Robot’s Useless Reviews – The Milk Crate

The first and best use for the “milk crate” is actually to hold records, so I don’t know why it’s still called a milk crate. It might also be called “your college book case” or “the mechanic’s stool.” I don’t know quite when the dairy lobby captured the collective imagination on this one, but clearly those were dollars well spent.

Presumably, these hard plastic containers still arrive at grocery stores with milk in them, and it’s worth pointing out that they belong to someone, the dairy or the distributor. Their theft is a crime. A crime! The price of milk probably also includes some crate-write-off expense. Think about that while you’re eating your Wheaties.

Maybe (I’d even like to believe) the Federal Government has an infinitely long backlog of crate theft prosecutions they’re working their way through. Those cases are all litigated by the same division that does mattress tag removal infractions. It’s a place for lawyers who pass the bar, but then sit on the back of the legal peloton like those wheel suckers you try to drop at the first coffee stop.

In the context of this review, what we’re really talking about is the milk crate as hobo pannier. In fact, if this whole TCI thing doesn’t work out for me I might start an Etsy store that sells ‘hobo panniers’ to aspiring young cyclists so they can have something to cart their hopes and dreams around in after the climate apocalypse. (Hey, that’s not funny).

Whenever I see a dude riding around with a milk crate zip-tied to his bike rack (and let’s be honest…it’s always a dude…women are, by and large, better than that, right?), I wonder just when he put it on there. I mean, is there a species of cyclist who assumes when a new bike comes into his/her possession that a milk crate is going on that thing? Is it possible, actually, that the milk crate outlasts the bike, and this person is just moving the crate from old bike to new? It shatters my brain in the most magically absurd way.


Is there a point in a cyclist’s life when they think, “You know what? I need a milk crate for this bike.” The one real problem with bicycles is they don’t have a trunk, but I’m a clever person. For the cost of a few zip ties and a late night trip past the back door of a convenience store I can solve this problem.


Is there some secret page on Sheldon Brown’s site that gives the optimal mounting instructions for milk crates? Is it on the same page that outlines the step-by-step method for reversing and up-tilting a pair of drop bars to turn your ten-speed into a cruiser? The mind capers and reels.

I’m talking a bunch of shit, but of course, there is no better vessel for the conveyance of stuff than a milk crate. There are the aforementioned records and books, but you can put a bag of clothing in there too. You can put some quantity of beer in a thing like that. You could transport a small dog or even a child. Once you step into milk-crate life (#milkcratelife) you’re broadcasting to the world that the devil may care, but you most definitely do not. You can put ANYTHING in that crate. Gold bars. T-Bills. Human feet. A blender. Some takeout. Roughly 10 left shoes. A potted plant. A bucket of frogs. A skateboard (WHAT?!?!). Shit is getting meta now.


Sorry. I got excited.

I think what we’ve established is the inarguable and enduring utility of the milk crate as a cycling peripheral. Quite why Campy doesn’t make one that costs $1000 is a little beyond me. Maybe in Italy they deliver their milk in hempen baskets.

No. The milk crate as product is a 10/10. The question you have to ask yourself is “Am I really a milk crate person?” This is the cycling equivalent of general population queries like, “Am I a bow tie person?” or “Can I pull off a beret?” or “Are the Jews for Jesus really for me?”

They might be, friend. They just might be.

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Join the conversation
  1. TominAlbany says

    The entertainment center in my first apartment in grad school consisted entirely of milk crates stolen by some friends of mine that decided it would be interesting if they could steal more crates than they did the night before. I think they did this for three nights and then had far too many to accommodate in their dorm room. While I was in possession of said stolen goods, for around ten years, I moved several times, using them as packing crates – and to hold my LPs. I think it was around ’96 or ’97 that a friend was getting rid of an old entertainment center, which I STILL have in my basement, that the milk crates were converted to storage and, finally, I left them out by a dumpster when I moved in with my wife. Note: They disappeared seriously quickly!

    Another rave review, good sir!

  2. khal spencer says

    Milk crates are the ultimate utility tool.

  3. bsowatsky says

    Milk crates are great for hauling my mountain bike stuff in the back of the Jeep: Shoes, helmet, Camelbak, shock pump, five year old Cliff bars, etc. Around my neck of the woods, however, the cardboard box reigns supreme. Old Order Mennonites use them for cargo on the backs of their bicycles. Cheap and not stolen!

  4. rich says

    I spent most of my life working for a creamery. Every year we would order a couple 45′ truck loads of cases. One Saturday the took a truck and the local Sheriff to the local flea market. Came back with most of a truck load.

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