Wizard Works Alakazam + Manivelle Basket Review
Wizard Works from the UK and Manivelle from France just unveiled their collaboration on a wire bike basket and bag that are cleverly sized to fill the gap between the classic Wald 137 and 139. Following a month of rolling around with the Wizard Works Alakazam and Manivelle Basket, Lucas shares his reviews of both here…
A few of my bikes are equipped with a front rack and basket at any given time, and I use them for daily commuting and touring alike. I love ’em. No other system offers the ease and convenience of a basket and bag for hauling your stuff, whether it’s groceries or camping gear. There’s no need to play Tetris to fits things inside, as with a handlebar roll, and you can simply toss it over your shoulder or into your tent when your ride ends. A front rack and basket may not be optimal for riding twisty singletrack, but they’re great for the dirt road touring I most enjoy.
Fellow basket believers are likely using a Kentucky-made Wald 137 or Wald 139 basket, the two most ubiquitous models on the market. They’re inexpensive, built to last, and many large and small brands offer tailor-made bags to fit them (find our Gear Index with 30+ options linked at the bottom of this post). However, most basketpackers will agree that the cute Wald 137 is a little on the small side and the cavernous Wald 139 is too big to fit comfortably on many setups. Despite years of wishing Wald would release something in between, we’ve been stuck choosing between the two options—until now.
Made in France in partnership with shopping cart manufacturer Caddie, the Basket from Strasbourg, France-based Manivelle is the Goldilocks-sized bike basket many of us have been waiting for. Regretfully, we’ve been waiting longer than necessary, as it’s been out for a couple of years, but it flew largely under the radar until Harry and Veronica from Wizard Works stumbled upon it and instantly recognized its value. They took on the mission of introducing the Manivelle Basket to a wider audience and developed a new Manivelle-sized version of their popular Alakazam basket bag to help support the effort. You can get to know both products below.
Wizard Works Alakazam (Manivelle Size)
Miles reviewed the Alakazm in 2020, so I’ll refrain from rehashing everything he already covered, as relatively little has changed in the interim. Wizard Works has made a few minor tweaks, including nixing the slim rear pockets, using a lighter liner material, and adding edge stitching down the sides of the roll-top to give it a crisper fold. The most noteworthy change, however, is the addition of the new Manivelle size featured here today.
If this is your first time seeing it, the London-made Wizard Works Alakazam is a simple basket bag designed to fit snugly into a Wald 137, Manivelle Basket, or Wald 139. All three sizes feature an expandable main compartment with a one-piece floating liner, a roll-top/velcro flap closure with an external zippered pocket, and two sewn-in G-buckle hooks that attach securely to your basket. There’s not much more to it than that, but it hides a complex design and expert construction that give it an uncomplicated air and allow it to do what it does exceptionally well.
The Manivelle-sized Alakazam has a volume of 11 to 49 liters when fully unrolled. In my experience, hauling nearly 50 liters in a basket on the front of your bike doesn’t feel awesome, and I find it far more manageable (and still plenty big) when rolled at a couple of times or more. The Alakazam measures 39 centimeters wide by 27 centimeters deep and has a variable height of 11-47 centimeters. Mine weighs in at 644 grams, a hair under its claimed weight.
The Alakazam also comes with a couple of “Pizza Straps” that can be used to secure larger loads to the outside, plus an adjustable shoulder strap for carrying it off the bike. It’s available in six stock colors (Olive Rust, Black, Olive, Pink, Splatter, and Rust) and an array of custom colors for an added fee. A Manivelle-sized Alakazam will set you back £195 ($245) with stock colors or £230 ($290) if you want to dream up a combination of your own.
I’ve used around a dozen basket bags since my introduction to basketpacking a decade ago, and I’ve admittedly spent an unreasonable amount of time thinking about their features and what makes the perfect one. While the Alakazam doesn’t precisely match up with my vision of the ideal basket bag, it’s hard to find any objective faults with it. In addition to spending a month with this one, I toured around the UK with the Wald 137 version on my Fairlight Faran 2.0 last summer, so it’s a bag I know reasonably well by now.
Mounted inside a basket, the Alakazam is remarkably stable once a little tension is placed on the G-buckle hooks. The three bags’ dimensions are perfectly suited to match their corresponding baskets, and they fit beautifully without sliding around on the go. There are no gaps around the sides or excess fabric bunched up anywhere; the fit is exactly right. I’ve tried a handful of other bags that fit their corresponding baskets well enough but could benefit from adding or subtracting an inch here or there for a better fit, but Wizard Works makes the Alakazams to an exacting standard that creates a satisfying fit.
I appreciate the many small touches that add up to make the Alakazam worth its high asking price. These include the inside buttons that can be opened up or snapped shut to expand the main compartment, brightly colored liner that helps make contents easier to find inside, zippered flap pocket that provides quick access to smaller items, foam-padded bottom that adds a little cushion, and overall quality feel of the buckles and other materials.
Given its stitched construction, the Alakazam isn’t a waterproof bag, and Wizard Works doesn’t make any such claims. That said, thanks to its one-piece floating liner and roll-top closure, it’s their most water-resistant bag to date, especially paired with the tough 1000D Cordura outer. Mine has confidently resisted light rain on a few occasions without any water finding its way in. To take things further, I also loaded up my Alakazam and chucked it in the shower on full blast, and I can report that everything was bone dry when I grabbed it out a couple of minutes later. Highly unscientific at best, I know.
At this point in my bikepacking career, I’ll admit that I’m more likely to hide out in my tent than ride in a downpour, but I wouldn’t hesitate to carry all but the most sensitive gear inside the Alakazam while bikepacking. Likewise, I have no issue hauling my laptop around town in it, as I know it’ll hold up to any conditions I’m willing to ride through. Of course, a dry bag inside is always a good idea for items such as sleeping bags and electronics if you’ll be out in unpredictable weather.
So, what’s not to love? The Alakazam’s shortcomings relate more to my preferences than any flaws in its design or construction. Harry and Veronica might disagree with this take, but I see the Alakazam (and others like it) as a bag designed to live in the basket, but I prefer to bring mine everywhere I go, even off the bike. Sure, it has a shoulder strap, and you can carry it over your shoulder after riding, but I find its shape a little clunky for that purpose. If I’m running errands around town, for example, I prefer having a more traditional tote bag with me.
The Alakazam gets the job done off the bike, but I’m unlikely to use it as a carry-on bag or gym bag, etc., as I do with my tote-style basket bags. I find them more versatile in that respect, especially with a main compartment zipper for ease of access. Although tote bags lack the ultra-secure attachment and perfect fit of the Alakazam, I’ve yet to have one leap out when held in place with a bungee cord or toe strap, even while bouncing around rocky dirt tracks on bikepacking trips. I’m not comfortable leaving my basket bag mounted in my basket when I’m away from it for extended periods of time, and unclipping the Alakazam is just a little more of a hassle than with a bag that isn’t affixed to the rack. All of these factors become less relevant in a bikepacking/touring context where you’re rarely removing your bags and typically have them within arm’s reach. I’d suggest keeping your most common use case in mind when deciding if the Alakazam is right for you.
- Quality construction with hardwearing materials
- Delightfully snug fit inside basket
- Variable size accommodates all kinds of cargo
- More than adequately water-resistant
- Expensive, especially factoring in a rack and basket
- Not the most versatile style of bag
- Top flap pocket can be a little fiddly to access
- Material: 1000D Cordura out, 200D Nylon liner
- Size: 39 x 27 x 11-47 centimeters
- Volume: 11-49 liters
- Weight: ~650 grams
- Price: £195+ ($245+)
- Place of Manufacture: London, UK
- More Details: Wizard.Works
Manivelle Basket Review
Founded in 2018 by Silvin Kutsch and Thomas Kieber, Manivelle is perhaps best known for its custom frame designs (as featured in our 2021 Concours de Machines coverage), but Silvin and Thomas have also been busy creating racks, bags, and other accessories. Producing goods close to home is important to them, and the idea to take on the Basket project came about because there’s not a single other European-made bike basket on the market. After many phone calls, they somehow managed to reach the CEO of Caddie, the venerable French company that has been bending and welding tubes to make shopping carts since the 1950s. Conveniently, they happens to be located just 20 kilometers from Manivelle’s Strasbourg shop.
The Manivelle Basket, sold as the Manivelle La Corbeille to the brand’s French-speaking audience, is manufactured from a burly zinc-coated steel that gives it a more substantial feel than a Wald basket (or any other bike basket I’ve encountered, for that matter). However, that heft comes with a weight penalty, and my Basket weighs in at mighty 916 grams (a bit less than Manivelle’s claimed 950 grams) without hardware, nearly twice the weight of a Wald 137 and about 20% heavier than the giant Wald 139. It measures 26 x 36 x 11 centimeters, placing it right in the sweet spot between the Wald 137 at 20 x 32.5 x 12 and the Wald 139 at 26.5 x 40 x 15. Note that both Wald measurements are taken at their base, which tapers down from the top. The Manivelle’s shape has only a minimal taper.
When bikepacking with a basket, I’ll generally stuff everything into a drybag and secure it with a bungee or two, and Manivelle’s Basket provides a generous amount of room to do so. I fit my seating pad, tent, and sleeping bag inside with plenty of space to squeeze another larger item or two under the elastic cord. It’s wide enough to fit my tent poles, too, solving that part of the packing puzzle. The Basket’s carrying capacity doesn’t match that of the Wald 139, but it makes for a less unweidly package that fits better between the handlebars and limits your odds of overpacking and finding the bike’s front end difficult to handle as a result.
The official load limit from Manivelle is just 10 kilograms (22 pounds), though that seems to be on the very conservative end of the spectrum. It’s hard to imagine the Basket breaking with any sensible amount of weight in it, especially when sitting atop a rack.
Manivelle vs. Wald Baskets
I consider Wald baskets to be well made, and I’ve yet to break one despite a handful of falls over the years, but the Maneville Basket’s build quality is superior to the 137 and 139 in every way. The upper wires on Wald baskets can feel a little flimsy where they curl around the upper rim, but the Manivelle is firmly welded at each meeting point. The construction is rock solid. Crucially for bike commuters like me, my Macbook fits effortlessly inside the Manivelle Basket, whereas squeezing it into bags made for the smaller Wald 137 is always a little challenging, though doable. Another area where the Manivelle outshines Wald’s offerings is in its hardware, which I’ll get to in the following section.
You’re probably not counting grams if you’re bikepacking with a basket, but the combined weight of the rack, basket, and bag can be substantial. There’s no getting around the fact that the Manivelle is hefty, but the weight penalty is well worth it, given its perfect size. It’s a little overbuilt, however, and I’d love to see a lighter (or perhaps half-height) version introduced at some point. One other nitpick with the Manivelle is that mine is ever-so-slightly sharp at some of the joints, and I caught my finger on it a couple of times when attaching my Wizard Works basket.
Prices for standard Wald 137 and 139 baskets seem to be all over the place, ranging from around $20 up to $45, depending on color and whether or not they come with hardware. Manivelle sells the silver version without hardware for €31.50 ($35) in the EU, and Wizard Works has the silver version without hardware for £30 ($37.50) in the UK. Both will end up costing US buyers quite a bit more with international shipping until there’s a US distributor. Shipping aside, I think the Manivelle is an excellent deal at that price and will last a lifetime.
Manivelle Basket Hardware
Wald baskets are generally great, but their hardware is rickety at best. While it might work for light-duty hauling around town, I’d caution anyone against using Wald’s hardware for loaded bikepacking. On the other hand, although I haven’t had the opportunity to test it myself, Manivelle’s hardware looks far more substantial and thoughtfully designed. Using it in place of a dedicated rack could more than make up for the Basket’s added weight. It attaches to your fork via an L-shaped bracket on the underside of the basket that mounts to your fork crown and two adjustable legs that mount to the blades. Based on the feedback I’ve received from folks who have used the version with hardware, Manivelle nailed it, and I can’t wait to try it, especially with a dynamo light mounted.
That lovely hardware doesn’t come cheap, though, and the standard Basket with hardware costs €78 ($86) in silver from Manivelle and £73 ($90) from Wizard Works. Manivelle also sells a Caddie edition for €90 ($100) with hardware, as well as a colorful limited 60s edition for €110 ($120).
- Ideal size for many applications
- Super sturdy construction
- Also sold with excellent hardware
- Reasonably priced
- Only offered in a single height
- Not yet widely available outside of the EU/UK
- Very few bags designed to fit it (for now)
- Material: Zinc-plated steel
- Size: 26 x 36 x 11 centimeters
- Weight: ~950 grams
- Price: €31.50+ / £30+
- Place of Manufacture: France
- More Details: CyclesManivelle.cc and Wizard.Works
To summarize, I love seeing simple, timeless products like these, and I think this collaboration is the start of something exciting in our little corner of the bicycle world.
The Wizard Works Alakazam is a highly considered basket bag that makes for an intuitive user experience. Based on my time touring and commuting with the Wald 137 and Manivelle Basket versions, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Alakazam to anyone searching for a bag that can handle varying cargo, withstand the elements, and stay firmly planted in a basket. I think it’s better suited to being left attached more often than not, but the included shoulder strap facilitates carrying it off the bike as well. And, as with everything that comes out of Wizard Works’ London workshop, you can be sure your Alakazam was made by the hands of people who care deeply about the work they put into the world.
The Manivelle Basket, heavy as it may be, bridges the gap between two imperfect sizes and has the potential to make bikepacking and commuting with a basket more practical for countless riders. It boasts a sturdy construction and elegant mounting hardware that could eliminate the need for a front rack. If Manivelle’s Basket becomes widely adopted in the way I hope it will, and if more makers start producing bags to fit it, I’ll absolutely be moving to all Manivelle Baskets on my bikes—even better if they come up with a half-height or lightweight version at some point along the way.
Make sure to dig into these related articles for more info...
FILED IN (CATEGORIES & TAGS)
Please keep the conversation civil, constructive, and inclusive, or your comment will be removed.