Let's start with an invisible Venn diagram. More than half of UK households has at least one bike. Almost a quarter of UK households has at least one dog. If you find yourself in the middle of that diagram, then perhaps you'd like to be able to take your pet with you on a bike ride. That's where the Trixie Front Box dog basket comes in.
The old 'hold the lead at arm's length and try not to fall off' technique is not what your reviewer would recommend. You, your bike and your pooch are likely to end up tangled up on the floor. For the larger dog, your best bet is probably one of the trailers designed for kids, or even one designed specifically for dogs.
If your dog is a smaller variety then you could consider a basket. Bear in mind that many cheap front baskets that you can buy would really only accommodate a very small dog indeed – some are only recommended for loads of up to 1kg. Trixie is a German company that makes a wide range of pet accessories including a number of bike baskets. Here we are reviewing the Basic Front Box model (no sniggering at the back, please).
The box comes folded flat but assembly is pretty straightforward. It consists of four sides and a base, all made of something that feels like hardboard covered with a nylon material, and there is a fleecy padding around the top. The ends are simply folded up and the sides are slotted in to form the box, with Velcro holding it all together. There are two carry handles, two webbing straps across the top that attach to the handlebars by means of those clips you find on backpacks, and what looks like a piece of bent coathanger at the bottom to rest on your headtube. More on this later.
A large mesh pocket with Velcro-equipped closure flap is on the front of the box which is handy for a small water bowl, lead and the rest of the pet paraphernalia. A further angled pocket on the side fits a standard bicycle water bottle.
The maximum dog weight recommended for this model is 6kg. If your dog is a bit bigger then you could look at a basket fixed to a rear rack, but you wouldn't want much more than this attached to your handlebars for obvious reasons. When we first used this, our puppy was very small indeed, less than 3kg, and so he rather disappeared inside the box. We used a cushion so he could actually see out. Now he's nearing 6kg and is a little bit cramped but not uncomfortable in the box.
My first impression of the box was surprise at the basic nature of the fixing hardware. I had expected something a bit more, well, mechanical. The straps are presumably intended as a low-cost and flexible solution, allowing it to be fitted to a range of handlebars. In practice, the width of the box (an almost perfect fit between the ends of a 440mm drop bar) means that you can't really fit it to a bike with drops as you can't get your hands around the bars.
If you have a flat bar of the width fitted to urban or commuter bikes, you might also struggle, as the box will rest on the brake levers and stop you using them. In short, the box wouldn't fit on 3 of the 5 bikes in our household.
If you have a wider flat or riser bar as fitted to most mountain bikes today then you're probably ok, but even then the straps can interfere with the gear shifters. A big swept-back bar as fitted to old-fashioned town bikes would probably work a treat though. My guess is that it's for this type of bike that this has really been designed.
When fitted, the straps run across the open top of the box, through some metal loops, around your bars and then down the back of the box. This created a further issue that became more problematic as our dog got bigger. The more load in the box, the tighter these straps would get and because they run across the top of the box, they began to squash it front to back, meaning that it quickly started to lose its shape.
I couldn't help but think that Rixen & Kaul would have engineered a rather better solution for bar-fixing ... and sure enough they do have an equivalent (but more expensive product).
A piece of thick rigid wire is inserted through a flap at the bottom of the box and sticks out of the back in a loop resting on the headtube. This wire is covered by a plastic coating intended to prevent it scratching your headtube. Inside the box is a short leash, fixed to the bottom at each end and with a clip in the middle to attach to your dog's collar, designed to prevent it jumping out of the box.
The box was generally more stable in use than I had expected, but the plastic coating on the wire loop has worn through and started to damage the paintwork on the headtube of the bike. With a dog closer to 6kg, I have considerable doubts about the longevity of this wire loop, and without it the box would simply drop onto the front wheel.
The fixing straps presumably extend across the top of the box to prevent it sagging at the front, but the way the sides started to buckle inwards under the load that they apply left me wondering about how long it would stay in one piece. Looking on the manufacturer's website, it seems as if there is another similar box where the straps do not extend across the opening. I also found yet another version online which seemed to have rigid plastic clamps to fix to the handlebars. This seems like a better solution, although what you gain in rigidity you might lose in terms of being able to install it in 15 seconds.
I also tried fitting it to a rear rack with mixed results. My first attempt was to use the straps to hang it from the side of the rack, but it got in the way of pedalling. Next I tried using bungies to fix it on top of the rack which worked after a fashion, but you had to get them pretty tight to hold it firmly in place and - like with the straps provided - this tended to make it bulge rather worryingly.
But these issues aside, it is a great idea. Our dog loved bike rides and it was really nice to go out together for the day.
My overall impression is that this is designed for short distance trips on bikes with fairly particular handlebars. Our 50-90km rides with the dog left it looking a bit misshapen after less than 6 months. We plan to go cycle touring with our dog, and I just don't think it would hold up to this.
It is fairly inexpensive, so if you just want to be able to take your dog down the shops then it may be perfect for you, but if you want to tour with a dog or even just ride regular longer distances together then you may want to look for something more substantial.
Trixie do seem to offer other similar products, as do Rixen & Kaul and if it was my money I'd probably choose a different box.
They're not the sort of thing that your LBS is likely to hold in stock, so it's not easy to assess whether it'll fit your handlebars - in our experience there's quite a good chance that it won't.
A great idea, but we'd have preferred something a little sturdier for regular riding or touring.
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Make and model: Trixie Front Box dog basket
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
* made of hard-wearing nylon
* can be easily fastened onto the handlebars with nylon straps
* can also be used as a carrier due to handles
* reinforced frame offers more stability
* padded rim
* pocket for treats, keys, etc.
* integrated short lead prevents the pet from jumping out
* reflective stripes for more safety
* with removable padded base plate
* easy to fix to the bike
* space-saving storage
* colour: black/grey
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Size: 38 x 25 x 25 cm
Max dog weight: 6kg
Weight of product: 1.6kg
Looks good to start with, but definitely made to a budget (not unreasonably, given the price). The main problem relates to fixing it to the bars - a better system is needed to allow for more flexibility, something more akin to the fixing for good panniers where the clamps' positions can be adjusted to suit.
As a concept, it's great. We loved riding with our dog as did he. It was more stable on the bike (once we'd found one it would fit) than I'd expected. However, the fact that it wouldn't fit to drop bars or even some flat-bar bikes is an obvious drawback.
Regular use for longer rides would wear this out, no doubt.
Particular doubts over the longevity of the supporting wire loop at the bottom of the box and the design of the strap fixings.
The box is pretty lightweight. Add 6kg of dog and you certainly feel your bike is more ponderous but that's to be expected.
The fleecy padding around the top is a nice touch and there is some padding on the base as well.
Certainly not the most expensive option out there. Whether you need to spend more is likely to depend on how intensively you use it.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
It's fairly lightweight and relatively inexpensive. It's lots of fun taking your dog with you on a bike, and a box like this allows you to carry a small dog securely and in reasonable comfort.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The lack of flexibility for fitting it to a bike was a major downside, and I just don't think its sufficiently hard-wearing for regular use.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? I'd probably want to spend a bit more and get something more long-lasting.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, for short rides.
Age: 33 Height: 6 Weight: 81kg
I usually ride: Boardman hybrid for the daily commute My best bike is: Fixed-conversion Eddy Merckx MX-Leader
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.