The Great Commuting Debate: Backpack vs Pannier
How do you carry things when you are commuting? Backpack. Panniers. Frame bag. Handlebar basket. Trailers. Sherpa?
For this first week of my new 20 mile round trip bike commute I used a pannier 100% of the time. One day I used my Chrome Niko camera bag in addition to the pannier, but a pannier was always used for the past week. Yesterday, I switched it up to my trusty Mission Workshop Vandal backpack as I was carrying a laptop and more expensive camera gear.
Granted, I was carrying some heavier gear (an extra 4 lbs for my laptop with charger) with my backpack but it changed many things riding up my 20 mile roundtrip commute. Some good and some bad, I won’t do too much talking on this until I do some more testing. For the month of September I plan on experimenting more on the backpack vs pannier debate. At the end of the day I believe it will depend on what you are carrying and for how far. Having a go to “setup” that I don’t have to think about too much will be ideal.
What do you prefer? Backpack, pannier, front basket or something else?
Meet the New Commuter Rig: Surly Ogre
A couple shots from the test ride of the stock Surly Ogre I recently put a deposit down on. Off the bat, I’m switching out handlebar, grips, saddle and pedals. Additional photos to come once I pick it up for it’s first ride!
How to Dress for a Cold Bike Ride to a Concert
This guest post is by Lindsay Piper of QBP.
Man, my boyfriend is the coolest. Me: doot doot doot, working away. BF: Guess what? I got tickets to Polica tonight. Me: Whaat? OMGAWESOMEYAY
Here’s the thing, this conversation took place in early December in Minneapolis. The concert was to take place at a concert venue called Mill City Nights, which is in downtown Minneapolis. Well on a weekend, parking is a pain, and there’s the whole problem of not wanting to drink & drive, but well YEAH I’m going to have a cider while I watch Polica.
So what’s a gal to do? Ride her dang bike, that’s what a girl’s to do.
That’s a bit easier in summer of course, but that night was expected to be in the range of 20-30 degrees, and the roads & paths were covered with a bit of snow/ice slop. So this brought up the obvious question – what on earth do I wear to stay warm & dry on my bike, but still look concert-worthy? I set to work a-wardrobing.
It is Crucial to Layer
Layer 1 – The concert layer
Key #1: Toasty legs- I accomplished this by layering Patagonia midweight Capeline pants under my Outlier Women’s Daily Riding Pants. The Outlier pants are super stretchy, so it’s easy to add the layer under them without becoming immobile. And they look like jeans, so style.
Key #2: Warm & dry tootsies- Nobody likes cold soggy feet while trying to take in awesome music. To fix myself up here, I layered some DeFeet Wooleator socks (Minneapolis Bike Love Edition) under my Stella McCartney for Adidas high tops. They’re made entirely of shiny synthetic leather and cover my ankles; both factors keep my feet dry & stylish at the same time, in a slightly Marty McFly kind of way. Where’s my hoverboard?!
Key #3: Warm but not sweaty core- I snagged a delightful tee shirt, complete with printed sassy phrase, and layered it under my numero uno, all-time favorite piece – my Surly long sleeve merino jersey. It’s comfortable, keeps me warm & sweat wicked, and looks feminine but not girly. Disclaimer: I manage Surly and a few other brands’ clothing offering- this is one of my babies, so I might be biased, but it really and truly is awesome & indispensable.
Layer 2 – The outer layer (as watched over by my late dog Baxter, who was not thrilled that I was about to leave him home alone)
Key #1: Dry & Windproof torso – My handy OR Mithrill softshell- another indispensable piece, does the job with panache.
Key #2: Warm, safe extremities – On the paws, my 9,000 year old Swix lobster mitts. They’re a little sad looking at this point, but they work. I’ve yet to find a bike-specific pair of gloves that I like as well. My 45NRTH Greazy merino cap. It’s warm, fits nicely under a helmet, and has plenty of ear coverage. Same disclaimer as above, and also in this case the Brand Manager is also the aforementioned boyfriend, so there you go. Anyhoo popped on top of that is my Lazer 02 helmet. The high-vis yellow is nice for night riding, and the one-size-fits-all adjustment means it’s easy to fit it over a hat. The finishing touch is a pair of photosensitive Optic Nerve glasses to keep the crap & wind out of my eyes.
Key #3: ID & money required- The tiniest of Timbuk2 messenger bags, the Catapult, is so handy. Plenty of room to stuff my gloves & hat once I arrive at the venue, without excess bulk. And it rides high & tight to the body, which is really nice for riding.
Striking a pose in my concert getup at home
About to roll out. Note the front & rear lights. Safety, people! I’m riding my All-City Macho Man with 45 NRTH Xerxes studded tires to cut through slop & ice. You can tell this is still early winter, because my neighbors & I had still been taking snow removal much more seriously & thoroughly. We’ve since given up on the prospect of seeing actual pavement.
Success! Opening act Marijuana Death Squads, and headliner Polica. Love her pants!
Intro: Review of 2014 Raleigh RX 1.0 Women’s Cyclocross Bike
This past summer Raleigh Bikes released photos and spec of their 2014 cyclocross line, including the RX 1.0 Women’s bike. The bike didn’t change too much other than paint and some small part upgrades. I was excited about the bike (mainly due to the paint job and price) for women and thought it would be a perfect do-all bike for my better half. So here we are doing a second review of the women’s RX 1.0!
This second review of the Raleigh RX 1.0, in the 2014 model, is to look at it as an all purpose bike. This is how most women are looking to purchase a cross bike in this price range as a do all, fun finder. There could be road rides, green-ways, Rail to Trails, commuting, baby hauling and maybe a cyclocross race thrown in there to say you did it.
A refresher of spec and pricing can be found here. The original review over here.
Meet the Xtracycle EdgeRunner
It’s been proven that many of our trips and errands are less than 2 miles away. Now picture having a reliable, easy to ride, cargo bike to hop on in your garage. Once you get in the habit of riding a bike for those trips less than 2 miles away you’ll question why it took so long!
Meet the Xtracycle EdgeRunner
Haul kids, groceries or help a buddy move.
Available in two sizes, three models, and four beautiful frame colors, EdgeRunner tailors to every personality. The TIG-welded chromoly frame features a low step-over height and elegant geometry for easy, responsive handling with a modest bike weight – starting at 40 lbs. Xtracycle also offers a wide variety of LT standard compatible accessories tailored to cargo cycling’s specific needs, from the versatile LongLoader for lengthy loads to the foldingSideCar for bulky boxes.
The EdgeRunner completely reinvents the cargo bike, with its low cargo platform, upright yet efficient ride-position, 100% chromoly step-through frame, and complete line of cargo and family specific accessories. Leave the car in the garage on your next family drive or grocery trip. The EdgeRunner assures a fun and wallet-friendly alternative to driving and still gets the job done.
For additional information on Xtracycle’s Edgerunner, please visit http://www.xtracycle.com
Review: Light & Motion Urban & VIS
Fall means less light and a crazy mid-afternoon sun glare for drivers. Why not help them (and yourself) by running blinky lights during the day and night?
Meet my Favorite Lights Reviewed to Date
Light & Motion Urban 200 and VIS 180 Micro
Key things to know:
Easy rubber strap mount for installation and removal
180′ visibility with orange side lights
Water resistant (maybe proof?!)
Thoughts and Opinion
I’ve reviewed many lights on Bike Shop Girl and Commute By Bike. One thing or another happens after a few months of constant use. Mounts break, lenses fall out, water damage or the battery stops holding a charge (especially in the cold.)
After a year of constant use (day and night) on one bike or another, using the Urban 200 during a couple nights of camping, I can happily say I want this set of lights on all my bikes.
Interested in buying a set? Support BSG by buying through JensonUSA.
Disclaimers: These lights were provided at no charge for review, my opinion is true. If you buy through the link to JensonUSA, I may get commission. Support BSG & do it.
Review: Rickshaw Velo Backpack
“Made right here in San Francisco, The medium Velo edition backpack is an exercise in minimalist design — sleek, simple, lightweight, black. My goal was to address the essential functionality of the everyday, all-purpose carry-all — nothing less, nothing more. I wanted a casual, yet stylish, alternative to the old-school book bag and the over-built wilderness pack — while still working with technical fabrics rather than canvas and leather.”
-Mark Dwight Founder and designer
Meet the Rickshaw Velo Backpack
• MSRP: $139
• Ultra light weight at 1.5 lbs
• Waterproof X-Pac™ sailcloth, YKK water-proof zippers
• Top-loading main compartment for quick access
• Seatbelt shoulder straps
• Reflective strip and light loops
• Removable padded 13″ laptop sleeve or document pouch
• Organizational front pocket
• Padded base and lumbar support.
• Made to order in our own San Francisco workshop.
• Dimensions: 15.5” H x 11” W x 5” D (16” top zipper)
Initial Thoughts of the Velo Backpack
Pulling the bag out of the box I could tell right away that this is a top quality bag. The seams, fabric choices and the attention to detail is superb!
As the designer stated in the quote above, this is a minimalistic, functional bag for everyday use. You aren’t going to over load it, or use it for epic trips but for the everyday girl bag that needs to work as a backpack but not weigh you down – this is going to work well
When talking to Rickshaw about reviewing this bag it was offered to make a customized version. I jumped at the chance picking a bright color that is easy to spot but won’t show dirt horribly. The process is super simple with the Rickshaw online customizer and the back arrived about a week later.
Using the Velo Backpack
The bag is super light weight and easy to move from backpack to tote with the comfortable straps. The backpack straps are of seat belt material, making them wide and comfortable but not too heavy duty. This bag was meant to get you through the day but not to carry tons of weight.
When using it at a farmer’s market it easily was carried as a tote filled with corn and then swung around on to my back for walking or biking.
It’s a verily slender bag, fitting my bag well and leaving room for visibility when looking behind me on a bike.
Conclusion of the Rickshaw Velo Backpack Review
These days cycling inspired bag companies are popping up in all areas of the United States. The quality of Rickshaw and the “handmade in the USA” all have meaning, add in that you customize your bag to your liking and I can’t think of another bag with these features at this price point.
The need to carry my iPad or MacBook Air with wallet and essentials leads me to using this bag more. Walking or riding down to the local coffee shop or office is what this bag was made for. You aren’t going to use this bag to carry you’re whole life but if you are looking for something trim and durable for the every day needs, check out the Rickshaw Velo Backpack.
Disclaimer: This bag was provided at no charge for review
Review: Bern Allston Helmet
3/4 with Visor Flipped Up
Front with Visor Flipped Up
Back in July I introduced Bern Helmets’ new ventilated model, the Allston. With a couple months of testing, three different reviewers and some matchy handlebar tape, I’m ready to give you my opinion.
The Bern Allston
The Allston has 16 vents, weighs in at a claimed 13 ounces and comes in 4 colors. With the classic Bern visor style, lighter weight and a decent amount of ventilation this is going to turn some fixie riding heads!
Colors: Matte Black, Matte Grey, Matte Neon Green, Satin White
Features: 16 vents, 13 ounces, Available in 3 sizes (M, L, XL), Snap in liners to make this an all season helmet
The size Medium that showed up in Neon Green fit many heads. The nicest feature of this helmet in my mind is the liner that comes pre-installed. With a baseball cap flap, the adjustment comes from a soft fabric being tightened by velcro at the back. There isn’t a plastic cage tightening against your scull, it also acts as a sweat catcher!
For bike commuting and low milage city riding this is a great go-to helmet. The vents allow some air flow but the skateboard style shell wraps around your head, a bit lower than most bike helmets these days.
I wouldn’t ride this helmet for 20+ miles unless it’s <60 degrees. While it has good airflow, it isn’t a match for ventilation like Lazer, Giro or Specialized.
If you want a great looking helmet, look here. If you want a helmet that can add some warmth in the winter, look here. If you are looking for a solid mountain bike or road helmet and you are often sweating or in warmer temps, do not look here.
I’m a huge fan of the helmet for the right purpose. In city bike shops Bern is selling like hotcakes. The style of the helmet is undeniable and a huge step up from their standard low vent styles.
Support Bike Shop Girl
Looking for a Bern helmet? If you can’t find something at your local bike shop, click through to JensonUSA as I make a commission off all sales you purchase after clicking through from Bike Shop Girl.
Disclaimer: This helmet was provided at no charge for review purposes.
Preview: Knog Blinder Road Lights
As my hunt continues for amazing bike lights to keep me from being run over, I was sent a set of the new Knog Blinder Road Lights. These rechargeable beauties are part of the hi power series that Knog released earlier this year.
Knog Blinder Road 2 MSRP $79.95
- 200 Lumens
- Light Dimensions: W53mm x H30mm x D63mm
- Weight: 75g
- Materials: UV-Resistant, industrial-grade Silicone Rubber Body and Straps. Polycarbonate Housing. PMMA Lens. Anodised Aluminium Heat sink. Anodised Aluminium Fascia and solid Stainless Steel MIMLatch
- Rechargeable Lithium Polymer (USB). This saves using about 600 AAA Alkaline batteries during the lights lifetime.
- Waterproof: 100% Waterproof and Dust Proof.
- Light Modes: Total of 8 light modes: 1. Narrow Low Beam, 2. Narrow High Beam, 3. Wide Low Beam,4. Wide High Beam, 5. Dual Low Beam, 6. Dual High Beam, 7. Flashing Alternate, 8. Flashing-1 LED Steady/1 LED flashing.
- Burn time: Low-beam modes: Steady 2hr, Flash mode 6hr. High-beam modes:Steady 1hr / Flash mode: 4hr.
- Charge time: 5 hour charge time.
- Bike Attachment: Two removable silicone straps for bars 22-28mm / 29-35mm. Helmet mount included
Knog Blinder Road R MSRP $59.95
- 70 lumens in strobe mode (peak)
- Dimensions: W27mm x H76mm x D52mm
- Weight: 52g
- Materials: UV-Resistant, industrial-grade Silicone Rubber Body and Straps. Polycarbonate Housing. PMMA Lens. Anodised Aluminium Heat sink. Anodised Aluminium Fascia and solid Stainless Steel MIMLatch.
- Rechargeable Lithium Polymer (USB). This saves using about 600 AAA Alkaline batteries during the lights lifetime.
- Light Modes: 5 light modes: 1.Steady, 2.Fast, 3.Chaser, 4.Peleton, 5. Eco-Flash.
- Burn time: lasting up to 3.5 hours in Steady mode, 4 hours in Fast, 5 hours in Chaser, 13 hours in Peloton Mode and 20 hours in Eco-Flash.
- Bike Attachment: Tool-less attachment for standard rear posts measuring 22-32mm. Not suitable for aero post design
Out of the Box Thoughts
The look of Knog lights have always been a clean, catchy, subtle design. The question has always been the quality and longetivity of the light. These new Blinder Road Lights seem to have a bit more to them, first in the band which is much thicker than their other lights, and then second are the cords they are finally shipping with their USB charging lights. You struggle any longer trying to plug one of their lights into the back of your computer or keyboard thanks to this long USB extender.
Only time will tell how the lights hold up, and how long they really do keep their charge. Give me a couple weeks to push the test of these little lights! Learn more over at Knog.
Support Bike Shop Girl
If you are in the market for new lights, click through this link to JensonUSA where I receive a commission off anything you buy (as long as you do so after clicking the link!)
Back of Rear Light
USB Extender Cord
Back of Front Light
Front USB Plug
Disclaimer: These Knog lights were provided at no charge for review.
Want: Chrome X Blue Lug Victor
Chrome’s latest limited launch is a collaboration Chrome X Blue Lug with Blue Lug Bike Shop in Tokyo is my favorite one so far. The hints of blue and mirror’d tagline hidden on the back or bottom of the bag is clutch.; the Victor is my personal favorite.