saving reasons why riding on a motorized two-wheel bicycle is in our future. Often that means trips to the grocery store, commutes to work, weekend errand runs. This electric bike will help you carry stuff, lots of stuff. So you’re probably going to need a basket on the back of the bike.
But sometimes you also want to carry people, and a basket would get in the way. Other times, you want to go for a trail ride, and a bulky rear basket is more suited for urban exploring than muddy off road adventures.
If you ask anybody, they’ll tell you the most simple solution is to use zip ties. And if you only plan to remove the basket once a month, maybe that will work for you. I’ve got a Yamaha TW200 dual sport motorcycle with a milk crate on the back. The custom rack took a while to install, but you only have to do that once on a motorbike. The milk crate, on the other hand, took about 15 minutes and maybe 20 zip ties to get the crate on solidly.
But while that works for some bikes where you leave the basket on semi-permanently, to be honest the zip tie method can be incredibly wasteful if you go through a lot of them. And for me and my ebike, I wanted to remove the rack several times a week, maybe even a couple times during a busy riding day.
At my work I’ve got a bike locker and they make those things so tight there’s hardly any space to get the bike in, let alone one with a basket attached. It’s basically a rectangle metal box, divided in half along its diagonal side, so that two triangle lockers are made from one box.
You push the bike rear first, so the widest part of your bike – the handlebars – are at the widest part of the triangle. If I could easily remove the rack to insert the bike, I could place it next to the front tire, lock up, and be ready to hit the grocery store on the way home.
Or at least that’s the tale I told myself when I went out shopping for electric motorbikes.
After a lot of experimentation, I ended up with a DIY rear bike rack system that allows just about any basket – even a milk crate – to go on the back of any bike with a rack. It can be removed or reinstalled in seconds. This is easy to do and will work on your ebike, probably. It’s perfect on this Ariel D-Class electric scrambler bike.
The search for a quick release rear bike basket
If only there was a quick release rear bike basket, something easily removable, yet sturdy enough to carry precious organic vegetables in between traffic. And something that didn’t require 15 minutes or a bag of plastic trash every time you wanted to install the basket.
Homemade solutions abound, and many of them use the quintessential milk crate. But to be honest, none of them seem that easy to make, or they look a little too Frankensteiny. Are there any pre-made quick release baskets?
There are indeed some quick release rear racks out there, which can serve as the base for a quick release basket – but they’re all made for typical bikes with standard components and frame dimensions.
And unfortunately, most of the scrambler style ebikes or fat tire motorbikes have unique frames and designs that don’t lend themselves to off the shelf bike accessories.
For example, the Topeak QuickTrack MTX system looks like a perfect solution for easily removable baskets and cargo bags. For a base, the QR Beam Rack is an incredibly simple quick release rack that mounts to a seat post. Done, right? If you have a bike with a seatpost, like the Rad Power RadRunner, sure, but most electric bikes we’re looking at have moped or banana style seats mounted to the frame, so this won’t work.
What about the ultra popular Topeak Explorer Rack? That looks like a perfect base for a quick release basket system. Sadly, even though the rack comes in a variety of sizes for different brakes and uses, none of them will fit our bikes.
Surely there’s a way, though?
I’ve actually had a Topeak Explorer sitting on my normal bike for over 10 years now, along with the Topeak Rear Bicycle Basket.
It’s become such a permanent fixture to the bike that I totally forgot that it was a quick release system.
When I noticed it, I quickly removed it and ran it over to my motorbike, tried fitting it on the back of the bike’s rack, and then tried a few dozen other attempts, but nothing worked. The rack’s legs were never going to fit on a non-standard bike.
That’s when it hit me: I’ll just cut the legs off.
How to make a DIY removable rear bike rack
To make a quick release removable rear rack, you’re essentially going to hack the legs off a Topeak Explorer Rack. Then, you can choose one of their baskets or bags that fit the track system. My favorite is this simple rear basket.
Elsewhere in the Topeak QuickTrack system is a Trolley Tote Folding Basket looks kind of amazing – you can cart it around the store on wheels, fold it up when it’s not in use, or just fill it up with fresh fruit and admire it on the back of your bike. The Topeak Trunk Bag also looks useful for bike trips. Topeak also makes panniers using the quick track, and even a heavy duty drybag trunk bag. So many choices!
Ok so you take the Explorer Rack, clamp it down on a table or work bench, and hack off the legs. Sounds simple, but please be careful. A cheap hack saw would work just fine – I ended up using this battery powered jig saw. It came with a blade purpose built for metal. No sparks and the whole thing took about 10 minutes.
You could stop here and place the Explorer on your bike and you’d be ready to go. But on my Ariel D-Class, the sawed-off ends would dig into the seat a little, and I didn’t want to damage the seat. I could have just placed the Explorer rack directly over the stock bike rack – not touching the seat – but then it ends up being a little too long for my preference.
So what I did here was get a few packs of Sugru moldable glue – it’s like play-doh that turns into hard silicone after a few hours. And then all you have to do is make a ball around each incision point, let it set, and you’re good to go.
You need half a pack of Sugru for each incision bump to cover up, so a total of 3 packs. They come in different colors, but the simple Black 3-pack will match the best.
After the Sugru balls are hardened, you can now place the leg-less Explorer Rack on the back of your bike, tie it down with a few zip ties, and your quick release basket now has a base. Go ahead and try out your Topeak basket on – feels good and solid, yeah?
If you’re worried about the yellow release button disengaging during riding, you can add some kind of backup system – like a bungee – to keep the basket attached firmly. I also like to use a bungee to ensure that nothing falls out of the basket. If you have loose items in there, you may want a couple bungees, or even a cargo net, but for me I usually have items in a little tote bag.
Quick Release Removable Milk Crate
If you want to use a different basket than what Topeak offers, you’re in luck. You can actually buy the QuickTrack Fixer 6 sliding base individually, and then screw that into the bottom of just about any basket. This makes it probably the easiest and best solution for a DIY quick release rear bike basket.
I wanted to try it out with a milk crate, since I like the look and utility of milk crates, and also since I have a few bikes it would be nice to have more than one basket. So I ordered a spare Topeak Fixer 6.
The base is a folding plastic piece that goes on the end of your milk crate (or other basket), and you use the included plastic connector pieces to screw it in. Two connectors go on the bottom of the basket, and one connector goes to the front of the basket, to attach the plastic quick release mechanism.
Now, since the milk crate has a lot of peaks and valleys and isn’t flat like a standard basket, the Fixer 6 plastic connectors sit a little farther from the base than on a standard Topeak basket. So, the included bolts aren’t going to work. I found that using some standard 1-1/4 inch wood screws worked just fine, and saved a trip to the hardware store looking for longer bolts to match the stock hardware.
Another little issue is that the plastic connector pieces are an elliptical shape, and at the 90 degree corner where the base meets the front of the milk crate, the connector pieces are a little too big and bump into each other. If you went ahead and screwed them in anyway, the front of the quick release clip would be angled downward, and that would make the release button not very secure.
So, the easiest thing to do is to remove the top of the elliptical, just cut a straight line right above the screw holes. Then the two pieces can sit flush next to each other. The problem is, what’s the best way to saw through such a small little plastic piece? Trying to clamp it down to a table gives you no room to actually saw, and most people don’t have a vise grip laying around.
So I found the easiest method was to score the line with a knife – you can use a ruler or just free ball it. And then use a 1/2-inch chisel – little by little along the score – by placing it on the plastic carefully, and then hammering the top of the chisel. That’s a much quicker way to cleanly cut the plastic, rather than hack sawing for a long time.
You can finish the job by sanding the plastic incision line to make it smooth and profesh – in case other people are looking, or you want to take a picture of it for a motorbike blog.
Once you have these two plastic pieces fixed, you can now lay them all out and mark where the Fixer 6 meets the front of the milk crate. Do a little eyeballing to see where the front of the Fixer 6 meets the milk crate, drill a couple holes to the crate, and try threading in both screws, and then adjusting the holes as needed. It’s okay if you drill the hole too big – the plastic connector pieces will hold everything together.
At this point, the milk crate still juts out a little, so it’s impossible to get the Fixer 6 completely flush. You could certainly add a little piece of wood or something between the Fixer and the milk crate, or just leave it like I did.
Once the milk crate is on the bike, you’ll find that it has a little give – up and down – when you hit bumps. That’s because the Fixer 6 goes only halfway through the milk crate.
For my ebike – which doesn’t have suspension – the bumps can be a little hairy. So I like to carry a bungee to secure the back of the milk crate to the underside of my rear rack.
For the top of the milk crate, I also like to use either a bungee or two to secure contents from falling out, or you can get a cargo net cover. It works really well. I’ve been taking the milk crate and Topeak basket out for grocery runs, along with the handy Tom Bihn Truck grocery bag, and so far nothing has fallen out.
The Topeak Rear Basket does have one advantage over the milk crate – it comes with a carrying handle. So, you could remove the basket when you get to the store, walk around with it, and then re-attach it when getting back to your bike. But honestly that seems like a lot of work when your tote bag has built-in handles that are just fine.
Lastly, I like to add some reflectors to the milk crate back and sides. The 3M 1-inch reflective silver tape roll is powerful stuff, but it doesn’t stick well to a bumpy surface like a milk crate. But if you stick a little Gorilla tape first, and then the 3M reflective tape, you’ve got a solid combo that won’t go anywhere.
And just to be safe, I also hang a Cygolite bike tail light on the back of the Topeak Explorer rack. Now you’ll be more clearly visible than a UFO.
So there you have it, two methods of fitting either an off the shelf Topeak basket or a DIY milk crate to your ebike, moped, motorbike, or whatever you ride. And now you can decide at any time if you want to carry cargo, because that’s what you told your partner you were going to do with your ebike, or if you want to ride solo, just you against the wind, far into the sunset, carrying nothing except a barely charged phone in your pocket.